THOMAS HARRIS POINDEXTER was born between 1775 - 1780 in Virginia, although his parentage at this time is unknown. A recent DNA test by one of his descendants indicates he comes from the bloodline of a John C Poindexter who apparently arrived in the Americas in the mid-to-late 1700s.
Sometime after 1800, Thomas made the wilderness trek over the mountains and into the Kentucky forests of Fayette County. How he came is unknown, whether striding in the buckskins of the fabled long hunters, a Pennsylvania rifle slung gracefully in hand, or perhaps less flamboyantly as a sober young man seeking opportunity. Yet however it was done, once there he met the family of Stephen and Preshea (Riley) WOOD, a school teacher and his lady wife. The Wood clan was formerly of Montgomery Co. Maryland, by way of North Carolina, and like the Poindexters of true pioneer spirit. On January 21, 1807 in Fayette Co., Thomas married Maxy WOOD, their fifth daughter. The couple would remain close to the Wood family for most, if not all, of their lives together.
Thomas was true to his times, moving ever to where there was "more elbow room." In 1820 we find his family in nearby Jessamine Co., with several of the Wood clan and in-laws neighboring. Three children have been born, with two more soon to follow. By 1824 they are in Shelby Co. KY, again with Maxy's parents close at hand, and two more children arrive. By 1829 they've moved over a bit to Henry Co., but surprisingly late in the year 1830, the family packs the wagons once more. Now there are eight young ones crawling, scampering, running and loping about. One is certain that Papa Thomas bid the eldest boys to settle down and give a hand, here. They had livestock to tend and Indians to watch for and game to fetch, so that the family does not have to eat overmuch of precious stores.
Maxy was surely feeling their ninth and final child, by the time they arrived in the wilderness that was Greene County, Illinois. Of strong stuff, those pioneer women must have been, possessed of an everyday courage that we today seldom are called upon to muster. Yet she was far from alone. Besides sons already in their teens, with them were her parents, Stephen & Preshea Wood, her eldest brother Amon Wood and family, and numerous others of the Wood clan. The horizons changed, new fields must again be hewed from the wilderness, but the voices that called gaily in the evenings were comfortably the same. The Wood clan would leave many descendants in and about their adopted Greene County home.
Thomas & Maxy's last child, this writer's great great grandfather, was born there in the winter chill of December 1830. Old tales from early Greene County speak of brutal snows that whooped from the North, to completely bury houses and barns, and to smother or starve livestock. As huddled families listened to the sullen drone of the wind about their chimneys, cold and sickness crept amongst them, stealing the lives of feeble children and frail elders. Yet Thomas and his family weathered well.
Quiet, sturdy folks they seem, working hard and seeing that their sons learned a trade. One would be a blacksmith, two carpenters, all with the knowledge of farming. For a brief time Maxy's aged parents lived in a small house on the Poindexter property, independent, yet close enough to savor the joyous racket of growing children. Then Stephen & Preshea Wood are at last consigned to the care of the rich earth that had sustained them.
Amid the fertile embrace of Greene County, Thomas & Maxy raised their own youngsters to adulthood, stood gladly as three of the eldest marry, and saw their first grandchildren born. They also witnessed the birth of a small farming community known as Woodville, named for Maxy's family. Their second son is credited with helping in this last endeavor, and so the slow years pass.
About 1845 their children begin to show their father's restless spirit. Some go to Missouri, most eventually to Oregon, with only two to remain in Illinois. And here Thomas & Maxy's story fades softly into the ages. Did they in their sunset years set one, last course for virgin land?
A Thomas Poindexter does appear in Ray Co. Missouri in 1846, married to Mecca Sneed, age 50. In this same county some of his children are found, and since Mecca is an older lady, the assumption is that her new Poindexter husband would be her age, and perhaps even quite a bit older. Could this be Thomas, once wed to Maxy Wood? Five years later, Mecca Poindexter is found on the 1850 Carroll Co. census, as are two of Thomas' sons, but Mecca is without her Thomas. Thus we are left to wonder. Perhaps Thomas had lost Maxy, his bride of so many years, and married again to ease the loneliness of his old age. Yet if this were he, he was apparently destined to pass away soon after, himself.
However, thus far the final days and last resting place of these old pioneers remain veiled in mystery. No stone has been found in their name, no ground made sacred to their memory. Perhaps Thomas & Maxy Poindexter died as they had lived, seeking always the new frontier, walking tall beside their strong sons and daughters.
