Chapter Six

Before Robert had the opportunity to develop any sort of routine or attachments, they were saying goodbye. Again a little awkward, Robert left a forwarding address and fifty cents for any postage they might accrue on his behalf.

They boarded a train in the heart of the city in the late afternoon and waved goodbye through the window.


Tillie had quite given up when a battered letter arrived at the house with her name on it. She’d never received her own letter before and shrieked with joy when her mother handed it to her with a smile. She tore it open and found a whole three pages of text written just for her. Bliss.

The letter was two weeks old and had names of American places she had never heard of. She despised the excitement that was evident in his words, even from so far away, but they were words for her from him, written in his familiar, sloppy, beloved handwriting that was so hard to read sometimes.

(The first time I saw your Great-Great-Grandfather Robert’s signature, I laughed out loud. He signed ‘Robert’ just the way your father does. Dad used to write me letters, just like Robert wrote to Tillie, and I too had to concentrate to read those precious words. It was the worst when he was tired. Sometimes my whole family would have to help me read them, all of us guessing to crack the code.)

She read the letter to her mother and all her sisters, and to Mr. and Mrs. Brodie, and to her class at school, and would have read it to the entire congregation at church if the pastor had let her. For at least a week, she was downright euphoric. Then she thought about how long it had been before she had been able to get the next letter off. He would certainly have left New York by then; would the letter have to be returned to Scotland again before she could get it to him? And how would she know where to send it to? It could be months before he heard from her again, and then how long after that before she heard from him?


Although nearly fifty years old, the Transcontinental Railroad was still considered a modern marvel. However, it also quickly became a very boring marvel. One small frontier town looks much like another, and once they were out on the open plains, the scenery became even less interesting. A veritable ocean of grassland washed past his window, broken occasionally by a herd of bison or a sun-bleached huddle of wooden shacks. There wasn’t usually much more to see than miles and miles of telegraph lines running next to the tracks. Had Robert known, he might have just stayed in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where the railroad started, and who knows what would have become of our family then?

Passing through the Rocky Mountains was more interesting, at least when they weren’t passing through pitch black tunnels, and, as they neared the western coast, the cities became larger and closer together. The overnight stop in Provo, Utah saw a great outpouring of Mormon immigrants and a scant influx of Mormon apostates. A great amount of workers unloaded in Reno, Nevada, and the remainder of the train’s occupants were a few late-blooming miners, some hopeful farmers and a throng of skilled construction artisans, all heading for California. The Californian gold rush was mostly over by this point, although a few still came to the state hoping to strike it rich. Most of the work to be done at this point was either construction or agriculture.

The train pulled into Almeda, California late at night. Robert and James found a hotel for the night and were at the train station the next morning. The next train left for San Francisco a few hours later; the next time they set foot off the train, it would be years before they loaded onto another.


Note: Cross-referencing of records appears to indicate a two year gap in information in which I am yet to find out what Robert Brodie was up to. This gap most likely occurred either immediately before or immediately after the Brodie brothers lived in San Francisco. For sake of the story’s continuity, I’ve overlooked this gap in the telling.

Records: None. This chapter was completely made up of likely occurrences. However, the gap is found when comparing the date of arrival on the SS Furnessia Ship Manifest, the SS Elysia Ship Manifest, and the dates on the Robert Brodie Passport Application.



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