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CLYMERS on the OREGON TRAIL
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Our ancestor Henry Johnson Clymer (1788-1869)
 lived his entire life within twenty miles of his  place of birth in Pennsylvania.  But his first cousin,
Christian Clymer (1795-1877), moved from
Virginia to Indiana,
to Iowa,
and finally to Oregon.
 
 
 

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Henry Vance Clymer (1824-1863)was the first of the Clymers to venture across the Rockies. His grandfather was the first of the Clymers to venture across the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania when western Pennsylvania was still a wilderness! Although Henry descends from a Mennonite Bishop, he grew up in Primitive Baptist Churches that his father helped organize in Indiana and Iowa.

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In April of 1846 twenty-two year old Henry Vance Clymer And his future wife, twenty year old Mary Johnson, traveled on different wagon trains to Oregon. Both wagon trains stayed close together on the Oregon Trail and exchanged information and goods until the California Trail cutoff where Henry Clymer's train turned south onto the 'California Trail'.

Mary Johnson came from a long line of Baptist preachers. Her uncle, the Rev. Hezekiah Johnson, was also on the wagon train and led most of the worship services on the trail. Mary’s help was essential in packing and loading the wagon because her mother Elizabeth was paralyzed the year before and could not stand or walk. She carefully folded the treasured linen table cloth that her mother had embroidered and placed it into the trunk to be opened once they reached Oregon. Elizabeth embroidered the head of President George Washington in the center and placed decorative emblems in each corner.

Elizabeth rode in the wagon on a feather bed and pillows to relieve the worst of the jolting. The wagon had no shocks and was bumpy enough to churn the cream into large balls of butter every single day. Even with blisters, Mary would rather walk beside the wagon for twelve to fifteen miles any day than bounce around in the wagon.

When the Wagon Train reached the Oregon Territory, it was common practice to camp on the Umatilla River not far from the Whitman Mission on the Walla Walla River (now Washington State). Presbyterian physician Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa established the Mission to the Cayuse Indians in 1836. Narcissa was the first white woman to travel across the Rockies. Their Mission Station at Waillatpu became an important stopping place on the trail. Dr. Whitman visited the Wagon Train camp and offered shelter and work at the Mission to those obviously too weak and tired to continue on the trail. He approached Mary's father and asked him to remain at the Mission for the fall and winter to help build a saw mill. The Johnsons and a few other families left the wagon train and followed Dr. Whitman to nearby Waillatpu. Mary and her sisters attended the mission school taught by Narcissa Whitman.

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Narcissa and Marcus Whitman

Click here to learn more about Marcus and Narcissa Whitman.

          

 

 

 

 

 

           When June of 1847 rolled around William and Elizabeth Johnson and their youngest children continued on their journey to the Willamette Valley. After joining another wagon train for the final leg of the journey, they settled in Lents (or Johnson’s Creek, named for Mary’s family). Mary asked to remain at the mission “to fit herself to be a teacher.”  That fall Narcissa and Marcus sent Mary to nearby Lapwai on the Clearwater River (now Idaho)  where the Rev. Henry and Eliza Spalding had established up a mission station to the Nez Perce Indians. At Lapwai Mary continued her studies and worked for Mrs. Spalding as she had for Mrs. Whitman. According to Mary, “Mrs. Spalding was a woman of culture and poise. Mr. Spalding was good-natured but very notional, and he had a hair-trigger temper”

           

            Tens of thousands of settlers poured into Oregon and with them came numerous diseases fatal to the Cayuse. The Whitmans' aid to the wagon trains made the Cayuse especially suspicious of them. Even Narcissa observed this, noting in July 1847 that "the poor Indians are amazed at the overwhelming numbers of Americans coming into the country... They seem not to know what to make of it."

            Sadly, the Indians' suspicions gave way to rage in late 1847, when an epidemic of measles struck nearby whites and Cayuse alike. Although the Whitmans ministered to both, most of the white children lived while about half of the Cayuse, including nearly all their children, died. Marcus was considered to be a te-wat, or medicine man, to the Cayuse people. His medicines did not work when trying to cure Cayuse infected with measles. It was Cayuse tradition that if the patient died after being treated by the medicine man, the family of the patient had the right to kill the medicine man.

