Moving into the Oregon Country as western representatives of the Jackson family of western Virginia, three sons and one daughter of Henry Jackson exhibited traditional propensities for land acquisition, milling and public involvement with a tenancy towards litigation. The compelling hunger for land that led John Jackson and his sons across the Virginia mountains in 1768 was continued through the pioneer period in the Pacific Northwest. The Jacksons came to exploit the Donation Land Law with four claims and then went on to acquire by purchase the whole or parts of ten additional locations. Considered later to be the largest landholder in Washington County, Oregon, Ulysses Jackson held title to 2680 acres in a valley of limited area. A granddaughter and her husband continued the public lands tradition as late as 1910 when they filed for land in Montana under the Homestead Act. By then available free land in the west was getting scarce and a great bonanza was coming to an end. During a little less that one hundred and fifty years, federal policies had drawn Jacksons across the continent. Their history was representative of the national westing.
The overland trail across the great plains had been proven by their fur trader cousin, David E. Jackson. When the wheels of the Smith, Jackson & Sublette fur trade caravan rolled across the great plains to the Rocky Mountains in 1830, the feasibility of overland travel was demonstrated. But it was another eleven years before the first immigrants to Oregon took the trail. In 1843 John Henderson Brake Jackson edged toward the jumping off place on what was called “the coast of Missouri.”
John B. was the son of Henry Jackson and Mary Hyer of the Buckhannon country. But he was born 15 March 1820 in Wood County. His father farmed in the narrow valleys that he helped survey into the national system. Henry was what might be called a dedicated family man who ran through two wives in producing at least twenty-two children. With a step-mother and continuing crop of new siblings crowding the nest, John B. drifted west as soon as he was old enough to leave home. Uncles and cousins were scattered all along the Ohio River drainage and to the Missouri frontier. By 1843 he was living in Iowa and far from the family of Samuel Parker, a former neighbor from back home with a gaggle of interesting daughters.
Pressure was building in the bottoms, part politics, part economic uncertainty and some measure of New England intellectualism. There is no single explanation to satisfactorily explain the urge to keep moving, but westing seems to have become a collective habit. In the family histories of immigrants to Oregon, it is possible to trace the parallel trails of many families that breached the Alleghany frontier, crossed the long Ohio drainage and launched on the overland trail. From information about the alluring prospects of the west sent home by previous travelers, a ferment excited community gatherings along the border during winter 1842/43. Spring saw the largest assembly yet of prospective travels at Westport. Numbering around a thousand individuals with their goods in wagons and a driven herd of cattle, horses and mules, the emigrants launched themselves into two thousand miles of prairie, desert and mountains.
John B. Jackson took the trail as a teamster for the blacksmith Lewis C. Cooper. Cooper’s outfit was larger than he could handle and John B. was working his way across the prairie ocean much as his indentured grandparents crossed the Atlantic. Unlikely that Jackson took much more with him than a few personal necessities and his Kentucky rifle. But at twenty-three he was willing to take his chances on the possibilities of a new frontier.There are only a few references to John B. in the several trail journals of that unique emigration year. On the 22nd of July he joined a party of six that crossed a mountain to hunt buffalo. The group shot several bulls and three cows, but the excitement of the chase led them too far from the wagon train and they were forced to spend a miserable night on the prairie, huddled in the rain without blankets or coats. On their return they found the fragile democracy of the wagon train suffering from the erosion of the trail. Already torn between the different traveling speeds of wagoneers and cattle drivers, the carefully structured organization elected at the Kansas River was coming apart. After the Sweetwater River the body fragmented into smaller parties, each moving at its own speed. Captain Martin’s light column went ahead while Cooper’s wagons fell in with some who had left Applegates’s cow column. Fellow traveler James Nesmith opined, “the company, divided will be divided again…the materials it is formed of cannot be controlled.”1
Cooper’s party was nineteen wagons as they lay over at Independence Rock for three days. Cooper took the opportunity to paint his name on this landmark of the trail but his pragmatic young teamster saw no reason to leave a record for posterity. At Fort Bridger, Cooper traded off some of his gear and apparently consolidated his teams. The arrangement with Jackson lasted until six miles from the Snake River when the young man left to join “old Zackery’s mess.” Nesmith thought that Zackery was a cantankerous old trouble-maker who had been expelled from Martin’s company for defrauding a young man named Matheney of his provisions. On the 8th of September Zackery proved Nesmith’s evaluation by stabbing Mr. Wheeler during a quarrel.2 John B. may have joined fast company in the expectation of riding ahead of the slower moving wagon parties.
