Stewart, Agnes

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Agnes Stewart
Personal Identity
BirthplaceAllegheny, Pennsylvania
BirthdateJune 7, 1832
DeathJune 9, 1905
Place of Burial
FamilyStewart, John (father)
Personality & Physical nature
Hobbies & Interests
Physical Characteristics
Social information
AffiliationSpringfield School District No. 19

[edit] History

Stewart, Agnes (1832-1905)

She was daughter of Eugene pioneer, John Stewart. On April 21, 1853, her family began wagon train journey to Oregon from St. Joseph, Missouri. In November, her family was rescued by Oregon settlers from Diamond Peak area of Oregon. In 1854, Springfield School District No. 19 was formed, and the first teacher, Agnes Stewart, was appointed. She taught there until 1855. A small schoolhouse was built near the corner of South Seventh and B Streets, and although considered to be a “crude building,” the school served the community until the 1880s (Graham 1978a). Agnes taught school in Lowell in 1856. The following year, she taught at Fall Creek. On September 9, 1859 she married Thomas Warner, a fellow traveler from the wagon train and they settled in Fall Creek. Her children were George F. (June 29, 1860 to February 17, 1951 who married Vina Walker on December 25), 1883, Smilie (March 4, [1862]] to May 16, 1875), Jessie ([[March 26], 1866 to June 21, 1870), Mason Y. (September 13, 1873 to June 29, 1953 who married Celia Hyland on September 9, 1894), Clyde E (September 13, 1873 to June 29, 1953 who married Daisie Matteson September 20, 1899).

On December 28, 1876, She was a part of the Fall Creek School, District 83 that was established. On this date, there was permission to build the school. In 1879, the school site was moved east nearer to Little Fall Creek, the second of three sites. She died on June 9, 1905 in Fall Creek.

[edit] Journal

In an arduous trek across America in 1853, Agnes Stewart kept a journal that survives in different forms and versions to this day. At the end of the journey, she and her family passed through what is now modern day Oakridge near the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. Prior to the Lost Wagon Train the area was inhabited by Native Americans and visited by few White people.

In one of her first entries (March, 16, 1853), Agnes acknowledged receipt of the book she filled with an account of her journey - an expedition that would last seven and half heartbreaking and physically demanding months. She was given the diary the night before she left Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, outward bound for Oregon Territory.

The travellers outfitted themselves after they arrived in St. Louis, Missouri nine days later, then continued on to St. Joseph, reaching that city on April 5.

"...Arrived at St. Joseph today," Agnes wrote. "Was quite disappointed at the appearance of the place. I had expected to find nothing but log cabins and rame shantys (sic), instead found brick houses and plenty of whisky shops and every man I meet looks as if they were an ale cask themselves. To my opinion, St. Joseph would rise a great deal faster if the people did not take so much advantage of the emigrants, but still, it will be a great place some day." The scenery was so different that it makes her long to see her own "native hills that were bare and scrubby."

One day in St. Joseph, she and her sister Hellen were walking along a river that they were camped by. It may have been Black Snake Creek. They looked across and saw the Indians. She was struck by the sad plight of the Indians and in a comment that is as timely today as it was then, she writes... "the vast territory lie stretched before me and nothing but wide forests can be seen as far as the eye can reach, and yet it is small compared with the great continent, once all their own, and now the government allow them a portion (land) to themselves as a great favour (sic) and taken as such, but this does not make it right." She had greaty sympathy for the Indian people and in later years, at Little Fall Creek, took two Indians boys into her home to raise. Her sorrow was great when both boys died from what they then called consumption.

Nearly a month passed in St. Joseph before the Stewart family and other members of the company made the crossing at the Missouri River. It was there young Agnes recounted one of the first setbacks in the journey. Four men, crossing the river with a yoke of oxen aboard a ferry, drowned after the boat capsized.

May 3 - The bid day arrived! They left St. Joseph for the long journey to Oregon. They were most anxious to get started but on the day they left neigher she nor her sister had a lot to say about the day itself. They may not have had time and on more than one occasion I have been reminded of the fact that given the circumstances, it is amazing that anything at all was written. (great granddaughter's comments)

May 17 - "o it hails as fast as rain... Yes and I can see a thunder storm coming too... black, black, it rises and then rolls and all is so grand..."

