Inman, Joel Cowan

From Lane Co Oregon



Vol. VIII - No. 3

Eugene, Oregon November 1963


by Lois Inman Baker

On the morning of April 2, 1852 before the sun had dried the grass of the prairie, an immigrant train slowly wound its way over the dusty road leading to the west from Franklin County, Missouri, on the way to join the rendevous at "St. Jo" for the long treck over the Old Oregon Trail. Two of the wagons in this train belonged to Joel Cowan Inman. Mr. Inman was born on October 10, 1822 in Madison County, Alabama, the son of Jane Walker and John Ritchie Inman. His grandfather was Abednego Inman, a major in the American Revolutionary War, who was granted 4000 acres of land in Jefferson County, Tennessee, as payment for his service in the War. Joel's parents had died while he was quite young so he had lived with his sister, Mrs. Joseph Woodruff, and had moved with her to Missouri in 1844. On March 5, 1846 he married Sophia Jane Hinton, the daughter or Sarah (Richardson) and Clayton Burke Hinton. By the time they started for Oregon the Inmans had three small sons, William, Thompson, and Job, and another son, James, was born on the Plains.

Other families had come to Missouri the fall before, waiting for the spring thaw and the floods to recede in order to move on westward where there was free land and untold space. Briskly they started off that April morning with all of their earthly possessions piled high on the prairie schooners. One of Grandfather Inman's schooners was drawn by two oxen, Berry and Henry. Berry was red and had only a horn and a half so Joel's wagon and yoke could easily be spotted in the long line of like schooners. Driven along in the rear by some of the older boys and the men of the party were several head of stock, but the trip was to prove too severe for many of them and, as food was scarce, now and then one of the herd was killed for food. However the two oxen and a heifer, called Susan, were all of the Inman stock that reached Lane County, but they survived for several years.

In this same group of emigrants were Clayton Burke Hinton1 and his wife, Sarah (Richardson),2 parents of Mrs. Inman. Six years earlier in the spring of 1846 two of their sons, Rowland Burke and Thompson Douglas Hinton, had moved to Oregon, one settling near Monroe and the other near Richardson Butte in Lane County. Word from ~ had come back to Missouri urging the parents to "come West". With the urging of the sons and the decision of the Joel Inmans to go to Oregon, the elder Hintons joined the train. And it is fortunate that they did he cause Grandmother Sophia had her hands full looking after the small children who were too young to trust alone or out of the wagon. Before the train reached Oregon, another son, James Madison, was born. This little fellow lived only a few years, dying of typhoid fever when an epidemic swept the county in 1859.

The baby Job died on the Barlow Road as his father was carrying him to keep him from fretting. He was buried at Laurel Hill. A wagon bed was torn up to make a little coffin and the wagons were driven across the grave to prevent the Indians from locating it and opening it up the steal the clothing. Grandfather Inman always regretted that he did not return to the spot and bring the coffin to the family cemetery on his donation claim.

On the back of C. B. Hinton's wagon, he had fastened a large box with a tight lid which was full of hardtack, prepared before they had left Missouri. In the evenings when the train had stopped for the night, this hardtack often was all there was for supper because of the scarcity of fuel for fires. Fortunately there was usually some warm milk from the herds, to accompany the dry' bread. When it was possible to start a fire, a special treat for the children was warm tea diluted with milk and called by the uneuphonious term of "bull's milk".

The death of so many persons on the trail was proof of the privations and hardships encountered. One day Mr. and Mrs. Inman sent the children on with relatives and stayed behind with a family whose wife and mother was very ill. She died during the night with cholera and the next morning they buried her and threw away the bedding. The Indians who were constantly lurking about did not take the bedding because they realized that it was contaminated, but the graves had to be dug deep to keep the coyotes and wolves from digging them up. This wagon train had passed a grave that the wolves had disturbed and had partly eaten the body.

The Indians were a constant threat also, even if they did not attack outright. They frequently poisoned the drinking water along the trail. One day Grandmother Sophia and two of the boys were walking ahead of the train and drank from a water hole. A little way on, they came upon two dead oxen and they were frightened for fear that the water they had just drunk had been poisoned. Another day they were walking ahead of the train again and came upon a man hanging from a tree. They later learned that he had murdered a well-to-do couple who had hired him to help them on the trip and that he had stolen their possessions. Speedy justice exercised on the spot by the pioneers was necessary to help preserve law and order because there was no organized law enforcement for hundreds of miles.

It took this particular train of pioneers seven months and three weeks to reach Lane County and it must have dwindled slowly in numbers as many stopped to take up land in Idaho and eastern Oregon, Although the trip across the rolling prairies of Nebraska, Wyoming and Eastern Idaho was made without an attack from the Indians, it was a terrible experience. Water had to be carried in the wagons and used sparingly, and the sun shone incessantly, beating down on the hot and panting cattle without mercy. Always there were miles and miles of rolling prairies stretching out in every direction as far as the eye could see. How tiresome it must have been without a single object in the distance on which to rest the eyes.

