Not all the stories of the Gold Rush days were of grief and disappointment. There was romance, too.
Cora Reed's husband died two weeks before the wagon train started West. She didn't know what to do. If she stayed she would be all alone because her daughter and her family were part of the party going in search of treasure. Finally, they persuaded her to go with them.
She had a good team and wagon and insisted that she would drive it herself because she was used to animals. By the time they had reached Leavenworth, Job Witherspoon, a widower, had appointed himself as Cora's guardian, and he helped her with her team in all the hard places. Long before they had reached the gold fields, they had decided to marry.
"But, Ma, you don't know much about him," objected Cora's daughter.
"I know that any man as nice to young-uns as that man is will be good to a wife," Cora replied.
"Pa, how in the world will you find work enough to take care of a woman?" Job's daughter asked.
"I've noticed," said Job, "that if a body isn't a'feered of work, they generally can find something to do!"
When they realized how determined Job and Cora were, all the members of the wagon train decided to give them a "commencement party." That's not what it sounds like. It was the name for a pioneer wedding shower.
Each family checked and rechecked possessions to see what they could find to give the bridal couple. There was much speculation as to whether or not there would be a preacher to do the marrying at the mining camp. Some trappers passing on the trail stopped to visit and assured them that the camp had a preacher, one who had been quoted as saying, "There's enough sin in this camp to keep one preacher busy the rest of his life."
Cora Reed was a very hospitable woman and it disturbed her that she couldn't have plenty of refreshments for the friends who were giving the commencement party for her. It was near the end of the journey and supplies were low. She knew she didn't have the ingredietns to bake cakes.
All of the women got together and pooled their supplies. The dried apples they had brought from home came in handy. They chopped and cooked them and used them in a sort of spiced cookie. By scraping together all the supplies they could possibly spare, they figured they would have enough to make two cookies for each person at the commencement party.
That evening there was a good bit of "joshing," and then they sang and danced. Each person had concocted a gift of some kind. One woman made an apron from some material she had brought with her. Cora had started out with her best dishes, but her wagon had toppled over on a rough stretch of trail and every dish had been broken or cracked. Other women gave her some of their dishes for wedding presents.
The men got together and divided their tools with Job because he was handy with them and doing carpenter work might help him support a wife when they got to their new home. It was amazing to see the gifts that came from the various wagons and what a good showing they made. The commencement party gave Job and Cora a rosy start into their new adventure.
Leona Haskell McDaniel
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.