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~ Kathy M.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"An Account of The Fletcher's Crossing of the Plains" by Emaline Fletcher Hobart of Silverton, Oregon

Okay, I know that this is a very long post, though I feel that it really is worth the time it takes to read it. If you are even the tiniest bit interested in the pioneers who came over the Oregon Trail and ended up settling in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, this blog post is for you.

The following was written by my Great-Aunt Flora Fletcher Hedrick's Aunt Emaline Fletcher Hobart, 61-years after she crossed the country by covered wagon with her parents and siblings (including the baby Ellsworth E. Fletcher who would later become Flora's father).  

I am hoping that there are some Fletcher's out there who haven't seen this yet and find it during an internet search.  It comes from my cousin Lyle P. Hedrick's manuscript, "The War Letters"Lyle is Flora and Hobart Hedrick's son, and brother to Dan (the one who died on the Navy ship in WWII).  I have some Sepia Saturday friends who are following along with these family posts, and want you guys to know that is how everybody is related.

I found the map below somewhere along the line and took a picture of it for route reference.  Though it says 1840 -1860; I am sure that the only thing that changed were newer routes such as The Applegate Trail.

“An Account of The Fletcher’s Crossing of the Plains”
By Emaline F. Hobart of Silverton, Oregon
October 2, 1925

“The winter of 1863 and 64 was very severe in Mercer County, Illinois and caused a good many of the old settlers to decide to emigrate to a more congenial climate.

Oregon was receiving a great deal of notice as having a mild climate and where most all farm products were raised.

Hence, early in the year, S.M. and J.W. and B.F. Fletcher offered their farms for sale.  S.M. and J.W. found buyers for their farms and began at once to make the very best kind of preparations for the long journey.  B.F. had trouble to find a responsible man to buy his farm, and it seemed for some time that he and his family would have to give up the trip.  It was decided that they must start not later than the first day of May, if they were to reach the Willamette Valley before cold weather.  Finally about the middle of April a Mr. McManus bought B.F. out and made a substantial payment on it.

It was strenuous work to get more horses, get the wagons in good repair, and enough clothing made for the family needs of six months, but the neighbors were very good to help us, in every way they possibly could, thus, early on the more of the 2nd of May 1864, we were ready.  We met at S.M. Fletcher’s.  They had three wagons, 12 horses, and their family consisted of S.M., his wife, her sister, Miss Jones, three boys and two girls.  J.W. had but one wagon, but he furnished a man to drive one of B.F. Fletcher’s teams and had some of his supplies store in that wagon.  His family consisted of himself, his wife, two little girls, and one small boy.  B.F. Fletcher had three wagons, eight head of horses and mules, and in the party where he, his wife, five girls, and one baby boy, five months old, also a young man and his wife whom they hired as helpers.  (Editor’s note: “one baby boy, five months old,” is “Grandpa”, Ellsworth E. Fletcher.)

A man named Alek Waugh with one wagon, his wife, three small girls, and one small boy was with us when we left Preemption, our home town.

Snow was still on the ground, and along the hedges were seen great banks of snow as we started for Rock Island.  As I remember it was dark when we reached there, a distance of twenty miles for our first day’s journey towards the setting sun.  B.F. Fletcher went to a friend’s house where he left his wife, baby, and three small girls.  Mr. Dyer was not at home, but his wife was very kind to us.  Mr. Fletcher, his two older girls, and the hired man and his wife stayed with the wagons and horses.

In the morning we were joined by Leaplain Shedds.  There were quite a lot of them, Mr. Shedd, his wife, mother, Aunt Jemima, the eldest person in the party, his wife’s three brothers, a hired woman and four little boys., the youngest four months old.  As I remember, they had the best equipped camp outfit of all.  They had a folding table that they used, and I remember that they used a white table cloth; most of us had oilcloths and spread them on the ground.  They also had a sheet iron stove while most of us cooked over an open fire, and for baking used an iron Dutch oven, heated by put hot coals under it and on the lid.

