Symbios Books

ISBN 0-9651263-2-3
Soft cover, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2; pages, illustrated







"The Wilburs have done a first-rate job of presenting [John] McKiernan's diary, but they have done much more... Anyone interested in travel on the road west will find this small volume, attractively priced and presented, well worth their attention." - Overland Journal, Winter 2000-200l

"The McCully Train is a unique and invaluable contribution to the history of the American western frontier." - The Bookwatch, Nov 2000

"I ordered a copy of this book and I am really enjoying reading it... My only sorrow is that my family didn't come on this train. But it sure gives a good idea of what life was like along the trail in 1852." D.B, on the Internet

"I have read it and will probably re-read it." M.B., Washington State

"This is a real treasure." J.R., California

"I am very happy with the copy I ordered in August and would like to order another one for my sister. The Wilburs have produced a well-written, accurate account of our family history." A.D., Arizona

"Thank you! One more book, please." T.M., Oregon

"I found the book engrossing. The overland accounts were the most informative I have seen." F.H., New Jersey

"Your publication is so very well done I am certain you have received many accolades from other interested families." B. T., South Carolina

"The book was full of more information [on my g. g. grandfather] than I could have hoped for... Thank you; it was great!" S. T., Oregon



The family of John and Mary (COPP) McCULLY made four overland trips from Henry County, Iowa, to the West Coast between 1849 and 1853. In 1849, David and Asa McCully joined a group from DesMoines and Henry counties bound for the California gold fields.According to family tradition, they did rather well there [perhaps making as much money selling supplies to the other gold miners,as they did from the results of their mining], and were back home in Iowa by February 1850 (having made the return trip via theIsthmus of Panama). In 1851, John Wilmer McCully (a younger brother of David and Asa) and his wife Jane (Mason) joined a wagon train bound for Oregon. In 1852 the rest of the family, except for sister Mary Jane and her new husband John D. Love, set off along theOregon Trail, in company with other relatives and friends. Having arrived in Oregon's Willamette Valley in August 1852 and quickly seeing the desirability of establishing a mercantile store in the new community of Harrisburg, Asa McCully almost immediately set sail for Panama, then on across the Gulf of Mexico to the East. Where he went first is unclear [some family records say Philadelphia, some say New York, and some say Wheeling, West Virginia],but somewhere he arranged for a load of goods to be shipped around the Horn to Oregon. He returned to Henry County, Iowa, gathered up his sister and her husband, a large herd of cattle, some cattle herders and a few families intent on heading overland, and by April 1853 was once again on his way west to Oregon.

Although the McCullys themselves seem not to have kept journals (at least, none appear to have survived), the 1852 Oregon Trail trip is well documented. A previously unpublished first-hand account has been found, prepared by John S. McKiernan,one of the McCully "hired hands". Also found was a second-hand account of the trip that was prepared by someone who probably had interviewed Asa or David McCully, and who seems to have had access to some original documents (that apparently have not survived over time). Finally, a number of reminiscences from wagon train participants have been found, prepared during their later lives in Oregon. Together, these documents present a rather complete view of one particular wagon train traveling the Oregon Trail at the height of the overland movement.

In the pages of "The McCully Train" you'll find:

-An overview of the 1852 McCully trip, compiled from the various records available;

-A complete journal of the trip, prepared on the spot by John S. McKiernan;

-A second-hand account of the trip, published in 1914 by Wesley W. Briggs;

-Reminiscences of David McCully, Susan (Yeomans) Angell, Estelle (McCully) Gilbert, and Delilah F. (McCully) Hendershott, all members of the 1852 train;

-Biographical and genealogical information on all known participants of the 1852 overland journey;

-Cross-references between the various accounts, and liberal footnotes to add to and clarify the accounts;

-A full bibliography including all references cited in the text; and

-Every-name indexes to people and places mentioned in the text, including cross-references to maiden names of women.

We offer the total product to historian, genealogist, and general reader, alike. Good traveling!