Today near a crossroads called Woody, in Greene Co. IL, a farmer guides his tractor carefully about the graves of Maxy's brother and relations. His are the very fields that her kinfolk cleared so very long ago. The nearby land upon which Thomas Poindexter once swung an ax, then sunk a plow, must likewise still know the careful husbandry of his heirs in spirit. This, then, shall be their legacy. Their memorial must be in our remembrance of them, and in this small salute to their courage and fortitude, in facing ever and again the wilderness that they helped turn into Nation. Peace be to their ashes, for God surely has the gentle keeping of their souls.
The Children of Thomas & Maxy (Wood) Poindexter
They did not know they were doing a great thing, these sons and daughters of Thomas and Maxy (Wood) Poindexter. No more than their father had known, when he saw left his Virginia home for the wild green hills of Kentucky. Nor when once more the wagon was loaded, and with eight children and his once-again pregnant wife, the family set forth to the greater wilds of central Illinois.
In their eyes, it was just a thing to be done, an opportunity for a growing family with stout sons and strong daughters. They did not know that what they built was not just a family, but history. They did not know that their simple deeds would become as legend, part of the fabric of that great American mythology, the Frontier.
AMBROSE B. POINDEXTER was born about 1811 in Kentucky, the first child and first son of 9 children born to Thomas & Maxy (Wood) POINDEXTER. He married Mary "Polly" CLARK, daughter of Peter Hamilton and Elizabeth Clark, on 5 May 1835, in Greene Co. IL. They kept their residence there for about fifteen years, and three children were born to them.
Sometime before the 1850 census, the family left Illinois, and took up residence in Carroll Co. Missouri. There Ambrose became known as Justice of the Peace, as well as a Minister of God. He would follow this multi-faceted calling for the remainder of his life.
About 1855, the family uprooted once more, and moved south to Lawrence Co. MO. There Ambrose also took on the mantle of Public Administrator, a post he held until just a year before his death. The Civil War burst Missouri wide open, and Ambrose soon had a son in Union blue. Both he and son John served briefly in a company of home guards led by cousin Captain Peter Clark. Yet he would not see the outcome, for in September of 1862, he passed away. His widow Polly would survive him by 27 years, never remarrying, but remained thereafter in the care of their soldier son. Ambrose B. Poindexter is buried near Miller, Lawrence Co. MO. His bride rests beside their son at Ash Grove, Greene Co. MO.
HARRISON STEPHEN POINDEXTER was born sometime around 1815, possibly Fayette Co. Kentucky, the second child and second son. Unlike his restless brothers, Harrison would live most, if not all of his adult life in Illinois. Some indication of his temperament may be in that he went by both Harrison S. and Stephen H., the two names often found at the same time in the same places. Then, there is also his name on a roster of Greene County boys who answered the martial call, when Brig. General Whitesides called for men in the Black Hawk War of 1832. The young men were in service no more than 30 days, but fine, rowdy days they must have been, in the eyes of youth. Whether or not they ever actually saw any hostile Indians seems scarcely relevant.
Home again, Harrison is credited, along with some of his Wood relatives, with laying out the townsite of Woodville in 1834, upon property donated by his uncle Amon Wood. Today that site is marked only as a crossroads called Woody, but in its day was a thriving little community, and still houses the Wood family graveyard, today called the Maberry Cemetery.
On December 30, 1835 in Greene Co. IL, Harrison married Jane CLARK, daughter of Peter Hamilton and Elizabeth Clark, and sister to Polly who married his brother Ambrose six months previous. By 1840 they had moved next door to Macoupin Co., with their first son. A carpenter by trade, Harrison perhaps moved to wherever he found work. He is in Scott Co. in 1850, with three children, and in Shelby Co. by 1860, with a fourth child born and the first child gone, said to have died of TB of the bone.
In 1862, Harrison is found as Stephen H. on a Shelby Co. roster of troops enrolled in the Union Army. Muster rolls for his 116th IL Infantry give him as age 40 upon enlistment - a bit of a fib, as according to the census two years earlier, he would be 47. But since the cutoff age for enlistments was 45, one may forgive his little lie in the name of patriotism. His heart was in the right place, but it would appear the body failed him. In January of 1863, he is mustered out on Disability, a misstep off a bridge resulting in an injured ankle that refused to heal. Also, it seems that upon examination, his real age has been discovered. Private. S. H. Poindexter will soldier no more.
