Oregon Pioneer Biographies - Emeline Trimble

Oregon Pioneer Biographies


Emeline's story: "Left By The Indians"
Summary and excerpts
Submitter: CiCi (Robinson) Morse

Emeline Trimble and her family left Wisconsin in 1860 to go to Oregon. On the way, their wagon train was attacked by Indians, and Emeline was the only survivor in her family. Near death, she and a few others were finally found and escorted to Fort Walla Walla. Soon after, she was taken to live with her Trimble relatives in Linn County, Oregon. Many years later, she was asked to write the story of her life. She called it "Massacred by the Indians," a series of articles in the"Pardeeville Times" in Wisconsin. The first article appeared June 7, 1890. In this summary, comments in parentheses were added by the submitter.

Emeline was the oldest of three children born to Hiram and Abegal (Payne) Trimble. She was born in 1847, her brother, Christopher, in 1850, and sister "Libbie" in 1852. The first unfortunate event in Emeline's life took place as the family was preparing to leave Wisconsin for Iowa in 1852. As her father was driving a nail into the wagon to hold a pail for water, the nail flew out and struck Emeline in the eye - causing nearly total loss of vision in her right eye. Next, after arriving in Iowa, both parents became ill with typhoid, from which her father did not recover. A short time after the family returned to Wisconsin, Emeline's brother accidentally cut off one of her fingers while chopping wood. (Yet, as unhappy as these events were, those to come would be worse.)

In 1858, Her mother married Elijah Utter. He was a widower with six children. The next year, a baby daughter was born. The parents often talked of going to Oregon "to make themselves a home, and settle their numerous family in homes adjoining their own in that broad country, where settlers were so much needed to till the lands,..." On May 1, 1860, they were ready to leave.

"Although tears were in our eyes at the thought of parting with our friends and relatives, still we were hopeful..., But I shall never forget the tearful faces of my dear old grandparents as they stood at the end of the lane,... with tears streaming down their wrinkled faces..." (they were Christopher and Elizabeth (Dawson) Payne; Christopher's brother, Aaron, had settled in Yamhill Co., OR in 1847).

On the first day out, they were joined by three other teams which included John Myers, Michael Myers, and Edward Prine. Additional teams joined them along the way so that they had a large train by the time they reached Fort Laramie. From there, a large part of the train took the California cutoff. "...then we were left more lonely than before. We had felt the severity of traveling with such a large number..., but how soon all changed when we parted with our friends of the California train, and traveled westward, knowing that we were every day nearing the dangerous part of our journey." At Fort Hall, they felt that it was unsafe to go further alone and requested that soldiers be assigned to escort them. While waiting for their escort, the Commander of Ft. Hall, Col. Howe, requested that the women and girls come to a dance. They refused, and the Col., being upset, refused to send men with the train. He later changed his mind, but instructed the soldiers not to go more than half as far as they had with the previous train. "The soldiers, when they turned back, told us that we were just in the edge of danger." (a few soldiers who had been discharged, and one who had deserted, continued on with the train). About a week later, a small group of Indians visited and would not leave the camp until they had been told to do so several times. After this, the train traveled several days without disturbance. Then, at Salmon Falls on the Snake River, the same Indians who had visited before appeared. They were still friendly, but the travelers were worried as they were being followed. Another week went by with few incidents. Then, on Sept. 9, 1860, "As we came up the hill and turned down towards Snake river again, we came in full sight of the Indians, who were singing their war songs, and their shrill war whoop I can never forget." The train quickly formed into a circle.

Shortly, the Chief rode up and indicated that the group could move on. After the noon meal, they started off again. "The last wagon had hardly started before they commenced their terrible war songs and dancing again, and coming toward us all the time. We corralled our wagons as soon as possible, but before we could get the last one in place, the man who was driving was shot dead. His name was Lewis Lawson, from Iowa. Shortly after two more were killed, Mr. Utley and Mr. Kithual. We fought them all that afternoon all of that long, awful night, picking them off as often as we could get a chance. We had no chance to get away under cover of night, as they were watchful, and if they heard the least noise would commence whooping and shooting at us." Believing that they were all going to die, they made plans to try to escape.

"There were with us three discharged soldiers from Fort Hall, and the deserter..., They were mounted on horses and were to go ahead and clear the way for us..., But instead of doing so, the discharged soldiers put spurs to their horses..., and galloped off..., The deserter stayed as long as he could and stand any chance to save himself, and then taking with him the Reath brothers, Joseph and Jacob, they left..., In the horrible tumult of the fight we did not see them go."

"The Indians now seemed to redouble their frenzy and showered upon us a continual fire, until it seemed impossible to escape. The first one to fall there was John Myers,... then my oldest step-sister, Mary Utter. The next one to go was my step-father, who had his baby, one year old that day, in his arms..., We gave up then,... leaving our wagons, we started, each one for himself." Emeline's mother refused to leave with them. Emeline left with the baby and four of the younger children. "I turned and ran a little way, and looked back, and they had all been shot down,..." At the age of thirteen, Emeline was faced with taking care of five younger children. They left without provisions and very little clothing. This was late in the day of Sept. 10, 1860.

