A relative gave me a unique task; write the stories of our great-great grandparents, their children, and brothers. The path took me to sadness and a revelation of how hard life was in those times.
During the Civil War, northwestern Missouri had its share of strife and violence. Coercion and midnight visits from masked riders forced many to take their families, leave their farms and homes, and run for safer states.
Anti-slavery sentiments ran high. Others were for states rights. Tempers boiled over. Neighbor hated neighbor. And no one could escape the terrible judgement that was to come.
Celia fretted in the first days of fall, as the green leaves of the hot summer began to fade and turn to yellow and orange. She plucked at a loose thread on her skirt and felt her belly jump as if her fourth soon-to-be-born child worried with her.
Eight months pregnant and soon, they had to leave.
It was 1863 and word had reached even the farms in Missouri, a hundred miles away, of the young men and boys slaughtered in Lawrence, Kansas. A hundred and fifty souls lost to hatred and the pro-slavery views of Bushwhackers like Quantrill and his renegades.
People in Missouri learned to speak careful, in sidelong conversations with folk they'd known all their lives. Taking a stand could mean vigilantes might come a-callin’. No one could tell whom to trust.
Life was hard in those days. War made it more so.
Everything they could pack was in the wagon, the four oxen placidly waiting the call. Indiana, the solidly-Union state, was their goal. Celia’s husband, Starling, mopped the back of his neck with a blue cloth rag and glanced at his wife. The boys—John, six years old and already working alongside his father, Archie, four, and Joseph Constant, two—were excited and ready for an adventure. The three were as noisy as boys could be on a fine day.
Celia met Starling’s gaze without speaking. He squared his jaw and nodded. “You feeling like a trip, Ma?”
Her mouth twitched but he couldn’t tell if she was laughing or about to cry.
“Yes. Let’s be on our way.” She rubbed her protruding belly. “Three years ago, it took twenty-seven days to get here from Indiana. Let’s hope she waits that long.”
Celia smiled and looked down. She didn’t want him to see her tears.
Henry Thomas made his entry into the world before they reached Indiana, a healthy red-faced boy.
But, with one hand, the Lord gives and with the other, He takes away.
Whooping cough took the life of four-year-old Archie after they crossed into Indiana. In 1865, they returned to Nodaway County in Missouri and began their life again.
Celia lived to fifty-nine and passed away in 1897.
Starling—or Uncle Star, as he was known—passed away in 1925 at a ripe old age of 88.