Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Railroad Adventure

DSC07921_edited-1 {“Remember” journaling tag from Crafty Secret’s “Creating with Vintage Patterns” CD}

It was an exciting time…and a terrifying time, as well.

Sixteen-year-old Anna was about to embark on a journey that would forever change her life.

Anna Brandley age 16 edited {Anna’s 16 year-old portrait.  I love the look on her face.  Not the best quality copy, but I have it, nonetheless.  Most likely taken at the start of their journey.}

Her father, Theodore, had just been commissioned to lead a group of men to Alberta Canada to assist in a great canal-building enterprise…they were also to build up a community there for families to follow along and settle in.

Johann Theodore Brandley middle aged

So, bravely saying goodbye to the small, safe western town she’d been born in, the family home and bakery…her young mother’s grave…she boarded the train with her father, brothers, aunt and the other men and began the long ride along the rails to Canada…

Upon reaching Butte, Montana, their large steam engine slowed and came to a halt.  Coal and supplies were needed, and they would be in town for a couple of hours.


Butte was, at that time, considered a very wild city, and the men had an interest in seeing it, asking Anna’s father to join them.  He told Anna in no uncertain terms that she was to remain on the train with her aunt…too many tales had reached his ears of the unlawfulness of the area, and he wanted his daughter safe.


Shortly after the men left the train, Anna noticed, through the window, two well-dressed men ride up towards their train car on horses.  One got off, the other stayed on his horse…close to the window where she sat.

Soon the man entered their car—inhabited only by Anna and her aunt--walked directly over to Anna, took her by the arm and said, “You got on this train in Melrose, Montana.  Your family has asked me to take you back to them.”


This was, of course, untrue.  He had to just be horribly mistaken.  Anna was silent at first--as her father had ordered her, on this trip--to never speak to strange men.  The elegant stranger grabbed her arm harder, trying to yank her out of her seat…repeating the same thing to her over and over again.

Her sweet Aunt Eliza, horrified by all this, kept assuring the man that he was quite mistaken, but he absolutely ignored the older woman…all his attention was on young Anna.


Anna writes that being so shocked and frightened, all she could think to do was to silently pray that help would come to her very soon…

Her father and the men had barely reached the city when he felt a VERY strong urging to get back to the train as quickly as he could—he told the men his feelings, and unquestioningly they followed him back at full gallop.


Suddenly, the man waiting outside the train knocked loudly on the window, and the man with the horrible grip on Anna’s arm let go fast—and ran off the train without another word…

Anna, barely  breathing, looked out the window watching the dust as they rode off in the opposite direction from the large group of men riding fast towards the train—her father at the head of the group.

DSC07919_edited-1 {tags from Crafty Secrets’ “Creating with Vintage Illustrations” CD}

Just in time!  What joy and relief flooded through Anna’s heart…

Quickly telling her father what had just happened, he took her and Aunt Eliza back into Butte with him to the sheriff’s office.

DSC07908_edited-1 {a new page made for my heritage album.  A wild west adventure that will never be forgotten in our family…}

After giving the sheriff a detailed description of the two men, the sheriff told Theodore that he and his daughter were truly fortunate, as he knew EXACTLY who the two men were…

…so far escaping capture, the two men were part of a group of white slave traders who had recently invaded the city.


The grateful group continued on their way…more stories for other days…but Anna learned one powerful thing that she never forgot.  One she recorded on paper many times.  One she told and re-told her children and grandchildren:

“Through Father’s listening to the warning he received and his quick action and my silent prayer for help, my life was saved.”

Anna Ostlund young in sailor dress {Anna in her thirties…a peaceful, glowing beauty}

Anna was, for the rest of her life, a woman of great faith and prayer.  I’m so grateful to this beautiful great-grandmother of mine for the lessons she left and the life story she told…



  1. I LOVE this story so much! How perfect for a post. It makes me so grateful that I don't live at that time! You have such a way with words and telling stories. Thank you for the memory!

