By the time Laura and her children set out to return to Ohio for an extended stay there were three children (Willie, Nettie, and Henry). Henry, the youngest, had been born in Golden and was 19 months old when they set out. There was no railroad closer than the Missouri River so the little family group had to find a private conveyance to take them that far. A lawyer from Denver who was traveling across the plains had room to take them, and so it was arranged. Baby Henry had been taken ill shortly before their start but it was thought he would soon recover and the trip commenced as planned in mid-February 1864. Their previous experiences with the winters in that part of the country led them to think that leaving in this winter month should not be a problem in terms of weather.
The travel must have been very uncomfortable for Laura (if not all the passengers) since she ended up in the middle of the wagon on a box with no support for her back and holding her sick child. The discomfort was increased as they traveled onward by the prevalence of fleas in all the stopping places, that especially seemed to like feasting on the children. The map at the top shows the Golden City area in the far left red circle, and the approximate location of their destination, Mount Pleasant, on the far right in a red circle. It is not clear from Laura’s description how long this part of the trip took, but they finally reached the railway in Iowa after a number of days of traveling in the wagon. She also did not report where they took the train from (possibly at Plattsmouth or maybe further south). Taking the train, they headed to Mount Pleasant to spend a week with J.W.’s sister before going on to Ohio.
As was Laura’s writing habit, she did not give the name of J.W.’s sister, however I have done some researching and figured out who it was. I am intrigued that Laura often gave names to traveling companions or neighbors, but rarely or never named relatives beyond what the relation was. When I look back at the story of the flood at the farm in Iowa and the boat that was built, I realize that Laura did give some details in writing that story. She named J.W.’s mother as Abigail – by saying that the boat was named after her – and the maker of the boat as Mr. L.P. Mills. She also said the visitors included J.W.’s parents – later mother and stepfather – a sister and husband who must have been L.P. Mills, and that there were nine in the house. This makes me think there might have been a child and a second sister also in the visiting party.
At any rate, I am fairly certain that the sister to be visited on this trip was Mary Booth Mills, married to Lewis P. Mills and living in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Having arrived there, Laura reported only a day or two later, her child (Henry) “was taken very ill with pneumonia and for three weary weeks he suffered, the terrible disease baffling the skill of the best physician in town, and finally release came and he passed away. Then with aching hearts we laid him to rest in the beautiful cemetery at Mt. Pleasant knowing that now we must pursue our journey without him. The thot of his father’s grief when the sad news should reach him in his loneliness was an added sorrow, knowing how much he loved the dear child. And now with empty arms and sorrowful heart we continued our journey to the old Ohio home.”
I don’t remember when I first found little Henry’s gravestone on findagrave.com, but I know I wondered about the location. I did not remember then having read Laura’s description of his illness and death on the trip back to Ohio. I linked to the page above because I do not have permission to use the picture of the headstone yet. I have just requested permission to use it from the owner of the memorial and the picture. When I look at the site where Henry’s stone is I can see that the Mills had also lost a young child just the year previous.
Laura and the two children finally reached the old family home in Ohio in April she wrote, just two months after leaving Golden. The part of the trip by wagon had clearly been swifter than the original trip with ox-drawn wagons. It had been seven years since Laura had parted with her parents and other relatives, so she must have been glad to see them all again. Since she and the children spent a relatively long visit in Ohio, I will leave them there for now.