            Having crossed the Mississippi into Iowa, as I remember, the weather was fine and the snow soon disappeared.  Our first misfortune was that S.M. Fletcher became sick, his health was not good, and the hope that a change of climate might be a benefit to him was one of the reasons for his family undertaking the long journey.  We were still in Iowa, and we all stopped and got a room at a farm house and had a doctor for him.  To our surprise and great joy, he improved so as near as I can remember we were only detained four or five days.  He had no more sick spells during the journey.

            About this time we fell in with three other families, one named Goodlow, a large family, several grown girls and some boys, one small family, Graham by name, wife and two small children, and one named Dundun with four children, I believe.

            A Council Bluffs we camped and made final preparations for the remainder of the journey.  We crossed the Missouri river on a ferry boat and bought everything needed in Omaha, as that was a much better place to trade than Council Bluffs.  They also got their wagons and harness repaired at a blacksmith shop.  Here the men elected Frank Shedd captain of the train and made some rules by which they were to be governed.   One was that we were not to travel on Sunday, but I think we did not observe that rule long, and we only laid over when the women had to bake and wash clothing.

            We were now in Nebraska.  Here we saw the first Indians, the Pawnees, and as I remember, they were very small in stature, but friendly.  We traveled on the North side of the Platte.  I think there was a road on the south side also.  We were not getting used to our new way of living, and we were quite a happy crowd; we had a few cases of measles but not serious cases of sickness.  We had one wagon break down one day, and they had to unload everything to repair it.  We had some good workmen in the train and were only delayed for a few hours.  Soon after this, B.F. Fletcher lost a horse, which was sick but a few hours.  We were now in that part of Nebraska where the Sioux Indians were located, but only saw a few and they did not seem very friendly.  There was a reason; they were too busy making plans to steal horses.
            On the evening of the eighteen of June, B.F. Fletcher stood guard in the place of his nephew Silas, who was not well.  At three on the morn of the nineteenth he came to camp and called his hired man to go out for the few short hours before daylight.  If he went, he was soon back in his bed.  Just before sunrise, B.F. was up and ate a hurried breakfast and taking a doughnut in his hand, said that the horses were a good way from camp, and he must go after them, when all at once a cry of Indians from a dozen or more men rang through the camp, and looking up we saw of band of them coming donw the hill and circle around the horses, some ran for camp, but the Indians succeeded in getting away with seven.  All the young men were soon on horses and in pursuit, but though  they came in sight of them, they soon saw that it was useless to try to force them to give up the horses, as there were so many of them.

            About two in the afternoon we got started, and I think it was about two days travel until we reached Ft. Laramie.  We stopped there and asked some of the soldiers to go back and see what they could do about getting the horses.  We were camped at Laramie about three days, until the soldiers returned but without any of our horses.  Here B.F. who was the heaviest loser, left one of his wagon and J.W. put all of his things in his own wagon, and I think his hired man must have remained at Laramie and I don’t remember any more of him.  We were in Wyoming now and near and near the head waters of the Platte.  About this time little Frankie Shedd, two years old, was taken sick.  We were not out of reach of doctors.  We continued on our journey, I remember his mother used to hold him on her lap, though she had a child that was younger, and as Captain Shedd had three good men to look after the stock, he used to help care for the little children.  The evening of the third of July we reached Independence Rock and camped, I think the little boy passed away soon after.  The next morning his father made a very neat coffin, as he was a good carpenter, and in the afternoon they had the funeral, which was on Independence Day.  On the fifth we resumed our journey; that was the only death we had on the trip so we were fortunate than most of the emigrant trains.

            We soon left the Platte and were along a small stream called Sweet Water.  We traveled by it for a few days.  We were now nearing the Rockies.  I don’t remember that we had any serious trouble; it seems to me the road was pretty good.  Some of the horses had mountain Fiercy.  One of S.M. Fletcher’s mares died, and some of the train folks had the mountain fever.   Ruth Fletcher was also quite ill.  A young man, Mr. Hardenbrook was also one of the more sick ones.  We left him at Boise City as there was a hospital there though there was not a single painted house in this city.  We heard from him after we reached Oregon and learned that he recovered after several weeks.