All the monotony of the prairies was welcome to the dangers of the mountains which were finally reached in Idaho. Now there were boulders over which the wagons must bump and on which the oxen and people stumbled, trees to dodge and fallen ones to move. No longer need they be saving of the drinking water. Children could play in the water and everyone could wash his parched and brown face. But the rivers were a barrier as well as a blessing. Frequently they followed steep canyons where the wagons had to be helped down by tying on logs as brakes, and often times the train had to go miles out of the way to find a ford shallow enough for the creaking wagons. Sometimes logs were tied on each side and the wagons floated across the water if the current was not too swift. Fortunately there were logs and logs aplenty if an axle or a tongue broke now.

Great-grandmother Hinton had ridden a mare across the Plains and on camping near the Snake River one evening Great-grand-rather fastened the horse's head to a front foot to prevent her from running off and in trying to drink from the river, she went out too far and was drowned.3

The Blue Mountains proved to be a very difficult stretch of the journey for the members of the train who were nearly exhausted after so many weeks and miles on the trail, most of which had been covered on foot for many of them, in order to help the poor animals which also were near exhaustion. The baby Job was ill and fretting and Grandfather had to carry him all the way across the mountains. Some members of the train were doubtful of being able to continue on the way after they reached the prairies of Eastern Oregon, but, thanks to a kind Providence, Rowland B. Hinton, Thompson D. Hinton and Benjamin Richardson (Sarah's brother) met them with a supply of food. What a meeting that must have been! The relatives in Oregon had become alarmed because the train had not arrived and it was getting very late in the season so the three men set out to help them. Upon meeting the rescue party, as it were, hope revived and on October 10, the Joel Inman family arrived in Lane County.

The first winter was spent in a log cabin with a dirt floor, hastily built on the new donation claim near to the present site of the modern home of Ben Inman, a great-grandson. The following year the house and some of the outbuildings shown in the drawing were erected on the location of the present I. M. Inman (a grandson) home, on the Old Territorial Road about two miles north of Elmira. The first winter in Oregon was very trying and a hungry one, too. Neighbors and relatives already here gave them food and wild game was to be had, but straw from the mattresses had to be fed to the cattle that winter. 'Some of their neighbors were Benjamin Richardson, John and Nancy (Richardson) Brown, both families having arrived in Oregon in 1848. Clara Manning, sister of Mrs. Inman, and her family came in 1851, as did the William Jeans family who had spent the winter of 1850-51 in Portland. The Stephen Jenkins family arrived in 1848 and lived not far distant.

Mrs. Inman's parents spent the winter in the homes of their sons, and the following spring built a home on their claim about one mile north of Monroe.

Mr. Inman later added 516 acres to his original claim, making a farm of 836 acres. Part of this land he bought from Indians who were living near and part of the purchase price was an agreement to look after the petty chief and his wife for the rest of their lives. Somehow the chief's brother managed to slip into the bargain so the three of them lived in a small log cabin near the creek which ran through the farm. The old chief became blind and either the squaw or the brother would lead him around with a string tied around his neck. Grandfather Inman furnished them food and clothing as long as they lived.

The following children were born to Joel and Sophia Inman:

  • William Clayton, 1847-1918, married Sarah Jane Jeans*.
  • John Thompson, 1849-1901, m. Lucinda Duckworth.
  • Job Henry, 1851-1852.
  • James Madison, 1852-1859.
  • Joel Francis (Frank), 1855-1940, m. Edith A. Jeans* (author's grandfather).
  • Sarah Jane, 1856-1945, m. James P. Zumwalt.
  • Joseph Shadrack, 1859-1884.
  • Varian Alice, 1861-1932, m. John A. Jeans~.
  • Warren Wesley, 1864-1957, m. 1 Mattie Curry, m.2 Ellen Hunter.
  • Benjamin Price, 1865-1960, m. Lillian Elliott.
  • Anne, 1869-1960, m. Harry L. Bown.
  • Charles Wilson, 1871-1944, m. Bernice Deming.
  • Children of William and Susan (Gibson) Jeans, who came to Lane Co. in 1851 and settled on a claim on what is now the Jeans Road, on the west side of Fern Ridge lake. A great-grandson, John E. E. Jeans, now makes his home near their original log cabin.

1Born June 6, 1790 in Washington County, Georgia, married to Sarah, March 22, 1811, in Franklin County, Missouri, died August 15, 1856. In 1825 he was County Treasurer of Franklin Co., County Judge, 1839-42, and a member of the State Legislature of Missouri in 1848.

2Born September 6, 1793 in Fairfax County, Virginia, moved in 1803 with her parents, Daniel and Nancy Richardson, to Missouri, then called Upper Louisiana Territory, and died July 5, 1884. Both are buried in the Richardson cemetery on the hill above Fern Ridge dam.

3 The side saddle which she used is now in the Lane County Pioneer Museum.

Personal tools