Question of the Week: Did any of your family participate in opening the American West?

+18 votes

Were any of your ancestors pioneers in the American West? Did they participate in the opening of it?

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.6m points)
reshown by Chris Whitten
My Great Grandfather, Benjamin Franklin BROWN (Brown-18936) and his mother and step-father, Rebecca MOORE BROWN MOTT (Moore-12227) and Platt MOTT (Mott-550) were pioneers into IL by 1840 then on to IA and NE. BF Brown's father, Richard Gibson Brown, may have gone further West from Rock Island County, IL, but even after 20 years of researching I've not been able to place his death (nor his birth). Based on yDNA, His direct male ancestor was a male descendant of Gerrit VANSWEARINGEN.

Sorry that their lives are not well represented in their wikitree profiles. Lots more information to share if anyone is a cousin or is otherwise interested.
Robert peter dunfiord i have had several americans tracing there family back to the dunford family who traveled over to america after chares 1,asked for more money ship money ,so whe=now have americans tracing therecown dunford tree ,
Robert peter dunfiord i have had several americans tracing there family back to the dunford family who traveled over to america after chares 1,asked for more money ship money ,so whe=now have americans tracing therecown dunford tree ,john dunford and his family left england to america

Now is it possiible for me to send my tracing the Dunford tree to my Facebook ,so all my family can read it from Britain .ireland America,Canada Spain,what a lovely surprise I could send them ,please help .from Robert Dunford,

I have a great Western Migration Story from a book written by Helen Ball, When Franklin and Harriet Glasscock Ball (my husband's GGF and GGM) came to Missouri from Virginia, Harriet's widowed sister, Aunt Peggy (Margaret) Glasscock Painter, came with them. Richard Johnson Ball was a baby, for this was in 1858, and Aunt Peggy sat in a rocking chair in the covered wagon and rocked Richard Johnson Ball all the way to Missouri." (p. 

My 2nd great grandparents, Ramoth and Rachel (Hayes) Sears/Scears migrated from Ohio to Nebraska sometime in the mid 1800s, where they helped set up a town and a church and are buried there. His parents were from the Northeast/New York area, and her parents were from Virginia area.
My third great grandfather, William Wall Oliver Stanfield, came to Texas with Sam Houston around 1832.  He was born in Halifax, possibly Virginia (U.S.) or Yorkshire (U.K.) - I haven't been able to find out yet.  He was secretary to Gen. Thomas J. Rusk, Secretary of War for the Republic of Texas, during the Texas revolution from Mexico.  He was given a land grant by the Republic of Texas for his services.  He married my third great grandmother, Mary Ann Ramsdale, when she was only 14 years old.  Mary Ann was the daughter of Francis Ramsdale and Ann Liddle who were from Yorkshire.  They came to New York in 1824 with four children, and moved to Texas around 1834.  The family operated the Ramsdale ferry which was a major route from the U.S. into Texas before it was a state.  Mary Ann and William met at the ferry and were married there.  The Ramsdale family was also very involved in the Texas Revolution.  Francis and Ann (Liddle) Ramsdale were married  in Kirby Misperton, and I will be there next week to take a picture of the church.
My direct line on my father's maternal side was John Hale is told on this website D:\GENEALOGY\HALE\Descendants of John Hale Sr_ (Frontiersman) - Hale Roots.mht  It's my ggrandparents in the upper left corner. Here is our frontiersman.
According to the book, Roots in Virginia (1948) by Nathaniel Claiborne Hale, John Hale Sr., "the Frontiersman" homesteaded on Bent Mountain in the Blue Ridge, later Roanoke, VA-- where the Staunton flows east out of the mountains at Big Lick gap. Other family members settled nearby on the Piedmont plateau. I don't have a date for John Hale's arrival at the western Virginia border, but "Roots" tells us: "In 1752, the County of Halifax was formed from Lunenburg for the convenience of the inhabitants in the fork between the Staunton and Dan Rivers. The western limits of the new county were the Blue Ridge Mountains dividing it from Augusta. There on Bent Mountain John Hale, was relatively an old resident. He had been listed several years earlier, with his neighbors of Augusta County about the headwaters of Little River and Back Creek, in Captain Martin’s Company for purposes of mutual defense against the Indians. The List of Souls, Tithes and Taxable Property in this company shows him as a slave owner and possessed of a quantity of livestock. John Hale, who was born about 1706, had probably left Tidewater from Baltimore County, Maryland, about 1727 and spent some years on the northwest frontier before joining the migration up the Shenandoah River."
My SW Texan Grandfather, William Ward Burnett, was a lanky (6'8") and determined wrangler who was nearly illiterate, but he wrangled cattle for a bare subsistence living in Carrizo Springs, Texas. He captured and drove them up to Kansas City for the cattle yards. His body-weight signals that he didn't eat enough calories to do the job, but his determination not to let his three children starve kept him at it.