            We were now nearing the Snake river and the Snake Indians were reported to be on the war path.  The only trouble we had was that one day we saw a lot of Indians ahead of us coming toward the train.  Big fellows they were, with lots of paint, and feathers stuck in their hair.  I remember that I was more frightened than when the horses were stolen.  When they got to the first wagon they separated, half going on one side of the wagons and the other on the other side.  But every man that had a gun and that was most of the able-bodied ones, had them in full view and the Indians went on without stopping us.

            We forded the Snake River.  The water ran into the wagon beds some, but none of the horses were drowned.  From there until we got to Boise we had no bad luck except that one day we could find no water, although we went till sundown, when someone suggested that we leave the main road and go up a canyon where we might find water.  It seems to me it must have been three or four miles and it got dark, finally our little span of mules got so tired that they would not go another step.  The others were all ahead of us so we stopped right in the road.  There were three of us girls, Lois and Aurilla and myself and B.F. was driving the mules.  We had no supper, but were so tired, and I never knew until a good many years after but that father slept too, but he told of how he sat in the front of the wagon all night with a hatchet ready to defend us girls.  As soon as it was light the next morning, the mules were willing to go on and we soon came to the rest of the train.

            Just before we got into Oregon, our hired man and wife decided to quit us and go somewhere in Idaho, so we had to leave another wagon and our supplies were getting pretty low, so everything was put into our last remaining wagon.  We got to La Grande sometime in the first of September and there we found friends; a brother-in-law of S.M. Fletcher named Jones, and his wife and two grown boys.  Here we got fruit, butter, fresh vegetables and good fresh beef.  We surely enjoyed them. The train only stayed at La Grande a few days and all but B.F. and family started for the Willamette Valley.  Mr. Jones was planning to leave for the valley, and he told us he would help us through the mountains, so we remained there for about three weeks.  He had two good wagons and a team of horses, four yoke of oxen and two cows.

            The horses were missing from the range, and the boys hunted for them for several days and at last concluded that they had been stolen.  So we had to come away without any horses but the two little mules had had a good rest and good pasture so they did fine coming the rest of the trip.  S.M. had left one of his horses with us that was very poor, Old Cub by name.  We used to hitch him in front of the mules when we had come to a very steep hill.

            As I remember, the Cascade range was the worst by far of the three ranges of mountains we crossed.  When we got to Foster, they said we were in the Willamette Valley, but I was very disappointed for I had pictured a valley stretching before us without a tree or anything to obstruct the view; instead, we saw not much else but brush.  We came through Oregon City, and when we got to about where Hubbard is now, we saw a very familiar looking covered wagon coming towards us, and when we got a little closer saw it was S.M. Fletcher with his wife and son.  They were on their way to Portland to get their winter’s supplies.  Needless to say we rejoiced to see them for we had expected to have to go Albany, but they had stopped at Salem for the State Fair which was being held about the time they got there, and had been advised by one Mr. Newsome to locate on Howell Prairie.  They postponed their trip to Portland, turned around, and we followed them home, getting there a little after noon.  The date, I think, was October the twentieth or about six months from the time we had started.  J.W. had found a man whose wife was dead, and they got to keep house for him and boarded the man and his boy.  He had also engaged to teach the district school for the winter term.  B.F. soon found a house to rent and moved his family in for the winter.

            In conclusion, I will say the descendants of the Fletcher family are living in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, and the islands of the Pacific.  With few exceptions, they are tillers of the soil or have married farmers, and are an industrious, energetic and intelligent lot of people.  Not one of the three families ever returned to Illinois to live, although some have been back there to visit.

Emaline Fletcher Hobart
Finished November 10, 1925”

And, that, my friends is what 5 pages of single spaced print looks like on a blog post, just in case you were wondering. ~ Kathy M.

Emeline was 11-years-old when she came to Oregon. 
Her name seems to be spelled "Emeline" and
 "Emaline" as my search continues for a picture of her.