Most of the emigrants reached Fort Vancouver by late October. They learned that while they were voting on the Kansas to organize the wagon train, previous arrivals in Oregon had formed a whole government. This Provisional Government was an independent state in a vast territory jointly occupied and contested by Great Britain and the United States. The arrival of so many over landers this year tipped the balance toward affiliation with the states.
The fledgling government formulated a land policy while desirable claims were being staked out in the Willamette and Tualatin Valleys. John B. went west from the only town, Oregon City, into the cozy enclave of the Tualatin River valley. Those fertile plains enclosed by low mountains consisted of open meadows interspersed with groves of valley oaks and ash. Pioneer axemen had second thoughts about attacking four or five foot thick firs. But there was open ground between the groves because the previous Indian inhabitants, now decimated by disease, annually burned the prairies to improve hunting.
The Tuality Plains were initially settled by a colorful community of retired Hudson’s Bay Company employees with native wives, American mountain men, and a collection of failed missionaries turned settler. Four of the most significant mountaineers; Joe Meek, Doc Newell, Caleb Wilkins and Squire Ebberts, were former trappers introduced into the Rocky Mountains by Smith, Jackson & Sublette. Of the 1843 immigration Matheneys, Athenys, Kaisers, Lennox, Zackery, Burnett, McCarver and John B.’s former boss, Cooper settled on the Tuality Plains.
The best places were already taken by earlier arrivals but Jackson seemed in no hurry to locate. He was already showing a lifelong interest in milling. He probably viewed out a location in what became known as the Greenville are about three miles west of the present town of North Plains, but wasn’t sufficiently dedicated to the place to even bother recording it with the claim recorder of the Provisional Government. Among old friends he found plenty to do helping others get up their claim holding cabins.
During the first winter a visiting seaman, Captain Avery, described the Tuality Plains “as pleasantly situated as it possibly can be. The claims are subdivided into sections a mile square, the quantity allowed a man over 21. While on these plains I visited many of the inhabitants. They are what some people would call poor, but I am of a different opinion… [some of the temporary houses] are hewn timber, they are made not only comfortable but respectable looking by clap boarding and finishing inside. If you call on them though you may not be served out in as good style as with those who pretend to be of a high class of beings, you are heartily welcome which more than makes up the deficiency; if you will stop the night and they have no bed, you can have the softest board on the floor to sleep on. If you wish to ride, you can have a horse: if you wish a bit of a spree, there is no people more ready. In fact they are a “right smart chance” of people.“3
The absence of a mill and cut lumber was not lost upon young Jackson. He was thinking about the possibilities of water power in the northern drainage streams of the Tualatin River system.
In fall 1845 dazed and desert blasted survivors of that immigration staggered into Oregon City. Samuel Parker’s family suffered with others the horrors of an ill-advised cut-off across the south central Oregon barrens. At the Dalles, Parker watched his wife and new baby die in childbirth and a year old daughter succumb to that rigorous crossing.4 Eventually he took his motherless brood to the Salem area, remarried and pursued a respectable public life.
However the Parkers also developed Tuality roots. Son Newton and daughter Amanda married into the Cornelius clan of Washington County, and Priscilla became of the wife of Perin Whitman, nephew of the martyred missionary. On the Fourth of July, 1846 John B. Jackson celebrated by wedding Sarah Sutton Parker in Oregon City.5
The area of land that could be claimed doubled for married couples. Eligible wives were at such a premium that suitors backtracked along the Oregon Trail looking for brides. Taking some of Sarah’s family with them the newlyweds moved to the Greenville location. John B. may have experimented with a mill on Dairy Creek about this time but the flat location offered no real head of waterpower. A better opportunity in the hills surrounding the north end of the valley opened up when a neighbor, Charles McKay, found that he could only register one claim.
McKay was one of the Red River colonists brought west from the Red River settlement (present Winnipeg, Manitoba) in 1841. McKay initially obtained iron work for a mill at the lower end of Puget Sound from the sponsoring Hudson’s Bay Company. When the Nisqually colony experiment collapses, McKay came to the Tuality Plains and began construction of a sawmill on a small branch of the stream that still bears his name. By October 1846 he advertised for sale a sawmill that was ready to go into operation as soon as the rains commenced. With a fall of thirty feet the place could accommodate an overshot wheel. On 7 January 1848 John B. Jackson had re-filed on that claim. He improved the operation with a mill damn and floor and sawmills. This was the first sawmill in the county and the second gristmill. The claim that Jackson designed around it followed the course of Jackson Creek in an unusual progression of geometric steps. In contrast to the large block claims of other agriculturists, Jackson’s claim was the vision of a miller.
