July 30, 1841 — “Guess what took place?”

Friday, 30th. Traveled about 5 miles and encamped. Guess what took place; another family was created! Widow Gray, who was a 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.

I like the idea of an “everywhere name,” although how the man got that nickname is anyone’s guess. Jimmy John called him Cockrel; his real name was Richard Phelan. He was a fur trapper who joined the wagon train at Fort Laramie. Unattached women were in short supply in the West at that time, so maybe the Widow Gray looked like a likely prospect for a single man.

We don’t know Mrs. Gray’s first name, only that she was the sister of Lucy (Mrs. Samuel) Kelsey and had a young child with her. It’s likely that she was in her twenties; not as old as “Widow Gray” sounds.

Phelan gave up trapping and continued on to Oregon with the half of the party that took the safer route, and with his wife settled down to farming in Oregon.

Just a nice photo of the Wind River Range

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.
This entry was posted in Bidwell-Bartleson Party, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to July 30, 1841 — “Guess what took place?”

  1. Thomas Holcomb says:

    Just a note to say thank you for your blog. I have been enjoying “following along” with JB and his group. Many of my ancestors took much the same journey, first in 1846 and later in 1849. Below is an entry from a 1849 diary kept by James Hecox from the wagon train that brought two branches of my family west. The Mr. Imus referenced below was my 3rd great grandfather, Hiram Imus Jr. His daughter Emily married my 2nd great grandfather Isaac (Holcomb) whom she met on the trip as he was hired as a driver when the train departed from the Missouri River. The Mr. Rice referenced was Emily’s Uncle Phillip Rice. When their company departed it consisted of 20 ox drawn wagons, a 2 horse carriage, 181 animals and 71 people. Of those 71 people, 20 were from 4 generations of the Imus/Rice families.

    From : The Way I Went to California by James Hecox

    July 30th – Nothing worth noting passed yesterday. Today about 1 oclock all our men came in without any information of our cattle having been gone some of tham four and others three days. Mr. Imus and Mr Rice went out this morning with his horses and carriage and have jest came in bringing in a fine fat cow and a large fat buck

  2. nancyleek says:

    Thanks! I’m glad you are enjoying it. What group did your ancestor come with in 1846? and is The Way I Went to California available in print or online? I love to read those accounts.

  3. Tom Holcomb says:

    The following account is attributed to Adna A Hecox (father to James) and published in Santa Cruz County, California. Illustrations, with Historical Sketch of the County. Published by Wallace W. Elliott & Co., San Francisco, 1879

    (I don’t know how accurate the McKistry reference is. Independently,it is said that the Imus boys left Illinois after reading a pamphlet authored by John Bidwell. – TH)

    In 1843, a major McKinstry (Justus McKistry)conceived the idea of organizing a small band of hardy frontiersmen, capable of enduring the fatigue of crossing the Rocky Mountains, with whom he proposed to enter California, subdue the small force of Mexico troops stationed in Monterey, and other pueblos in Upper California, revolutioniuze the country, and establish an independent republic on the coast of the Pacific.
    In order to facilitate this undertaking it was necessary that the people should have some knowledge of the country to which they were bound; and in order to give them this information, letters were written and published, and speeches were made, in which the beauties of the scenery, the richness of the soil, and the mildness of the climate were set forth in glowing language to us, who were plodding in the cold winds and bleak storms of the western plains. The ambitious hopes of Major McKinstry were to all appearances about to be realized, when he received a communication from the President of the United States, stating that if his designs were as stated he would not be allowed to leave the country, as it was against the policy of the United States to allow her people to invade the soil of a friendly nation. The major immediately stayed further proceedings.
    But the adventuous spirit of the hardy pioneer was not so easily quelled. Inquiries were made as to the practicability of crossing the plains; societies were formed to obtain all the information that could be had of the country, and so satisfactory was the information obtained that the spring of 1846 saw eighty wagons with their freights of men, women and children, their household goods and herds, plodding their weary way through the desert waste of the Rocky Mountains to the genial climate and pleasant shores of the great Pacific. A few of these emigrants saw, perhaps, in their imagination a magnificent republic springing up on the Pacific slope, but the more thoughtful the true lover of his country, the admirer of the banner of liberty, looked forward to the day when the Star Spangled Banner with its ample folds would overshadow the American continent from the frigid zone on the north to the torrid one on the south.
    On the first day of April, 1846 three wagons with ox teams, seven men, two women and seven children, left Belmont, a small village on the Iowa side of the Mississippi river, sixteen miles below Galena. The names of those who left Illinois in this little company were A.A. Hecox, wife and four children; Joseph Aram, wife and three children; Charles Imus, Charles A. Imus, Edwin Shaw and John and James Taggart.
    Those among the company who were old enough to realize the important step they were taking, were saddened by the thought of leaving home, parents, brothers and sisters, the friends of their youth, and the land of their birth. The two thousand miles of untrodden wilderness, the chances of starvation, of Indian captivity and torture, would sometimes loom up darkly before them but sadness and fearful foreboding vanish when brave men, yes, brave women, set their hearts to accomplish any great end; they steel their hearts to endure any hardship until the haven is gained.

    • nancyleek says:

      Thanks for that excerpt. Bidwell’s journal was published as a pamphlet in Missouri. The only extant copy is one which belonged to George McKinstry (brother of Justus) who used it as a guidebook when he came to California in 1846.

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