He last appears on record for the sale of his Shelby Co. IL property in May of 1868. After this point, the trail of Harrison Stephen Poindexter goes cold. His wife, or widow, Jane (Clark) Poindexter and a widowed daughter move to Kansas about 1870, and to California about 1880, but his whereabouts subsequent to May 1868 are yet unresolved.
DOCTOR HARVEY POINDEXTER was born in 1818 in Kentucky, the third child and third son, of 9 children born to Thomas & Maxy (Wood) POINDEXTER. He was named, one tends to think, for the timely doctor who attended his perhaps less than timely birth. Or, perhaps a parent had wishful thoughts, but he was after all a born farmer. Earliest family memories have him as Harvey, for what mother would call her son, "Doc?" But the world had enough Harveys already, and as a grown man, Doc he was, and ever would be.
He may have been first to leave their Illinois home, and strike south to the rich farmlands of Missouri. Something drove them, these pioneers, to seek a new land, a finer place, a home where none had been before. With Doc came his eldest brother, Ambrose, and his youngest sister, Martha Ann, and there they met a staunchly Southern family named Maupin. In 1846, Martha Ann married Garrett Maupin, who would lead her to Oregon even ahead of Doc, and Doc married Garrett's little sister Elizabeth Maupin. Same exact day, but in neighboring counties. One is never sure about the why of that, if they chose separate weddings, or had a mad, silly flurry of racing from one wedding to the other, ribbons and veils a flying.
Doc seems to have been a deliberate man, content to wait and raise his children and plow his fields, while in 1850 Martha and her family rolled a groaning wagon off to Oregon. But the letters back must have been glowing as if sent from Eden itself. They bid brother Ambrose a farewell that would last forever, and turned their oxen westward. By October of 1852, Doc and his brothers Bennett and Thomas stood amid the deeply green, moist embrace of Oregon, and nodded to each other. Yes. This was it.
In March of the following year he had land, 320 acres of it, curling black and rich as fudge beneath the hard bite of a plow, and not far from his family. Ben, Tom, Newt and Larry, all just down the road, and Martha with her growing brood. Lively days, those must have been, and family memories recall Doc, then in his latter thirties, as the instigator of dreadful jokes. One favorite was to skip ahead of the family when leaving church or other gatherings, and lay a peeled sapling or pole across the lane. Then he and one or two of the boys would hide in the bushes to watch, grown men giggling and elbowing each other like school children. But it worked. They watched the gaily trotting team and a wagon or buggy load of the folks, cheerily calling back to neighbors and friends, "See you next week! See you later!" and here they came at a spanking clip. The horses trotted over the pole with never a stumble, but here came the fiercely rattling wheels and OH! my, what a banging jolt, and then screams and flying bonnets and petticoats. One supposes Doc and his co conspirators learned early how to laugh and run, all at the same time.
Good farmers, those Poindexters, and Doc and his wife and two sons appear in 1873 as charter members of the Grand Prairie Grange No. 26, of Lane County. Modern times were coming, new roads and gadgets and the railroad ran on regular schedules. Time for the farmers to organize, just like everyone else did, in a civilized society.
The family wanderlust seems tempered in Doc, for he only migrated so far as next door Linn County, where he settled in to the honored business of family and farm. Always there was a field to widen, a barn to build, a shed to repair, and his sons grew tall and strong beside him.
The old man worked still, in his 63rd year. For purposes now lost to us, he harnessed a team one July morning in 1879, and drove up to Brumly's mill. They loaded him up with 1,000 board feet of cut lumber, and he turned around for home. We'll never know just what happened. Perhaps a harness became fouled, or one of the tug chains broke loose. But whatever the cause, he got down from the wagon and amongst his team to fix something. And something went terribly wrong. Two school girls found him, this tough old man unconscious in the road, his wagon and team long gone, terribly hurt and alone. Adults quickly summoned looked at his injuries and the signs on the dirt lane, and found the wagon had run over his head and shoulders. He survived for four days, though it is unknown if he ever regained consciousness. Doc H. Poindexter died July 14, 1879 and left behind a wife and five children, the eldest 29, the youngest just 12.
His widow survived him by twenty six years, but she never remarried. Perhaps she had given too much to this good man to ever give enough to another. A strong and independent spirit, in 1900 at the age of seventy two, she proudly tells the census enumerator that she is a "capitalist," and that she owns her own home without mortgage, thank you. The two of them, Elizabeth and Doc H. Poindexter, pioneers both, are buried in the Milliorn Cemetery at Junction, OR.
