by Greg Croxton
Gragg started across the plains in April 1852. As to the exact date, he
is not sure, but thinks it was the 5th or 6th of April. Members of the
Dimmick and Comfort Dimmick, his wife and their children. (Joseph Dimmick,
a son of Mathew and Huldah Ingraham Dimmick, was born 1807 in New York
State and married Comfort Dean, 15 May 1828 in Morgan County, Ohio.)
Mrs. Croxton, parents of the above, both died on the plains. Mrs. Croxton
died at Kanesville, a fitting-out place for immigrants in southwestern
Iowa on the Missouri River. She retired for the night in good health and
was found dead in bed during the night. Mr. Croxton died of Mountain Fever
on Little Sandy – the first day west of Pacific Springs. He was taken to
Big Sandy and buried as the ground on Little Sandy was low. The day he
died the train suffered much for water, before reaching Little Sandy having
failed to find the watering place mentioned in the guide.
Dimmick (married a Starr); Thomas Dimmick (married Margaret Croxton), died
on the plains; Sarah Dimmick (married 21 August 1849, in Schuyler County,
Joseph C. Gillenwater); Ellen Dimmick; Athalinda Dimmick; Ebenezer Dimmick
(married Sarah Jane Croxton); Joseph Dimmick and Benjamin Dimmick (twins);
Mary Dimmick; David Dimmick; Lucinda Dimmick; John Dimmick; Samuel Dimmick
(about 2 years old as he was weaned after he got to Oregon).
Dimmick, brother of Joseph Dimmick. His family remained in Illinois, and
he returned in the Spring of 1855.
Croxton and family.
Croxton and family.
Ollivant and family.
coming with the Croxton and Ollivants were Robert Stewart, Jeff Skyles
and Phillip Chambers. Phillip Chambers stood guard with Joseph on the plains
and knew him in the Yreka mines. He later returned to Illinois and died
there. Joseph never heard from him after leaving the mines in the fall
of 1860, until visiting Illinois in 1891 and he had been dead several years.
Joseph pronounced him an excellent man. Joseph visited Jeff Skyles in Illinois
in 1891. (This would be Thomas Jefferson Skiles, who married Nancy Ann
Whalen 24 February 1848 in Schuyler County, went to the gold mines and
found enough gold to be able to buy a farm when he returned to Schuyler
Co.) Robert Stewart then lived in Missouri, so he did not get to visit
Croxton families and those with them came over the Cascade Mountains.
Williams boys were from Bureau County, Illinois, and joined the company
Croxton Dimmick, wife of Thomas Dimmick and their children, the oldest,
a girl, name forgotten, died on the plains, and a son, George Dimmick.
C. Gillenwater, Mat and John Williams and Berry (?first or last name) left
the company at Salmon Falls on the Snake River, where the rest of the company
crossed by corking their wagon beds and using them for boats and swam the
stock across. Thus they secured excellent feed for the cattle the
balance of the way.
not crossing did not fare so well, as the feed had been largely consumed
by the former trains. At the Dalles the train camped on the river just
below town, and Joseph on returning to town, ran across the Williams boys,
who on leaving the train had two yoke of bulls and one yoke of cows that
worked as leaders. All their cattle perished but one and they packed their
things upon this one, but that morning had sold it and had started to go
the rest of the journey on foot. Joseph told them that his train was going
to raft down the Columbia and invited them to go with them; so they came
and helped construct rafts.
crossed the Mississippi at Churchville, which is situated in the northeast
corner of Missouri. Then went through Iowa to the Missouri River. We fed
oxen corn and whenever a good supply was to be had they secured enough
to last a day or two. Grass was getting pretty good, but young. When they
arrived at Kanesville they herded the cattle in the bottom lands of the
Missouri River where excellent grass was found, but still fed some corn
to keep the cattle in good condition for the heavy work before them.
waited at Kanesville a little over a week. Part of the delay was caused
by waiting for some who came by St. Louis, by boat, to arrive; one day’s
delay on account of Mrs. Croxton’s death and some delay in crossing the
Missouri River. The steam ferry was some 5 or 6 days behind, but Thomas
Croxton who had been elected Captain of the train, as he had been across
the plains before, heard of a Mormon ferry about 12 miles above Kanesville
and went up and engaged crossing. The train of 11 or 12 wagons drove up
there, arriving in the evening and crossed in the morning of May 23, 1852.
