Monday, July 30, 2012

Edmund Richardson and Mary Ann Darrow -- Part I

(From a Richardson family history, written in 1968)

Our first recorded history of Edmund Richardson is a short biography written by his wife, Mary Ann Darrow, & signed by himself. A portion of this biography says:

"I was born on the 13th day of February 1816 in the town of Mount Holly, Rutland County, Vermont. My father was Calvin Richardson (son of William Richardson & Lovina Taft) who was a surgeon in the Revolutionary War. My mother's name was Mindwell Barrett (daughter of Isaac Barrett & Ruhamah Boyce). After living with my father until of age, I started for the West. I stopped off at Washington County, New York, where I married Mary Ann Darrow on August 2, 1840."

Mary Ann Darrow was a native of Hebron, Washington County, New York, having been born there 28 February 1818. Her father was Stephen Darrow (son of Jedediah Darrow & Sarah Whedon or Wheaton) & her mother was Harriet Burbank (daughter of Isaac Burbank & Judith Allen). During her teens she worked in a cloth factory & there learned the trade of a weaver. She was 22 & he was 24 when they were married in her hometown. The following year their home was blessed with a little girl, Emma Lynette, born 31 October 1841. A son, George Alvin, was born 4 September 1846, after they moved back to Mount Holly, Vermont. Here Edmund's talents as a skilled craftsman were manifest in the fine home he built. Mary Ann considered it the finest she had ever seen.

Edmund's account of leaving Vermont gives us an insight into the vital & dominant part that religion played in their lives. He wrote: "I moved back to Vermont where myself & wife were united with the Presbyterian Church. Since my father's family was of the Baptist Church, ill feelings & persecutions arose & grew to the extent that I could no longer live in peace. Therefore, I moved to Cannelton, Perry County, Indiana."

They began this trip in 1848 when their daughter Emma Lynette was 7 years old & their son George was three. At Cannelton Edmund & Mary Ann worked much of the time in a cotton factory. Here Mary Ann perfected her skill as a weaver, which later proved so beneficial to her family & friends.

Religious activities occupied much of Edmund's time in Cannelton. He worked as a deacon of the Presbyterian Church under Reverend Whitworth, & since he was also a trustee, he carried much of the responsibility of the Church. Upon hearing rumors of the great opportunities in Oregon, Edmund & the reverend Whitworth decided to go & organize a Presbyterian Colony there.


After several weeks, when the company was finally organized, Edmund was placed second in command. With three ox teams & a well-built wagon, he was considered well equipped for the trip. In 11 wagons, the party began the long trek to Oregon on 1 April 1853. They followed the much-used Oregon Trail. The location & good quality of the 2,000-mile trail between the Missouri & Columbia Rivers was attributed to the fact that in many places it followed old Indian trails.

Emma says they walked much of the way. She also says: "We saw many graves where the emigrants the year before had lost loved ones. The wolves had dug into many of them & you could see scattered about bones, hair, & bits of clothing that the dead had been buried in. As they could not get coffins, many of the dead were wrapped in quilts or anything that the emigrants could spare. Some took parts of their wagon boxes and made rude coffins of them." During the three months travel across the plains, they also saw remains of burned wagons, indicating that entire companies had been wiped out by Indians.

Many dead animals were seen along the way. A forty-niner records counting 350 dead horses, 280 oxen, 120 mules, and hundreds of others left to die, within a distance of 15 miles. In ten miles he counted 350 abandoned wagons. Emma notes that at one time their eleven-wagon train was halted more than an hour to allow a herd of some 500 buffalo to return to their feeding grounds after drinking at the river.

During the trip members of the party managed to kill three buffalo, & Emma remarked that the sweet, juicy meat tasted very good. Of this part of the trip, a son, Charles Edmund Richardson says: "They had the usual trouble of those days with herds of buffalo, Indians & wild animals, & learned to defend themselves with the rifles & 'Yaugers'" (very old guns formerly carried by light infantry).

Their route paralleled the North Platte River for many miles. Since they crossed it some nine or ten times, it imposed its problems, as well as its blessings, upon the weary pioneers. They skirted its banks with caution, respected its swift currents & treacherous quicksand & used their ingenuity to assure safe crossings. At deep-water crossings, they sometimes inserted wooden blocks between the wagon bed & the running gears to elevate the load above the waterline, or they made rafts & ferried over. Always they stood ready to lend any needed assistance.

A near tragedy happened to the Richardson's at one of the river crossings. "Anxiety ran high as the eleven wagons prepared to ford the river." A mile-wide crossing disturbed even the oxen as they stepped gingerly into the swift, waist-deep current. When some teams on the wagons ahead of Edmund's became involved in the quicksand, he rushed to their assistance, leaving his wagon in the care of others. While he was away, his team yielded to the rush of the water & his wagon overturned, submerging all of its contents. Mary Ann was helped out, and George paddled to the shore, where he excitedly proclaimed what was painfully apparent to all--"Our wagon is tipped over."

Suddenly it occurred to Edmund that he hadn't seen Emma Lynette, his young daughter. Calling to his wife, he asked, "Where is Emma? Has anyone seen Emma?" Their frantic search sent Edmund & several of the men swimming to the overturned wagon, where they found the child trapped between the wagon cover & the load, apparently dead. When all efforts to resuscitate her failed, a by-stander remarked, "Well, I guess she is dead." This so agitated Edmund that he dropped the bottle of camphor he held, spilling its contents into the little girl's face. The strong stuff, running into her mouth, nose, & eyes revived her. Perhaps she was more smothered than drowned. The family thanked the Lord for His great blessing in saving her life.

Troubles continued to plague the group. One after another, Edmund's oxen died. His wagon, which had been considered an exceptionally fine vehicle, finally completely broke down & had to be abandoned. Its load was distributed among the other wagons, & the Richardson's rode with the John Carson family.

It is difficult enough for two families to live crowded together in a house, but being forced to crowd into one wagon was even worse. Riding week after week under a scorching sun & surrounded by many unknown dangers, the trip was even more difficult. To relieve the tension, Edmund bought a new wagon at Independence Rock, Wyoming. Situated on the north bank of the river, as William Clayton said, this rock is one of the curiosities to be seen on the road, mostly because of its peculiar shape & magnitude. It is 600 yards long & 120 wide. From the number of names inscribed on its southeast corner, it appears that many visitors climbed to the top to view the land. During low water, the river was easily forded at this point, but in high water, it was necessary to ford it a mile up stream. After buying the wagon, all went well until the party reached the Big Sandy River, where Edmund's best ox died. Since oxen were at a premium, this was a calamity of sufficient magnitude as to make it almost impossible for the Richardson family to continue on to Oregon.

Isn't it strange that this crippling incident should happen just at this point? It was so near to Salt Lake City that the only solution seemed to be for the Richardson's to spend the winter there & rejoin the others in Oregon in the spring. Reverend Whitworth's suggestion that with care, the Richardson's could get along with the ferocious Mormons for one winter. However, this offered small consolation to the stricken family.

Strangely, as soon as the family turned toward Salt Lake City, the troubles besetting them stopped. They also had fear of the Indians, but did not see one during the three weeks it took to make the trip to Salt Lake City.

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