  2. Great example of prayer and inspiration! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh my gosh Julie...what a terrifying experience for your Great Grandmother! Thank goodness she wrote about this experience but most of all thank goodness that her father acted on his 'feelings' and he and the other men raced back to the train. Your scrap-booking is absolutely gorgeous..what a wonderful way to preserve the past. Thank you for sharing her story with us. Have a wonderful week!
    Maura :)

  4. Blessed Redeemer! What an exciting and powerful story...on so many levels!!!! A woman of true Christian faith. A wonderful story that inspires us all. How many years later?? You surely come from strong stock. Thanks, as always Julie, for sharing part of your generational history!

  5. Another unbelievable novelette. Stories that make me want to dig around in my own family tree. Smiles..Renee

  6. Oh Julie, This must have been a horrible experience for your great-grandmother. I got goose pumps reading the story.
    Your heritage page about Anna turned out gorgeous! I love everything about it.
    Have a wonderful week!

  7. This is wonderful and what a great storyteller you are. Love your page!

  8. Oh my Julie! What a wonderful outcome to what could have been a much different story. I loved reading it. You are so blessed to have these fabulous tales to share with us of your family and it's brilliant history. I am always amazed by them. As always, I have enjoyed my little visit with you here today. Love and hugs from a very chilly UK. xxoo

  9. Loved reading this and the photos you shared. Awesome!

  10. AND I LOVE how you take vintage memories and remember them so that WE can share in the deeper value of the photo, the piece of jewelry or other artifact of your family's life!

    THANK YOU JULIE for your kind words. I hope to be a poet someday.


  11. Oh my! Now that's a story! So few people have the lives of their ancestors documented through journals and images. You are so very fortunate! Blessings, Tammy

  12. Julie, I was on the edge of my seat reading that, you really have the 'story telling' gene. It is a rare and wonderful gift. I relish the time I spend on your blog! hugs Anna xx

  13. Julie,
    I am always amazed at the wonderful words that have been passed down in your family...not one story or two, but many many events! You are so blessed! I read these stories with a sometimes sad heart that my family history is lost forever....no one left to write anything down....
    I still enjoy reading every one of these though..you are such a good reporter of your families history!

  14. Hello Julie, this is my first visit to your blog and I've been enchanted.
    I'm now following you and away to read more of your previous posts. I think I'm in for a wonderful time :D

  15. what a story!!! and told so vividly!!!

    i can see a resemblance, too.

    thanks for the great read, sweet friend.


  16. What an amazing story Julie it really had me going there and I was so relieved the men all returned and didn't think they were being silly about having such feelings. I am jealous that you have so many of these wonderful stories kept in your family.

  17. Lovely! So glad to have found your blog!

  18. What a wonderful post! I was intrigued from the start. You have a wonderful way with words. Loved this post. Your great-grandmother was a beautiful lady.

  19. What an amazing story !!! Thanks goodness her prayers were heard and answered.
    Where were they headed to in Canada ??

  20. Oh my gosh, Who would have thought that that kind of thing went on in those days.! She was a very lucky girl indeed.
    What a story to pass on. Love the vintage art as well.
    Hugs Lynn

  21. What an amazing story! Who knew things like that actually happened way back when.

    As usual, I can't believe all that you know about your family - what a gift to have all of those stories!

  22. How awesome for her to record her adventure to pass down through the generations! What a great witness to Faith! The page is just breathtaking! Thanks for sharing.
    God bless

  23. hello Julie, dans mon petit coin de France sous la neige je lis la très belle histoire de cette arrière arrière grand-mère qui a eu bien de la chance de ne pas être kidnappée par ces horribles trafiquants
    Je suis comme toi j'aime bien écrire les histoires anciennes de ma famille
    et j'adore ton scrapbooking
    merci et bonne journée, ici il est 16h30 le 7/02, chez vous il est 7h du matin
    I'm Cecilia, I live in France at Olivet, I have 2 daughters Virginia and Emily and a son Nathan, and three little girls, Zoe 7 years, and Eline 3 years Constance 20 months,
    thank you for these beautiful stories