This story concerns an 1890 wagon trip from east of Preston, MO to Collins, MO. The purpose of the trip was to take John Hire to see his parents, Jimmy and India Hire, and his younger sister, Ollie [Olivia, REH]. John had never seen his sister. Young John, as a baby, needed extra care, so from infancy he was raised by his grandparents, Achilles and Samantha (Bullard) Morgan. He was related to Samantha through her first marriage to Joseph Wilson Hires.
The grandparents had never been to Collins, but they knew that it was west along what now is Highway 54. John was excited about going on such a long trip. He was only about 4 years old. The day before, Grandpa Achilles put the hoops on the wagon and spread the canvas cover over them. Before good daylight they were up, packed the wagon with feed for the horses and for the people, and also put in camping gear. About sunup they started out.
Covered wagon travel by that year did not mean watching for Indians but it did mean worrying for fear the metal rim would work off one of the wooden wheels. It that happened you took the wheel to a creek to soak in the water so it would swell enough to keep the rim on.
Grandpa Achilles was crippled so he really dreaded having to repair a wheel. Just driving was hard for him sitting on the hard wooden wagon seat for hours and hours. At noon they stopped to eat lunch. They fed and watered the horses and let them graze a bit. Even though John was excited about seeing his parents and his younger sister he probably got tired and cranky on the long trip. Perhaps he napped in the afternoon as the horses steadily went westward.
Late in the day, after going mile after mile across the prairie land they came to Little Weaubleau Creek. They decided to camp rather than risk being caught away from water at sundown. The wagon pulled off the road. The horses were unhitched, watered, and fed. A fire was kindled so Grandma Samantha could warm the food and make coffee for Grandpa Achilles. Grandpa liked coffee with nearly every meal. They bedded down in the wagon bed.
Before daylight they ate breakfast and hitched up the horses. Slowly the wagon was pulled up the hill out of the creek bottom. It crested the hill and there just ahead was Collins! They could have made it there before sundown the day before. Everyone laughed a good deal about that.
The 28 1/2 mill trip from just east of Preston to Collins, that today takes such a short time, took all of one day. The long trip was worth it though. They all were so delighted to see each other. Jimmy Hire took his son by the hand and took him the few blocks from his house to downtown Collins. He was proud of his son and wanted to buy something special for dinner to celebrate the visit. He bought a can of oysters to make soup with. That was a really special treat. (Note: Oyster cans in 1890 were much larger than an oyster can in 1993).
India took special care opening up that oyster can. She wanted the edge smooth and not too sharp. She washed it very clean and then gave it to her son, John. John turned it in his hand noticing the shine. He dropped it and it rolled making an interesting sound on the wooden floor. He took it outside and rolled it on the grass. It didn't sound the same. On rocks it made a different sound. If he threw it down hard it's sound was loud and sharp. A spoon against it's side made another sound. What a fascinating toy for the young boy. It may have been his first real toy.
The next morning they took a long time to say "Good Bye." It was hard to leave and tears were shed. They started well after daylight, a very late start.
They stopped for lunch again. Then the horses plodded on. It got dark before they reached Preston. Achilles kept driving wanting to get home that night. Soon all but Achilles were asleep. John bedded down behind the wagon seat clutching his toy oyster can tightly. As the wagon started down a long hill a wagon wheel rim fell off with a great clatter. John woke with a start. He screamed, "Grandpa, Grandpa, my oyster can has fallen out. I can hear it on the rocks." Grandpa answered, "I sure wish it was your oyster can."
In later years, Thomas W. Morgan told this story often when he visited Jimmy Hire and this was always the end of the story. Thomas Clifford Morgan believes they probably got home that night. They always carried a lantern and enough water to soak the wheel so the rim would be on tight again.
Posted: 23 Sep 2009