This week I signed a contract for a new time slip series with Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications, based in Arizona. The first book in the series, The Descendant’s Daughter, is already in production and scheduled to release soon.
This is a fictional story with two timelines, one contemporary tale that is woven with a historical thread, a genre that is new to me. The historical story is based on the journey of my own great-great-great grandfather who immigrated to the Willamette Valley in Oregon in 1847. I’ve enjoyed giving voices and emotions to people I’ve only read about in history books.
The promise of free land in Oregon Territory in the early 1800’s lured many settlers westward. Entrepreneurs like John Jacob Astor, who founded the Pacific Fur Company in 1811, moved to the region and sought to establish their businesses almost as soon as Lewis and Clark finished their overland expedition to the Pacific Ocean. By 1818 interest in the area led to the pact between the United States and Britain to share occupancy of the Oregon Country.
Growing tensions over slavery between the North and the South made moving to Oregon a tempting alternative to the possibility of war between the states. In 1838 Methodist missionary Jason Lee petitioned Congress for legislation to secure titles to acreage the settlers occupied and to extend jurisdiction of United States laws over the territory. With the assurance the land claimed could become a permanent home, larger numbers of settlers arrived in the Willamette Valley by 1840.
My great-great-grandfather heard the call. He’d left his childhood home in Cortland, New York and gone to work for his uncle on the railroad in Michigan. A fellow laborer filled his head with tales of the new territory, telling him the land was a place of “milk and honey” much like the Israelites were told before they entered Canaan (Exodus 33:3). Provisions of the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 allowed an unmarried man to claim 320 acres in the Willamette Valley and if he were married, his wife could claim an additional 320 acres in her own name. That was unprecedented in previous legislation.
All for free.
After gathering as many facts as he could find about surviving such a move, my great-great-grandfather invested in livestock and equipment to make the journey. He and a few other young men joined the Hulin wagon train in 1847. Hulin was known for his connections with John Fremont, who mapped much of the southwestern regions of the prairies and provided invaluable information for those seeking to come to the West.
My great-great-great grandfather crossed the prairie on his faithful mare, Dolly, and even though a new easier route coming up from California had been established for wagons, avoiding the arduous path taken by fur trappers and miners earlier, the trek took six months. My great-great- grandfather’s adventure had just begun.
For the next few weeks I’ll be posting different accounts of this adventure. Stay tuned.