Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 23 - Jim comes home

Jane quietly closed the door behind her. It the darkened room, Polly was asleep on the daybed in the front room. It had been a rough year for Polly who was not the robust person she’d once been.

She was 61-yrs-old now and time had taken its toll.  The year was 1886 and Polly lived with her youngest daughter Sarah and husband, Henry Depew. She was no longer working and spent most of her time resting. She’d used up much of her strength and energy comforting Jane when John Carter was murdered in 1884. Jane was 8-months pregnant with Lillie on the day that John Brewer shot John Carter. 

Jane tiptoed into the kitchen to find Sarah sitting at the kitchen table, pen in hand. Pausing in her writing, she looked up and answered the question she saw in Jane’s eyes. “Yes, I’m writing to Caroline. I imagine she’ll be shocked. I wonder if she and Robert will make the trip all the way from Oklahoma.” 

Jane looked skeptical. “That’s a long way to go with all those kids and Robert may not be able to leave his job for that long. The lumber business is volatile as it is.” 

“Still,” Carolyn said, “I’m going to let her know. This is the biggest news in years. Do you want to tell Mom?”

“I guess someone has to tell her,” Martha replied. “There’s no time like the present” and with that, Jane headed back to the front room.  She walked over to the daybed and touched her mother on her shoulder.

“Mama,” she whispered. Polly opened her eyes and smiled at her.  “Mama, he’s home,” she said softly.  Polly looked confused. “Who’s home?” she asked. 

“Daddy’s home.”

The kids were excited when they heard their grandfather had come home. Jane wasn't quite sure how she felt. He had been gone a very long time and hadn't been much of a father. Her younger sisters, now parents themselves, did not remember him so they were excited too. She had decided to take a wait and see attitude.

Polly, who had gotten older and bitter as time had gone by, was flat out angry. In fact, she had divorced him some years back. Now, she was living with Sarah and Jim wanted to live there too. That made her even angrier. Jane didn't have room and Caroline had moved. Jim didn't care. This was his family and he was staying. The rumor he had another family in California didn't seem to bother him at all.

Jane wanted the kids to know their grandfather. They had grown up without a father as she had and it was important that they at least knew him. He had wonderful stories to tell from giant trees to earthquakes. He was almost larger than life.

Jim was 35 when he left for California. There are just some people who are drawn to the lure of riches beyond belief and Jim was one of them. He loaded up the horse with supplies he purchased at the Station and without looking behind him, left his family.

He was flooded with relief. Finally, he was moving on. He loved his wife and children but they were stumbling blocks to the life he had planned. He never meant to stay at the station. He was very much like his father. He had heard the stories of how his father had come to the Station for supplies and somehow stayed even though it wasn’t his plan. Now, he was picking up the gauntlet and doing what he father didn’t. It was strange that his dad had disappeared when he was five and sometimes he wondered where he had gone. He was never found and 30 years later, it was still a mystery. No one goes out to chop wood and disappears, especially when he was with John Jr. and Andrew. Both of them were evasive about the disappearance but it was a long, long time ago.

Like many of the gold hunter, Jim headed for New Orleans. Making his way overland, he arrived in New Orleans and boarded a ship that would take him through Panama and arrive in San Francisco. By 1867, he was living in Salmon, California. (Forks of Salmon was originally a settlement in the now defunct Klamath County California.)

Jim didn’t find gold but he did find a lifestyle that suited him. He built a home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the little town of Trinidad, 18 miles from the largest Redwood forest. By 1870, he had purchased land in Dow’s Prairie and was farming. It was very different from Tennessee. Back home, Jane was married and had three children. Caroline and Sarah had steady beaus who they would also marry. Polly had retired and spent much of her time just waiting for Jim to come home.

In 1855, he was registered to vote as a California resident and he owned 168 acres. He listed the value at $915.00. He grew hay and had farm animals. There is no record that he had a 2nd family and the census does not bare it out but there was the rumor. His name changed several times. He was McCollom and McColloam.

In 1886, Jim came home two years after John Carter died.

Jim moved in with Sarah when he returned to Sneedville. He regaled his grandchildren with tales of bigger than life trees and earthquakes. He talked about the ocean and the storms that blew in. It was a life they could not comprehend and thought he was making it up. He seemed happy to be home even when he learned that Polly had divorced him and wanted nothing to do with him. She was already living with Sarah and it made it uncomfortable.

Polly died in 1886, two years after Jim came home. The girls felt lost without their mother who had been the major part of their lives. Sarah and her husband continued to let Jim stay with them after Polly’s death. Henry Depew would tell Jim every morning when he went out to the fields that he needed to be gone when he got home. Every evening when he returned, Jim would be sitting next to the stove whittling something. It never changed and he said it every day until 1896 when Jim passed away. Jim was buried next to Polly.

Jane made peace with her father. She was not spiteful and had a loving heart. By the time Jim came home, she had lost her husband and his presence was good for the kids.

In 1886 when Jim came home, Mary Leoni was 18. Laura was 16. Floyd was 13. Luvena was 11. Della was 9. Victor was 6. William was 4 and Lillie was 2. Missing John as much as she did, the arrival of the children’s grandfather helped fill the void. With his experience out West, he kept the kids entertained.

Caroline had Ida who was 11. James was 8. Launa was 7. The twins, Victor E and Ollie were 6. Bonnie was 4. William R was 2. Charles was born the year Jim came home.
Edger was born 3 years after he came home. Bessie was born 7 years after he came home and was 3 when he died. He didn’t see these children. They had moved to Virginia and only met them at Polly’s funeral.

Sarah’s children were:

William Lafayette 13
James N (named after his grandfather) 12
Mary 8
Alice 7
Kenneth 6
Ida 3
Mack 1
Effie, Levy, Leonard, and Carl were born after Jim came back. All of them got to spend time with their grandfather too since he lived with them. It must have been pretty crowded.

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