The story of the Coles takes another new turn.
The cry of Gold! in the American West was reaching the East Coast. William became anxious to join a group and find his fortune. He was troubled about who would look after his family while he was gone, but Elizabeth assured him she could manage. A large caravan was formed and William packed his meager belongings and as many supplies as could be managed. Meat would be plentiful along the way, but flour, sugar, salt, and bedding had to be packed along. It was time to go as the excitement grew with stories of gold to be found everywhere in the West.
Time went by with no word from William. Elizabeth put her early training in sewing and nursing to good effect. She tailored and became a licensed midwife doing her best to support her family of two young boys. Elizabeth was very lonely and sad, missing William terribly. Her sons gave her strength; and she was a devoted and loving mother.
Tragedy struck the family. Little John contracted measles and could not survive his illness. He died March 11, 1852—only four years old. Elizabeth was filled with sorrow. Her boys were so very dear to her.
Several years passed and Elizabeth had almost given up hope that her William would ever return. Many stories came back of caravans being attacked by Indians and killed crossing the Plains. She was afraid this was William’s fate.
During this time of hardship, her mother and a sister, learning of her sorrow and her desperation over William’s long absence came over from England. They stayed a year giving her support and comfort. The relationship with Elizabeth’s father had not changed however; as her mother told her, her father had never forgiven her. Elizabeth was one of five girls in the family, and she was the only one who ever disobeyed him.
Next installment – The Fate of William