Daniel Tickner

Emigrant Profile

Daniel Tickner left Gravesend, Kent, England, at the age of 11 in 1826.

Danand Mary Tickner around 1900

He later joined his father John and the rest of his family at Albion, Illinois, where he was a blacksmith. In 1840 he married Mary Wood in Albion, where they lived until they moved to California. Daniel and Mary Tickner’s first daughter, Ellis Sarah Tickner, was born in Albion in 1847.

Daniel Tickner made three trips on the California Trail. During his first trip in 1850, he inscribed his name and date of passage in axle grease on Register Rock at the City of Rocks in SE Idaho. He came west with a friend, A. Freeman, to bring back his “foolish” brother-in-law from the gold fields at the insistence of his in-laws, John and Martha Wood. Daniel set up as a blacksmith while he waited for his brother-in-law.

Daniel traveled to California by horseback, and returned to Albion with his brother-in-law by ship to the west coast of Mexico. There, they purchased horses or mules for the overland journey through

Daniel Tickner and A. Freeman’s 1850 signatures on Register Rock, City of Rocks, ID.

Mexico City to Mt. Orizaba, where they waited (away from the mosquitoes) for a steamer to arrive at Vera Cruz to take them back to New Orleans. Then a river steamer took Daniel and his brother-in-law back to Albion, where Daniel first saw his second child, Leon Francisco Tickner.

Daniel Tickner and A. Freeman’s 1850 signatures on Register Rock, City of Rocks, ID.

He apparently liked California, because Daniel came out again in 1852 by covered wagon with his wife and two of her brothers. He settled at San Leandro, CA, where he bought a Spanish land grant from members of the Estudillo family. His house was made of locally cut and milled redwood. As a blacksmith, he made his own nails and front door hardware. Mary Wood Tickner’s kitchen was papered with the London Times. Daniel and the Wood brothers farmed and sold their produce in San Francisco. Dan also ran a ferryboat between Hayward and San Francisco. Eventually, his wife got homesick after their third child, Frank Semor Tickner, was born in 1854 at San Leandro. They booked passage by ship back to Illinois by way of the Isthmus where they took the newly completed railroad from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Dan and Mary must have had second thoughts about leaving California, because in 1857, they went over the California Trail again. They traveled in four wagons with her unmarried brothers William and Benjamin Wood; another brother James Wood, his wife, Catherine Gleason Wood, and their young son Ellis; and a sister, Martha Wood West, her husband, John West, and their children.

The prairie grass was late in coming in 1857. Dan Tickner and his group had missed their wagon train because John West couldn’t make up his mind and get his outfit together. While Daniel waited for John West, he purchased an additional “span” of mules for $525 in Council Bluffs (letter, John Wood to John Tickner, Albion, IL, July, 1858). They finally left Omaha June 5. The first night out of Omaha, Indians attempted to stampede their mules. From then on it was necessary to stand guard every night. According to Ben Wood (Journal Register, Albion, IL, 1917), they had trouble crossing the Platte River and had to be helped by a party of oxen drivers. On the trail, nine-year-old Ellis Sarah’s job was to collect buffalo chips for the cooking fire. As the Tickner-Wood train approached Fort Laramie, Martha and John West lost a daughter, Laura West, to cholera.

After crossing South Pass, they were warned by a white man dressed as an Indian of Brigham Young’s declaration of war on the United States (declared on 7-24-1857 near Salt Lake City, Utah Territory) and changed their route to California. Along the California Trail, between Thousand Springs Valley and the Humboldt River, John West and Daniel Tickner apparently had a falling out. As a result, John and his wife took one wagon, leaving the Woods and Tickners, and joined up with a nearby train.

On August 12, 1857, somewhere between Gravelly Ford and Stony Point along the Humboldt River, the remaining family group of three wagons was attacked by about 75 to 100 Indians and white men as the faster wagons went around the point of a hill. About thirty of the attackers were on horseback, while the rest were running on foot. They fired a mixture of guns, and bows and arrows. The Indians of this party were in league with renegade white men, presumably followers of Brigham Young. Ellis Sarah Tickner remembers being rolled up in feather mattresses inside the wagon with her brothers as protection. Mary Wood Tickner remembers “the hum of bullets as they tore their way through the canvas wagon-tops and passed all around me”(Oakland Herald, Oct. 25, 1905).

Catherine Wood, an unborn child, and her young son Ellis were killed, and one wagon was lost along with three mules. James Wood was shot in the joint of the elbow; William Wood was shot in the back and arm, while Ben Wood was shot in the foot. Their lives were saved by the kindly help of a woman from a nearby ox-team train whose late husband had been a doctor. Dan Tickner in his letter to John Wood said that they had to stay in the vicinity all day “before we could get the bodies to bury them. I went back with two men and got them buried the next morning.” Dan inferred in his letter that William Wood had lost a large sum of money with which he had planned to buy land in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also said, “William lost everything except the clothes on his back.” According to Dan, part of the stolen money was later recovered.

Evidence of the attack on the Wood-Tickner party was still plainly visible to Helen Carpenter, September 3, who saw “about 200 yards of goose feathers strewn” along the California Trail about one day’s travel west of Gravelly Ford, with a “newer wagon which had been hacked and broken.”

Ben Wood remembered the rest of the trip to the mines, Grass Valley and eventually San Leandro, California. The Tickner-Wood wagons stayed with the ox-team party and others who came across the desert to the Truckee River. The Indians and white men continued to follow the injured Wood brothers according to both Dan and Ben. Ben (1917) said that one of the white men was captured and was being taken to Carson City, when the prisoner escaped, was followed by one of the ox-drivers and shot.

The combined party continued across the Sierra Nevada Mountains by way of Beckwith Pass according to Ben, but considering the specific references to the Truckee and Yuba Rivers, it is more likely that they took the Henness Pass Road. Ben Wood was probably mixing up the route used by the Tickners and Wood brothers in 1852 with the crossing in 1857.

After writing home from San Leandro on September 18, 1857, Daniel and Mary Tickner, along with William Wood, bought 160 acres “with nearly a half mile of wire fence” near Richmond, California. They planted 80 acres with wheat, barley, and potatoes. Daniel set up a blacksmith shop and purchased another steamboat to take their crops to San Francisco (letter, John Wood to John Tickner, Albion, IL, July, 1858). Their fourth child, Catherine Elena Tickner, named after James Wood’s wife, was born here on January 30, 1858. James Wood bought land in the Hayward Hills near San Leandro. William and Benjamin Wood married in California. Ellis Sarah Tickner married a Pony Express rider named [Earl?] Mead. Catherine Tickner married Tim Donovan in 1874.

In 1867 Daniel Tickner became a citizen of the United States before a judge of the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of California.

Dan Tickner said that he went back along the California Trail to Gravelly Ford looking for the grave of Catherine Wood and her infant son, Ellis, but without success (Oakland Herald, Oct. 25, 1905). Daniel was so shocked by his loss in 1857 that he would not talk of crossing the West, even with members of the family. Finally, on his 93th birthday, he relented and a local newspaper recorded his painful recollections as he was honored as California’s oldest living Mason in 1905. The remaining family living in California at the time was unaware of his earlier letter to Albion, IL. A distant relative, interested in family history, got in touch with the family in the 1970’s and gave them a copy of the 1857 letter.

Clara Donovan Newcomb interviewed and collected the oral material from her father, Leon Tickner Donovan; his sister, Alta Donovan Janssen; and Clara’s great aunt, Ellis (Sarah) Tickner Mead.