His very short wife, Edna Owen, was a town-girl materialist and never satisfied with what he brought home, but she ultimately(I don't know the year) took her two daughters to Los Angeles to start anew. Yes, it was a divorce to save herself and the two girls during a time when divorces were rare. She left her son with her husband and divorced the latter.

My mother, the 5'10" intellectual and math expert in the family, was saved by their move. She could have gone to good schools in Los Angeles starting at the 11th grade, but Edna told her girls to go get their own place and jobs. Alas! My mother was a life-long auto-didact with a wide range of interests. That carried over to me by her example, setting me on the course of reading, education, and my inherent curiosity.
What a fantastic outcome for her! (and for me and my two sons).

Grandpa did move to the Fresno & Shafter area of mid-California some time afterward. His son worked in the oil fields. Grandpa reared them all to be tough. Grandmother's materialism did not strike a chord with my mother. But I loved Edna's many hats!
Per DNA test my Mom was related to Jessie James.   Out of USA Louis Hebert & family were first family pioneers in Quebec - 1617 -3 yrs before Mayflower....Family related to four indian tribes, three family members killed by Iroquoi while working the farms.

33 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer
My great-great-great grandparents participated in the opening of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  The earliest to arrive was Heman Buckingham in 1846 ( and his 3rd wife Matilda Starr arrived with her family in 1848 (  Jehu Pruett (  and his wife Elizabeth Ringo ( arrived in 1847.  They settled in Bellfountain.

My great-great-great-great grand parents Jacob Donner ( and Elizabeth Blue Donner ( died in 1846/1847 at Alder Creek in the Sierra Nevada mountains trying to get to California.  My great great great grandfather George Jacob Donner was 11 years old when he was rescued. He raised his family in Sonoma county.

What I have learned about their lives is amazing to me.  I am proud of all of them!
by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (209k points)
selected by Donlyn Whissen
Is this the Donner Party? Wow! That is so neat to be related to them!
Thanks for the reply Katrina. Yes they were in the Donner party. Oddly, these two branches of my mother's family (Buckingham and Donner) both went west in 1846.  One family to California, one family to Oregon.  The same storm that doomed my Donner relatives also reeked havoc on the Buckingham family that same fall.
The first husband of my 2nd great grandaunt, Mary Ann COLEMAN, was Capt. Reason TUCKER, who led the rescue party to the Donners. Being pregnant, she did not accompany him from Rock Island, IL to CA.
That is wonderful.  Thank you Capt. Tucker!
My ancestor Lilburn W. Boggs, former 6th Governor of Missouri was the Wagon chief that included the Donner Party. The Donner party separated from the main group about a third of the way there to take a "short cut". Boggs and his party were in California by late October as the Donner Party were stuck in the Sierra Nevada.
What wonderful successes there were, and please thank in our spirits for the spirits of the strong souls above: Buckingham and Donner, and Reason Tucker. It also takes a pretty strong spirit to stay home waiting. And waiting.
+8 votes
Not trying to be a smart a$$ Eowyn, but could you define what you mean by the American West.  My family moved west to settle in Western PA in the 1790's.  Others went to Ohio around 1810.  Indiana around 1820.