THOMAS SIMPSON POINDEXTER was born in 1820 in Jessamine County, KY, the fourth son and fourth child, in a family of nine born to Thomas & Maxy (Wood) POINDEXTER. He was perhaps a stormier spirit than his brothers, or so later events suggest. His early days are a mystery, lived, one assumes, quietly in the bosom of his family, farming and planting and learning the signs of the seasons. Tom must have joined his two elder brothers in Missouri, must have read the letters of the two youngest boys who had already led their sister's family to Oregon. Perhaps one day they leaned elbows on the supper table, a much fingered letter laid between them, and one of them said, "Do you think we should?"
And so it was that in company with brothers Doc and Ben, they joined the long caravans for Oregon. Tom was a single man, and like the younger boys before him, perhaps he rode as hunter and scout for the families who had so much to care for, in the slowly creaking wagons. In the autumn of 1852, they stood on the rim of the Willamette's green, slowly roiling flow and perhaps ran their fingers into the dark, heavy earth.
"How far," Tom may have asked, "Is that land office from here?" The following year he made his land claim official, filing October 1, 1853.
There was a lot of marrying going on amongst the Poindexter clan, in the years 1854 and 55. Tom was not first, but nor was he last, marrying a girl named Mary E. Baker. They made a home and she bore him a daughter, and almost that soon she was gone, no one knows when or how. Illness comes easily, and we didn't know so much about medicine, in those days. Perhaps she sickened and so she died, but then Tom had a cavernously quiet house and a toddler child. He met another Mary E. surname Coffey, the niece of his first wife by Mary Baker's eldest sister, Lucille Baker-Coffey. It would seem this other Mary had loved and lost, as well, having her own infant child, Byron Coffey. Perhaps need more than love led them to the altar, and in 1860 they said, "I do." Children were born, Tom's pride being his only son, Tommy Jr.
Yet Tommy Jr. was only age 11, when his parents wished aloud that they had said, "I don't." Each found much lacking in the other, and bitter, hurtful things were said and done. In 1874, Polk County, Oregon severed the ties that bind, and Tom appears to have promptly remarried to an Anna Brownlee in June of that year. Thereupon he took his son and his hurts, and fled.
Stories are not certain where, some say back to Illinois where he had known a gentler day, perhaps looking for whatever he had lost. However, the 1880 census appears to find Thomas S. as a 59 year old "country merchant" in Doniphan Co. Kansas, Iowa Township, right along the Missouri River. With him are his 17 year old son Thomas, a farm laborer, and a wife, Anna age 59. Soon his son is grown and looking West again, and perhaps one day says, "Dad, let's go back." What happened to Anna is unknown, but it seems she too disappears along the way. Time heals much, and so the old man and his beloved boy go West, although this time they no doubt enjoyed the comfort of the rails. Just days, it took, where before the trek lasted months. How Tom must have marveled.
However, Oregon perhaps still tasted bitter, and they were soon in Idaho, still a raw, wild country in 1884, once again the Poindexters as pioneers. There young Tommy placed his feet at the head of a small valley somewhere above Moscow, and said, "Here, Papa. I will build here." And the old man nodded and fetched a shovel and went to work with his son.
He was not truly old at 68, or perhaps he did not think so, but we are born with a clock that slowly ticks down, within us. Tom saw his son married, no doubt thought with joy of the grandchildren who would soon follow. However, his time came before theirs did, and on November 6, 1888, the old pioneer was gone. Thomas Simpson Poindexter, Sr., rests beside his son at Mountain View Cemetery in Farmington, Washington.
LOUISA ANN POINDEXTER was born in July of 1822 in Jessamine Co. Kentucky, the fifth child and first daughter. Unlike her most of her siblings, Louisa would remain in Illinois, and in Greene Co. on 19 October 1837, she married an enterprising young neighbor, John M. BRONAUGH. John was the eldest of five children born to George and Sarah (MARTIN) Bronaugh of Virginia and Kentucky. Together, John and Louisa would bring eight children into the world yet, sadly, they saw only three of them reach adulthood.