The Jackson Falls mill operated until fall 1856. Swollen by rains the stream was at flood when two neighbors came to grind some flour. John B. advised them that the high water was seriously threatening the dam but they went on, even bedding down for the night in the mill house. When the dam and log pond went out, they were swept to their deaths. Mill machinery was scattered for miles along the creek.6
Still the best head of water, the falls location was a bit removed from the valley community. Casting about for a better location, Jackson built a new mill on Dairy Creek a few miles above its entry into the Tualatin. One a major road, the location was at the head of optimistic navigation. The site was purchased from another of the resettled Red River colonists, Michael Wren. Because the country was so flat, John B. was compelled to arrange a deeded right to the portion of Wren’s land that would be flooded by the mill dam. The neighbor was appropriated named John Marsh. In time the Jackson’s purchased a town lot in the crossroads village that was known as Centerville. However, Jackson’s Donation Land Claim remained at the falls location.7 When an opportunity developed, the holding was enlarged through the purchase of the adjoining claim of a former Hudson’s Bay servant, William Burris.
A staunch Democrat, John B. Jackson was a candidate for public office from time to time but never with any success. He was a man of principle who was willing to pursue a disputed milling charge of $50 to the supreme court of the territory. When John B. died in 1869 the widow and heirs were left with a valuable estate which was administrated by his brother, Ulysses Jackson. The executor was so careful in his administration that the probate dragged on for nine years. Uncle Ulysses hoped that the long period would allow the children to mature with their inheritance intact, but they were finally led to bring suit against him to close the estate.
The children of John B. and Sarah Sutton Parker Jackson were Mary Angeline born 1846, Margaret Augustine born 1848, Rachael S. born 1851 died 1870, Henry W. born 1853 died 1856, John S. born 1855 died 1898, Amanda born 1858, Ellen, Andrew G. born 1860 died 1877 and Ulysses Grant born 1867 died 1892.
John and Sarah’s daughter Ellen married Samuel J. Johnson, the son of a neighboring Red River settler. Amanda married Robert Newell and they moved to the Klickitat country near present Goldendale, Washington, and then across the Simcoe Mountains into the Yakima Valley as pioneer stockraisers. Although handicapped by a missing arm, John S. Jackson served as Constable, Justice of the Peace and Postmaster at nearby Glencoe. He managed to hunt by tucking his shotgun under the stump.
By 1848 the overland road was a well established pipeline that annually pumped pioneers into the Pacific Northwest. Two years previously the disputed Oregon Boundary had finally been settled but Congress was still dragging its feet on territorial status and a land law. Each immigration brought new rumors of legislative action and Oregonians, unhampered by actual title, continued to conduct a live trade in real estate. But this was a year of dramatic change. As the wagon parties trudged west, they met delegates riding east with news that the Provisional Government was involved in an Indian war. The Cayuse Indians just across the Blue Mountains, and astride of the west end of the Oregon Trail had murdered the Whitman missionaries in the Walla Walla Valley. The settlements raised an army to chastise the killers but incoming immigrants still had to cross the “lonely vastness” to an uncertain reception. Keeping the trip interesting, a straggler had been cut off and robbed by the Pawnees. In revenge he set the Sioux on the robbers and they were now looking to attack anyone who was inattentive.
Halfway along the trail, the over landers were excited by reports of a gold strike in California. Those prospective farmers were torn between their desire for good land and potential fortune. Those who persevered on to Oregon demonstrated considerable forbearance. One of them was twenty-four year old Ulysses Jackson, John B.’s younger brother. Ulysses’s land claim declaration indicates that he was also born in Wood County, western Virginia but the inscription of Buchhannon County on his tombstone suggests that was the place that he regarded as his home. He was born to Mary Hyer on 6 November 1824. A suspect bit of family lore suggests that he did not get along with his step-mother and tipped her into the swill barrel before leaving for parts unknown. But that seems unlikely as correspondence continued between the father and his distant sons.
The last letter from Henry Jackson to his two sons in the west was preserved by Ulysses although at some risk of offending his wife. It must have been sent west with the horseback party that Cummings E. Jackson and Edward J. Jackson led to the gold rush. Henry was a worldly and understanding father but he faced a dilemma. “Jane Nealys has a Daughter and says you got it for her, it was Born on Christmas Day and it has been reported that She would Bring it to me to Rais or that I should giver her fifty dollars to Help Rais it. Now I whish you to inform me if it is yourn or Not.” There is no indication in Ulysses papers what he answered but the dilemma had shifted to his shoulders because this was the last letter he received from his father, and he felt obliged to preserve, no matter what the contents.8
No record of Ulysses adventures in the overland crossing has come to light. He probably worked his way across as a teamster in the living group of some other family. When he arrived on 7 October 1848, he found that John B. had gone to the gold mines. Columbia River men had a six- month jump of the famous forty-niners but that was paid at a heavy cost. The mining camps were deadly places to live. Like many others, John B. Jackson soon became ill but managed to get back to Oregon. Profiting from that experience, Ulysses declined the temptation and looked for a suitable claim in an area already well taken up.
