CONDOR TALES

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The Johnson Wagon Train

Iowa to Oregon 1851


Compiled by Sanford "Sandy" Wilbur

USED BOOK SALES - OVERLAND TRAILS, AMERICAN INDIANS, GENEALOGY, ETC.

Members of the family of John and Mary (COPP) McCULLY made four overland trips from Iowa to the Pacific Coast between 1849 and 1853. David and Asa McCully traveled to California in 1849 (see "The Ikenberry Train"); John Wilmer McCULLY and his wife Jane (MASON) McCULLY moved to Oregon in 1851 (the Johnson Wagon Train, this page); most of the family moved permanently to Oregon in 1852 ("The McCully Train"); and Asa McCULLY brought a wagon train with his sister and brother-in-law, Mary Jane and John D. LOVE, in 1853.

In the manuscript collections of the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, there are two records of the Johnson family wagon train from New London, Henry County, Iowa, to Oregon's Willamette Valley in 1851. Both entries are cataloged under Mss #1185. The principal manuscript, by John L. Johnson, is a 51 page typescript "Crossing the Plains," taken from Johnson's diary. The other, 11 typed pages, includes excerpts from the diary of Reverend Neil Johnson, John Johnson's father. The former is a day to day account of the trip; the latter is more general, but includes some details not found in the longer report. Below, I have given brief notes on the progress of their travels, and have given the names of people mentioned in the two manuscripts.

The Johnson accounts are not a full record of the 1851 McCULLY travels. The wagon train that left New London, Henry County, Iowa on 1 April 1851 was more properly three parties traveling together:
-- John L. STARKEY, Simeon SMEAD, and Mr. McKINLEY - with one wagon and 4 yoke of oxen.
--Dr. John W. McCULLY, his wife Jane (MASON McCULLY], BEN FOUTS, and Mr. MORRISON - with one wagon and 4 yoke of oxen.
--Rev. Neill JOHNSON with wife Esther (ROELOFSON) JOHNSON; five sons (John L. JOHNSON, A. Foster JOHNSON, Sylvanus D. JOHNSON, Lysanus B. JOHNSON, and Joel H. JOHNSON); five daughters (Mary JOHNSON, Sarah JOHNSON, Albina Adeline JOHNSON, Jane Amanda JOHNSON and Tabatha Theresa JOHNSON); and hired men Harvey GREEN and Hart CROSBY - 3 wagons, 10 yoke of oxen, 2 mares and 4 cows.

The three groups traveled together to the Missouri River crossing at St. Joseph, then on west until about 27 April 1851, when the STARKEY and McCULLY groups went on ahead. So far, we haven't found any account of the rest of the STARKEY-McCULLY trip.

ITINERARY
The JOHNSON party left New London, Henry County, Iowa, 1 April 1851, and traveled the first day to the ferry across the Skunk River at Lowell, Iowa. 2 April - to Washington, IA. 3 April - to Keosagua, IA. 5 April - to Bloomfield, IA. 7 April - crossed Chariton River at Well's Mills, camped near the Missouri line. 8-9 April - traveling along Iowa-Missouri line to St. Johns, the county seat of Dodge Co., Missouri. 10-12 April - traveling west, crossed Grand River, and came to Bethany, Missouri, seat of Harrison Co. 14 April - to Gentryville, MO. 16 April - traveled through Savannah, MO, to St. Joseph. 17 April - at St. Joseph, MO. 22 April - Across the Missouri River, but did not travel far from St. Joseph. 23 April - heading west to Wolf Creek. 10 May - Fort Kearney. 15 May - crossed to the north bank of the Platte because they had heard the trail was better than on the south. 27 May - near Chimney Rock. 6 June - Ft. Laramie area. 15 June - Independence Rock. 20 June - South Pass. 29 June - Bear River. 4 July - just beyond Soda Springs. 8 July - at American Falls. 14 July - Rock Creek, two days south of Snake River beyond Raft River. 24 July - beyond Owyhee River crossing. 30 July - near Grande Ronde Valley. 3 August - near Lee's Encampment, Blue Mountains. 5 August - Umatilla River. 24 August - Tygh Valley to Barlow's Gate. 28 August - Foster's on Willamette Valley side of the mountains.

NAMES MENTIONED

BLANCHARD - Mrs. BLANCHARD, the sister of Mrs. JONES, traveled with the JONES family (see below); her husband was already in Oregon. This is likely Lucinda, who married John A. BLANCHARD 19 January 1841 in Knox County, Missouri. John had arrived in Oregon prior to 1 December 1850, settled Yamhill County donation land claim 4366, 27 November 1851. John JOHNSON was one of the witnesses.

BROWN - Mr. BROWN and family are first mentioned as part of JOHNSON group on 9 June, but probably were part of KEENEY group (see below); they stayed with the KEENEYS when the JOHNSONS left them 14 July. This may be Silas BROWN born 1820 Franklin County, Missouri, who arrived in Oregon 16 September 1851, about the same time as the KEENEYS. He settled donation land claim 2596 in Lane County. He was married to Jane A. BLAIR 25 January 1841 in Franklin County, Missouri.