John Bronaugh seems to have been a man of industry and enterprise, as we find him engaged in farming, and then running a mercantile in Woodville (now Woody) for some years. The Bronaugh family remained in Greene Co. until about 1855, when they moved to Virden. There John entered the grain business and also held two terms as Mayor of Virden. The family removed briefly to Lafayette Co. Mo in 1868, where they bought a large farm. This was soon left to their sons, however, while John and Louisa returned to Virden about 1870. They enjoyed good society and the respect of their neighbors. Surely Louisa's death was of considerable note, when she died on May 30, 1882 at Virden. She was lauded as a devoted with and mother, and a Christian woman of sterling worth.
John survived her by ten years, but did not remarry, and they are buried in the Virden Cemetery near three of their children.
BENNET W. POINDEXTER was born in Shelby County, Kentucky in 1825, the sixth child and fifth son, in a family of nine children born to Thomas & Maxy (Wood) POINDEXTER. He was raised a farmer and a farmer he would be, and a pioneer, as well. His brothers Ambrose and Doc, and sister Martha may have been first to go, the latter two finding their spouses and founding their families in Missouri.
However, he seems to have followed and found someone of his own, or so marriage records say. Bennet Poindexter married Sarah E. Goodson in April of 1852, Carroll County, Missouri. She was a daughter of Isaac Newton and Permelia Ann Goodson. So much hope there, springtime and marriage and the dreams wrapped up in the long trek to Oregon, which awaited them.
Yet when Ben arrived in Oregon in October of '52, he was alone. A sad list in the "Oregon Statesman" names deaths for that year, on the long trail west, and there is one name, "Elizabeth Poindexter, Carroll County, Missouri." Was this Sarah E., laid with tears, prayers and hymns by the side of the trail? Was this his new bride, left in a grave so nakedly alone as the last wagon grumbled away? We may never know for sure, but Goodson family lore says yes.
But life goes on and hearts find hope, for that is the nature of hearts. On December 1, 1852 Ben settled on a 160 acre Donation Land Claim in Lane Co. OR. On April 5, 1854, he says his vows once more, and this time the reply comes in the lilting, musical tones of Ireland, as Miss Mary Elizabeth Kinney says "I do." And she would, all the very long days of her life, even when Ben himself had returned to the ages.
He had taken his land near his brothers and sister, all the clan turning up the thick, rich earth of the Willamette River valley. How her Irish heart must have warmed, when he brought her there to see such promise, such prosperity in the ordered rows of his now their fields.
A daughter is born first, and then a son, named for the youngest brother, James Newton. And why not, when the family is so close and dear, and you can give ol' Newt fits by hollering things like, "Newt! Don't put that in your mouth, you don't know where it's been!"
They did not stay there, however, by 1860 having moved north a few miles to Benton County. Better prospects, perhaps, and again Ben walked the fertile fields that fed them. By 1870 the family has made another small move, but this would be the last one, settling in neighboring Linn County. Still not far from all the folks, close enough to visit, when work permits, and certainly to keep up a steady stream of letters. Mary worked beside him, in the fields, when needed, and in the home as she must. There were seven children now, three of them sturdy boys who soon also helped with the work. One imagines the father and his quiet ways, perhaps not sparkling in his speech or dramatic in his manner, but a man you could count on, a steady fellow whose work worn hands could touch a child's tousled head, or brush his wife's fair Irish cheeks. One pictures the quick, deft way of the mother, briskly about her kitchen and garden, busy and certain how things must be done, and in command of her little domain, as the father took charge of his fields.
One can scarcely imagine the numbing shock, on the August afternoon when he does not come in. A wagon accident, a fall, the team ran away, we may never know, but he fell from the wagon and fractured his skull, and just like that he was gone. His older brother Doc died almost the same way not a month before, and now cruel Fate had stolen another. His eldest child was 25, and could perhaps find some understanding, but what do you tell an 11 year old? Ben was only fifty four, not an old man by any count.
Yet you carry on, and you get up in the morning, and you raise your children because that is how it must be. And so Mary did, until her sons were men, and her daughters were married, and she could see that, somehow, she had done well. Nor did she ever remarry, for she had loved once, probably loved still, and that was that. And the children cherished her for it. Until she died in 1923 at the age of eighty seven, if they lived not with her, she lived with them. As she had given, they gave back. When her days finally ticked to the last, they laid her to rest beside Bennett, a pioneer in her own right. Together, Ben and Mary Poindexter rest at Providence Cemetery, Scio, Oregon. As in life, their two sons and a daughter are close by.
