I thought today I would share a bit of my family history, which I happened across in the History of Johnson Co., Iowa. This story was so fun it inspired me to write a poem and put it here. After which I shall give a more detailed account of the story.
For your better understanding I have included a picture of a Durham bull which I found on the internet. The thing looks like a monster.
© Lesa L. Hanners May 19, 2017
Only a boy named Daniel, with a bridle he,
went to fetch a Durham bull, out on the lone prairie.
It would not be driven, what could Daniel do,
it was wild and woolly, that our Daniel knew.
It could not be cornered, he took another tack,
he grabbed bull Durham by the horns,
and leaped upon his back.
The bull let out a bellow, then let out a roar,
went to wildly bucking, on the prairie floor.
Daniel held on tightly, there were none to scoff,
when the bull’s gyrations, bucked poor Daniel off.
If this tale was usual, it would have ended here,
but he was made of sterner stuff, and hadn’t any fear.
Only a boy named Daniel, with bridle in his hand,
got back on bull Durham’s back, just the way he’d planned.
It’s name was Santa Anna, just like in that war,
tho he fought and tore the ground, Daniel hung on more.
It finally stopped gyrating, the battle had been long,
our Daniel gave a whistle, and put the bridle on.
For all the sweaty puffing, neither came to harm,
Daniel turned the bull around, and rode him to the farm.
The sight made a sensation, Daniel riding there,
the neighbors laughed and shook their heads,
but couldn’t help but stare.
They said he was amazing and if he wanted to,
he could ride a buffalo, and tame it like a shrew.
Only a boy named Daniel, with the surname Clark,
listened to the chatter and thought it all a lark.
Only a boy named Daniel, out to have some fun,
put the bull into the barn, was glad that he was done.
Thus ends my true story, the things that happened here,
all took place in Iowa, the book is very clear.
This dear boy was Daniel, my 4th grt. grandpa’s son,
who had a sense of humor, and loved to have such fun.
He was quick and witty, and very light of frame,
fearlessly he rode the bull, and made himself a name.
They wrote it in a history, of Johnson county too,
so I could right this poem today,
and share the tale with you.
As I said above, this poem is about Daniel O. Clark the son of my 4th grt. grandfather, the Rev. Israel Ludlow Clark, and his wife, Hannah Willis. He was a brother to my 3rd grt. grandmother, Elizabeth F. Clark, who married John Roberts in Johnson Co., Iowa on Christmas day, Dec 25, 1849, and crossed the Plains to Oregon in 1850, along with several of her siblings. She giving birth to her 1st son, William A. Roberts, in The Dalles, Oregon Territory, Nov 24, 1850.
The History of Johnson Co., Iowa tells the tale of Daniel riding his fathers Durham bull, named Santa Anna, which had been purchased from George Wein, who had traveled all the way to Ohio to purchase it as a calf. The Durham bull, it is said, grew to enormous size, and as it had been left to roam freely upon the prairie, became much too wild and fearsome for George Wein to manage and so he sold it to my 4th grt. grandfather, Rev. Israel Ludlow Clark.
Daniel, being fearless by nature and full of youthful adventure, went alone on foot one day out into the prairie, with only a bridle in his hands, in hopes of capturing the wild bull and driving it back home. He spent we know not how many long hours in the fruitless attempt, for it refused to be driven, and ran wildly hither and thither. Tiring of this Daniel hit upon another plan, and when he had once more approached the bull, he this time grabbed it by the horns and threw himself upon its back. The bull being of course startled, let out a bellow of rage, and began to snort and paw the ground, and then to buck and gyrate in every direction. We know not how long this first ride was, but do know the bull succeeded in throwing Daniel off. However, Daniel was a son of the soil and made of very stern stuff for he did not give up, and after much difficulty, once more threw himself upon the wild beasts back. This time, tho it fought, bucked, stomped, and gyrated, it could not get its rider loose, for Daniel stuck to him like a stubborn cockle-burr. What a ride it must have been and I would have loved to have seen it, for I have found no records before, of such a wild ride as this.
Finally too tired to fight any longer the bull stopped and stood still, its breath heaving in and out like a great bellows. No doubt Daniel was doing some very hard breathing by this time as well. Now all this time Daniel had somehow managed, to not only stay upon the great bulls back, but had kept a hold of the bridle in his hands. He now slipped the bridle quickly over the bulls horns, buckling it into place. He then proceeded to turn the great beast with the reins, and rode it across the prairie back home to his fathers farm. The bull now, according to the story, completely docile and malleable.
In the days that this happened, for we know it to have been sometime between the years 1845-47, there were but few people in this part of Penn Township, Johnson Co., Iowa, all the neighbors of the Clark’s could easily see Daniel come riding in on the Durham bull. It made a sensation, and Daniel became the talk of the county. He became so famous for this feat of daring do that some said he could ride a bison and bend it to his will. Whether this be true we know not, for no record was found of our Daniel ever attempting it or being that foolhardy.
The story says that Daniel did this out of pure need for thrill-seeking, but in truth at this time, his father Israel was a trustee for the Oregon Trail Association at Iowa City, and had been since 1843. He and his family had not yet set off upon the trail, but were in process of readying themselves for such a future trip. A Durham bull would have been a good purchase, for in a short time, you could breed up your own livestock to pull your wagons. Durham bulls had historically been put to such use. No doubt, Israel’s father, Staphanus, had used this or a similar breed when he brought the family from New Jersey to Ohio, in the 1790's, then on to Indiana in the 1820's, where he passed away. Israel may have used them when he left Indiana for Illinois, and then again in the 1840's on their move to Iowa. Durham’s were a strong breed and when crossed with oxen made for a perfect wagon puller. They were usually gentle, if not let to run wild, and had good endurance under harsh conditions. They were bred for work, such as pulling a plow or wagon, or for meat, and were not bred for dairying.
The Clark’s therefore were very well versed in the ways of wagon travel for they had been moving from place to place for two generations. They had used the heavy Conestoga’s to remove from New Jersey to Ohio and now they would build lighter weight Prairie Schooners to cross the Great Plains and follow the trail that led over the mountains to Oregon.
In future I hope to place here a more detailed account of Rev. Israel Ludlow Clark's life and of his travels from New Jersey, where he was born in 1790, and his journey clear across the American continent, where finally in 1876 at the ripe old age of 86 years, he passed away in the home of the Rev. Abbott Levi James Todd in Looking Glass Valley, Douglas Co., Oregon. His was a life that saw so much and was filled with the desire to spread the gospel to a growing nation.