Emaline and Elsworth's parents (Flora's grandparents):

Source:  Find A

Benjamin Franklin Fletcher (1828-1902) 

and Elizabeth Ann Turner Fletcher (1828-1888)

 Source:  Find A


Flora Fletcher Hedrick and The War Letters

Oh!  I figured out a way to make this post on theme for this week after all ... which makes this post even longer.  Thanks for hanging in there!  This book isn't really that old (c. 1973), but I thought that it tied in well with this post.  I can imagine the Fletchers and their friends singing a few of these ditties as they sat around the campfire before bed. 

So, there you are, my friends.  If you enjoyed this story, please visit my Sepia Saturday friends by "CLICKING HERE" to find other neat photos and stories.  To read more about my family and other stories featuring old photos, memories and more, please look for this picture of me and my dad on the left-hand sidebar and read whatever else catches your fancy.  Thanks so much for visiting!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

At Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy, if you miss a day, you miss a lot!  All material on this post is copyrighted and not for use without my permission ...Please click here to go to my home page and see what is happening in Mayberry today.
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Bob Scotney said...

An amazing and fascinating history, Kathy. That Oregon Trail map makes you realise what those people achieved,

Linda Reeder said...

I confess, I skimmed the post, but I was especially interested in the ending. Hubbard is not far at all from where I grew up, near Canby and Molalla. And I had no idea the State Fair in Salem was that old.!

Dawn Malone said...

We've stopped at a couple national parks on the Oregon Trail. Pioneer history fascinates me; I can't imagine the hardships they endured. Thanks for sharing, Kathy!

Little Nell said...

Reading a personal account like this one really brings home the hardships they endured.Those early pioneers were made of stern stuff!

Gill Edwards said...

I love the photograph of the gentleman with the large moustache, he looks very kind.
thanks for stopping by my blog too

Wendy said...

This was a wonderful account to read -- what a memory she had. I can't imagine what it took for people to pack up and travel 6 months to start a new life. It had to be exhausting not just riding and walking but dealing with sickness, finding supplies, worrying about Indians. No thank-you! I have been indexing the 1940 Census for FamilySearch, and just this week I had families from Platte and Council Bluffs, so it was fun for me to see those places mentioned.

Brett Payne said...

Thanks for sharing the story of the trip across on the Oregon Trail. You can read a lot about it on the net, in National Geographi, etc., but it's hard to beat a personal story like this. Much appreciated.

barbara and nancy said...

6 months! My gosh. What a fascinating story of endurance and courage. It was nice that there were so many children on the trip. I'll bet they had lots of fun times, too. Maybe singing those songs around the campfire.

Karen S. said...

...and a plains traveled so well! What an amazing source of photos and information truly a delight! I really like the covered wagon photo too. Find a grave is sometimes a help for me as's so cool to see the same journey that one has made that I too use! Very cool post again!

Postcardy said...

That is a fascinating account--I read the whole thing. It seems strange that one severe winter in Illinois would make them endure 6 months of hardships to get to a place that isn't very much warmer.

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

Kathy this was amazing and very informative. It is so true how a personal story adds to our understanding of our history. My grandmother tells us about being born in Indiana and moving to Ky. after her mother died and in a covered wagon. No photos with her story. You have done some great work.

Joy said...

What a trek, I loved the map you used, makes a great companion to the story. Marvellous that Emaline wrote it down, it brings history alive.

Queen Bee said...

What a family treasure you have! Emaline did a wonderful job remembering a time in her life that occurred sixty years earlier. Reading her account reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Ingalls family's encounters with Indians and their wagon trips. Can't imagine how hard the six month trip was for Emaline's family and the others in the wagon train - the sickness, fatigue, horses stolen, traveling in the hot summer, etc. Amazing story!

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

There is nothing like reading a first hand version of what the pioneers went through on their treks to start a new life. Being an Illinois native myself it makes me stop and think if I could have dealt with the hardships, the Indians, the weather, the illnesses, etc. No, they truly were made of finer stuff than me!

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