Trips to Oskaloosa, Iowa 1859-1880 by John Nash

Midwest Frontier Stories
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John Nash Sr. lived in Licking County, Ohio.
“In 1859, my wife and I made our first visit to Iowa. In September Nelson was married to Mary Ann Abbott. We got on the train at St. Louisville and run through to Agency City, where my son John met us in a wagon, one day and a half drive from his house. Oskaloosa, at that time, was but a small town, with few business houses and very little prospect of ever getting a railroad, and the prairie looked very wild. In a few days we went to see our daughter, Emily, about five miles from John’s.  We passed two houses before we reached our daughter’s. We stayed four weeks in Iowa, and it cost us just one hundred dollars for our fare on cars alone. The railroad reached Ottumwa before we returned, so we took the train at that point on our return.We started on the first day of August, 1867. This time we had five children to visit in Iowa; we were gone one month, and the railroad fare this time was ninety-six dollars. We brought our little grand-son, five years old, with us, and left him with his father and step-mother, as they wanted him, and I thought it best, too, for if anything happened to us old people he would be left without a home. As soon as we arrived at home we went to work fixing up to move into our nice house, and we were fixed nice, too, and had plenty of room for myself and wife; but I went to work on my farm, as usual, hiring what work I could not do myself.

Until about the year 1871, when my wife and I made our third visit to Iowa. When we got through our visit in Mahaska County, I was anxious to see my little grand-son that we had left; but in the meantime his father had moved with him to Hampton, Franklin County, and as there were no railroads to Hampton at that time, we were compelled to go with a team. So my children rigged me up a good team and buggy, as they thought, and sent one of my grand-sons, fourteen years of age, to drive for us. We were getting along finely until the second day’s drive, at nearly night, when all of a sudden one horse began to kick hard and fast, and that set the other one wild, so it started to run off, and run till they struck a rock, which throwed me out on my head and dragged me in the lines until my wife and grand-son jumped out. My wife ran to help me and my grand-son succeeded in quieting the horses to some extent, when we found the kicker had his leg behind the double-tree. My wife held me up to help hold the horses, and when they saw me all over dirt and blood, they both made a lunge and knocked me down and run over me, then they got away and smashed up the buggy. They got loose from the buggy and run until they come to a fence on the prairie, and were caught. One horse was badly hurt, and I was in a critical condition. I had several ribs broken, and was badly hurt, internally besides. They got a spring wagon and took me to the nearest house, and we stayed all night. My grand-son took the buggy to the wagon-makers for repairs, and got help to stable the horses.

The man we stayed all night with took us next morning to the nearest railroad station, and we went as far as we could on the cars, and hired a buggy the rest of the way to my son’s house. I was feeling very badly, and surprised them very much, as they did not know of our coming just then, but were expecting us soon. They felt very sorry for me, and my little grand-son was very sick with a fever, but was so happy to see my wife and I that he set up and ate a peach that I took him. Our visit seemed to do him good, but it did not do me any good–I was nearly bed-fast.

Next day my son Edmund and grand-son Jimmy, my driver, went back for our team and buggy. I insisted on them taking a pair of gag bits, which they did, and were not sorry for it, as they were almost unmanageable, still they kept them in the road and let them run. When they got home the horses were frothing from head to foot, and the driver in a terrible passion.

We remained with him two weeks, doctoring myself, and also the injured horse. So fearing my children in Mahaska County would be uneasy about us, as we kept them in ignorance of our trouble, so my son and grand-son thought they could manage the team for me, so we started and made a good day’s travel. Next morning my son told me our injured horse was sick from the effects of over-drive or water-founder, so we did a very short day’s travel, and next morning he was past standing on his feet, so we left him and borrowed a horse of the man that kept us over night, and drove through to my son John’s and told our story, and he, with others, went and succeeded in getting the horse home, but I was no better, so I remained with my children in Mahaska County one month longer, then made arrangements to go home, most all of my children going to the railroad with us, to bid us good bye, as they thought it might be the last time they would see us. I did not get over my hurt for three months, and our expense this time was one hundred and forty dollars.

Again, my wife and I were left alone all the winter, and the next summer I kept a hired hand. I thought that made my wife too much work and I would rent my land, but I did not think that a good plan, as my wife and I were getting very old, and it made us too much work to do, but we did the best we could. May 1st, 1876, we concluded to make our fourth visit to Iowa to see our children. We went to Newark to take the train, and met my old friend, Wm. D. Morgan, editor of the Newark Advocate. He asked me how many children I had in Iowa. I thought him rather inquisitive. So the next week the following notice came out in his newspaper concerning me and my family:

“Mr. John Nash and wife, of Newark, Licking County, Ohio, are now making a pleasant visit to their children in Mahaska, County, this being their fourth trip to Iowa. They are well pleased with the country, and can’t see anything to hinder us from having a Democratic President next fall. Mr. Nash is in his 76th year, and his wife two years younger. Of their twelve children, nine are still living. They buried one in England, one in the ocean and one in their adopted country after their arrival. Besides these nine living children they have thirty-six grand-children, and fifteen great-grand-children. Two of the sons and all three daughters live in Iowa, and another son in Illinois. The daughters are the wives of John Loughrey, Wm. Martin and B.C. McLain, all former residents of Licking County, Ohio. The aged parents have satisfaction in the knowledge that their children are all well-to-do in the world, and appreciate the blessings of the beneficent government under which their lot has been cast.”