            On November 29, 1847 several Cayuse, under the leadership of the chief Tiloukaikt, took revenge for what they perceived as treachery by the Whitmans. They went to the Whitman dwelling under pretext of asking for medicine, and started the attack. Before all was said and done, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman lay dead, as did eleven men and two little girls who died within a few days from measles. Eight women, five men, and thirty-four children were then taken captive. Mary’s life was spared only because she was at the Lapwai Mission, 110 miles to the east, with Eliza Spalding and the Spalding  children. Public indignation ran high and retribution became the number one topic of conversation in Oregon City.

            A messenger arrived at Lapwai with the news of the massacre. Mr. Spalding was away at Umatilla and Mrs. Spalding said to Mary, “Mary, we are at the mercy of the Indians.  Our only salvation is to put ourselves in their care.” She then called a select group of Nez Perce Indians and said,” We are going to place ourselves in your care, so that you can protect us.”  The following day Mrs. Spalding told Mary, “The Indians will not understand if we do not hold the regular Sunday service.” She pulled down all the blinds and she and Mary sewed all night long, making dresses for the children, so as to be ready to leave Lapwai at a moment's notice.

            Meanwhile, Mr. Spalding headed for the Whitman Mission from Umatilla, unaware that anything was amiss. Less than three miles from his destination he met a priest who told him of the massacre and siege. In shock and worry, he started for Lapwai by  a roundabout route.  The second night out his horse got away so he continued his journey on foot. His boots were so uncomfortable and his feet in such pain, that he threw away the boots and walked the rest of the way barefoot. After walking seven days he reached his home at Lapwai.

            On December 28th , 1847  Mary and the Spaldings abandoned the Lapwai station accompanied by a group of Nez Perce who wanted to guarantee their safety.  Peter Skeen Ogden of the Hudson Bay Company ordered the Indians to deliver them safely to Fort Walla Walla.            

          On January 2, 1848, after negotiations and trading "fifty blankets, fifty shirts, ten guns, ten fathoms of tobacco, ten handkerchiefs, and one hundred balls and powder" with the Cayuse Indians,  Peter Skene Ogden gained the release of all the captives. The payment was not made until three of the teenage girls, who had been taken as wives, were reluctantly freed by their captors. Ogden took the freed captives to Fort Walla Walla where he met  Mary and the Spalding party. On New Year’s Day 1848 Ogden and his 16 boatmen took Mary, the Spaldings, and the freed captives on a six day journey down the Columbia River to Ft. Vancouver. The traveled on three large bateaus.  

          Very few belongings could be carried to the fort but Mary was able to bring a chair given to her by Dr. Whitman. The chair was made at the Whitman Mission and the seat was made of braided whang leather. After a few days at Fort Vancouver they were sent across the Columbia River on two barges to Portland and then taken up the Willamette River to Oregon City where Mary was reunited with her family.

 

 

 

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Fort Vancouver

          

 

         

          Although the majority of the Cayuse tribe was not involved in the deaths of the Whitmans and the eleven emigrants, the whole tribe was held responsible until 1850.  In that year, five Cayuse were turned over to the authorities in Oregon City and hanged.

            The Johnson family and Henry Clymer lived on the eastern side of the Willamette River.  Henry and Mary were soon reaquainted and on March 6, 1851  were united in marriage. They acquired a Donation Land Claim of 640 acres nine miles east of Albany. That summer Henry’s brother William arrived by Wagon Train but was surprised to find so many of the men gone to California to find gold.

          Henry and Mary’s first child, Sarah Ellen, was born April 1852. A few months later Henry’s parents, Christian and Elizabeth Clymer, arrived in Oregon from Iowa. Traveling on the Oregon Trail with them were their grown children Christian, Sarah, Lucinda (and Lucinda’s husband), and two of the orphaned Thompson children, Rachel and David. Son John  was the only Clymer not to take his family across the Rockies. Christian and Elizabeth  settled on a Donation Land Claim in an area of Marion County called the Waldo Hills. Elizabeth died a few months after arriving in Oregon and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Lebanon, Oregon.