Ulysses found a place on the north Tuality Plains that was occupied until recently by the Josiah Beal family who arrived in the previous year. They lived there in December and after the next season’s crop was taken off moved to a place near the town of Forest Grove. But the land had initially been claimed by Alexander McKay, the half-breed son of the former Hudson’s Bay Company trader and notorious western character Tom McKay. In the complex game of claim swapping, Ulysses filed on the square mile that McKay was forced to give up in order to hold on to his father’s old place on the Scappoose plains. There is no record if an exchange of money was involved. When the census enumerator came around in the last of December 1850, Ulysses was put down as the head of a household that included his brother John B., Sarah and their two children as well as one of Sarah’s sisters. There were also two single laborers.
On 4 September 1851 Ulysses married Lucinda Dobbins. Her father John Dobbins was from Montgomery County, Virginia and had drifted west through Tennessee and Missouri before undertaking the great leap. The family arrived in Oregon on 10 November 1850 accompanied by two brothers, James and Flemming Dobbins. John Dobbins accomplished the overland with sufficient capital left to purchase a choice location in Washington County. Born in Virginia, at twenty-two Virginia Dobbins was unlikely to remain unattached for very long. As a man of property Ulysses had the inside track.
Ulysses demonstrated a talent for acquiring property. By the mid-fifties he was being assessed for steadily increasing land holdings. Purchasing property was not expensive. Lewis Cooper, the blacksmith who John B. drove for, sold his interest in a Donation Land Claim about this time for $500. Another family in the same year ceded their land right for 400 bushels of wheat. Prices of $1500 or $1800 for a square mile were usual. Ulysses was able to finance the acquisition of real estate from the production of his first claim.
The first maps delineating the DLCs were drawn in 1855. Landmarks of the hand of the pioneers were still scarce enough that the map makers included fields under cultivation. Most claims displayed just a small patch in large undeveloped areas but Ulysses had almost all of his farm under cultivation and neatly surrounded by rail fences. If that production was in time to take advantage of gold rush inflated prices, he made more money supplying miners than most made in the diggings. Ten years after Ulysses Jackson arrived in Oregon he held a thousand of the limited acres on the Tualatin Plains. At the time of his death in 1882, those properties had grown to 2680 acres, encompassing all or parts of eleven DLCs , and various town lots in Glencoe, Hillsboro and Portland.9
Ulysses was substantial countryman who tended his own affairs and began a family with the daughter born in 1852. The children of Ulysses and Lucinda Dobbins Jackson were Lovisa J. born 17 May 1852 who married R. W. Crane, Mary A. born 16 March 1854 who married C. A. Carpenter, Lydia Olive born 14 December 1855 who married David Dersham, John Wesley born 3 March 1858 who married Maria Brooks, Ulysses Junior born 25 February 1860 who married Ida V. Markee, Henrietta born 28 March 1862 who married Nathan A. Barrett, Henry born 27 October 1864 died 15 September 1866, William C. born 9 January 1867 who married Annis Fletchall, and George W. born 11 September 1869 died 25 February 1870.
Ulysses’ administration of his brother’s estate led him into litigation with the impatient heirs. He also assumed the management of the Centerville mill for a time. The operation was sold to John C. Trullinger, a companion of the 48 immigration, who had entered the milling business on the lower Tualatin River. After purchasing the Centerville mill, Trullinger raised the dam an additional seven feet which flooded adjacent property. The flurry of resulting lawsuits carried Ulysses to the Oregon Supreme Court which absolved him of responsibility for the actions of the purchaser and set water rights precedent.11
Ulysses went to court again in a case involving dower rights. Because wives legally held their half of a couple’s donation land claim, they were protected under Oregon law. The original land claim of a Red River mixed-blood family just west of Glencoe had passed rapidly through a series of holders until it was acquired by Jackson. But when Ulysses was challenged in court, he could not produce an authentic deed because the wife had not been consulted about the sale. Before the embarrassment was cleared up, Ulysses was again before the Supreme Court when an old western Virginia neighbor John Waldo was now an associate justice. The decision that was sent down cost Jackson additional money to quiet the dower right. Although under a sales contract at present, the property is still in the Jackson name, the last major remnant of Ulysses once large holdings.
