On the Trail — July 30, 1841

Wedding bells on the Oregon Trail!

Friday, 30th. Traveled about 5 miles and encamped. Guess what took place; another family was created! Widow Gray, who was sister to Mrs. Kelsey, was married to a man who joined our Company at Fort Larimie. His right name I forget; but his everywhere name, in the mountains, was Cocrum. He had but one eye–marriage ceremony performed by Father De Smet.

His “right name” was Richard Phelan, and he was a fur trapper who, with his one eye, spotted the widow Gray and took a fancy to her, which is probably the reason he joined the Bidwell-Bartleson Party at Fort Laramie. His courtship was successful. Since Phelan is an Irish name, he was no doubt a Catholic, and thus the couple was married by Father De Smet, and not by the Rev. Joseph Williams.

The man’s name was Phelan, but his nickname, or “everywhere name” as Bidwell says, was Cockrum.  Or maybe it was Cockrel—that’s the name Jimmy John records. I have no idea what the origin of that name would be.

I haven’t found a first name for Mrs. Gray, but she was the sister of Samuel Kelsey’s wife Lucy, who was traveling with her husband and three children. Mrs. Kelsey was undoubtedly happy to have her sister’s help with the kids. Both sisters with their families would go on to Oregon.

Lucy Kelsey was only 23 years old at the time, so the “Widow Gray” must have also been in her twenties. The Rev. Mr. Williams mentions the marriage, and says that Mrs. Gray “had left her husband in Missouri,” alive or dead he doesn’t say. What became of the couple is anyone’s guess.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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