Authors: Susan Leigh Carlton
Susan Leigh Carlton about 35,000 words
Tomball, TX 77377
Susan Leigh Carlton 2014
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
This book contains Material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book May be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.
The story of the mail order brides from the old west started when the gold rush brought males over the Rocky Mountains to new mining communities.
Only a very small number of prospectors really struck it rich, but a lot of young males stayed in the west, mining, ranching, farming, hunting or opening companies.
As towns began to grow, these males wanted wives to create households, and to develop far more stable, lasting communities.
In the western territories, males outnumbered the ladies dramatically, sometimes by as many as nine to one. The obvious answer to the problem was to bring single ladies in the east, westward, prepared to make a new life.
Just as the gold rush produced a disproportionate ratio of males to females in the west at the end of the 1860s, the Civil War along with the migration of people to the west, led to a similar ratio of women to men in the eastern states. There had been a very limited number of careers open to women, and those who didn't marry early faced not only the loneliness and social stigma of spinsterhood, but the prospect of poverty. All too often, the opportunity to move west, make a life and be part of a household was something some women had been prepared to sacrifice for.
Laramie, Wyoming was a western town with a dearth of fe
males when compared to the number of eligible bachelors.
She came to Laramie as a mail order bride for Will Hastings. As she stepped from the stagecoach, she was grabbed by a drunken cowboy. Her husband-to-be tried to intervene and was gunned down in front of her.
Left with $73 and her husband-to-be face down and lifeless in the dirt street of Laramie, she was now faced with a choice of returning to Philadelphia and a hopeless life there or that of a whore working above the saloon in Laramie, when a third choice presented itself. The twin brother of her intended offered to take her as his bride.
Did she dare take the chance with this stranger? With no money and no prospects, Clara had no choice, so she accepted his proposal, married and went home with Luke Hastings.
The family of Luke and Clara Hastings had been smiled upon many times by Lady Luck. After Luke’s twin brother Will and the prospective husband of Clara had been killed, Luke had proposed to Clara who accepted his proposal. They had been happily married since.
They were blessed with two healthy children, William Lucas and Emma Rose.
The Twin Bar H Ranch was a prospering spread, plenty of rain, good grass and a herd that was growing. They had a contract to sell their cattle to the Army at Fort Laramie. Then, copper was discovered on the J Bar B Ranch, their next door neighbor. The vein continued onto their land. A lucrative contract to lease the land to the Halliday Gold and Copper Mining Company had made them wealthy beyond their dreams.
Clara found her niche to give back. She assisted neighboring wives in childbirth, including both of the Barnette children. With the nearest doctor in Laramie, she was the first aid provider to the ranch hands and their families. She was a mentor and closest friend of Sarah Barnette.
The Twin Bar H Ranch…
“Luke, I’m getting low on my medical supplies. I need to go into Laramie and get a bank draft to send with my order,” Clara Hastings said to her husband.
He replied, “We can go in tomorrow or the next day, whichever suits you. I need to see Henry Calhoun about where we are on the idea of forming our mining company anyway. We can get both things taken care of with one trip.”
She said, “Let’s wait until the day after tomorrow. Why don’t we leave the children with Hetty? There’s no need for them to make that long ride. They would just get all fussy. I’ll talk to her tomorrow and tell her our plans.”
The next morning, Clara was sitting in the living room when Hetty, their live in housekeeper and nanny came in. “Hetty, Luke and I are going into Laramie tomorrow, and I don’t think Will and Emma Rose are going to go with us. They would be worn out and cranky by the time we got there.”
“That will be fine, Miss Clara. I’ll take good care of them,” Hetty said.
After lunch, Clara got the youngsters ready and rode over to their neighbor's ranch to see if they needed anything from Laramie. “Sarah, how are you,” Clara said, hugging her neighbor, Sarah Barnette.
“I’m running myself ragged around here trying to keep up with these two rugrats of mine,” Sarah replied.
“Luke and I are going into Laramie tomorrow and I wondered if you need anything? On second thought, why don’t you and Jed ride in with us? We’re not taking the children so there’ll be plenty of room.”
“That’s a really good idea. I could use a break anyway. Now that we have Mattie, we won’t have to worry with ours either,” Sarah said.
“How is she working out?” asked Clara.