Ulysses Jackson died on 22 December 1882, aged 58 years 1 month and 16 day as his tombstone of Greek marble precisely indicated. The probate of his estate set a value of $83,000 in real estate holdings with cash and notes bringing the total in excess of $100,000. It was not a bad accomplishment for a young man who had arrived with only a rifle. Son John Wesley Jackson executed his father’s estate. For a time that involved the operation of another mill on Dairy Creek above the Centerville location. This was known as the Dudly mill and was powered by a long ditch that provided just enough head to turn a wheel. This mill was eventually abandoned when steam power came to Glencoe. John Wesley married Maria Brooks, a granddaughter of Charles and Letitia McKay. Her mother had married John Privity Brooks who came west in 1843 and became an early public school teacher, publisher, public man and merchant just above Oregon City.
The year 1849 took a number of Jacksons and their relatives to the California gold rush. There were no children of Henry Jackson on the trail that year although a rumor persists that a daughter named Mary accompanied her husband John Miller to California. The next member of Henry Jackson‘s family to take the Oregon Trail was Rachael Cecelia. Born on 10 December 1817 she was the ninth child and fifth daughter of Henry and his first wife Mary Hyer. When her father remarried Elizabeth Shreves on 24 April 1836, Rachael also left that household to become the wife of a neighbor, Lewis Miller. The name Miller is often associated with the Jacksons and in the will that Henry drew in November 1848 he disposed of property where Benjamin Miller was then living. That close neighbor was buried just up the Buckhanan River not far from the Henry Jackson home place.
Lewis Miller was born in western Virginia in 1818. His hand in the family bible is decorative and a bit floral. The newly wedded Millers continued to live near Rachael’s family and her relationship with the new step-mother appears to have been amiable. Elizabeth Jackson demonstrated a tendency toward the exotic in the names of her children and Rachael’s babies reflect a similar pattern. The Millers were counted in Wood County in the 1840 census and in Wirt County in 1850. They had moved to a more western part of the state and had one of Rachael’s brothers living with them. Edward Cummins Jackson was 48 but not entirely competent. He was subject to fits and was perhaps epileptic. That made it too dangerous to trust him with a gun but he had learned to be unusually proficient with a bow and arrow. So skillful in fact that from a distance he could bring a bird down from a tree.12
Edward was a useful extra hand for the Miller family and Rachael felt responsible for him. When the Millers pulled out for Oregon in 1851, Edward took along his own Bible. With a brood of small children the family left the Parkersburg area and traveled down the Ohio River to the well established staging places on the coast of Missouri.
There was no lack of families named Miller in the wagon parties of that year. One unlucky traveler of that name was already bogged down by 2 July. His horses and those of a fellow traveler named Dovey had taken fright of stampeding buffalo and run away. From the beginning the travelers were harassed by Indians hanging about the trail. After the massive emigrations of the last two years the attitude of Indians along the wagon road were beginning to harden into overt hostility. The bands realized that settlers would eventually displace them and destroy their ancient way of life.
About a thousand wagons passed Fort Laramie of which a hundred and fifty turned off to California and another fifty or so were abandoned on the trail. As usual the parties straggled, forming and breaking alliances. The poor trail discipline that they allowed appalled experienced fur traders. Old hands had proposed a system of government conductors to protect both traveler and inhabitant but the feds were indifferent and too parsimonious. With no real military presence protection of the immigrants was too often after the fact. Still, the pioneers continued to march west depending on luck and blind faith.
Just past Fort Hall on the 27th of July, the Lewis Miller family was plodding through dry country above the deep gorge of the Snake River. This land was achingly barren and seemingly endless, a sage desert baked water less under the relentless mid-summer sun. The Miller wagons had fallen behind one body of travelers and was ahead of another. They were alone. The bored children trudged through the wormwood apart from the wagons to escape the dust. Twelve year old Sarah was the supervisor when lurking Indians completely surprised them. Wounded in the shoulder by an arrow, Sarah managed to snatch up one of the younger girls and lead the rest in a desperate run for the wagons ahead. As he struggled with a terrified team, Lewis Miller made a frantic defense of his family. He was wounded and crawled into the sage brush. Edward Jackson who had never been allowed a rifle was killed in the melee. It is a temptation to imagine an attacking Bannock surprised to run into arrows from Jackson’s bow. After looting the wagons, the attackers withdrew as a relief party rushed back from the wagons ahead.