CHANDLER - The JOHNSONS passed the Rev. CHANDLER party on 6 July.

CHILLAS - Mr. CHILLAS mentioned as part of the party on 9 June; probably part of KEENEY group (see below); not mentioned again.

CROSBY - Hart CROSBY joined the JOHNSON party at St. Joseph, Missouri 17 April, as one of their wagon drivers; not mentioned by name after 15 May.

ELY - Cal ELY and his brother were met by the JOHNSON party on 5 August; they were coming from Puget Sound to meet their families who were on their way from Missouri.

FISHER - Rev. Neill JOHNSON included a Mr. FISHER on his list of original trip participants, but his son John's more detailed list does not include anyone of that name.

FOSTER - Mr. James FOSTER and family first mentioned as part of the group on 9 June, but probably were part of the KEENEY group (see below); they apparently stayed with KEENEYs when the JOHNSONS left them 14 July.

FOUTS - Ben FOUTS was with the party from the beginning, traveling with John and Jane McCULLY; not mentioned after 22 April, and I assume he left the JOHNSON party with the McCULLYS, John STARKEY, etc. I haven't been able to find any trace of him in Oregon. It is possible he was the Benjamin FOUTS living in Flint River, Des Moines County, Iowa in September 1850. He was born ca 1811 in Virginia, was married to Julia Ann, and had four children. I can't find any of them in the 1860 census.

GILES - Gid GILES is mentioned just once, on 10 July; he appears to have been with the GOULD family (below).

GOULD - The GOULD family was first mentioned 20 June; probably part of KEENEY group (see below), and not mentioned after 10 July.

GREEN - Harvey GREEN caught up with the JOHNSON wagons on 4 April, apparently coming from New London; he stayed with them as one of their wagon drivers until about 14 August, when he "left for the mines."

HADLEY - The HADLEYs were camped nearby 16 July.

HUNTLEY - The HUNTLEY family first mentioned 8 July, after the JOHNSON wagons rejoined the KEENEYS (see below); not mentioned after 10 July, probably stayed with the KEENEYs when the group split again. This might be Joseph HUNTLEY born 1803 New York; arrived Oregon 29 August 1858, and settled a donation land claim in Douglas County 15 April 1852. He was married to Esther in Lee Co., Iowa.

JAMES - The JAMES family was first mentioned 20 June, but may have been part of KEENEY group (see below) right along; last mentioned 16 July.

JOHNS - John JOHNS and family, traveling with the SWADKA family joined up with the JOHNSONS 23 April; not mentioned again.

JOHNSON - The Reverend Neill JOHNSON, his wife, and ten children were on the trip. They were living in New London, Henry County, Iowa, having moved to Iowa in 1847 from Fremont, Taswell County, Illinois. Their approximate ages at the time of the trip, estimated from death dates given with the John JOHNSON manuscript, were:
--Rev. Neill JOHNSON, 49 (died 24 April 1891, age 89)
--Esther (ROELOFSON) JOHNSON, 47 (died 29 March 1874, age 68)
--John L. JOHNSON, 21 (died 15 August 1916, age 86)
--Mary JOHNSON, 19 (died 8 March 1917, age 88; married Benjamin Franklin HALL 24 March 1854)
--Sarah J. JOHNSON, 18 (died 26 December 1916, age 85; married Thomas P. JACK 1852)
--A. Foster JOHNSON, 16 (died 30 October 1906, age 73)
--Sylvanus D. JOHNSON, 15 (died 1853, age 18)
--Albina Adeline JOHNSON, 13 (died 13 March 1896)
--Lysanus B. JOHNSON, 11 (died 6 July 1894, age 54)
--Joel H. JOHNSON, 7 (died 13 January 1919, age 77)
--Jane Amanda JOHNSON, 6? (died 1861; married Amos Smith GLEASON 29 December 1859)
--Tabitha Theresa JOHNSON died age 18

JONES - The JONES family and their group joined with the JOHNSONS on 22 April, and traveled with them until 7 June. The JOHNSONS went on ahead, but the JONES family caught up with them again 21 July, and traveled with them until 5 August.
William R. JONES was born in 1811 in Green County, Kentucky. He married Rachel 18 September 1835 in Barren County, Kentucky (she was born ca 1817 in Kentucky). They had four children with them in April; not mentioned in JOHNSON'S journal is a fifth child, born in Nebraska on the trip:
--Jane JONES age 16; born Kentucky or Missouri; later married a BRISTOW in Lane County, Oregon (probably Elijah L. BRISTOW born 1832 McDonough County, Illinois, who married Minerva Jane 13 March 1853. I couldn't find them in the 1860 census)
--Hattie JONES age 11, probably born in Missouri
--Willard JONES age 5, born in Missouri (not named in the journal, but found in the 1860 census)
--Laura JONES age 3, born in Missouri
The JONES family was living and farming in Pleasant Hill, Lane County, Oregon in July 1860. Jane and Hattie were not included in the census, but two new children had been born in Oregon: Charles JONES age 7, and Alice JONES, age 5.

