Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Pandora's Safe, Part 3: No Telegram, No Call?

(Jean Soldan Story continues)

I am not exactly sure how Jean-John Soldan-Soldani-Soldaniels found himself in Missouri in the 1850s but I have some pretty good ideas about the forces that pushed and pulled him there.

Gold was found in California; the Compromises of 1850a nd 1854 opened massive lands in the US west whose “slave state or non-slave state” status was to be decided (later) by popular sovereignty (New Mexico, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska). Steamboats reversed the direction of trade along the Mississippi River and connected it to massive railroads, and the two modes of transportation converged in in Missouri, making it the launching place to the “west.”

So yes, it is understandable that a man like John-Jean who most likely spoke French and German and probably English as well was pulled to go there and get rich selling things to people from all over the world who were stocking up (think of Missouri in the 1850s as one big  Costco, one last place to shop for months or even years) before heading across whatever the travelers would face  between Missouri and the Pacific Ocean.

People don’t tend to go to strange cities all alone, and from what I can tell, Jean-John’s brother Peter (who may or may not have been his twin because they identified as the same age in the 1860 Census) was already in Kansas City when he came there. 

Missouri documents have John Soldani buying land in Kansas City (calling himself John Soldanels, along with Joseph Soldanels) in 1855.

From 1856 to 1863 John buys at least 4 properties and sells two.  He works and lives with his brother Peter, and apparently they run a saloon-store that catered to travelers who spoke German and French.

He marries French-Canadian Matilda in a ceremony officiated by the famous Bernard Donnelly “frontier priest” and they have two kids – Sylvester Jean Soldani (1860) and Anthony Godance Soldani (1861).

 Meanwhile, the Civil War starts; Missouri stays in the Union, and New Orleans tries to go Confederate but is surrounded by the Union and occupied throughout the war to shut down trade on the Mississippi.     

I think Jean went down to New Orleans once or twice and that’s how he ended up in the Cazadores Espanoles Regiment for at least one day on September 21, 1861. 

Maybe Jean was in New Orleans for banking, for trade or for a vacation from his toddlers. Records show his brother (son?) Joseph was there with him. 

 I don't know when they ran to New Orleans but I'm glad they did because their brother Peter  (officially Peter Soldam in several records and I really think Soldam is my new last name but we can revisit that, the story is still warming up)  is taken  PRISONER  BY THE CONFEDERATES IN 1862 in the BATTLE OF INDEPENDENCE omg OMG omg Omg!

 It’s going to be OK; he will live and then he will spend the rest of his life living near Leavenworth, but I’m not sure that Peter and Jean-John ever find each other again or even know that the other one is OK.

Apparently Matilda, John-Jean-Johan’s first wife had NO idea what happened to  Jean-John-Johan. She waits and waits and waits and then the war ends and he STILL doesn’t come home so she assumes he is dead.

 I can’t blame her. No telegram.  No call.  Nothing.

 My educated gut guess is that Matilda Soldan believed her husband perished on the Sultana when it blew up in April 1865.

 Or maybe she imagined he was lost some other way. 

Matilda she was a married woman with the responsibility to settle his accounts during a time that the economy was topsy turvy.  I can’t imagine what kind of income she was living on while he was gone and Peter was captured by the Confederates, but I CAN imagine more than one man advising her to come to terms with being a widow and let HIM help her settle the accounts.

In November 1865, Matilda puts John-Jean Soldan’s estate in probate and is forced to liquidate all of his estate to pay their creditors.

But he’s alive.