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The Clymers settled in Linn & Marion Counties, OREGON, not far from Scio

          In 1863 Henry made a fateful trip to Steilacoom, Washington to visit his brother Christian who had bought property there.  Henry crossed Gray’s Bay from Oysterville with Captain Wells and the small boat hit a sandbar and capsized.  Both men drowned. Because Henry died with 600 dollars worth of gold in his pocket it is possible he intended to purchase land in Washington near his brother’s land.

           

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            After Henry’s death, Mary and her eight children moved to Waldo Hills, near the farm of her father-in-law Christian Clymer and his second wife. Mary became the Postmistress of Clymer Post Office in northwest Marion County, a coveted position for a widow with eight children. Wherever she moved she took the well used rocking chair that Dr. Whitman had given her and her mother’s hand embroidered linen table cloth.

            In the 1930’s Fred Lockley with the Oregon Journal interviewed Henry and Mary’s daughter, Mrs. (Sarah) Ellen Clymer Zumwalt Walker. At 84 she did all her housework and ran a greenhouse established in 1912. She proudly showed Mr. Lockley a painting that she made of the Clymer farmhouse in Waldo Hills, her mother’s rocking chair from Dr. Whitman, and her grandmother’s hand embroidered table cloth, packed long ago in the wagon….. EAST of the Rockies.

Genealogists: Click here for a version of this story with more names and details.

 
 
 
              The 1934/1936 interviews with Mrs. Ellen Clymer Zumwalt Walker can be found in LINN COUNTY, OREGON PIONEERS WHO SETTLED ON DONATION LAND CLAIMS THROUGH TO THE END OF 1855 Vol 31   by John Miles and Richard R. Milligan. 
 
I purchased a copy at the Linn County Historical Museum, P.O. Box 607, Brownsville, Oregon 97327
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Read a diary from a woman on Christian and Elizabeth's 1852 wagon train.

 

 

Descendants of Christian & Elizabeth Vance Clymer

They came to Oregon in 1852

1 Christian (OREGON 1852) Jr. Clymer

.. +Elizabeth Wolsey (OREGON 1852) Vance

......... 2 Mary Ann Vance (OREGON 1853) Clymer

............. +John Wesley (OREGON 1853) Rev. Short

.................... 3 Rachel Clymer Short

.................... 3 Jacob Robins Clymer Short

........................ +Tabitha Jane Crawford (Hause) Haas

............................... 4 Eva Hause Short

............................... 4 John Franklin Hause Short

................................... +Mary Willetta Meechum Watkins

........................................... 5 Gordon Franklin Watkins Short

............................................... +Myrtle Ophus

........................................... *2nd Wife of Gordon Franklin Watkins Short:

............................................... +Alice (Carpenter) Carpenter/Zimmerman

...................................................... 6 Joseph Gordon Carpenter Short

.......................................................... +June Ray Newman

...................................................... 6 Mary Lois Carpenter Short

.......................................................... +George Harvey Munts

................................................................. 7 Phyllis Jean Short Munts

..................................................................... +Jenson

...................................................... *2nd Husband of Mary Lois Carpenter Short:

.......................................................... +Luther R. Hawkins Shanks

...................................................... 6 John Carpenter Short

.......................................................... +Eula B. McCroskey

................................................................. 7 Loren McCroskey Short

...................................................... 6 Helen Carpenter Short

.......................................................... +Clifford E. Pratt

............................... 4 Charles Hause Short

................................... +Emma J. Kirby

............................... 4 William Hause Short

.................... 3 Sarah Elizabeth Clymer Short

........................ +Silas (OREGON 1852) Rev. Williams

............................... 4 Mary Addie Short Williams

................................... +Charles Short

............................... 4 Clara Rachel Short Williams

................................... +Jared E. Truax (OREGON) Ross

........................................... 5 Justa Williams Ross

............................................... +Raymond Hewitt

...................................................... 6 Charles Ross Hewitt

...................................................... 6 Evelyn Ross Hewitt

............................... 4 Edward D. Short Williams

................................... +Parrie Unknown

.................... 3 Emeline (Emma) May Clymer (OREGON 1853) Short

........................ +John W. Jones

.................... *2nd Husband of Emeline (Emma) May Clymer (OREGON 1853) Short:

........................ +John McAlpin Jones

.................... 3 William Merton Clymer (OREGON 1853) Short

........................ +Lutitia (Lucinda) (OREGON) Owen

............................... 4 Horace Wilde Owen Short

................................... +Daisy Alvira Conner Riggs

........................................... 5 Elgin Riggs Short

........................................... 5 Roy Riggs Short

........................................... 5 Lepha Riggs Short

............................................... +Unknown Warnock

........................................... 5 Lawrence Riggs Short

........................................... 5 Doris Melvina Riggs Short

............................................... +Leonard Evenden

...................................................... 6 Lepha May Short Evenden

.......................................................... +John William Stretemeyer

.................... 3 Ellen Clymer (OREGON 1853) Short

........................ +Thomas McAlpin Jones

............................... 4 Martha Short Jones

............................... 4 Etta Short Jones

............................... 4 Will Short Jones

............................... 4 Edith Short Jones

............................... 4 John Short Jones

............................... 4 Clifford Short Jones

............................... 4 Bess Short Jones

............................... 4 Susan Short Jones

............................... 4 Bertha Short Jones

................................... +Lorenzo Truax Ross

........................................... 5 Elfin Jones Ross

........................................... 5 Carleton Jones Ross

.................... 3 Mary Catherine (Kate) Clymer Short

........................ +Jacob Edwin Rev. Adams

............................... 4 Claude Ernest Short Adams

................................... +Vinnie Maud Winterstein

........................................... 5 Guy Winterstein Adams

...................................................... 6 June Adams

.......................................................... +Unknown (Bleilers) Bleiler

........................................... 5 Ray Winterstein Adams

........................................... 5 Willma Winterstein Adams

............................................... +Unknown Gallagher

............................... 4 Roy Short Adams

............................... 4 Chris Short Adams

............................... 4 Hugh Short Adams

.................... 3 Lucinda Jane Clymer (WASHINGTON) Short

........................ +Tunis Theodore Hadley (OREGON) Hinshaw

............................... 4 Essie Short (twin) Hinshaw

............................... 4 Guy Short (twin) Hinshaw

............................... 4 Lelia Short Hinshaw

................................... +ROBERT D. GRAY

........................................... 5 Muriel Hinshaw Gray

............................................... +James Richardson

...................................................... 6 Suzanne Richardson

.......................................................... +Peter Curtis

................................................................. 7 Cara Elizabeth Curtis

...................................................... 6 Kathryn Richardson

.......................................................... +William Montgomery McKinney

...................................................... 6 Brit (Barbara) Richardson

............................... 4 Mabel Short Hinshaw

................................... +Bertram H. (DeYoe) Deyo

............................... 4 Ernest Theodore Short Hinshaw

................................... +Ina Johnson

........................................... 5 Ernest Theodore Johnson Hinshaw

............................................... +Nell Marie Schildmeyer

............................... 4 Mary Short Hinshaw

................................... +Roy H. Cain/Kane

........................................... 5 Phylis Hinshaw Cain/Kane

........................................... 5 Kathleen Hinshaw Cain/Kane

............................................... +Jay Murray

...................................................... 6 Duane Murray

...................................................... 6 Diane Murray

............................... 4 Laurie Short Hinshaw

................................... +Earl James (McCoy) McKay

........................................... 5 Keith Hinshaw (McCoy) McKay

............................... *2nd Husband of Laurie Short Hinshaw:

................................... +Evan R. Hodson

............................... 4 Alice Short Hinshaw

................................... +Frank Withey

............................... 4 Agnes Short Hinshaw

................................... +Dan Coughlin

........................................... 5 Colleen Hinshaw Coughlin

........................................... 5 Joseph Hinshaw Coughlin

........................................... 5 Daniel Hinshaw Coughlin

............................... 4 Hazel Short Hinshaw

................................... +William (OREGON) (Schramm) Shrum

.................... 3 Susan M. Clymer Short

........................ +H. Howard Smith

............................... 4 Walter Short Smith

............................... 4 Arthur Short Smith

............................... 4 Winifred Short Smith

......... 2 Henry Vance (OREGON 1846) Clymer

............. +Mary Layman (OREGON 1846) Johnson

.................... 3 Jacob Melancthon Johnson Clymer

.................... 3 Sarah Ellen Johnson Clymer

........................ +Chris (OREGON 1845) Zumwalt

.................... *2nd Husband of Sarah Ellen Johnson Clymer:

........................ +Sherman Warren Walker

.................... 3 Elbridge Morgan Johnson Clymer

........................ +Mary Jane Patton

............................... 4 Eldridge Edward Patton Clymer

............................... 4 Julia Elizabeth Patton Clymer

.................... 3 George Washington Johnson Clymer

.................... 3 Mary Johnson Clymer

........................ +Elza M. Coffey Blackerby

............................... 4 Mary V. Clymer (CALIFORNIA) Blackerby

.................... 3 Julia Johnson Clymer

.................... 3 Eugene Johnson Clymer

.................... 3 Julian Johnson Clymer

.................... 3 Henry Vance Johnson (CALIFORNIA) Jr. Dr. Clymer

........................ +Ida Florence Geer

......... 2 John Vance (KANSAS) Clymer

............. +Mary Jane Williams Gilmore

.................... 3 Dennis Gilmore Clymer

.................... 3 Elmer H. Gilmore Clymer

.................... 3 Joseph E. Gilmore Clymer

.................... 3 William A. Gilmore Clymer

.................... 3 Charles Gilmore Clymer

.................... 3 Sarah Luella Gilmore Clymer

.................... 3 James Gilmore Clymer

.................... 3 Lamott Gilmore Clymer

......... *2nd Wife of John Vance (KANSAS) Clymer:

............. +Sarah Elizabeth (NO PROOF) Wasner

......... *3rd Wife of John Vance (KANSAS) Clymer:

............. +Emily Unknown

.................... 3 John E. Clymer

.................... 3 Robert H. Clymer

.................... 3 Anna Mae Clymer

.................... 3 Mary A. Clymer

.................... 3 Ruth E. Clymer

......... 2 Lucinda "Katie" Vance (OREGON 1852) Clymer

............. +Beverly Ward Williams (OREGON 1852) Gilmore

.................... 3 Sarah Clymer (OREGON 1852) Gilmore

.................... 3 William H. Clymer (OREGON 1852) Gilmore

........................ +Alcey Unknown

.................... *2nd Wife of William H. Clymer (OREGON 1852) Gilmore:

........................ +Sally Unknown

.................... 3 James L. Clymer (OREGON 1852) Gilmore

............................... 4 William Henry Gilmore

............................... 4 Jane Ann Gilmore

................................... +Charles Nathaniel (OREGON) Hess

.................... 3 Elizabeth L. Clymer Gilmore

........................ +Josiah J. Halpenny

.................... 3 Lot Clymer Gilmore

.................... 3 Jane Ann Clymer (OREGON 1852) Gilmore

........................ +Charles Nathaniel Hess

............................... 4 Jane Lorinne Gilmore Hess

................................... +Ole Albert Jeldness

........................................... 5 Jerrold Ole Hess Jeldness

............................................... +Thelma E. Trotter

...................................................... 6 Jerrilyn Trotter Jeldness

.................... 3 Mary Clymer Gilmore

.................... 3 Christian Clymer Gilmore

......... 2 Minerva Vance Clymer

......... 2 William Vance (OREGON 1851) Clymer

............. +Margaret (OREGON 1853) Thompson

.................... 3 Margaret Thompson Clymer

.................... 3 Mary Thompson Clymer

.................... 3 Louisa Thompson Clymer

.................... 3 Lucinta Thompson Clymer

........................ +Alonzo D. McQueen

.................... 3 Clara Thompson Clymer

......... 2 Christian Vance (OREGON 1852) Clymer

............. +Rachel (OREGON 1852) Thompson

.................... 3 Perry Thompson Clymer

.................... 3 Rachel Thompson Clymer

........................ +Arekellas Dollans (OREGON 1865) Hartley

............................... 4 Mary Wenona Clymer Hartley

.................... 3 Horace Thompson Clymer

.................... 3 John Thompson Clymer

......... 2 Sarah Emeline Vance Clymer

......... 2 George Washington Vance Clymer

*2nd Wife of Christian (OREGON 1852) Jr. Clymer:

.. +Elizabeth McClain (OREGON) Crowley