Wednesday, 3 July 2013

For Independence Day- a Reepsmoor born Oregon Pioneer of 1848

The Staffordshire Advertiser of April 1851 carried a letter sent to Robert Ball from his brother Isaac which detailed a harrowing account of his journey to Oregon Territory three years before. Isaac Ball was born in Reepsmoor in 1812 and in his early 20s crossed the Atlantic seeking a new life in the States. He settled at first in New York working as a brick maker then gradually moving westward, he married Abigail who would eventually bear him 8 children. Along with over 60 wagons they set off for the new land in March 1848 from St Joseph, Missouri . North of the Platt River, in what is now Nebraska, calamity struck when Isaac broke a leg when he was run over by oxen. He was in a dire predicament as he wrote to Robert back in Reepsmoor

“Think of my condition dear brother 500 miles from a settlement in Missouri and 1,700 miles from Oregon with a wife and six children” A seventh child was born in the wagon. They crossed the Rockies and Isaac describes the wondrous sight of Cascade Mountain before arriving in Yam County, Oregon in September. The family were destitute during their first winter and Isaac was walking with the use of a crutch. ( A later biographer states that Isaac Ball limped for the rest of his life). In February 1849 he sold the team of oxen and the wagon and staked everything on becoming a gold miner in the Californian Gold Rush. He did well and made around $800 in the 40 days he was prospecting. An 1893 account describes Isaac as returning from the mines

“ he settled on his present property, and here he has since been engaged in farming, stock-raising and brick-making. When the rail road was built, the company gave him a station, and in honour of home named it Ballston. Here a nice little village has sprung up, which is destined to become an important one and which will perpetuate the name of this worthy pioneer. Mr. Ball has divided a portion of his homestead and sold a number of village lots. He has also sold 100 acres of land to one of his grandsons. He still owns 540 acres of land, a part of it his old donation claim and the rest  lands which he has since purchased”.

Isaac was a deeply religious man who founded Methodist Chapels and Schools in the locality. Sadly Ballston is a ghost town now A late 1950s guide book unflatteringly describes Ballston as “flat bellied as a ballet dancer, pungent as a cow barn and as productive as a queen bee”