By Bill Miller
In 1851, Horace Greeley challenged the young men of America to “Go west, and grow up with the country.” Many of them listened, and many of our ancestors did it. After the Civil War ended there was a major movement west. On May 10, 1869, the Golden Spike was driven in Promontory, Utah to complete the railroad across the country. It opened the door to a new future. Less than one year later, Andrew Jackson Jones, son of David and Mary Jones, uncle to my wife and West Virginia Civil War veteran, was on the train heading west. His wife and his very young son, Clarence, joined him on this thousand mile journey. On April 7, 1870 they sat in the railroad station in Sedalia, Missouri and he wrote this letter to his youngest brother, John C. Jones, describing his trip. Maybe your ancestors wrote a similar letter.
Dear Brother John,
I write today to let you know my whereabouts. We arrived here safely yesterday morning. We left Fairmont (WV) as you know on Monday at 12 o’clock and 39 minutes. We made prompt connection with the Central Ohio Division R.R. at Bellaire. The Ohio River was very high nearly out of its banks, so high that the cars could not pass over. We had to cross by boat. Arrived at Columbus at 11 o’clock and 30 minutes that night. Had to lay over about a half hour and by way of the Zenia and Little Miami R.R. to Cincinnati on Tuesday morning at 7 o’clock. Thence to depot of the Mississippi and Ohio R.R. (which by the way was the best and smoothest road we were on, being a broad gauge) to St. Louis about midnight. Here we had to cross the Mississippi River to depot of Pacific R.R. Here as good fortune would have it we also made prompt connection and arrived here at 8 o’clock Wednesday. After getting dinner and resting awhile I went up to the ware rooms of Lohman & Co to whose care my goods were consigned, and found my goods (the hogshead and box) in perfect condition. They had arrived here only the day before I did myself. My baggage also came through safely from Fairmont. I had it checked to Benwood. At Benwood it was rechecked to Kansas City. I got it safely at Sedalia. This morning (Thursday) I found a wagon going to Henry Co. Shipped my goods by it. Paid to Lohrance & Co for freight storage (over 500 pounds) $12.80. We intended to go down to the wagon ourselves, but it commenced raining & is a very wet day. Mary and Clarence are very well & I am tolerably well. I have nothing more to add only that Meredith and Ross are here with their families in good condition. Their goods, which were sent on Monday after mine was shipped, did not arrive till last night. I will write again when I arrive at my point.
Andrew J. Jones
Fortunately, he kept a detailed diary of the journey, addressed to his son, which is in my possession. He had hoped to secure a farm in Missouri and make a new life, but he decided that “I do not like the land or the climate.” They returned to their home among the hills of West Virginia. His beautiful Journal is to tell his son, when he is older, why they took him on that trip, what they learned, and why they returned to “almost heaven, West Virginia.”
In doing research on your family keep your eyes open for old letters, cards and photos. They sure beat emails and text messages, and give wonderful insight into how we got here. For help and encouragement, join a genealogy group near you.
Completion of transcontinental railroad, Promontory, Utah – May 10, 1869
Bill & Ellie at Promontory, Utah – together forever