I'm thinking you mean west of the Mississippi River in the 1840's or post Civil War and later.

by LJ Russell G2G6 Pilot (222k points)
Or migrating from England to Salt Lake City in the 1890s?
I have Platts's (stonemasons)  from Coleorton, Leicestershire, England  who went to Salt Lake in 1854. I am not sure yet how I'm related to them because there are gaps in the records but my 4x ggf Platts came from Worthington which is very near to Coleorton, so I'm almost cetainly related to the Utah Platts's.
I'm with you, LJ. Some of my family were New Netherlands settlers, some were settlers of Pennsylvania (with Penn), and I have one great something aunt who was born in a wagon on the Falls of the Ohio waiting for the territory to open so they could cross. I'm working on the kinks in the line, but supposedly had family at early Ft Boonsborugh. So, yeah, I guess we did. But we stopped heading west after we hit Missouri, except for the occasional individual who went to Oklahoma. (I think he was trying to claim Native American heritage to get land).
I have one possible cousin who I haven't been able to verify the exact connection who went out West, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh. But he supposedly died in Bolivia from lead poisoning.  And if you ever saw a photo of Harry, you'd say Robert Redford was a lot better looking.  LOL



The Sundance Kid.
As you demonstrate West's meaning changes depending on how far back your heritage in America goes :) Both were definitely brave -- going out west to Ohio during unrest with Indians and farther West by heading off in those covered wagons without any idea what rough terrain they'd experience for what must've seemed like forever. I know it seems like it just by car, and can't imagine how they felt in wagons or on horseback.
+8 votes
My Forth cousin 4 times removed Henry Sager and his wife Naomi (Carney) and their seven children John Carney Sager, Francisco Frank Sager, Catherine Carney Sager, Elizabeth Marie Sager, Matilda Jane Sager, Hannah Louise Sager, and Henrietta Marie Sager. In the Summer of 1844 they traveled west by wagon on the Oregon trail. A movie was made of their travels called 'Seven Alone'.
My family (Gilliam) included the leader of the 1844 wagon train to Oregon (Cornelius Gilliam, my direct ancestor) that the Sager family traveled with; and the couple who 'took in' the Sager children for the remainder of the journey to Whitman Mission (Uncle Billy & Aunt Sarah (Gilliam) Shaw).  The Disney movie inaccurately portrays the children as 'alone' (which they certainly were emotionally) but the Shaw family cared for them physically until they reached Whitman Mission where the Whitman's took them into their home.
My 5th great grandmother, Tabitha Brown, who was the mother of Oregon, her son married Katherine Sager. Katherine was the child in that movie that got her leg ran over by the wagon. She and her sisters were kidnapped by the Indians who killed the couple at Whitman massacre, where some of her siblings died by the masacre. Katherine and 2 of her sisters were rescued by a trader. She raised her sisters.I read about in my book called,  Brown Family History
+5 votes
Pretty much all of them to some degree. Some were Irish immigrants building the railroads. Some were Czech immigrants seeking a better life on the rugged plains of Nebraska. Some were colonial Americans that moved further west with each generation as soon as the revolutionary war ended. All branches were in some form or another in the American west (i.e. west of the Mississippi) by the 1870s. It should be of little surprise that my family culture to this day is one of going off to seek your own way, and the idea of living and being close to family your whole life is kind of a foreign concept.
by Melanie Reeve G2G Crew (360 points)
+7 votes
Yes! Several did participate in the Oklahoma Land Runs!
+5 votes
Yes yes and yes. Early ancestors headed west to settle Jamestown and the Virginia Colony.
Later ancestors lived in Arkansas and Alabama as they became states.  Still later I had ancestors join the Stephen F Austin colony in Texas - 2 of which were Texas Rangers who fought the Comanches.  Around the same time my ancestors settled South Dakota and Nebraska pre-statehood.
Finally they were some of the first people to settle the Llano Estacado.
by JD Ingraham G2G1 (1.4k points)
+5 votes
My ancestor, John Vertrees (1741-1803), was a Captain under George Rogers Clark during the conquest of the Northwest Territory.  This was part of the Revolutionary War in the late 1778-79.  Clark's forces were given the nickname of "Long Knives" by the indians.  

John Vertrees is one of my Patriots as a member of SAR.