May 18 - "It is dreadful cold o the wind goes to a person's heart. I will shiver to death, got out of the wagon three times before I could stay out."

May 20th - "I must stop for today (writing)... trying to write walking... it won't do..."

May 21st - Agnes was talking again about how she missed her friend, Martha Hay - "O Martha would you see me now traveling in the hot sun and thinking of you... O Martha my heart years for thee my only friend and would I could see you would not ask more for many a day..." and now to add to her sense of loss, her sister Annie and her family fell behind because their wagons were to heavy and they could not keep up. Annie's husband refused to lighten the load and they never did catch up with the rest of the train. They ended up taking the southern route to California. It was a year before Agnes and the rest of the family heard from Annie and knew that they were safe and had settled in California.

Other members of the family making the crossing with them were her two sisters Elizabeth and Mary and their husbands Fred and John Warner. Fred and John were brothers and they had brought along their young brother Tom. Tom was seventeen years old and according Agnes' diary... "wild and impudent... Tom and Fred came to blows over a quarrel and I wished neither had come with them... Fred is overbearing and arrogant and between the two we have a sorry time."

Great granddaughter's (name unclarified) comments- "My father remembers his Grandfather Tom as being a man of methodical neatness. His creed was a place of everything and everyting in its place... Clyde was my Grandfather and I remember him as a kind and gentle man."

May 23 - "... It raining today and we cannot go on I very sick today and the pain in breast is not any better. I wish it was."

By May 24, the company had travelled as far as the Blue River (southern Nebraska). It was evident in her diary that the journey had begun to take a toll.

"We camped at a place on the Blue River where a woman had been buried and the wolves had dug her up. Her hair was there with a comb in it. She had been buried too shallow... I would as soon not be buried at all as to be dug out of my grave..."

"...It seems a dreadful fate," she continued, already accustomed to death along the trail, "but what is the difference? One can not feel after the spirit has flown."

June 3 - "Bad crossing - Mother while crossing the creek fell in and got all wet."

June 5 - Sabbath day. "I have been sick today borrowed some book from David Love. I wonder he would lend them to me under our present circumstances but he is better than I am and has ceased to care for me altogether." Mrs. Love and her three grown sons, David, James, and John left Allegheny City and traveled with the Stewarts to Oregon. The above quote is the only mention that they may have cared for each other. David married Agnes' sister Hellen on February 17, 1854. "Such a beautiful little valley the trees hang over our heads as if the giver of all things intended rest and peace for the weary traveler."

Agnes loved books. Her father brought with them four bibles and about ten other books that we know about. These books all went to Lane County safely while many other pioneer families got here with only their bibles. Bibles were kept at all costs because they were used for family records. The need to lighten loads often resulted in books being dumped along the trail.

Unknown date - "Some swearing I think they might do without that sinning their souls for no end. How plain we are told, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain and yete you would think there was no hereafter no god to serve."

And another- "This is the sabbath, how full our determination was not to travel on this day... impossible to help it but heart can be right even when travelling along we have just come across an awful place got safe over thought it was more than expected on the Sabbath Day. I wish the pain in my consicience was better but it will never get well."

Unknown date - "Yesterday was sabbath and we did not travel more 5 miles and to day is too windy so this is two days lost..."

June 6 - "We stopped at noon. There a grave dug up by wolves. Saw a rib lying in the place. Lizzy and I carried stones and filled up the hole again..."

On Agnes' twenty-first birthday, June 7, the company was camped near the South Fork of the Platte River. She sat on a hill above the camp while she wrote, and made note of the terrain, blanketed with multicolored flowers. "...and what have I done that is worthy of note... no one knows yet how strangely one feels on their birthday how every day makes us older... how often is the day celebrated by people rejoicing instead of serious thinking..."

June 8 - "... we had a dreadful storm last night..."

June 9 - "I like to sit and watch the dark shadows of clouds dancing and winding their way over the frowning and broken bluffs..."

June 13 - "... had platte river storm last night. I never saw such a storm but very seldom. All of the fellos had to turn out to watch the cattle for they ran from the hail."