We had a very pleasant journey this time, and found our children all well, also grand-children, except one, Henry Loughrey by name, had sent for us to go to his house to see him first. He said he could live but a short time, so my son took us right to see him. He only lived three days after we got there. He left a young wife and two charming little girls.

Our visit in Iowa only lasted six weeks. We could not eat enough to please our children, so every one would make us a big roast, so we could all be together, and we had a good visit. The day we started home our children said they would take the town by siege, so they all went to town and ordered dinner at Mrs. Abraham’s, widow of John Abraham, formerly of Newark, and a splendid dinner it was, and we did it ample justice, then went to the Central depot. They helped us in the car and waited until we were out of sight before they started home.

We next stopped off at Casey, Crawford County, Illinois, to visit my oldest son James, and were met at the depot by my son and his wife, who took us to his house. They live at Bellair, about twelve miles from Casey, and own a good farm. We stayed there three days, then started back home to Newark. Arrived at home June 26th, and found things all right. This trip cost me $80.00.

We remained at home about four months, until October 24th, my birth-day, we started to the Centennial and celebrated my 76th birth-day, but more especially to visit relatives. My wife had a nephew and two nieces in Philadelphia that she had not seen for thirty-five years, and I had only seen once in that time–that was in ‘62. I made them and my brother in New York a visit. They were very glad to see us, and went to the Centennial, and took us through all the buildings, and showed us the grand Court House, and we enjoyed ourselves splendidly.

We then went from there to New York to see my brother, wife and family. I met a man on the street, and inquired for my brother’s house. He showed me the house and went his way. He soon after met my brother and told him he met a stranger inquiring for him and thought it must be a brother, he favored him so much, so I could not fool him very much. He was nearly overcome with joy when he saw us. This visit lasted two weeks and, cost us $36, as it was reduced rates on all railroads, and that was all we had to pay, for we went to our friends’ houses at both places. Then we returned home again to work as usual, but my grand-son that I had raised had come back to help me, and we got along very well. But I knew his father needed him, so in 1879 I made a public sale and sold all my stock and most of my furniture, and rented my farm to my youngest son for two or three years. I thought I was old enough to rest from my labor and live the remainder of my days on my honest, hard earnings, as I had plenty to keep my wife and myself on, and I wished to live close to my children who are settled down in Iowa. We concluded to go again to Iowa, and perhaps make up our minds to stay there.

In 1879 we made our fifth trip to Iowa, as my physician recommended traveling for my health. It revived me wonderfully. We remained in Iowa all the summer, among my children, and in the fall we returned to Ohio again and remained with our children there till spring. My friends and relatives thought I looked so much better, and said I better go right back to Iowa. It did improve my health, so I settled up my business, sold my farm to my youngest son, George T., and went back to Iowa, in 1880, with my mind made up to end my days there. We took what things we thought necessary to keep house with, and started on our sixth trip to Iowa, there to settle down for the remainder of my days, as I was assured that they were few, and my children had all gone to Iowa but three–two were in Ohio and the other one in Illinois. We paid them a visit and reached Rose Hill, with our goods, in August. We were met at the depot by my daughter Caroline and her husband–also our niece from Kansas City, who had come to see our children in Iowa.

Our children all wished for us to enjoy our money. They, too, thought traveling good for my health–as I told you before, I was not blessed with very good health.

As I was now 80 years old and we all thought I could live but a few months, we thought it best to make our home with Caroline. They had but one child at home, the other boy, John B., having married at 18 years of age and gone to himself. So we lived with them and had a room to ourselves.

Sunday, October 24th, 1880, was my 80th birthday. The day before the women were very busy in the kitchen, but kept me ignorant of what they were about. Sunday morning they were stirring very early, and made me dress-up early. My daughter said her son was coming. I was scarcely dressed when, lo, they were coming from every direction. But I promised to be brief, so here it is as the editor of the Oskaloosa Standard tells it:

“The relatives of Mr. John Nash, of Newark, Licking County, Ohio, gathered October 24th, at the residence of B. C. McClain, Monroe Township, where the aged couple are making their home, for the purpose of celebrating the 80th birthday of the old gentleman.

It was grand. Load after load arrived, until between sixty and seventy of their children, grand-children, and great grand-children gathered together to cheer the aged couple with social conversation until the dinner hour; and better dinner was never set on any table, not one-third of the provisions being consumed. Next in order was eloquent exhortation, by letter, read from Mr. Vallandingham, Pastor of North River Baptist Church; also letters from relatives in Kansas, Nebraska, and Ohio, and presents from each. Splendid gifts were received from their children in Iowa, and everyone looked happy; but particularly the honored and aged Mr. and Mrs. Nash.”

The complete “Life of John Nash, Sr.” can be read at: Life of John Nash, Sr