The year was 1857, after a decade of farming and ranching in Sullivan County, Missouri the Black family and their cousins, the Elmores, were ready for a new start in California. The promise of cheap fertile land and wide-open spaces was enough of an incentive to lure the Blacks and their five children, the youngest was three months old, from all the comforts of home. The arduous trip, driving over 500 head of cattle and other livestock would take nearly six months. After the marriage of the oldest daughter, seven days out on the trail, the families arrived in late May at the St. Joseph, Missouri crossing. A week passed as supplies were purchased and equipment checked before the long lines at the ferry crossing diminished allowing for their passage.
What dreams they must have had? What courage and determination filled their being to start a journey with young children and little or no real understanding of rigors of the trail. Yet, seeking a better way of life and a promising future for their children Robert and Ann Scott Black, my great grandparents, set out on a six-month journey of a lifetime. Following the Platte and Sweetwater Rivers they made their way to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Not far behind them was the Union Army in route to resolve what would become known as the Utah War. It was at a point near present day Brigham City, Utah that the Black wagon trail encountered the only fight with native Americans on the journey. Thankfully no fatalities on either side were reported in two California newspapers.
Arriving at Roop’s Fort (present day Susanville, California) in late October the families still had 530 head of livestock according to the journal they signed. It would take another couple of weeks to reach the western slope of the Sierras before stopping for the winter. A short time later the families settled in Tehama County establishing the Elmore Colony, the Black Ranch and later the Elmore Drug in Red Bluff, California which is the oldest continuously operating business in town. The area they settled near the Coast Range of Tehama County is today as sparsely populated as it was then. The land provided a good living and a wonderful place to raise a family. I am blessed to have lived a part of my youth in the area and to be able to claim a pioneer heritage.
These and other wonderful stories are a part of the rich history that awaits members of OCTA. Perhaps your ancestors traveled the northern or southern trails to the west in search of a better life. I encourage you to join OCTA and explore the many fascinating archived stories. Join one of the eleven Chapters in order to get out on the trail and experience what life was like and possibly discover remnants from another era.
Lee Black – OCTA President, September 2019