LAWRENCE POINDEXTER was born in 1826 in Shelby Co. Kentucky, the seventh child and sixth son, in a family of nine children born to Thomas & Maxy (Wood) POINDEXTER. Yet he was possibly the first to go West beyond the Rockies. Illinois records for the Mexican War show him as enlisting in Company C of the First Regiment on June 23, 1846. He mustered out almost a year later on June 17, 1847 at Camargo, Mexico.
Since he was already out there, some say he may have went all the way to California. But these Poindexters did not like to be alone, and he'd left family behind. In late 1849, he and the youngest, James Newton, then just 20, turned their thoughts to Oregon. They had no sweethearts, no families, nothing to hold them back from the lure of the horizon. Perhaps in their ears rang the exhortation of their elder siblings, "See this Oregon, and tell us if we should come." And so they went, two young men with neither wagon nor ox cart. One supposes they hunted for those who did have families and wagons to attend, on the long overland journey. They could have scouted ahead for water, game and grass, for sign of Indians. Young Newt carried with him the knowledge of a blacksmith's trade, so perhaps he also helped keep the animals shod, the wagons sound.
And they found Oregon at last, and called it good. Letters were certainly written, property sold, teams and wagons bought. Then in the spring Lawrence came east again to Missouri, and fetched his elder sister, Martha, and her young family. Again the young man rode ahead, this time jesting with his brother in law, Garrett Maupin, a hard living man of rough humor and combative nature, but with the tough spirit required of the pioneer. They were all young, and held the world in their hands. Weeks and endless days later, they reached Oregon ragged and weary, but it was truly the Promised Land, already the thickly bristling forest giving way to lush, ordered squares of produce, grain and pasture. Lawrence may have smiled with swelling pride, "See it? Didn't I tell you?" To which Maupin replied in admiration, "Rich, Poindexter, rich!" And with a rueful glance at his battered wagon load of worldly goods, he added, "But damned little money."
Yet they prospered in that place, Oregon, and the 1850 census finds Lawrence and Newt in Marion County, while Martha is in neighboring Polk County. Within the year the other brothers followed. Then there were six families settled on the rich, dark banks of the Willamette River. Those must have been gay years, young families near to each other, the children growing, bachelors marrying, the Christmas dinners and 4th of July picnics. Family recollections reveal that even the older boys, respectably married and over thirty, kept a rowdy sense of humor and a spirit of teasing.
But in time, as in all things, people move. Lawrence had a wife, now, a fine Missouri girl named Eleanor Gibson, and growing family. At some point he remembered a place he heard much of, or perhaps seen, called California. By 1870, he and his family had moved south to Colusa County. There he became what he would be ever after, a farmer stockman. By 1875 he moved once more, to the lava beds and sagebrush hills and rye grass valleys of Modoc County. There he was home, and there he would stay. He nursed six of his sons to manhood, and his two daughters to marriage, and saw three of his grandchildren born in the richly watered valley of Goose Lake. Two of his nephews from Oregon must have heard how well Modoc County treated him, for they, too, came south to the rye grass country. Time gently expanded his girth and softened his chin, but photos show a proud man surrounded by strapping sons, tall and straight with their mother's fine eyes. God blessed him with a surprise in 1882, one more son born almost 11 years after the previous, and they named him Lawrence, Jr.
But this was a gift the old pioneer would not get to enjoy to its fullest, for in the fall of 1888, when Lawrence Jr. was just four, God called another Oregon pioneer home. Eleanor remarried, carried on, gave young Lawrence a father who would guide him through the muddled years of growing up. But the boy kept his father's name, would remain part and parcel of the uncles and cousins around him. There are Poindexters up there still, and they know from whence they come.
Lawrence Poindexter, Sr. was 61 years old. He is buried in Alturas, near others of his family. His descendants live not far away.
MARTHA ANN POINDEXTER was born 14 Feb 1828 or 1829 in Kentucky, the eighth child and second daughter. About 1845, as a teenager with her brother Doc, she made the move to Missouri, where they met a family named Maupin. Martha was smitten by their son Garrett, who was seven or eight years her senior. Dashing, she may have thought, fiery and daring. He was fresh from the battle fields of Mexico, worldly as she could scarcely imagine. Family lore says that her family did not approve, as he was rather too fond of strong drink and wild in temperament. But approval or not, Martha Poindexter married Garrett MAUPIN, son of Perry and Rachel Maupin, on 16 May 1845 in Ray Co. MO. This was the same day as, but in a neighboring county to, her brother's Doc's marriage to Garrett's sister Elizabeth Maupin.