The Millers were the first victims of a series of incidents in the area near what is now known as Massacre Rocks. Before the season was over another party suffered rape and murder. The Harpoole train of twenty wagons managed to repulse an attack after fighting for two hours.13
Edward Cummins Jackson was the first of the Jacksons to fall to Indians. The family had been fighting the border wars for some seventy-five years without fatal casualties. The memento of his tragic life was his Bible. Lewis Miller later took it up to record in his decorative style the death of the brother-in-law. He listed his children, and that document is still preserved in the careful hands of a descendent.
Confusion about a now widely separated family began with the killing of Edward Jackson. The branches of the family remaining in western Virginia believed that it was George Washington Jackson, Henry’s twentieth child and twelfth son who was the victim. But he was born 17 October 1845 and died according to Bible records on 7 December 1853.
Sarah’s brothers John B. and Ulysses came to meet the Millers at the Dalles. The family reached the settlements in late September and were located in a cabin by mid-October. That was on the west fork of Dairy Creek between the present towns of Banks and Manning. The claim took the form of two partly offset squares that stepped around the nose of a ridge to take in as much bottom land as possible. The place was only a few miles west of the claims of Ulysses and John B. Jackson. By the 1860 census the Millers had seven children, four who were born in Oregon. They were John Henry born 17 November 1837 who married Ann Lockhart, Sarah Elmirah born 17 September 1839 who married Thomas R. Gibbs, Lorenzo Dow born 21 September 1842, Orlando Cymberline born 1845, Hansen McDonald born 26 April 1848 who married Jane Hanson, Mary Virginia born 28 August 1850 who married Lewis Powell, Jasper Alvy born 27 November 1852 who married Elizabeth Palmer, Amanda Olive born 15 February 1855 who married Jackson Powell, Melissa Elizabeth born 16 May 1857 who married Alfred E. Houchen, and Emilia Artesimia born 6 May 1859 who married George Backman.
Fifteen year old Sarah Almira, the young heroine of the attack, married Thomas R. Gibbs on 11 December 1854. He was an over lander of 1850 who had a claim near Wappato Lake in the southwest corner of the county. Sarah’s eldest brother, John Henry was living with his uncle John B. Jackson.
In 1864 Lewis Miller moved his family across the Columbia River to the Lewis River area in Washington Territory. He purchased the north half of the Kenzie and Jane Caples DLCs including the crop of wheat planted by the previous tenants. The Miller DLC in Washington County was sold to Curtis Dooley who brought his family from California in 1865. The same processes of land acquisition and resale that founded the family in western Virginia still prevailed on the other side of the continent.
Lewis Miller died in 1875 under circumstances that appeared to be murder. The polite newspaper account only said that he was killed by a nephew John Hugel in a quarrel over some old furniture. But the relationship between Lewis and Sarah had deteriorated and he came in an attempt to force her to move from a rented house at Kalama. In the ensuing quarrel Hugel, “a quiet young man of industrious habits and good character,” seized a shotgun from a third party and blew Lewis head off. Twenty-six year old Hugel had been born in Weston about twenty-five miles from Parkersburg, West Virginia and his parents had moved to southern Missouri in 1856. He came to Washington with his mother in 1870 but she was “disgraced” by Miller and returned home to Missouri. Young Hugel was convicted of manslaughter but given the circumstances and reputation of the victim was only sentenced to a year in the penitentiary and fined $500.
Rachael lived on the Lewis River until 1877 when the home place was sold to G. W. Lowe. Old timers remembered Grandma Miller and her bachelor son Orlando who moved to the upper Lewis River valley just above the present Clover Valley school. She died there at the age of 94 and Orlando sold out and spent the rest of his days in his usual carefree manner. A great trader, he kept his front room full of articles for barter that ranged from jack knives to an unusual dog-powered treadmill. His jokes were legion. Miller daughters married neighbor boys; Amanda and Mary two brothers, Jackson and Lewis Powell. When they came overland in 1849 the father died on the way and Lewis assumed the responsibility of bringing the family through. Emmilia married George Backman Jr. whose family made the great crossing in 1852 and planted the wheat crop that the Miller’s harvested in 1864.14 Melissa married A. E. Houchens who was the deputy fish commission for the State of Washington in 1894 in charge of the construction of the first fish hatchery at Baker’s Bay. Concern for the apparently endless migration of salmon in the Columbia River was a sign of the end to the exploitative frontier.