June 14 - "...I am sure a hundred little birds nests built of moss and mud. It looks so pretty to see so many little creatures living so happy together..."

June 24 - "...two days ago it was so cold that we had snow so changeable it cannot be healthy..."

June 27 - "...It blows so hard we cannot proceed on our journey. The rain blows up in the most dreadful way."

July 4 - The Wagon Train had crossed the North Platte River. There was dancing and fiddle playing amongs the folks on the train. "...finished the 4th of July by dancing after Helen and I sitting on hill and moralizing so seriously came down and cut capers like a parcel of fools..." That night Agnes fell asleep and dreamed that she saw "the little black imps look over every one of these dark looking rocks..."

July 7 - "Such a long time since I wrote one word... in two days we get our first look at Oregon..." Conditions were getting worse. The wind was blowing hard and at times the dust was so thick they could not see through it. There had been ice on their water in the morning. The oxen were not faring well. They were sore footed and ther was not enough for them to eat. Some were dying. They had to stop to rest the cattle and let their feet heal. They stopped early on a Friday and stayed until late Saturday to rest the cattle before crossing the desert.

July 21- Sabbath Day. "I am weary... passed a grave yard today with ten graves in it side by side. They lie as peaceable as though the church bell tolled over their heads in some village."

July 24 - Sabbath Day. "O my patience I have not wrote any for so long a time I nearly forgot to know how so many things and strange places we have gone through... we are in bear valley tonight. How dreary everything is to me. I feel like saying that life to me is a weary dream. A dream alas that never wakes. We do not know what is before us or what is to be our lot in this world."

The company forged ahead, following the route previously travelled by Captain Miller (leader of the wagon train) until they reached Malheur Lake (eastern Oregon).

There, according to M.Y. (Mason) Warner, the band of travellers decided to follow a southerly route around the lake after a disagreement with Miller. The change in direction meant the group had to blaze their own trail across the high desert, over the Cascades and into the Upper Willamette Valley near Oakridge. Members of the company were reduced to near-starvation rations of rice and nearly inedible meat by the time they reached the end of the trail.

August 21, 1853 - "I am very weary of this journey of myself and all around me. I long for the quiet of home where I can be at peace once more..."

August 23 - "Well, well people talk of being in mud to the eyes but if we have not got dust to our eyes it is a strange thing to me... Campt (sic) on Barrel creek last night and we thought it was a nice place because we were out of the sand not withstanding. We could not walk for the dung and could not breath for the smell of dead oxen.

August 26 - Thursday. The Wagon Train camped beside the Boise River. They were at last close enough to their destination that they all felt that it would not be long now. What they did not know is that around October 9th would be the worst part of their journey.

Sept 8-9, 1853 - "We parted our company yesterday, the Stevensons and Buckenhams taking the old road, and the Loves and Stewarts taking the new road going south from the old one. Some say it is much nearer, and some say not. We will soon find out ... Camped beside the river, and cooked and ate under the willows. It was a beautiful spot, to me at least. Pack up and go again like a band of gypsies. ...up the Malheur, passed several bluffs and forded the river six times. Lost father and found him again." Agnes is now in the group that has become known as the Lost Wagon Train. They were going to take a cut-off that they have been told about and be lead through this cut-off by a man named Elijah Elliott. The cut-off had been named the Free Immigrant Trail. Mr. Elliot expected the cut-off road to have been slashed through and ready for his group to travel from the Deschutes River to Eugene. This was not the case and great hardship had to be endured because of this.

September 10 - Last entry in the diary- "begain to ascend to burnt river mountains or the blue mountains. I don't know which but one thing I do know is that they areserous hills to come up."

By late October, 1853, the last of the wagons in the lost train had been driven down to Lowell, along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. The river was forded more than forty times during the final leg of the journey.

Agnes married seventeen year-old Thomas Warner, also a member of the Lost Wagon Train, and bore five children. When C.B McFarland compiled information on the early history of the area, descendants of Agnes and Thomas Warner were living in Fall Creek and Eugene. Relatives later settled in the Oakridge area.

Sources - Excerpts from the diary of Agnes Stewart, an account by M.Y. Warner and historical information compiled by C. B. McFarland.

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