Bidding the other members of his party farewell and committing them to the care of God, Sam went west of Sacramento, to Yolo County, to claim one hundred sixty acres of rich land, a government homestead, along the Sacramento River. Others went farther north – to Oregon and Washington.
All were grateful for God’s provision and protection over the thousands of miles they had traveled in their six-month-long journey from their home in the East.
Sam ran his fingers through the rich soil. Ah, this will bear well! Just like the rich black loam back in Carroll County, Illinois! He could hardly wait to harvest a crop.
But he was in for bitter disappointment. With levees not yet built, the Sacramento mercilessly overflowed with winter rains, inundating not only fields but houses where animals were sheltered. Tree houses were built to accommodate pigs and chickens, with Sam feeding his stock by boat!
The family had to be moved to higher ground until the waters had subsided.
After enduring these floods for three years, Sam moved his family farther south, to San Joaquin County, to a ranch near the town of Banta. Here such severe drought plagued him, he could raise one good crop only every three or four years.
It was man against earth in a new, stubborn wilderness. Severe privations were shared by all the family.
One of the daughters recalls a certain Christmas morning when the children came to the table to find a pair of very sober parents. There were no gifts, only a raw potato beside each child’s plate as a Christmas remembrance. The children understood.
More sons and daughters were born to the Brethren pioneers. Then one summer day in 1877, on July 20, the seventh son in a family that would number thirteen children appeared. They named him Jesse Irvin. He too was destined to become a pioneer. He would be remembered – not for conquering a piece of hostile land – but for staking out a spiritual claim for the hearts of children in every corner of the world.