When Hyer Jackson left western Virginia in 1854 he was the last to take the overland trail to Oregon. Born 3 March 1806 he was the fourth child and second son of Henry Jackson. As a young man Hyer went to Kentucky, perhaps to read law under some established attorney according to the loose practice of the day. There on 24 May 1831 he married Elizabeth Craig who had been born in Virginia on 16 February 1815. The couple returned to Virginia where Hyer was admitted to the bar in 1836. By 1852 the family had five children and was living in Harrison County, Indiana. During this period Hyer apparently practiced law and in the pressures of sectional politics developed strong Democratic views. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise opened the border west to the excesses of frontier partisans and a strong supporter of Stephen Douglas had to consider the safety of his family. His two brothers in Oregon were sending home optimistic letters extolling that new country. Hyer was aware that the free land policy of the Donation Land Act was due to expire in 1855.
Hyer’s family left the most complete personal record of their overland trip. The family traveled by steamboat to Independence where they outfitted. Hyer bought oxen to haul the heavy wagon but drove a light wagon pulled by a span of mules. At the Platte River crossing a family that failed to heed advice of more experienced travelers allowed their wagon to stall in quicksand and nearly drowned. In buffalo country the train was forced to corral the wagons with the stock inside for three hours while herds of shaggy animals stampeded past. Daughter Mary Jane ranged away from the camp because she was embarrassed to be seen picking up buffalo chips to fuel the campfire. Dried manure was burned in a shallow pit and her brother William was particularly fastidious if the ash was allowed to settle on his grub. Hot and thirsty after a long days ride one of the younger boys compulsively rode his horse into the Soda Springs. But the clear water proved deeper than he expected and all that remained in view was his hat floating on the surface.15
Those were the usual experiences of the trail and the trip was uneventful until the Jacksons reached the Snake Country. Just east of Fort Boise they were passing through a sage brush wilderness and happily innocent of a close call. Herders from their party ranging behind in search of strayed cattle came upon a scene so horrible the some still had bad dreams about it twenty-four years later. They found the mutilated remains of the party that they had been following, twenty persons murdered by Indians. The survivor who finally showed himself was just a boy of fourteen. Wounded in the melee he had fallen over a cliff and was overlooked in the slaughter. He said that the women and children had been put into one wagon and the men of the party had been killed defending their families. The wagon was stampeded into the sage brush where those innocents were subjected to cruelty, rape and torture before being killed. Fearing for their own, Hyer’s party hurried on to Fort Boise where a search party was organized. A second young survivor, transfixed by an arrow, was discovered wandering in terror and pain. The wave of indignation that swept the settlements in the wake of surely exaggerated reports would bear bitter fruit during the Yakima War of the next year. One of those volunteers was the Ward boy who saw his mother, three sisters and two brothers scalped and burned. Two punitive expeditions ran down the guilty Snake Indians and the last hanged the murderers on gallows erected over the graves of their victims.
The Ward Massacre set the example of the mythology of Indian resistance to white migration but there is always two sides to any tragedy. Actual incidents of violent confrontations were relatively few considering the number of innocents who passed through tribal territory. Like the legends of the border warfare, those were memories highly laced with imaginative additions and converted into racist excuses for the elimination of the original inhabitants. Disease was far more effective in that tragic process.
Oregon, a place of individualists, had an odd tendency to treat arriving lawyers well. By January 1855 Hyer had settled on a DLC adjoining that of his brother John B. It was in the rolling foothills on the north side of the Tualatin Valley. By the next year Hyer was elected a member of the Oregon House of Representatives and helped deal with Indian wars on two fronts. Considering his experience on the trail, and the loss of a brother, it is not surprising that he voted against any measure or profession of sympathy to the Indians.16
Hyer was one of the incorporators of the Oregon Mutual Insurance Company in the same year that he was elected prosecuting attorney of the 3rd district at Democratic convention in 1858. His political aspirations were confused by the competitive “hard” and “soft” factions of the party but when the nation faced civil war, Hyer transferred his support to Lincoln and the Union. His son Preston served in Company B, 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry which performed guard duty along the immigrant road during the war. The federal troops they replaced were freed to serve in the east, fighting against cousins who adhered to the confederacy.
In time the Hyer Jackson family moved from their DLC to a new location south of the growing town of Hillsboro. The low lying tract which was subject to flooding became known as Jackson’s Bottom. It appeared to be a poor relocation but Hyer saw possibilities as a river port on the adjoining Tualatin River. He built a warehouse but steamboat transportation on a shallow river often blocked by drift never developed as a profitable business. Better roads and the extension of the railway eventually doomed the impractical navigation. Nowadays the bottom is considered a valuable wet land and nature area protected by an organized conservation effort.