Kanesville was about where Council Bluffs stands now (or so his son thought
at a later time).
crossing they struck out into the wild west and saw no more settlements
until reaching the Willamette Valley, except there were government posts
at Laramie, at the junction of the Laramie River with the North Platte
River; Fort Hall, east of where the Portnif River flows into the Snake
River and the Dalles.
recollection is that they, leaving the Missouri River in the morning of
the day they crossed, traveled that day, camped, and early the next day
they reached the Elk Horn River, a narrow deep stream over which they ferried.
When they reached the Loup River [eastern Nebraska, about 90 miles west
of Kanesville, Iowa - GLC], they forded the quicksand that gave some trouble
in crossing. All of the teams were double, except Joseph’s. Crossing double
occupied so much time that he did not care to wait to wait so long, and
having a good team he crossed alone. His team consisted of three yoke;
two belonging to his uncle and one yoke, the leaders, to him. The wheel
yoke were very strong oxen and good pullers, the middle yoke were unbroke
on starting, but by this time were working quite well and the leaders were
a good yoke. This was his first experience with quicksand and in crossing
streams, and also the last. The water was about hip deep to a man. The
wagons were bolstered up to keep the wagon beds above the water. The river
was perhaps 70 yards wide and they had to wind about considerably
to keep in the shallow water. The wagons jolted like running over rocks.
One of the leaders had a sore neck caused by the ox bow. This caused the
ox to slacken or turn and this checked the other leader and the middle
yoke and all were a little slackened and immediately the wagon began to
sink rapidly in the quicksand which would have soon engulfed it, but he
struck the strong true wheelers a sharp crack with his whip and got all
to pull together and they were soon going again and crossed in safety.
took down with mountain fever on Bear River at Steamboat Springs and was
not able to eat anything scarcely until they got him some salmon and was
not able to sit up until some time later. The first time he drove a team
afterward was up a hill out of Grand Rounde Valley. [The Grand Ronde
River is in the very southeast corner of Washington. - GLC]
streams ferried were the Mississippi, Missouri, Elkhorn, Green [northwest
Colorado, south-west Wyoming - GLC], and two crossings of the Columbia.
At Green River was a Mormon ferry [There’s an “Old Mormon Ferry”
in SW Wyoming, on the Green just south of La Barge – GLC] where they hired
the wagons ferried across and swam the stock. The Mormons had flour to
sell or trade for tea, coffee or sugar. But their train had no more of
these articles than they desired. The second crossing of the Snake
River was just below the mouth of the Boise River, near by was Fort Boise,
a deserted adobe Hudson Bay Company fort. Some kept on the south side of
the Snake and thus avoided crossing it at all, but by crossing it, good
grass was obtained all the way. While the country on the south was rocky,
poorly watered, the localities where the river was accessible were pretty
much divested by the trains of the earlier part of the season. Joseph and
his uncle Joe (Dimmick) came on land with the cattle, crossing on a ferry
about 3 miles above the Cascades, thence following what is now Washington
State until they came opposite the mouth of the Sandy when they crossed,
landing below the mouth of the Sandy. They made portage at the falls
with the teams.
arrived at The Dalles, September 24th; got to this part of the Willamette
Valley about the first part of October. (The Oregon state papers give the
date of October 10th, 1852.)
first work he did was for Ransom Belknap for about three weeks. He made
shingles for Ebenezer Dimmick during the winter, near north of Black Tail
Park until along in February. He hewed the timbers for Jesse Belknap’s
barn, where is now the Woodcock place. He got the timbers from the hill
above George Belknap’s. Ebenezer Dimmick took money for his part of pay
for the shingles and sent it to his family in the east, Joseph took a horse
for his part. In the spring they went to Yreka, California, packing their
things on Joseph’s horse while they walked. They remained about 6 weeks
or 2 months. Joseph bought a claim with George M. Starr, Warren S., John
Starr and Chris. Anthony and worked until they thought the claim was about
4th the train came within a few (4 or 5) miles of Independence Rock
[central Wyoming, about 45 miles SW of Casper – GLC] on Sweetwater River,
about ½ days travel east of Devil’s Gate. On the morning of the
5th we drove on to Independence Rock and stopped and celebrated the Fourth
of July. Joseph, Bob Stewart and Phil Chambers went buffalo hunting, climbing
about over the mountains and rocks and returning to camp in the evening
very tired but without buffalo meat. This was not more than 2 or 3 days
east of South Pass.