Almost immediately the children began to come, and would come, over the years, until one shy of an even dozen scampered, strode or ran about the place. Mercifully, there would be only two to keep track of on the journey to Oregon. Brother Lawrence had arrived to guide them, seeming as big and breezy as all out doors, and had Garrett fairly frothing to be on the road. And so the wagon bulged with all their worldly goods, and with seed and tools and provisions for their new life, as off they went. Somewhere along the latter part of the route Martha must have felt the stirrings of their third child, but it would wait, and would be the first of their little Maupins to be born in the Oregon Territory. On July 25, 1851, Martha and Garrett settled the first of the clan's Donation Land Claims in Lane Co. OR, claiming a sturdy 639 acres. Sometime after 1860, the family removed to Douglas County.
The rich Oregon earth was perhaps all the wealth they had, as Garrett remarked to brother Larry, "Rich, Poindexter, rich. But damned little money." But they would settle in to work, and to build, and to raise their many children.
Perhaps the family was right about Garrett, that he was not the most steady fellow. What had seemed fiery sometimes became just plain bad temper, and what had seemed dashing often evolved to the expansiveness that came from a bottle. By 1860 she decided it was time to let Garrett know that he had better buckle down to the business of being a family man. So, she filed for a divorce. That business seems to have been ill taken by Garrett, for at least once her brother Lawrence got caught in the cross fire, and had a restraining order filed against Garrett. But finally Garrett became sober and sorry, at least long enough to promise the judge that he would be a good provider, and so the crisis passed.
Right after that the Civil War broke out, and of course Garrett had opinions on that. Oh, yes, he did, and backed them up with his fists at every given chance. He was Southern born, by Heaven, and had no patience for damned Yankee fools.
But the war ended and Garrett found fewer fights, or at least about that, and three more children were born. They farmed and worked, and raised their children and the days scrolled slowly past. They had a new place, now, in Douglas County, and the land treated them well.
And then one day Garrett found another bottle, and proved that drinking and driving really don't mix, even if the engines have four legs and presumed minds of their own. Whatever the cause, the wagon upset and Garrett was pinned under it, and his thirteen year old son went racing pell mell for help. That help came too late. On August 4, 1866 at the untimely age of 47, Garrett Maupin, the rough and tumble pioneer, was dead.
As widows of those pioneers were prone to do, Martha continued on. Nor did she remarry. Her eldest boy was growing into a fine young man who worked willingly, and the older girls looked after the toddlers. They would get by. And so they did. The eldest ones married, the younger decided not, and Martha out lived four of them. In 1909, at the age of 80, the pioneer woman who walked, pregnant, from Missouri to Oregon, quietly passed away. Martha Ann (Poindexter) Maupin rests in the Kellogg Cemetery in Douglas County, Oregon.
JAMES NEWTON POINDEXTER, known as "Newt" to his friends, was born 5 Dec 1830 in Greene Co. Illinois, the youngest in a family of nine children born to Thomas & Maxy (Wood) POINDEXTER. Pioneering seems to have been in the blood, for the father had roamed from Virginia to Kentucky as a young man, where he took a bride, and traveled thence to Illinois in 1830, with young children and an evidently pregnant wife. Soon after the eldest boys became young men, they, too moved with their families to Missouri @ 1845. It is unknown whether Newt and his parents also moved to Missouri, but in 1850, Newt and his next brother, Lawrence, undertook the long trek to Oregon. One can only imagine the worlds of opportunity that they saw in the raw, rich lands of the Oregon Territory. When one is young and filled with the fresh strength of manhood, there are few impossibilities.
The 1850 census finds the two brothers together in Marion County, where Newt is listed as a blacksmith. Family legend says that one of these two boys then returned to Missouri, and guided an elder sister and her family to the Promised Land. On 27 Aug 1853, Newt settled a 321 acre Donation Land Claim in Lane Co. OR, next to his brothers and sister. Early maps locate them on Donation Land Claims in Lane County; just NW of Eugene in what is now the Santa Clara district. Within another two years, those unwed had taken spouses, and the Poindexter lineage was secure.
March 1, 1855 James Newton married a spunky girl of just 15 years, ten years his junior, named Elvira Eliza McCord daughter of J. Thomas and Rhoda (Graham) McCord. Together they would raise a sturdy brood of seven children. Family recollections portray her as an irrepressible chatterbox with a fiery nature. Photographs taken of her as a grandma still reveal pert, sweet features, plus snapping dark eyes and a stubborn little chin that strongly suggest both humor and a resilient spirit. Tough she must indeed have been, to raise a family of seven children and still live to the ripe old age of 83. But they made them tough, in those days, women fit to walk beside the men who strode across the plains.