During the decade 1860 Hyer served as Washington County Judge and his name appears on many of the documents of his brother Ulysses land acquisitions. There might have been elements of nepotism in the construction of the new brick courthouse. When this was planned in 1870 Hyer was awarded the contract to remove the old wooden structure. Ulysses was serving as County Commissioner and in a bit of interesting hocus pocus saw his Glencoe neighbor, Samuel Elliott, eased into the brick contract as low bidder.17 Some of the community feeling might have been reflected in a bit of doggerel that was sung at social gatherings. “Down to Judge Jackson’s we went rolling logs/ and some of the boys they acted perfect hogs./ While some were a-dancing and some were asleep/ old B. Z. stole half a sheep.” The initials seem to apply to old Zackery whose party John B. Jackson joined in 1843. During the early pioneer period when the best claims were already taken the Zackerys had been behind an attempt to deny half-breeds their claims. But lack of support and a determined loading of rifles discouraged that blatant attempt at claim jumping.
Hyer was County Treasurer in 1873 when he was struck down by a fatal heart attack. Faithful to his charge at the very last, his final words were “the money is in the safe and the keys are in my pocket.” Hyer died on 11 June 1873 at the age of 67 and was buried the Hillsboro Union Cemetery.
The children of Hyer and Elizabeth Craig Jackson were William R. born 1832, married Ellen L. Moore and died 9 November 1902, Mary Jane born 1833 who married Jabez Wilkes, Eugene S. born 1834 who married Mary Beauchamp, Preston M. born 29 July 1839 and died 17 June 1913, Louisa A. born 30 November 1846 who married Francis M. Kelsey and died 25 October 1882, Sarah E born 1850 who married William Stewart, Laura Virginia born 15 June 1852 and died 5 August 1875 and John H. born 13 September 1855 and died 20 September 1887.
Jacksons were never fated to find easy riches and Preston followed the bonanza trail to the Okanagan and Methow Valley gold rushes without notable success. The worthless stock certificates for the Liberty Gem mine in my files attest that the hope never died. Hyer’s son William was involved in finance and in the 1880 census was listed as a money loaner. Worth thousands at one time he lost his wealth through the payment of surety notes and died in 1903. At the age of 58 his widow remarried a man nine years her junior. The marriage did not work out and she died a suicide.
One son of Henry Jackson has been lost. William Vandervator Jackson was the third child, first son of that large family. He may have come to eastern Oregon as a miner as that name appears in the 1870 federal census for Oro Dell, Union County, Oregon. But no other information has come to light to explain his career. Migrations westward continued through the rest of the nineteenth century and the floating population of miners is almost impossible to follow with any accuracy.
The western Jacksons found their true wealth in the land, and in the families they raised. To bring the immigrant story full circle, Hyer’s daughter Louisa married a neighbor boy, Francis M. Kelsey, whose family helped initiate the American over landing in 1841. During the years of the overland migration Jacksons or their close kinsmen were on the trail in 1841, 1843, 1845, 1848, 1849, 1851, 1852 and 1854. Others may have filled in the gaps and some were still coming west as late as 1875. There is little doubt that the sons and daughters of Henry Jackson upheld the pioneer tradition.
1. James Nesmith, “The Emigration of 1843,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, 7: 343.
2. Nesmith Ankeny, The West as I Knew it, (Lewiston, Idaho: R. G. Baily, 1953).
3. Avery Sylvester, “Voyages of the Pallas and Chemmaus,” Oregon Historical Quarterly.
4. Keith Clark and Lowell Tiller, Terrible Trail: The Meek Cutoff, 1845 (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1966).
5. News item in the Oregon City Spectator.
6. Lincoln Elsworth Wilkes, By an Oregon Pioneer Fireside (1941: Reprinted by Carol Thilenius, Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1995).
7. Land Claims Records, 1845-49, Book VII, page 91, Oregon State Archives, Public Records Insurance Microcopy.
8. The original is in the collection of family documents preserved by the author’s cousin, John Crocker.
9. Washington County Probate Record 303.
10. Case before the Supreme Court, October 1881, Oregon Reports, page 393.
11. Court Record 128, Washington County Clerk’s Office: Oregon Reports, 9:275.
12. Carl D. W. Hays.
13. Oregon Statesman 23 September 1851; Oregon City Spectator 2 and 30 September 1851.
14. Report of the History Committee, 13 May 1959, Woodland Community Development Study.
15. Wilkes, By a Pioneer Fireside.
16. Papers of the Provisional and Territorial Governments of Oregon, passem, Oregon Historical Society microfilm.
17. Scrapbook clippings of news articles from the Hillsboro Argus.
Page maintained by Dan Hyde, hyde at bucknell.edu Last update October 25, 1997