William Hays, Overland in Wagons, Part 2

A continuation of the memory recorded by pioneer Nodaway County settler William R. Hays, as printed in the October 8, 1914 edition, page 8:

Overland in Wagons From Illinois to Mo.
A Few of the Difficulties Encountered by the Prairie Schooner Traveler.


Written by William R. Hays, 234 Grant St., Denver, Colorado.


(Continued from last week)


two hired men so there were six grown men and two boys and two ladies, making ten in all, and at night around the camp fires where the women kindly cooked our meals, we showed our appreciation of their splendid cooking as well as good coffee. The ladies slept in houses, but the men all slept in the wagons, except perhaps Capt. Grigsby occasionally slept in the house.


Now don’t make the mistake and say “I know you had an awfully pleasant time,” because we had just all kinds of weather, even nice pleasant weather for a few days on the trip. Just imagine the women cooking for ten out in a snow storm, or rain, which was worse.


Well, we plodded along as best we could and arrived at the Des Moines river, at Napoleon, where we found a ferry boat to convey us across. Here we experienced quite a snow storm and the weather seemed bad from there on. Next day we traveled twenty-five miles and it was still snowing when we camped for the night. Here we found the boys had let our fine Indiana Durham cow get back, and the writer walked back twenty five miles and brought her up. Wasn’t that funny, but I seemed to enjoy it. Half that distance now would seem almost impossible, but not quite. That’s the kind of boys Uncle Tommy Hays raised.


We sometimes were stalled on side hills where the ground was spouty, but we wormed our way all right until we arrived at the east fork of the Grand river in Missouri, where we found no bridge or ferry and the river bank full at high water mark. We laid over one day expecting the water to fall, but were disappointed, so we all fell to under the direction of Alonzo Coston and made a log raft on which we crossed with our wagons and luggage. Then we made the stock swim over, but lost two jennets, which were drowned.


We traveled through Albany, Harrison county, and Trenton, Gentry county, where we crossed the west fork of Grand river on bridge, as well as Hundred and Two river, and reached Maryville to find a county seat of the best county in Missouri strung out along Main street for more than a mile, and only a few hundred inhabitants. We only stopped long enough to make inquiries as to the best crossing of the Nodaway to reach the Burr Oak Grove, and that night camped at Wash Griffiths, near where Wilcox station now is, on the Wabash railroad.


Griffith was one of the old fashioned, plain, goodhearted southerners, and treated us finely. Sunday morning we left Griffith’s, and noon found us crossing the Nodaway river at Hallseys Ferry in a heavy wet snowstorm which lasted during that day and all that night, leaving eighteen inches of snow for us to travel through the next day to Burr Oak Grove.


We camped that night at Abraham Hagey’s, a big farmer from Pennsylvania. He fortunately had a big crop of millett hay in sight, and it suited our cattle just right in that snowstorm. Hagey had a sawmill also, which was of much advantage to the settlers in that early day. At this time there was quite a settlement south of Hagey’s, the names of some of whom I will mention. Thomas Huff, a little over one mile west of Qutiman and on the south side of Hedrick creek, and Hedrick lived on the north side and further west. Also a family named Harris lived near Hedrick, on the north side of the creek, and I remember that he told us he had raised corn for fourteen years continuously on the same ground on the farm which sloped south toward the creek. The corn stalks on this place looked large and no doubt the last crop was a good one. These Harrises were of a stock that settled in McDonough county, Illinois, near where I was raised, and one Wyman Harris followed us out from there. Many will remember one Reuben Harris, who was a soldier in the Civil war and lived near Quitman.


On Monday morning, April 4, 1859, we left camp at Abraham Hagey’s, and plodded through eighteen inches of soft snow, (though the day was bright) we traveled from Huffs up the ridge in a southwesterly direction until we reached the dividing ridge between the Nodaway and the Tarkio, thence south, reaching Burr Oak Grove before night, having been twenty-six days on the trip from the old home in Illinois.


(To be Continued Next Week)