Sunday, April 29, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part I

I was born on December 16, 1902, in the town of La Grande, Oregon, in an area that they now call old town {1986}. According to some records I have, December 16, 1902, was a Tuesday, and I was told by my parents that a heavy snow storm was in progress. {The mean temperature in La Grande on that date was 21.5 degrees.}

Slater Building - La Grande Oregon
Slater Building in La Grande, OR built ca. 1891
I was named John, no middle name. I must explain that the first male child in every generation had been named John. I suppose the practice had been going on for many generations (all those named John were subsequently nicknamed either Jack or Jock). Up to this point, all Aitchison children in my generation had been girls, including my sister, Mildred, who was born December 13, 1899. I was nearly beaten into the world by our cousin, Edgar S. Aitchison, who was born in January, 1903. It was a strange fact, but all those Aitchisons staying in Canada produced girls, while the three who migrated to the States (William, Andrew and Robert) produced nearly all boys. {Uncle Jack's great-grandfather and his family emigrated from Scotland in about 1851. His father was born in Sullivan Township, Grey County, Ontario, Canada, in 1865, and immigrated to the United States in 1892.}

At the time I was born, my father operated what was commonly known as a dray business. Since gasoline powered trucks were not yet invented, Papa {William Rutherford Aitchison} had three (3) teams of horses, a couple of what we called lumber wagons and a buckboard (more on buckboards later). His job was about the same as those people now who operated small to medium-sized trucks. And, since La Grande was a so-called railroad town (junction), there was a thriving business in draying. {La Grande was a hub for the railroad. The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company interchanged there and then went northeast to Elgin, also in Union County.}

Incidentally, the house Papa built and where I was born, is still standing {1986}, and on my last visit it had been remodeled and was occupied. {photo will be added as soon as it is located!}

My sister, Mildred, died in March 1903. There had been an epidemic of diphtheria go through the community and it just about wiped out all children five to six years and younger. {Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection usually affecting the upper respiratory system. It includes a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness. Based on information from the 1890 census, diphtheria was the cause of 50 out of 1,000 deaths from known causes in Oregon. In 1900, the highest number of deaths was among those who were from five to nine years of age, followed closely by those one to three. }  On several occasions, I have visited the cemetery and it is amazing what happened. These people had absolutely no protection.

[Your dad {Eugene Aitchison} and I stopped in la Grande circa 1970-1972 and visited the cemetery. There were a couple of men there in the small office. I asked them how man lots my father had purchased. They had records there which showed four lots for which Dad paid $1.50 each. We still have three lots there. I asked what the lots would sell for now. They told me that $1.50 was all they could be sold for.]

Mildred was just past her third birthday and I was about three months. My folks told me that I was very ill for a while, but eventually got over whatever it was.

Of course, my parents were devastated by their loss and vowed to move out of the area, but it wasn't until February or March 1904 (I was a little over one year) that they were able to dispose of most of their belongings and prepare to move. 

Since Mama {Ivy Ellen Johnson/Youker}, had relatives in Fort Boise (aunts, uncles, cousins and at least one grandparent), she and I took the train for the approximately 150 mile journey (possibly more about her relatives later). {This Fort Boise was the relocated fort (from near Parma, Idaho) built in 1863 near the present city of Boise, Idaho.}
Shasta Limited circa late 1900s
By Edward H. Mitchell, San Francisco (eBay item card front card back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 To be continued....

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