KEENEY - The JOHNSONS first met with the KEENEY wagon train 24 April, with 12 wagons, several families, and a large herd of cattle. They traveled nearby much of the way west, and were clearly traveling together from 9 June to 14 July. Besides the KEENEYS, probably other long-term members of this group were the BROWN, CHILLAS, FOSTER, GOULD, JAMES, and TATE families.
I haven't yet figured out for sure which KEENEYS were on the 1851 trip. According to the donation land claim records, the KEENEY brothers Jonathan and Elias first arrived in Oregon in 1846, and secured donation land claims at Brownsville, Linn County, Oregon. They returned to Missouri in 1850 to sell their land there, and to bring west their mother, Mary Ramsey (BUCKHALTER) KEENEY, widow of John KEENEY Jr. While in Missouri, Elias KEENEY married Margaret Jane HYATT, who returned to Oregon with him. It appears that at least two other brothers, James KEENEY and Ely KEENEY (Elias' twin) were also along, and it's possible other family members were, as well.

LEWIS - William LEWIS arrived at the JOHNSON party with the JONES family 22 April; last mentioned 6 June.

McCLURE - Charles McCLURE arrived with the JONES family 22 April; last mentioned 16 May (but could have stayed with the JONES party when they parted company with the JOHNSONS)

McCULLY - Dr. John Wilmer McCULLY and his wife Jane (MASON) McCULLY started with the JOHNSONS from New London, Iowa. They are not mentioned after 17 April, and I think they, John STARKEY and the other men who had been with them left the JOHNSONS about that time, and traveled on to Oregon. The McCULLYS settled in Jacksonville, Jackson County, Oregon. Their genealogy and biographies are detailed on another web page.

McKINLEY - Mr. McKINLEY was with the JOHNSON party from the start of the trip in New London, Iowa. He was traveling with John STARKEY and Simeon SMEAD, and probably left the JOHNSONS about 22 April. It's possible he was either William McKINLEY or his son James S. McKINLEY, of Flint River, Des Moines County, Iowa, but so far I haven't been able to find any later information on either man.

MORGAN - John MORGAN was with the JONES party when they joined with the JOHNSONS 22 April. His name was last mentioned 3 May.

MORRISON - Mr. MORRISON was with the JOHNSON party from the start of the trip in New London, Iowa. He was traveling with the McCULLYS and Ben FOUTS. He is not mentioned by the Johnsons after 17 April, and probably left them at that point to travel on with the STARKEY-McCULLY group. The only logical person I could find in the 1850 census who might be this person was a Henry MORRISON, age 22, born in Ohio, and living in Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa. I haven't found any later information on him to confirm the identification.

PATTERSON - Dr. PATTERSON was noted as traveling with the JONES family after they left the JOHNSONS on 7 June.

PIERCE - The Capt. PIERCE party caught up with the JOHNSONS on 22 May. There were 30 wagons, and a number of families. Some of the JOHNSON party traveled with the PIERCE group until ca 28 May, then the PIERCE group went on without them.

SMEAD - Simeon SMEAD was with the JOHNSON party from the start of the trip in New London, Iowa. He was traveling with John STARKEY and "Mr. McKINLEY," and probably left the JOHNSONS about 22 April to travel west on their own. Simeon was the son of Daniel and Naomi SMEAD, and was born in Vermont ca 1824. In August 1850, the family was living in New London, Iowa, where Daniel was a shoemaker and Simeon was a farmer. Simeon was in Jacksonville, Jackson County, Oregon, with John and Jane McCULLY in 1860, where he was apparently mining. In 1880 he was at Liberty, Siskiyou County, California, single, and making his living as a shoemaker.

STARKEY - John L. STARKEY was with the JOHNSON party from the start of the trip in New London, Iowa. He was traveling with Simeon SMEAD and "Mr. McKINLEY," and probably left the JOHNSONS about 22 April to travel west on their own. Some information on John STARKEY is given in my coverage of "The Ikenberry Party;" more biographical and genealogical information is presented in "The McCully Train: Iowa to Oregon 1852."
Rev. Neill JOHNSON identified a George STARKEY as being on the trip, but his son's more detailed descriptions do not include him, and I haven't found any person of that name in my research on the Iowa STARKEYS. Rev. JOHNSON did not include "Mr. MORRISON" on his list; perhaps he got the names confused.

SWADKA - The SWADKA family joined the JOHNSONS in company with the JOHNS party on 23 April; they are not mentioned again.

TATE - The TATE family is mentioned only on 8 July; they appeared to be with the KEENEYS (see above).

TAYLOR - Ab TAYLOR, his wife and daughter from Missouri were met with on the trail 27 July.

VEACH - On 5 April near Bloomfield, Iowa, the JOHNSONS met two men of this name, who had known Mrs. JOHNSON in southern Illinois. It isn't clear from the diary if they were residents there, or traveling.

WILLIAMS - The WILLIAMS family was first encountered 30 July, and were with the JOHNSONS on and off (but not traveling with them) until 11 August, when Mrs. WILLIAMS helped John JOHNSON when he was very sick. A later addition to the diary identifies Mrs. WILLIAMS as the mother of Richard WILLIAMS and George WILLIAMS.


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