"The McCully Train" Table of Contents

Every-Name Index to "The McCully Train"

Book Ordering Information

Participants in the 1852 "McCully Train"

Below are the names of all people recorded as having traveled with the 1852 McCully family wagon train. Included in the book are biographical and genealogical sketches of all that have been positively identified. Clues are given to the identities of those not positively located.

Thomas ANGELL, Susan Pinney (YEOMANS) ANGELL, Sarah MargaretANGELL, "Dr." BERGIN, "Dr." BISSEL, DavidS. BUSEY, "Mr. and Miss" CROKER, "Mr." DICKEY,"Mr." ELLSLEY, Jim ESSLINGER, D. FIELDS, James HENDERSHOTT,"Mr." HOUGH, Eathan LINN, Homer LINN, John McCOLLEY,Mary (COPP) McCULLY, Samuel McCULLY, Catherine (DILLON) McCULLY,John Fletcher McCULLY, Mary Ann McCULLY, Delilah Frances McCULLY,William Asa McCULLY, David McCULLY, Mary Ann (SCOTT) McCULLY,Joseph Henry McCULLY, Mary Jane McCULLY, John William McCULLY,Estelle Ann McCULLY, Asa Alfred McCULLY, Hannah Keziah (WATERS)McCULLY, Alice Jane McCULLY, William Hamilton McCULLY, John NelsonMcDONALD, Margaret Hamilton (BLODGETT) McDONALD, Benjamin A. McDONALD,Jennie McDONALD, Clara Dillon McDONALD, "Mr." MILLERand family, Jonathan P. O'DONALD, Catherine (WEAVER) O'DONALD,John O'DONALD, William H. O'DONALD, Eugene M. PLAMONDON, Sam REED,Lawson/Losington ROBERTS, J. B. "Ben" ROBERTS, JaneElizabeth (SCOTT) STARKEY, Armintha Ann STARKEY, Mary CatherineSTARKEY, Eliza Ellen STARKEY, Asa TULLY, John TULLY, James TULLY,Andrew J. "Jack" VINCENT, [James?] WATSON, and BenjaminPinney YEOMANS.


Of those named above, the following have not been definitely identified, either before or after the trip. If anyone can offer any more information or clues, they would be much appreciated. Contact us.

BERGAN/BERGEN - References to "Dr. Bergan" and what looks like "D. T. Bergan" are included in the trip journal of John S. McKiernan. Late in his life, David McCully noted that "Dr. Bergen" had been a resident of Harrisburg, Oregon, "for many years". There were BERGINs in the Harrisburg area, but no one that can yet be identified as a trip member.

BISSEL - David McCully had "Dr. Bissel" as a member of the party, identifying him as a Linn County resident. It is possible that BISSEL was actually on Asa McCully's 1853 wagon train.

CROKER - David McCully's trip list included "Mr. and Miss Croker". The only clue found to their identity is in an 1854 letter from Jordan Cox in El Dorado County, California, to his parents in Henry County, Iowa. He noted that he had seen only a few of "the London boys" [i.e., gold miners from New London, Iowa], among them John and Bill CROCKERS. There was a CROCKER family in Henry County, IA, in 1850, that included sons William and John. It is possible that one or both was on the trip, and continued on to California. The 1850 Henry County census does not identify a daughter who might have been "Miss Croker".

ELLSLEY - Another name from David McCully's list, not placed in either Iowa or Oregon.

ESSLINGER - "Jim" ESSLINGER was reported as a trip member by David McCully. No Esslingers were found in Oregon or California in the 1850s or 1860s, but there were two ESSLINGER households in Henry Co., IA, at the time of the 1850 census. "Jim" was likely associated with one of these.

FIELDS - "D. Fields" was on David McCully's list. The family name was represented in both Iowa and Oregon at appropriate times, but the individual has not been identified.

HOUGH - John McKiernan's journal included a reference to "Hough". There were HOWEs in Henry Co., IA, in 1850, and a John HAUGH in Clackamas Co., OR, in 1860, but none identifiable as "Hough".

