Jesse Berryman Jones

Emigrant Profile

Jesse Berryman Jones was five years old when his parents, S. W. R. and Elizabeth, and his nine brothers and sisters struck out for Oregon Territory.

It was the spring of 1853. On the fiftieth anniversary of the journey, Jesse wrote down what he remembered. Jesse died in 1909 in Salem, Oregon. He was a Baptist circuit rider.

“Our elders concluded that we must go to Oregon. The Jones family was growing faster than the country, and White River Bottom would not be able to hold it much longer.

“In St. Joe, Missouri, I had the measles. There was an old Negro woman who came around with her herb tea, well sweetened. Have since learned that it was saffron. I have been unable to decide whether the measles got me or I got them. Be that as it may, I got rid of them.

“Never since I saw it — Independence Rock, I mean — have I forgotten our camp there. I can give but a faint idea of the impression that is so lasting, but it is a red rock eighty or a hundred feet high. Joe [his fourteen-year-old brother] got a scolding for climbing up to cut his name over all. I wonder if the rain and frost have left the marks of those early pioneers?

“On one of the plodding days far our on the plains, we had stopped for our noon meal when there came riding about a hundred painted warriors. Joe got out his pistol but father made him put it back. When they rode up with long gleaming appears and bows and arrows, father gave the chief some bread and milk. He tasted the milk and handed it back, grunting, ‘Ugh, papoose,’ but the ‘Hiyu muck-a-muck’ he passed to his followers. A war party of Crows going to fight the Blackfeet, I was told. [Editor’s note: neither the Crows nor Blackfeet lived near the trail.]

“I cannot tell when it was that we came to a place where the water stank. All about the rest of it was so strong with alkali that they hitched up and we traveled all night. Next day we came to a beautiful clear stream where the cattle would not drink. Dave Bowles put his hand down to the water but jerked it up, yelling, ‘Boiling hot!’ Cold water was found at a spring close by.

“Whether it was before or after this place I cannot say, but at Green River we buried West Jean’s son, ‘Lige Junior.’ They made a box of poplar we had along and covered it with brush, then rocks, then dirt or sand.

“Much is left out. I can’t place where father got on the black mule and shot the buffalo. Not the antelopes either. But I can remember of his riding into a stream and killing fish as long as Joe. The last time I saw him he said the stream was Zig Zag, Oregon. Neither can I place where it was that West Jean wouldn’t let Junior shoot the robbers that tried to steal our horses, nor where Junior said, ‘Bow-wow, stop’ to a wolf that was after our grub. But I can remember that the Indians were very sassy and that it was in Snake River Bottom that we saw the bones of the immigrants and the feather beds by the wayside.

“When you go over the Cascades and cross Boulder Creek, look up to the left and see the immigrant trail where they had to tie chains to the trees to get the wagons down. And you, who by their sacrifices have your plenty, go over to the Daugherty Place and see the log cabin that sheltered the Joneses in the winter of 1853-54; Lizzie being the youngest of ten (Frances Elizabeth, born November 7, 1852, was a babe in arms when the family left for the West.) And besides them, the Skene family, numbering five.

“Fifty years have passed since then, but never shall I forget that winter, nor that Mother saw to it that we had plenty to eat and clothing enough to keep us warm. For children recollect more than they are credited with.”