“She’s a godsend. It’s wonderful! She does most of the housework and the kids just love her. It gives me a bit more freedom. Jedadiah’s in his office. Let me ask him.” She left the room and returned a couple of minutes later and said, “It’s a done deal. Thank you so much for asking. I need a break. I also want to see if Asa has any new dress fabric. I need to make Sarah Catherine some new clothes. She is growing so fast, I can scarcely keep up with her.”
Luke had been sitting quietly on the davenport while Clara and Sarah talked. He loved to sit and watch Clara. To him, she was God’s blessing. After they were married, his life became so much more interesting and meaningful, and she had provided him with a son and a daughter.
Jed came in and said, “I’m sorry, Luke, I didn’t know you were here until Sarah came in and asked me if I wanted to go to town with you.” He extended his hand and they shared a firm handshake. Luke regarded Jed as his best friend, while Jed considered Luke to be both his friend and his mentor.
“I’m glad you’re going with us. I was planning on talking with Calhoun about the company, but it will be better with you there,” Luke said.
“Calhoun’s going to ask for some details as well as a name. I’ve been thinking on it. Since they discovered oil up around Casper and Dallas Dome, I think we should expand our plans to include oil. I was thinking of the name, Laramie Oil and Minerals. What do you think?”
Luke answered with a laugh, “That sounds better than Laramie Mineral Oils.”
Grinning, Jed said, “That it does. You planning on getting an early start?”
“Yeah, we’ll be over around eight. I can see that everything gets going before we leave.” He turned to his wife, “ Clara, are you about ready to head home?”
“Land sakes, Luke. We haven’t more than just got here. You and Jed talk and let Sarah and me alone and have our talk.”
“You’ll be together all day tomorrow,” Luke said.
“And your point is?” retorted Clara. Sarah laughed at the banter between the two neighbors. She knew there had probably been an angry word exchanged between them once or twice since they married, but not many more.
The two women were both mail order brides and thus shared a common ground, where as Clara had ventured west to marry Luke’s twin brother who had been killed before the wedding could take place. Sarah had come to Wyoming to marry Jed. Luke had lived on a ranch all of his life while Jedadiah was raised on a farm, and had tried his hand at gold mining before reverting to farming and ranching.
“Okay, Darlin’, you just let me know when you’re ready,” Luke said.
“That’s the man I know and love,” Clara said as she smiled sweetly at her husband. It was more than an hour before she put on her bonnet and declared herself ready to go home.
“So, what did you ladies talk about so long?” Luke asked his wife.
“Girl stuff. Things you wouldn’t be interested in,” she answered. He waited for her to go on but she didn’t. She just maintained the position she always did. Close to him. Smiling whenever their eyes met. Words weren’t needed for them to communicate their love for each other. It was always there, glances, smiles, touching. There was a lot of touching in their marriage. When they were in a room with others, her eyes always sought him out, then upon location, smiling.
The next morning, just at eight, Luke and Clara kissed the kids goodbye
. Clara told them to be good and not give Hetty any trouble and she would bring them each a piece of candy home. They both promised to be on their best behavior.
As they pulled out of their yard, two ranch hands fell in behind them. Both carried a Henry Repeater and a Colt 45. This became a habit after Luke and Clara had been ambushed by Indians on the way into town. One of his men had been shot, as had Luke. Clara had shot and killed two Indians as they were closing in on them for the coup de grace. With Luke bleeding profusely and Clara putting compression on the wound, and their remaining ranch hand driving, they made a mad dash for Laramie. According to the doctor, Clara had saved his life for the second time that day. She had not left his bedside until the doctor had finished and assured her Luke would live.
There had been no problems with marauding Indians for several months, but Luke was taking no chances. The riders were off to either side of the wagon. One rider had moved to the front and the other in trail. Their heads were on a swivel, constantly checking the sides of the road and the trail ahead and behind.
Luke and Jed talked about their ideas for their company while the women swapped stories about their children, of which there were plenty.
When they arrived in Laramie, Luke turned his riders loose, telling them when to meet them at the Carruthers house. They visited with John and Grace, both old friends. John had married the two couples. Grace had taken both Clara and Sarah into her home when they first arrived in Laramie. Clara had stayed with them during Luke’s recovery. Luke and Jed talked with John about the fund they had established for John to use as he saw fit and to draw on as needed. They asked if it needed replenishing and he assured them it was fine.