MILLER - "Mr. Miller and family" were identifed as being on the trip by John McKiernan. It is possible that they only joined the McCully train for a short time, and may not have reached Oregon at the same time. There were a number of MILLER families in both Iowa and Oregon at that time.

REED - "Sam Reed", a hired hand, was identified in the reminiscences of Delilah Frances [McCully] Hendershott. There were several Sam Reeds in Oregon and California in the 1850s and 1860s.

ROBERTS - There were two "Roberts boys" on the wagon train. One who drowned in Bear River, Idaho, was variously identified as Losington ROBERTS [John McKiernan], Lawson ROBERTS [Susan (Yeomans) Angell], and "Mart" ROBERTS [David McCully]. The other was called J. B. ROBERTS [McKiernan] and "Ben" ROBERTS [David McCully]. There were a number of ROBERTS families in Iowa and Oregon, but none identifiable with these "missing" brothers.

SHANE/SCHANER - The "J. Shane" of McKiernan's journal and the "John Schaner" identified by David McCully were likely the same person. There were both SHANE and SHANER families in Henry Co., IA.

TULLY - Asa TULLY, John TULLY and James TULLY were identified by David McCully as being on this trip. The only clue to their identity is that a "Mr. Tully" had the first blacksmith shop in New London, IA, the town where this wagon train originated. The TULLY name [or any related spelling] does not appear in Iowa or Oregon censuses for the period. Could these men have been named TULL, which was a family name in Iowa at that time?


The Journal of John S. McKiernan

The best overall record of the 1852 McCully wagon train is the journal of John McKiernan, a young man from Pennsylvania who hired on with the McCullys to help drive their wagons. Not only is this previously unpublished journal packed with information about what happened along the way, it is also great literature. The entire journal is included in "The McCully Train." Below is John's description of a murder trial that he witnessed on the way West, as recorded at the time.


Sunday June 13 [at Ham's Fork, WY]
Last night I stood guard in after part of night and had the fun of standing alone as my partner did not get up

We will not leave here to day as it is a first rate place for our cattle to graze Watter wood & grass plenty

This afternoon a company (called by us The Telegraph Train alias Two dollar train) caught up with us bringing with them a man by the name of Beausley whom they have charged with shooting another man of the name of Beal Col Beausley is a young man about 25 or 26 years old of good parentage He has a wife and one child in the state of Kentucky. There is now encamped at this place several company's and they are going to give the prisoner a (mock) trile by Jury this evening

Sunday evening June 13 [at Ham's Fork, WY]
The companys met according to agreement and appointed a committy of 12 men The names of 5 of the commity were David McCully Asa A McCully E Plamondon and John McDonald of New London Iowa and J ODonald of Mt Pleasant Iowa all belonging to our company The names of 4 others were J K Daves, Winslow, Green, and Dunks I do not know where they were from

The commity set upon the ground in a circle with the prisoner and witnesses in the centre The commity after hearing the evidence and it was this The witnesses were sworn by the uplifted hand. They were five in number two of them were the men that were with Beal and Beausly the name of one of them was David Dye He came all the way from Boon Co Ken. with Beal & Beausly said that what ever David Dye said was the truth and his evidence was about as follows

He said he knew the prisoner for about 5 years and that his people were of the best in the State of Ken That when he first knew the prisoner he was considered as fine a young man as there was in the county of Boon Ken. and that he went in the first society but that of late years he heard that he was in the habit of asosiateing withe the lowest as well as the hightest and in truth he did look like a man that could grace the highest or disgrace the lowest circle He said he joined Beal and Beausly at home in Boon co Ken and was with them until Beal was shot That he never heard them have any angry words but that he thought they were not friendly towards one another He said he thought Beal was to bear half of the expences to Cal. but that he had no money and always when he wanted any he got it from Beausly. The morning that Beal was shot the company they had joined concluded to not start for the day untill 10 oclock A.M. Beausley did not like the arangement and hitched up his two mules and asked Beal if he was going along with him, he said, he was not , "Very well," says Beausly "You can do just as you please I do not wish to controle you or your property" and he left As he was about to leave he turns to Beal and says to him "Major you had better tye your mules or they will follow me" When he had left the camp for a short distance Beal followed him and told him there was a pair of lines in the wagon belonging to him When Beausley got them and handed them to Beal. David Dye and the other young man Stephen (sombody) a young man they got at St Joseph Mo. went with the Col.

