STOCKLAND GROVE, up the old Fort Edwards road from Pleasant Hill, was one of the Pike county muster points for the great Oregon Trail. From this beautiful grove on Six Mile, numerous pioneer families started for Oregon Territory in the twenty-year period of 1847 - 1867. Here the prairie schooners with their canvas tops and boat- shaped bodies, drawn by teams of sturdy oxen, mules or horses, assembled in small caravans, later to join themselves with larger caravans at rendezvous points out on the Missouri river. Here men of the early settlement planned their excursions into the northwest and followed them to success.
"Westward Ho!" was the cry as ox whips cracked and the creaking covered wagons, stoutly built, designed to hold a prodigious amount of baggage and paraphernalia, began to roll. Up the bluff road they moved, then out across the great bottoms to the ferry at Louisiana, thence on across Missouri to Independence on the Missouri river.
Independence was one of the five main assembly points on the Missouri, each of which was known in trail days as a rendezvous. The French term was used correctly, indicating places where lesser groups met and combined into caravans for the long trek across the plains. Other rendezvous points on the Missouri were Westport, Fort Leavenworth, Weston and St. Joseph. A map published in 1852 shows that the famous trail started at these five points on the Missouri.
At Independence, the emigrants made final additions to their stores, made a last cautious check of their equipment, and then, joined with wagon train groups from other settlements, proceeded to the promised land. From some of the written records of those days it is possible to recapture some of the color and glamor of those adventurous journeyings.
Years earlier, as early as 1813, in the time of the Indian troubles on the Missouri border, it had become known that men could cross the great plains in stoutly built wagons. In the files of the historical society at St. Louis is a communication prepared in that year, in which a returning party of fur men known as the Astorians, under the patronage of the first Astor and the captaincy of Wilson P. Hunt of St. Louis, said that wagons could be used to cross the range. They had made the round trip and they knew. These men had their headquarters and warehouses in St. Louis.
On April 10, 1830, the Smith, Jackson and Sublette expedition started for the northwest with heavy wagons and Dearborn buggies. In an official statement to the War Department, the party reported it consisted of ten wagons drawn by five mules each, and two Dearborns drawn by one mule each, and 81 men, all mounted on mules. These adventurers were residents of the town of St. Louis.
It was in the 1840s that the western fever began to beat in the pulses of our Pleasant Hill pioneers. By the fall of 1846, some had decided upon the great adventure. Around the fireplaces in the winter of 1846-47, plans were made, trail maps studied. Letters written back to Illinois by those who had gone before were eagerly read. Some of these letters contained suggestions as to what they would need for the journey, warnings of dangers against which they must guard.
The ill-fated Donner expedition, which was to end so disastrously at beautiful Donner Lake, had gone on before, in 1846. Letters, after months of devious transit, appeared in the pioneer press of the state, copies of which found their way into Zachariah N. Garbutt's little print shop in Pittsfield. These letters were copied from the Illinois State Journal and appeared in Garbutt's Whig Free Press, a predecessor of the present Pike County Republican, which descends from Garbutt's paper in direct line. These letters were eagerly read by those who contemplated taking the long western trail. In Garbutt's paper, in the fall of 1846, was comment, in connection with publication of these letters, to the effect that they should be interesting to those who planned to go to Oregon and California in the spring.
There was notice also that as many as eight young men of good character who could drive an ox team would be accommodated by gentlemen who would leave Illinois about the first of April. This was in 1846.
Mrs. George Donner's letter, written from the Platte, June 16, 1846, and reaching here in the fall of that year, contained suggestions for other emigrants who might follow after them. She said:
"Our wagons have not needed much repair but I cannot tell yet in what respect they could be improved. Certain it is that they cannot be too strong. Our preparations for the journey in some respects might have been bettered.
"Bread has been the principal article of food in our camp. We laid in 150 pounds of flour and 75 pounds of meal for each individual, and I fear bread will be scarce. Meat is abundant. Rice and beans are good articles on the road. Cornmeal, too, is acceptable.
"Linsey dresses are the most suitable for children. Indeed, if I had one it would be comfortable. There is so cool a breeze at times on the prairie that the sun does not feel as hot as one would suppose."