Bill Sims
by Bill Sims G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
+5 votes
Yes, the nearest g-g grandfather, Ezekiel Greer is known as a Pioneer from Franklin,Kentucky to Sedalia, Missouri  1850s.  and prior to that the Greer's moved from Gunpowder River, Maryland to Franklin, Virginia in the 1745-60s..
by Carole Taylor G2G6 Mach 7 (75.8k points)
+4 votes
My great grandparents left Kansas to go to Cochise, Arizona, where they homesteaded land. Located just 60 miles away from Tombstone, a hot bed of activity during the Wild West days, Cochise was not the glamour spot they envisioned. Eventually, my great grandfather headed to California to find a job and secure a home for his family, leaving behind his pregnant wife and three daughters. The women lived in a tent in the desert, where my great grandmother gave birth to her youngest daughter. My great grandmother was miserable, even after she and her girls moved into a small, two-room house. Her husband eventually returned and moved the family to California.
by Julie Mangano G2G6 (8.5k points)
+4 votes
Yes!  In fact, my Great-great-grandfather, Carson William Arbuthnot, was the Sheriff of the Gold Hill Mining district and the Sugar Loaf Mining district in what is now Boulder County, Colorado.  When he was voted in as Constable, it was Nebraska Territory and land promised to the Arapaho and Utes.  

I have many other pioneers in the American West in my lineage, but he is my favorite.
by Donlyn Whissen G2G Crew (600 points)
+4 votes
Settling the West is a relative term.  Bear in mind that Idaho became a state in 1890.  Things were still primitive in Idaho when my grandfather, Nathaniel King Rider Brown, came West from Cornwall- on-the-Hudson, New York to Caldwell, Idaho by train in 1890.  He was a homesteader as well as a "Klondiker" in 1898.   My other grandparents, Lydie Collas and Alfred from Guernsey and Jersey, Channel Islands in 1906. They settled in Boise, Idaho.
by Orinda Spence G2G4 (4.3k points)
+4 votes

Enos Butrick, my great great grandfather. 

Enos Butrick is my 2nd great grandfather Enos Butrick

This is a photo of Enos Butrick. He was born in 1812 Passed in 1883. Wife Catherine Ann de Lavergne Butrick. She was born in Jan 1816 passed in March 1864 Enos married Sarah Brown de Lavergne. Enos was a true pioneer as records indicate he was the first living white man to settle in Western Iowa. His exploits can be followed in a book titled. " Buffalo Trails Plowed Under" A history of Carroll Co Iowa.

by Carmen Krieger G2G Crew (320 points)
+4 votes
Yes, my 4th great-grandfather, Mastin Pool and his son, took the southern route through New Mexico and Arizona to arrive at the California gold fields in 1850. He left hi wife and multiple children to tend the farm in Fayetteville Arkansas. He later returned to buy another farm in the same area.

Also my 3rd great-uncle, Alexander Nail, took his family on the Oregon Trail in 1852. His wife died off cholera while in Wyoming. He was noted on his obituary was one of the earliest settlers of Junction, Lane County, Oregon.
+4 votes
I am born of pioneer settlers. They started on the east coast in the 1600s, in the 1700s were in North Carolina (and somewhat Kentucky and Tennessee), and 1800 in Ohio known as the North West Territories. They lived in small isolated communities and to some degree seemed to live in peace with the native Americans. Two or three families would settle a area and intermarry. Different branches of my tree would marry in as cousins. most would go onto Illinois, and Missouri and a few to Indiana. My tree has a jumble of people mostly turn of the 17 to 18th Century who are related to me via two or three grandparents. I read the stories of founding of towns around the Ohio River and am astounded of how many unrelated at the time are related to me.  In 1800, Ohio was definitely the wild west.
by Susan Fitzmaurice G2G6 Mach 6 (63.0k points)
My family is the same way. If I took all the intermarriage connections of the families that settled Orange Co., Indiana, I would own practically the entire county. I have been able to track some "missing" family by looking for the other families in the caravans to figure out where to look for records.
I checked our relationship - thought we might be cousins.  We are, but not via Indiana. We share our 17th and 18th grandfather.
+4 votes
Yes, almost all of my ancestors were here prior to the mid-18th Century on all sides and emigrated from the Southeastern US states to TEXAS from Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia/West Virginia, most coming through Nacogdoches County in the 1830's, prior to Statehood.