“As long as that’s okay, I don’t need to go to the bank. Jed, let’s go talk to Henry and get the ball rolling about our mineral oil company.” Jed laughed and explained to the women, how he had suggested calling it the Laramie Oil and Minerals Company while Luke volunteered the name sounded better than the Mineral Oil Company. “Honey, I’ll see you afterwhile,” Luke said. He pecked her on the cheek. It was the last kiss he would ever give her.
Jed pecked Sarah also. He was going with Luke. Sarah said, “I’m going to go to the store and see if Asa has any nice fabrics. The kids need some new clothes and Jed’s shirts have holes in them and I’ve already patched the patches.”
“I’ll meet up with you at the store. I’m going to the bank and get the draft, then I can just put my order in the mail, and we can shop,” Clara said. There were ‘byes all around and the quartet started off, splitting in three directions down the block.
Sarah Barnette headed for the general store. Asa Thompson, the proprietor of the store greeted her by name. She had met him the first day she was in Laramie. “Miss Sarah, you’re a sight for sore eyes. Things have been drab around here since your last visit.”
“Asa, how you do run on. You must have a bit of Irish in you. I am looking for some fabric to make clothes for all of us. What do you have for shirt material? Jed walks around dressed worse than the ranch hands. Our children are growing so fast, they outgrow things almost as soon as I get them made.”
“I do have some new things that might draw your interest, but Miss Sarah, if you don’t mind my saying so, you shouldn’t be wearing homemade clothes. We have a new ladies shop. I’ll bet they have some nice things you would like.”
“Thank you, Asa, when Clara gets here, we might just go see what they have. In the meantime, let’s see what you have in.” She walked over to check through the bolts of cloth he had laid out, she found several colors she liked so began picking out buttons and threads to match. “I think I’ll just buy ready made shirts for Jed. Shirts are not the easiest things for me to make.”
“That’s a good idea. I have some nice dress shirts and also some real good work shirts. That’s probably what he wears the most.”
“You’re right there. The only time I see him dressed up is when we go to church, which isn’t often enough by the way.”
“I just remembered,” Asa said. “I have some mail for you.” He walked to the portion of the store that served as a post office for Laramie, and pulled out two letters, and handed them to her. Glancing at them, she saw one was from her mother and the other from her sister, Martha.
As she reached for them, she heard loud noises coming in through the open door. “What in the world was that?” she asked.
“It sounded like gunshots,” Asa said. “You stay here while I check.” She was right behind him as he went through the door. They saw people running toward and away from the bank. Four men came running from the bank, guns in hand. They ran to some horses being held by a fifth man, mounted and rode off to the northwest in a cloud of dust.
Sarah and Asa went to the bank. People from all directions were converging on the bank. “What happened,” she asked one of the ladies standing in the street.
“There was a robbery,” the lady said. “Those men that just ran out of here held up the bank. The bank guard drew his gun and shot at them. The robbers shot him and someone else got hit too.” She turned and hurried away. Sarah continued to the bank. As she walked up, her husband burst through the door at a dead run.
Henry Calhoun looked up when Luke Hastings and Jed Barnette walked into his office. He had been their lawyer since copper had been discovered on Jed’s ranch and subsequently on Luke’s ranch also. He had represented them in their dealings with the mining company that leased the mineral rights to the copper on their land, and had saved them from being hoodwinked by the mining company. “Jed, Luke, good morning. How are you two doing these days? No problems with Halliday, I hope?”
“No, we’re good there,” Luke said. “Henry, Jed and I want to set up our own mining company like we talked about before. Since oil has been discovered up around Casper, it is a good possibility around here. What do you think about it?”
“It might be worth looking into. A man named Rockefeller has pretty well cornered the market in the northeast. Wouldn’t surprise me to see them out here grabbing up leases while the industry is so new. Right now, your major market would be for kerosene and lubricating use, but I think it is only a matter of time.”
“I have the papers drawn up for the original company we talked about. It will be a simple matter to change it to include oil leasing. The corporation, as you specified, identifies you, Luke as the president of the company and you, Jed as the vice president. These are titles within the company. You would have equal shares in any profits.”
“That sounds good to me,” Jed said. “What do we do next?”
“After you both sign, then we file the papers with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Offices. Now that we are a state, the procedures have changed a bit, but it will be transparent to you. Now, do you see yourselves ever getting into the refining and smelting end of the business or will you just acquire rights?”
“We haven’t discussed it very much,” said Luke, “but I think we have decided to leave that to the companies like Halliday.”