Wagon train life was also described by James F. Reed, who wrote to the Illinois State Journal from Fort Bridger, one hundred miles from Great Salt Lake, on July 31, 1846. The letter reached the state capital at Springfield in time for its publication as "spot news" in the Journal's issue of November 5, 1846.
"We have arrived here safe," said Mr. Reed, "with the loss of two yoke of my best oxen. They were poisoned by drinking water in a little creek called Dry Sandy, situated between the Great Spring in the pass of the Mountains and Little Sandy. The water was standing in puddles.
"Jacob Donner also lost two yoke, and George Donner a yoke and a half, all supposed from the same cause. I have replenished my stock by purchasing from Messrs. Vasques and Bridger, two very excellent and accommodating gentlemen, who were proprietors of the trading post."
The call of free land proved irresistible for some of our south Pike pioneers and in the spring of 1847 we find the first covered wagon caravan moving out from Stockland Grove on Six Mile, bound for Independence, Missouri, where final decision was to be reached by some as between the new state of Texas and the Territory of Oregon. These men of the first rendezvous were of western pioneering stock, all of them born or raised on the wild Missouri border, all of them descended from sturdy settlers who had followed Daniel Boone into the wild Kentucky land. In them was a mighty courage, born of the old wilderness with which their Virginia and Kentucky ancestors had wrestled.
Moving out on the trail in this first Oregon bound expedition from Pike county, we find, among other emigrants, the family of Felix Alver and Damaris Lewis Collard, each bidding farewell to a mother they were never to see again in life. As a letter of the time relates: "There was a feeling that those who were going away would never return."
Just what families comprised this first South Pike contribution to the Oregon Trail is uncertain. It has been stated that at least five ox-drawn covered wagons started at this time, which were joined by others from the pioneer community across the river in Missouri. In the Collard outfit were Felix and his wife and their five children, the oldest a girl of 13, all born in Pleasant Hill township.
With Felix and Damaris and their children went also the outfit of Charles Hubbard, Jr., whose wife was Margaret Cannon, an aunt of Felix. Charles was a brother of Eli, Joseph and the Reverend David, they being sons of Charles Hubbard, Sr. and his wife, who was Jemima Lewis, kinswoman of the Boones and bearing the name of Daniel Boone's daughter, Jemima Boone Callaway.
Joseph Hubbard, youngest son of Charles and Jemima Hubbard, married, in Missouri, Lucinda Lewis, a daughter of Samuel H. and Mary (Barnett) Lewis. Joseph and Lucinda came to Bay Creek (Pleasant Hill) township in a very early day and located in the northern part of the township, in Section 4, as did also the father, Charles Hubbard, Sr. Charles Hubbard, Sr. died there January 3, 1836. In his will, witnessed by Joseph Barnett and James Galloway, he left most of his estate, farm utensils, livestock, etc., to Joseph, who was his youngest son, stipulating that Joseph should take good care of his mother, Jemima Hubbard, as long as she should live. He named his son David (the Reverend David of beloved Baptist memory) as sole executor of his will.
Joseph Hubbard and Lucinda Lewis were married in Lincoln county, Missouri, by the Reverend Samuel Phar, Christmas Day, 1827. They had the following issue: John B., Francis E., Laura E., A. Caroline, Joseph S. and Charles G. Hubbard. Joseph died on the home place north of Pleasant Hill, May 11, 1849, proof of death being made by John W. Lewis. The widow, Lucinda Hubbard, administered the estate, her bondsmen being Richard Kerr and John W. Lewis. That Lucinda was a daughter of Samuel H. and Mary Barnett Lewis is learned from a document signed at Pittsfield on April 7, 1840, wherein Joseph Hubbard acknowledged receipt in full from Ephraim Cannon, administrator of the estate of Joseph Barnett (who administered the estate of Samuel H. Lewis), of a legacy due his wife from the estate of her father, Samuel H. Lewis. Joseph Barnett, administrator of the estate of Samuel Lewis, had died in 1838. He was a brother of Mary Barnett Lewis and a brother-in-law of Eli and Charles Hubbard, Jr., all three having married daughters of James and Rachel Stark Cannon, who were also the parents of Felix Collard's mother, Lydia Cannon Collard.