Farming that claim may not have been James Newton's cup of tea, however. Newt was by profession a blacksmith, which trade he evidently followed for most of his adult life. But time he still had time for other things, and in 1870 he ran for Lane County sheriff on the Democratic Ticket. He won by 143 votes, and put his stout shoulders so thoroughly into the job that he won again at the 1872 election. This last was by a squeaky margin of just 32 votes, but what the heck, a win is a win. Meanwhile Newt served as a member of the Eugene City fire company, arrested malefactors, collected taxes, chased jail breakers, which latter occupation seems to have been a regular occurrence, and once attempted to get licensing fees levied against a "hurdy gurdy" house which offended his sensibilities. Since no city statutes identified or prohibited "hurdy gurdy" houses, the case fizzled and the dances went on. There was but one fatal shooting during Sheriff Poindexter's tenure, whereupon the killer willingly surrendered himself to the good sheriff. Alas, no competition for Wyatt Earp, there, but probably his wife and children were glad for that.
Upon the close of his law enforcement career, Newt made no bid for a third term, but quietly returned to his anvil and forge, and the concerns of his beloved family. Heartache visited him, ere long, when two of his elder brothers died tragically within a month of each other; wagon accidents, common as the automobile wrecks of today. By 1880 the family wanderlust had struck again, and he appears in Portland, OR as a blacksmith under the heading "N.P. Manufacturing Co." Then about 1885, he packed up once more, and moved across the Columbia River to LaCamas, Washington. The household was thinning out by now, daughters getting married and sons striking out into the world. Yet the family managed to take root in LaCamas for about a decade, and gracefully the years gathered around them.
He lost two more brothers in 1888, strange fate taking both within a week's time, abruptly leaving him as an only son. Yet he had grandchildren being born, and two of his own sons yet at home, and besides, life goes on, whether we will it or no. In 1895, Newt followed his two eldest sons, Perry and Ora, to the grass and sagebrush country of Crook County, OR, where he settled for good in Prineville. Perhaps by then his aging bones longed for a dryer climate. In 1898 he suffered a stroke, which left him at least partially paralyzed. It may because of this that, on the 1900 census, his son Ora and the boy's wife appear living with them, possibly helping Mama care for the old man until he regained strength and some coordination.
Yet the stubborn old pioneer was not going quietly into that good night and, despite his infirmities, was elected in 1900 to the post of Crook County Treasurer, serving one term. He held fast to this life until the spring of 1903, passing quietly away on March 20th. Cause of death was said to be on account of complications of that stroke suffered five years before. James Newton Poindexter was eulogized as "a Christian man of sterling worth. The pleasant smile and jovial manner of 'Grandpa' Poindexter will be greatly missed." Interment was in the I.O.O.F. cemetery at Juniper Haven.
His widow Elvira remarried September 18, 1905 to Peter Franklin CLARK, a nephew of Jane and Polly Clark who had married Newt's brother's Harrison and Ambrose so many years before. Yet when Elvira passed away on 11 May 1923, she was laid to rest under the Poindexter name at Prineville, near Newt, two of their sons, a grandson, and a granddaughter. Their great great grandchildren, and children beyond that, still enjoy the fruits of that wild territory which a young man from Illinois helped to settle.
And so we finish the chapter, let the pages slip softly closed. Strange to think that almost two centuries have fallen, between us and the day when a young man and woman were united, amid the joyous hush of a little Kentucky church. Almost two centuries of pushing ever at the frontiers, following the sound of axes and chunk of shovels, walking in the narrow tracks of those very few who had gone before.
We of their blood are scattered far and wide, some of us even completing the circle back to our ancient Southern roots, while others have spanned the globe. But most of us have stayed right here, in this land that our forebears whittled from wilderness. The wanderlust of old still pops up, now and then, the restlessness that drives us like some whispering hunger. Yet when all is said and done, we usually end up, sometimes unbeknownst, within a day's drive or so of each other. Mileage that would have seemed formidable to horses and buggies, but only a little tiring in an automobile. Perhaps we have to find out that our forebears knew what they were doing, when they chose to call this great place, this West, this frontier, "home." It's really quite a fine place, even after a century or so. In my mind, it will do.
by Gloria M. Atwater c. 2004
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