Calhoun replied, “I’ll draw it up that way and submit it for approval. Once we get that, you can start acquiring leases. I’ll get a list of holdings already filed with the state, so we’ll be ready to go when the approval comes. For now, I’ll use my office address as the business address and we’ll change that when you set up an office.” Just as he handed the papers to Luke they were startled by loud noises from outside in the direction of the bank.
“That sounded like gunshots,” Jed said, as he grabbed his hat and headed for the door. Luke was right behind him as he ran outside. There were quite a few people congregating in front of the bank. When he got to the edge of the crowd, he asked a man what was going on.
“There was a holdup!” the man said. “The bank guard was shot and the robbers rode out of town headed northwest.”
“Clara was going to the bank,” Luke said as he began elbowing his way through the crowd. Gradually, he made his way to the plank sidewalk that ran the full length of the business district. He stepped up on the walkway and went to the door of the bank. The door was locked. He peered through the dirty glass and could make out the boots of a man lying on the floor. He rapped on the glass in the door. A man in a white shirt and tie looked up. He waved his arms and mouthed, “We’re closed.” Luke rapped harder. The same man looked up and held his hands up, the black bands he wore on his shirt sleeves waving back and forth. Luke pounded on the door.
The man came to the door along with a man Luke recognized as the president of the bank. He came to the door, but didn’t open it. Luke shouted, “Is my wife still in there?”
The bank president opened the door. “Luke, the clerk didn’t recognize you. Please come on in.”
Elbowing his way inside, followed by Jed, Luke asked, “Was Clara here?”
“She is here, Luke. She was shot during the robbery. Come with me.”
“Shot? Is she okay?”
“I’m afraid it’s real bad Luke. She was hit in the ah… chest. We have her over here.”
“Has anybody gone after the doctor?” Luke asked.
“I don’t know,” said the banker.
Luke roared, “You don’t know? Good God,
man. What’s wrong with you?” He rested his hand on the butt of his gun. “You better get the doctor over here and you had better be damn quick about it.” He turned back and took the two steps to where his wife lay on the carpeted floor, her head resting on a seat cushion from the sofa. He pushed his way to the side of the sofa. A woman was leaning over talking to Clara. “That’s my wife,” Luke said. “Let me in there, please.”
He slid his hand under her head, and said, “Clara honey. It’s me. You’re going to be all right.” Blood trickled from her nose and mouth. She tried to speak, but only more blood came from her mouth.
“Jed,” yelled Luke.
“I’m right here, Luke. What do you need?
Tears streaming from his worried, anguished face, he said, “Would you make sure the doctor gets here, and would you get John for us please. We need his prayers. It’s bad, Jed. Real bad.”
“On my way, Luke. I’ll take care of it.” He shoved and pushed his way through the crowd, where he met the young doctor trying to push his way through, with little success. Jed pulled his gun and fired a shot in the air. There was dead silence. “Get out of the way and let the doctor through. She’s inside to the left, doctor. Luke is with her. I’m going to get the preacher.”
On his way, he met Sarah coming out of the general store. “It’s Clara,” he said as he ran by. “She’s been shot,” he finished over his shoulder.
He ran all of the way to the church. He found John inside. “John,” he said, winded from his run, “It’s Clara. At the bank. She’s been shot. Luke wants you to come pray for her. It looks bad, John. Is Grace in the house?” John nodded as he stood. Jed said, “I’ll tell her. You go.” He ran out the back door to the Carruthers’ house and relayed the same message. Grace turned to one of the ladies with her and said, “Will you watch Rebecca? I’m going to Clara.”
With Jed holding her arm, they ran back to the bank, where John had gone on inside. Sarah was standing by the door, unable to gain admittance. Jed pounded on the door. The bank president opened the door. Pushing Sarah and Grace ahead of him, he reentered the bank. “Did the doctor get in?” he demanded.
“He’s with Miz Hastings now,” said the harried man, fearful of Jed. He had seen Jed pull his gun outside and was afraid of a similar action in his bank.
The doctor looked at Luke. He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Luke. She’s gone.”
“Gone? She can’t be gone. She was alive a few minutes ago. She can’t be gone, Doc. Do something. You’ve got to do something.”
“The bullet penetrated her heart, Luke. She didn’t have a chance.”
Heedless of the blood, Luke pulled the lifeless body of his wife to him. “Don’t leave me Clara. I can’t make it without you. Don’t leave me, please, Clara.”
To the Doctor, Jed said quietly, “What do we need to do now, Doctor?”