When Beausly had left Beal put his mules in with another man's and about 10 oclock they followed A short time after noon they passed Beausley who was grazing his mules Beausley then says to D Dye "I wonder if they are going to leave us" They then hurried and harnesed up a[nd] took after Beal When they were a short distance behind Beasley asked Stephen to hand him his double barrel shot gun (which he was in the habit of taking every day and going ahead to kill game) Stephen handed it to him and he went on after Beals wagon. When he road up to Beal and says to him "Major are you going off to leave me in this manner" Beal answered "Yes sir, I am" The words were no sooner out of his mouth than Beausly raised his gun and shot him. the ball or load passing through his left breast and comeing out at his back Beal was not more than 12 feet distant when fired and run about 12 steps after when he fell He died almost immediately This happened on the 12th Beausley did not offer to leave but laid claim to the mules which Beal had saying they were his and that he could prove them to be so In the course of half an hour the Telagraph train came up to where Beal was shot and took Beausley prisoner placeing a guard over him

The commity as I said before after hearing the evidence brought in the virdict of guilty of murdur in the first degree But they left it to the companys to say wether he should be shot here or be taken to Califor The companys were called out and a vote taken up the matter when it was desided he should be shot at this place to morrow at six oclock A.M. The prisoner did not see the vote taken and said he would like to see it taken again The men haveing all gone to their camps the fore man of the commity told him that his request should be granted in the morning
There is five of our men sick at this time with the mountain feaver One person is very low

Monday June 14 [Ham's Fork to Bear River near Cokeville, WY]
This morning the prisoner asked to see the vote taken over again but was told bluntly that it was no use for he was to be shot in a few minuets The prisoner did not deign to make an ansure to this brutal way of meeting his request The reason why the persons would not let him be taken to Calfornia was this or rather what they said was the reason Because no person would take him through Beausley said he would pay any man or men liberaly for their trouble and be will[ing] to be handcuffed & tied all the time

Now their reason was false for I along with another young man offered our services and would have taken him through but the law of Mr Linch was too severe and would not let go of its victim

So they proceeded at once to arrainge matters Some one got a number of tickets and put them in a hat when each man drew a ticket Those that drew one with a black mark upon it had to shoot at him 10 men drew such tickets One man loaded riffles 6 with ball and 4 with blank cartradges

The names of three of the persons that shot at him were David Dye J B Roberts of New London Henry co Iowa and Potter of Ills

When everything was arrainged to Mr Linch's satisfaction Col. Beausly handed David Dye 3 letters two for brothers and one for his wife Then turned around to his ten murder(er)s and told them to march out in regular order wheeled them around went out a short distance from the tents and told them when he was ready he would hold up his right hand he then knelt down with his face towards them but they doing an unholy act could not look their victim in the face and told him that he must die with his back to them He gave them one look turned around and said a prayer then turning again and looking at his foes in the face said "May the Lord forgive you for what you are about to do" held up his hand and fell pierced with 4 balls I think he had not a moments conciousness after he was shot Some one proposed lifting him up and fitting him for his grave while it was being dug another one in the crowd answer "No! let the dog lie their" and a shame be it forever to those heard men he was so let lie

His grave was then dug about 1 1/2 feet deep and he was placed in it He died with his wedding suit on him and was so burried I never saw a bolder man nor do I think a bolder one lives It was a great pitty that he had to die as he did

While the tradgy [tragedy] was being enacted there was quite a number of indians standing by and many a one of them had the tears of sympathy to shed for him whilst not one of the whites had a word of condolence to offer him. He made D. Dye his executor and told him to sell all of his effects and send the proceeds back to his wife also to sell all Beals property and forward the money he would get for it back to Beals Mother which I think he will do if possible unless that cut throate Stepen that is with him get it into his possesion when he can say 'Good Bye property'

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