Charles and Margaret Cannon Hubbard, who joined with Felix and Damaris Collard in the great adventure on the Oregon Trail, carried six children with them across the plains. They were Charles Lewis, Thomas Cannon, Jemima, and three others who are listed by Victor Wayne Jones of Seattle, Washington, as Mrs. Arista Neudal, Mrs. N. R. Cooley of Woodburn, Oregon, and William Hubbard of Salem, Oregon. All are dead.
Charles Hubbard, Jr. and Margaret Cannon were married in Lincoln county, Missouri, December 20, 1829. The quaint record of their wedding, dug out of the archives at Troy, county seat of Lincoln, reads:
"State of Missouri, County of Lincoln: Be it remembered that on the twentieth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine was joined together in the holy state of matrimony by the undersigned, one of the justices in and for the county of Lincoln, Charles Hubbard and Margaret Cannon. Given under my hand this 15th day of March, 1830. Brice W. Hammack, Justice of the Peace. Recorded March 20, 1830."
The groom was 29, being born in Kentucky, February 14, 1800. The bride was 18. She was born on the Missouri border April 19, 1811, and was rocked in a hollowed sycamore crib in Wood's Fort (where now is Troy), at the commencement of Indian outbreaks later in that year. Soon after their marriage they moved to St. Louis, and a little later they came from St. Louis to Bay Creek township in Pike county, where their kindred were beginning to settle the wild land.
Another family that moved out on the trail with the Felix Collards was that of Isaac Capps, whose wife was Jemima, daughter of Charles and Jemima Hubbard and sister of Charles Hubbard, Jr. Isaac Capps had married Jemima Hubbard (in the marriage record at Troy, Missouri, the name is spelled "Gemima"), February 9, 1832, the ceremony being performed in Lincoln county, Missouri. Victor Wayne Jones records that Isaac Capps' brother, Stanford Capps, was captain of the mess in which Felix A. Collard belonged when crossing the plains in 1847 and that Stanford Capps was also in the Council of Idaho in 1863. Other brothers of Isaac were Daniel Capps, who married Permelia Ann Armstrong March 8, 1832; David Capps, who married Sarah Goodwin February 13, 1836; and Benjamin Capps, who married Nancy Ligon (spelled "Liggon" in the Missouri record) on September 30, 1836. All were married in Lincoln county, Missouri. The various families (Capps, Armstrong, Goodwin and Ligon) were later identified with Pike county, Illinois.
Victor W. Jones also lists the following as children of Isaac Capps and Jemima Hubbard: Hubbard Capps, Fred (who married Alice Bennet), Frank, Dr. William, George (who married Mary Ellen Bennet and had a daughter Delphia, who married James Wells and lives in Kalama, Washington) and Bertha.
One (possibly two) of the early Sitton families (Winston Sitton and possibly his brother Brice) also went to Oregon at or about this same time (1847) and may have been in this first wagon train. The younger Joseph Barnett, who had married Mary Fry, also left for Oregon Territory in this year. One account lists George Washington and Ephraim Jackson Thurman as members of this 1847 emigrant train. They were half brothers of Felix Collard but it is doubtful if any of the Thurmans made the Oregon trip at this time. It is known that Ephraim Jackson Thurman took the Oregon Trail with his family in 1853 and it is likely that George W. and Granville Thurman, his brothers, went at the same time.
One account also includes Douglas Jones as among the Oregon Territory emigrants from Pleasant Hill in 1847, which is an error. Earl Douglas Jones, who was Victor Wayne Jones' grandfather, joined the emigrant train at Independence, Missouri, arriving there from Ohio, and there at Independence, on the Missouri, young Douglas Jones (kinsman of Stephen A. Douglas, the statesman) met Mary Jane Collard (oldest of Felix and Damaris's children), and there another romance of the trail had its beginning, that was later to culminate in a wedding in Oregon, where the young couple became pioneers in the great Northwest Territory.