Mary Elizabeth York (1860 - 1958)

Mary Elizabeth York
(1860 - 1958)

This narrative was written by my great-great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (York) Behrens on 16 January 1935 at her home on Route 1 near Rockford, Spokane County, Washington.  It appears in its original state with spelling and grammatical errors, which are noted with [sic]:

"On July 4th, 1883, we left our old home in Kansas City, Kansas, in a covered wagon, and following [sic] the old, historical Oregon Trail, for the most part of our journey. The family consisted of my father, Caswell York, my mother, three brothers -- John, Henry (Henry Clay) and Web (Daniel Webster) twins -- and myself. Our destination was Washington Territory to join another brother Adam, who had preceded us four or five years, and had already become established on his homestead near Rockford, Washington.

"All the details and incidents pertinent to this trip cannot be recalled, as we kept no records or diaries, but some are still vivid memories.

"We often encountered drunken Indians who came riding into our camp, shooting revolvers and wanting whiskey and tobacco, who [sic], of course, we did not have. Government Inspectors often searched our baggage for contraband whiskey. We traveled the greater part of our journey alone, but in coming through Colorado we were overtaken by another family traveling West, who joined us, and who later settled in Baker City, Oregon.

"Often cow-boys [sic] would ride along with us for several miles. Sometimes they would kill a beef and would take only the hind quarter, leaving the rest for us. They often sang cowboy songs and other western songs around the campfire in the evening.

"We did not travel continuously, as my brothers would stop to work on the railroad being built at that time, before we resumed our journey. At one time we made camp in the Rocky Mountains with beds of fir branches on five feet of snow. Another time we were delayed for several days by a blizzard. Our rude camp shelter was not adequate protection. The hardships of the trip were especially hard on my Mother who was not very strong. But we finally reached our destination, arriving at my brother's homestead on December 15, 1883, with several feet of snow on the ground.

"I was married the following summer to Richard Behrens on June 15th, 1884, who had arrived here in April 1879, and have since watched the many changes and developments that have taken place in our Northwest.

"Here are a few facts which might be of interest regarding my father, Caswell York.  He was born in Tennessee in 1822; died September 10, 1914 in Harrison, Idaho.  Caswell was a restless person, always looking for the perfect place to live.  He had definite opinions on almost every subject and rarely refrained from expressing them forcefully.  He loved his family devotedly.  While the family was living in Alabama, just before the Civil War (his sympathies were with the North), he discovered that the Ku Klux Klan had planned a "necktie party", with him as the star guest.  The family fled from their home and went North under Federal escort.  They then settled in Indiana.  He served in the Union Army with the 6th Indiana Regiment until the close of the war.  Then through various other moves we were living in Kansas City until our trek to the Northwest.  His homestead was six miles northeast of Rockford.

"Mr. Behrens, my husband, was an Indian War veteran. He came to the United States from Germany, at the age of 16, and later enlisted in Company "B" 21st Regiment, of the U.S. Infantry of New York. He was sent to California via the Isthmus of Panama, and served two years in Arizona and other parts of the Southwest, in actual fighting."

This page created by:
Diane (Ludke) Midkiff
created: 19 Jan 2004

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