Benjamin NANCE married Mary Ann MOORE in Nacogdoches, and may have come with Rev. Milton MOORE, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister from Tennessee with a group of white settlers. Benjamin's descendants settled in Coleman, in West Texas. Two generations of Nances were saddlers in Coleman [J.H.Nance and sons]. GRAY ancestors were land-grant ranchers in Coleman County, emigrating from Alderson, WV, (then Monroe County, Virginia). A long string of DANIELS, MOORES, and CARTERS seem to have intermarried on their way to Texas. They seem to have been largely Scot's-Irish/English, Protestant immigrants to the colonies.
by Patricia Bailey G2G3 (4.0k points)
+4 votes
My great-great parents, Nathan and Elizabeth (Messinger) Maynard crossed the plains from Iowa to Oregon in 1867 with their 12 children (some already adults with children of their own). Initially they settled near Yamhill, OR.  In 1871, Nathan was killed in a run-away wagon accident. Ten years later, Elizabeth and the entire family (except for one daughter who initially remained behind in the Portland area until her husband died in a steamboat accident on the Columbia River), all moved to "the Palouse Country" -- settling around Colton, WA. They were a hardy lot, successful farmers for a time -- controlling over 20,000 acres of prime wheat growing land. When Elizabeth died in 1913 at age 93, she was noted as having over 156 living descendants.  For unknown reasons, by the end of the first generation, all of their holdings had been sold and the family dispersed.  I'm trying to figure out the mystery of the "diaspora" but answers seem quite elusive and living descendants seem difficult for me to locate.  

It's my belief that if somehow I could discover enough of the story, it might make for a great American novel -- perhaps of an "average" pioneer family for that time period.  The pieces I've discovered have intrigue -- including a local entrepreneur who sponsored a school, a church, and a saloon; some volunteers who (regrettably) pursued the New Perce tribe, childhood deaths to diphtheria, a farmer who had to "put-away" his horse that broke his leg when it slipped on an icy-patch of a city street -- the same one who later died when a cow kicked him in the head, etc.
by Steve Maynard G2G4 (4.6k points)
edited by Steve Maynard
+4 votes
The pioneers of the American West in our family concerns the Gold Rush in California.  My great-grandfather, Moses McCausland, (McCausland-153) and his two brothers Emerson and Ben were gold miners in Trinity Co.  Moses and Ben returned to Maine, however, Uncle Em stayed in Douglas City until 1877 before coming back to New England.  I've uploaded Em's letters home to WikiTree and they make for fascinating reading into the goings on in a California gold mining town in the 1860's and '70's.  Also, my wife's great-great-grandfather, George J. Cooper went to Mariposa Co. in 1853 and found only one gold nugget before he came back to Maine that he had made into an anchor pin which is a family heirloom.  You can read about Grampy George and see a photo of the pin on his profile at Cooper-15767.
by Jeffrey Martin G2G5 (5.1k points)
+4 votes
My greatgrandfather, dad's mother's father, James Farrington (farrington-1123) followed his brother to Nevada. He and his 3 brothers spent time in Nevada and California.They got their major start as the Farrington Bros cutting trees in the mountains and hauling them down the slopes by mule to sell to the mines. James came back to the old homestead in Burford, Ontario to find a bride and eloped with his cousin's intended back to Austin , Nevada and on to the Cloverdale ranch with its 300 head of horses. I had the pleasure of meeting cousin the late Charles V Gifford (gifford-2718) years ago. He spent years researching the family. A pdf at his profile gives many exciting details of the four brothers. It is family lore that the picture on the old 20-mule team Borax box was their team. Pop over and take a look at James' profile, his pareents, and a copy of Charles' work. I am sure you will find it interesting.
by Fairch Fairchild G2G3 (3.0k points)
+4 votes
I've been told that my ancestors were founding members of Escondido, CA
by Patrick Smith G2G1 (1.2k points)
+4 votes
Yes. And since I have to use at least 10 characters, I will say "Yes" again.
by J. Crook G2G6 Pilot (234k points)

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