Reminiscences of A Pioneer Woman
by Elizabeth Nancy Coone of Spring Valley, Spokane County, WA
My father was John Fenn, an Englishman, the son of Thomas and Nancy Fenn. He was born at Alesworth, North Hampshire, England, on November 26, 1810 or 1812; and in his youth learned the trade of plasterer and brick mason. In 1828, with an older brother, William Fenn, he came over on a sailing vessel. I have heard my father say that he was only 16 years old when he left England. In Canada, my father took up his trade of plasterer, and later, with his brother, William, moved to Pike county, Illinois, where both brothers married.
My mother was Mary Jory, an Englishwoman, the daughter of James Jory and Mary Stevens who were married in St. Cleer Parish, England in 1812. James Jory's father (also named James Jory) was a game keeper and gardener on an English estate, and the son learned the trade of carpenter and mechanic. My grandfather's family consisted of two daughters, Mary (my mother), Elizabeth, who later became my stepmother, and six sons-John, James, Henry, Thomas, William and H.S. All except H.S. Jory were born in England.
My grandfather, James Jory, with his family emigrated from England to St. John, New Brunswick where he took up a farm and worked in the shipyards. Later he moved his family to New York, then to New Orleans, and from there to St. Louis, MO. The slave holding system then prevailing in Missouri was obnoxious to his liberty loving English spirit, and my grandfather moved with his family to Pike City, IL in the fall of 1837. Here he bought 40 acres of government land on which he settled.
In Pike county my father, James Fenn, first met my mother, Mary Jory, and they were married in 1839. Four children were born...Mary Jane on May 17, 1840; Elizabeth Ann, the narrator (now living at Spring Valley, WA); James William born Oct. 11, 1843 and Thomas Henry born Mar. 28, 1845. Mother (Mary Jory) died in Pike county, IL in November 1846 while the family was preparing to emigrate to Oregon. I remember distinctly the new linsy dress mother made for me to wear to Oregon, and the tent stretched in the yard of the old home in Illinois under which we children played.
Mary Elizabeth Jory, my mother's sister, took mother's place in caring for the four little motherless children and when all was ready, father, auntie, and us children, with a large party, including many of mother's relatives, started out overland by ox teams along the old Oregon trail, reaching the Columbia River district in the late fall of 1847.
Dr. Whitman came out from the Blue Mountains, a distance of about 150 miles, to meet our party and to pilot them over the trail to the mission. A stop of three weeks was made at the Whitman Mission and Dr. Whitman tried to persuade the emigrants to remain over at the mission until the next year.
Before reaching the mission a considerable amount of property was stolen from the emigrants' camp by the Indians. This was just after the first robbery and massacre of an emigrant train, where but a small part of the people had escaped. Upon our robbery being reported to Dr. Whitman, he called the Indians together; they gathered in a half circle in front of the Doctor, wrapped in their blankets, many with their faces painted with war paint, and the Doctor began to arraign them about the theft. I looked on, standing beside my father and holding his hand. As the Doctor proceeded, and the guilty consciences of the Indians were awakened, from time to time, a knife, fork or frying pan would be dropped by an Indian from beneath his blanket, and when Dr. Whitman had finished most of the stolen property was lying about on the ground at the feet of the Indians. One of the Indians threw down a skillet with cosiderable force, and, I thought, threw it at the doctor, but my father said, "No, they are mad." This was only a short time before the massacre of Dr. Whitman by the Indians.
Among the property surrendered by the Indians was a large chest. No one knew to whom it belonged, so Dr. Whitman gave it to my father to carry on to Oregon, hoping that the owner might be found there. Father's team was, however, giving out and he was compelled to leave the chest by the roadside in the untains. After we had reached Oregon, I remember we were all gathered around the old fireplace one night when Auntie said, "John, I have often wondered what was in the old chest you put by the roadside. There might have been something in there which we could have used for the children". And father answered her, saying "No, Elizabeth, I never could have used anything that did not belong to me."
From the Whitman Mission we traveled down the Columbia in canoes, and first settled in Clatsop Plains in Clatsop County, Oregon, where in 1847 father married my aunt Elizabeth Jory, who had taken care of us children during the trip. My stepbrother, John S. Fenn was born at Clatsop Plains.
After remaining in Clatsop Plains for about a year, in 1849, the family moved to Salem, where we remained two years. In 1852 father moved with the family to Linn County to a place about six miles north of Albany. Here my step brother, Joe Fenn, was born in 1852, and my step-sister, Mary Fenn was born in 1854. In the spring of 1854, my step-mother, Mary Elizabeth Jory Fenn, took sick and died. We all had a very hard time while she was sick. Sister and I had to take care of her and cook the meals and do all the house work, father and the boys being all hard at work on the farm. After my step-mothers death my oldest sister, Nancy Jane, then fourteen years old, and myself, kept house for the family until sister was married to William Angus MacPherson, a Scotsman who afterwards became State printer of Oregon, and who was later associated with the late Harvey Scott on the Oregonian.
Except for occasional visits to our grandparents, who lived about twenty miles away, the rest of us children stayed at home until we grew up. Times were very hard among the early pioneers of Oregon. Some of us children spent a great deal of time with our grandparents, the Jory family. Several of the Jory family have died on their donation land claim in the Salem hills, and some of their descendants still live there on the land first taken up in 1850.... (excerpt from the Washington Historical Quarterly as told to William Leers, Corresponding Secretary of the Spokane Historical Society)