Tuesday, December 11, 2007
WOMEN OF THE WEST
The spring of 1847 Robert and Jane Caufield joined a wagon train. They had two heavy wagons loaded with goods because they hoped to open a store when they reached Oregon.
During the crossing they encountered unfriendly Indians, flooding rivers and lack of feed for the oxen. By the time they started the last leg, over the Cascades on the Barlow Trail, the oxen were in terrible shape. Several died in their yokes and the Caufield's could go no further.
Jane, another women, and several children were left alone in the mountains while Robert hurried on foot to the Willamette Valley. He was gone a week; during that time it snowed and every night the wolves howled close. Robert returned with several ox teams and they were able to reach Oregon City on the first of November, six months after leaving St. Joe.
The Caufiled's opened a store on main street in Oregon City and were adjusting to their new life when word came that gold had been found at Sutter's Mill in California. Robert took passage on the first ship sailing for San Francisco. Jane was left in charge of the store.
Jame was a very capable business woman. She bought wheat from the farmers, had it ground and sent to California where she realized great profits. A ship arrived with a stock of hats and bonnets from London. The captain was very anxious to dispose of his cargo so he could begin ferrying passengers to the mines. Jane bought the entire stock at her own price and supplied the Oregon Country with head gear.
Robert was not lucky in his quest for gold. Instead, he was taken sick. When he was able to return he found his wife had been tremendously successful. She had been the one who struck the mother lode.