Dimmick died in June at a point 2 or 3 days travel west of Loup Fork [eastern
Nebraska, probably between Central City and Grand Island – GLC] – had just
got into buffalo country. He and two others had been out on a buffalo hunt
on the afternoon of the previous day and the weather being very hot, he
drank quite freely of poor water which was found quite abundant. In the
latter part of the night he was taken sick with the cholera and died about
six or seven o’clock. During the forenoon hasty preparations were made
and his body buried with his bedding and clothing alone on the plains in
a grave about 4 ½ feet deep, thought to be sufficient to prevent
the wild animals digging into the remains. In the afternoon the train moved
sadly on leaving the grave of this loved one – a grave never again to be
looked upon by anyone who had ever seen him, whose quickly wasted form
was laid to rest with its silent walls. Yet, sad as it was, such sights
were not uncommon that year. New graves were passed daily in the journey
up along the Platte River – sometimes..(unreadable).
and its Results
the day the train reached the Boise River, where the river comes out of
the canyon, Ellen, Athalinda, Mary and Lucinda Dimmick, sometime in the
forenoon started on a cut-off which led north of the road. They were accompanied
by other young ladies from Kent and Crow trains which had been traveling
near our train most of the time since crossing Salmon Falls and camping
with them at night, thus making more secure against the Indians whom we
might meet at any time as this was especially an Indian region.
girls had been accustomed to cut across by-trails and coming to the road
again, to rest until the train arrived. The teams being somewhat jaded,
they walked most of the time through the last part of the trip, and indeed
the stronger ones walked most of the way across the plains. But this time
the trail proved to be somewhat different from those they had previously
taken. The girls were not missed until noon as they were accustomed to
visit among the accompanying trains and sometimes going on by themselves.
But with the train stopping for dinner the girls were not found in the
train and some men coming along on foot were asked if they had seen any
girls along the road as they came. They said that they themselves had,
during the forenoon, taken what they at first thought was a cut-off but
which as they traveled farther on had decided was a trail leading to an
Indian Camp and that they then returned to the road and came along it.
They said that they saw the girl’s tracks along this trail and that they
would surely fall into the hands of the Indians, if not already.
produced some excitement and the mother of the girls, Comfort, declared
that she would not move a step until the girls were found. But the lay
of the country seemed rather to indicate that the trail would be a cut-off,
at least to those considering the matter cooly. The matter was carefully
considered during the brief noon hour and it was decided that the train
should proceed on its regular journey, except that the horse wagon should
remain there while Mr. Dimmick and Mr. Kent returning should pursue the
trail which the girls had taken and the two others of the younger men,
Ebenezer Dimmick and Phil Chambers, should go on ahead and see if the girls
could be found. Joseph was not yet sufficiently recovered from Mountain
Fever to walk and remained alone to guard the horse team.
Dimmick and Mr. Kent followed the trail to where it crossed the same creek
on which the trains made their noon camp. And seeing that it led
toward the dust clouds of the moving train decided that the girls were
safe and Mr. Dimmick followed along the creek to the noon camp where Joseph
was waiting with the horse team. Then they drove on and a little after
dark arrived at camp where they found all safe and sound.
cut-off being longer than usual the girls had become somewhat anxious and
reaching the road and fearing that the wagons had passed, went ahead and
becoming thirsty descended the steep bluff to the Boise River and returning
up the bluff to the road met the young men who having found where the cut-off
trail returned to the road that the tracks of the girls went forward they
followed on and found them there.
information is from Dianne Hurley, Mt. Angel, Oregon.
the Library of the University of Oregon they have letters and miscellaneous
papers of Joseph Gragg. Data from 1859-1930 including 607 letters
and one diary.
of this information is from Donation Land Claim records, and is being placed
in other parts of this narration with the person the information pertains
earlier issues of “The Schuylerite” we published the story of the Gragg
family that was written by Viola Swanson. Dianne sent some genealogical
excerpts from the Oregon Collection which we will publish at a later date.
The letters are from the family members in Pleasantview to Joseph in Oregon,
and some of his letters in return.
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