Thurston County Connection Newsletter
Thurston County Connection
Thurston County Connection
December, 2014
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 Romance on Mound Prairie

From the Archives:

With no texting, tweeting or Facebooking, let alone decent roads in pioneer times, how did young people many miles apart manage to meet, court and spark? Here’s Mrs. John Parker’s account excerpted from Early History of Thurston County written by Mrs. George Blankenship in 1914. After surviving a harrowing wagon train trip from Missouri to Portland (during which her mother and three brothers died of “black measles”), the 16-year-old Rushe Hays and her father settled in “Mound Prairie” in 1852. She soon found herself the object of considerable attention.

“A Brave Lot of Lads”

There were only four young ladies within a radius of many miles. The young men used to come out to the cabin Sunday afternoons in considerable numbers. Those who had riding horses would ride and those who had not would walk and seem to think nothing of the miles traveled. There was generally a generous supply of buttermilk on hand, and the boys made the excuse that it was for this cooling drink they had come. They were a brave lot of lads, gallant and stalwart. I felt an interest and friendship for every one of them. Ah, me, where are they now? All, all gone.

The young man who came most frequently to see me was young Benton Moses, who afterwards married my dear friend, Sarah Yantis. One Sunday when Mr. Moses arrived, he was accompanied by another young man he introduced as John Parker. He had a beautiful riding horse, which he managed with splendid skill, but it was his getup which made the lasting impression on me. Mr. Parker had a trading store in Olympia and carried articles for trade with the Indians. From this stock he had selected a pair of riding leggings which came to the knees, on his feet were beaded moccasins and on his head was a queer looking Scottish cap.

“One of Those Three-Horned Affairs”

About the only amusement we young folks had in those days was horseback riding. There were no roads and no buggies or other means of conveyance. The young men used to come out to our house riding one horse and leading another for me. John had sent to San Francisco for a side saddle for me, probably the first in the Northwest—one of those three-horned affairs such as girls used to ride. I never saw a woman ride astride in those days and we would have thought it a very immodest thing to do. Times have changed since I was a girl.

“The Proposal”

Mr. Parker went out in the yard and had a long talk with Father and then he came in and asked me to sit on the steps with him. He said he wanted to marry me more than he had ever wanted anything on earth, but he had hoped to get in a little better financial shape before asking me. He told me he was a poor man and in debt—a former partner had absconded with $5,000, for which loss Mr. Parker became personally responsible. “But Rushe,” he said, if you are willing to undertake the life I can offer you now I will love and cherish you forever.” And so I agreed. Mr. Parker then rode back to town and returned with Judge Landers.

By Keith Eisner

Sunshine Hall at Grand Mound about 1857. Sunshine Hall at Grand Mound about 1857.