They joined a few others who had fled as well. They were terrified of being followed. They stayed away from the trail, traveling at night and attempted to cover their tracks. "Words can not describe my agony as I looked on the faces of my little brothers and sisters, poor orphans now, and heard them cry pitiously for father and mother, and if possible worse yet, cry for bread when I had none to give them." The Indians followed them for the better part of four days. Then, feeling somewhat safer, the party began to travel by day. They ate whatever they could find to sustain them, including the two dogs that escaped with them. When they reached the Owyhee river, they camped. Unable to go further due to weakness from hunger and exposure, they attempted to survive until someone would rescue them.

After some time, Indians, who seemed friendly, approached them and invited them to come to their camp. The invitation was declined. However, Emeline's brother, Christopher, volunteered to go to the Indian Camp, as he was afraid that harm would come to the survivors if he did not. "He was a brave little fellow, and although only eleven years of age, had before started with a man by the name of Goodsel to see if they could not reach the fort and bring us help,..." On the way, they met the deserter soldier and the Reath boys who had taken the wrong trail and were coming back to find the right one. "When they heard that we were starving they killed their horse and roasted it.." They sent Christopher back with all that he could carry. Mr. Goodsel went with the others to find the fort and get help.

Now, Christopher went with the Indians to their camp. The others feared that the Indians would come back and kill them. Some of the group decided to try and reach Fort Walla Walla. Mr. Vanornam and family, Mr. Gleason, and Charles and Henry Utter - Emeline's step-brothers. The Indians did return three days later, as agreed, and brought food. "Mr. Chase ate so much of it that he was taken with the hiccough and died..., My poor sister Libbie, nine years old, used to help me gather buffalo chips for fuel, and rosebuds, pusly and other things to eat." One day, Libbie fell behind when they were returning to camp. Emeline went back to find her, and asked her why she did not answer when called. "She said, 'I could not talk I felt too bad,' and before night she was dead." On one of the visits that Christopher and the Indians made, there was a discussion of when the soldiers would come to rescue them. The Indians seemed alarmed to hear about the soldiers, and left soon after - taking Christopher with them. Several days went by and Christopher did not return. Emeline went to look for him but upon reaching the Indian camp, saw no one there. "The next day Mr. Myers took the trail which went from our camp to theirs, and had not gone far when he found where the wolves had dragged something along, and soon he found some of his hair, and then he knew that my brother had been killed by the Indians and his body torn to pieces by the wolves..., I thought I had passed through all the suffering which I could endure, and God knows how I longed to lie down and die and be at rest, but it was not to be so, nor had I drained the cup to the dregs yet."

As starvation continued to take its toll, "We became almost frantic. Food we must have, but how should we get it? Then an idea took possession of our minds which we could not even mention to each other, so horrid, so revolting to even think of, but the awful madness of hunger was upon us, and we cooked and ate the bodies of each of the poor children,..." Later, they dug up the body of Mr. Chase with the intention of eating him as well, but the soldiers arrived just in time.

"One of the Reath boys came back with two companies of soldiers..., Upon nearing us, they found a sad site." The Indians had "...killed Mr. and Mrs.
Vanornam, their son Mark, Samuel Gleason, and the last of our family except myself, Charles and Henry Utter." Several appeared to have been tortured before they died, and the four youngest Vanornam children had been kidnapped.

"I was out after fuel as usual, when I saw the soldiers coming, but was too weak to feel much joy at seeing them. They rode up to me and a few dismounted, and coming to me asked if I did not want something to eat. I answered that I did not care. Tears stood in every eye as one of the officers gave me a part of a biscuit..., I could not have lived many days longer if help had not reached us."
The survivors were taken to Fort Walla Walla where Emeline stayed until her cousin from Salem, Oregon came to get her. "It was now about the middle of December, 1860. Cousin took me to his sister's who had married Mr. T. J.
Pomeroy. My cousin's father, Edward Trimble, was killed on the plains in 1846 by the Indians. From Salem, I went to Linn Co., Oregon, to my only relatives in Oregon that I had ever seen before. Uncle Pierce H. Trimble (was this Alexander P. Trimble?) and his family moved to Oregon in 1853 from Walworth Co., Wisconsin." Part of the time Emeline stayed with Mr. W. W. Allingham's family. She goes on to talk about the kindness of the people in Washington and Oregon, how they provided for her, and the beauty of the country. "If father, mother, brothers and sisters had only been with me, my joy would have been complete; but they were gone, and with all that beauty spread before me, I could not help but turn my longing heart toward them, and weep in loneliness..., Nobody know how hard it was."

Emeline stayed in Linn Co. for about two years, then went to Monmouth, Polk Co. where she attended the Christian College. After two terms, she returned to Linn Co. On Nov. 12, 1863, she and John M. Wheitman were married (her name on the wedding license is Lucinda Emeline Trimble). Shortly after her marriage, "I received a letter from my mother's uncle, Rev. Aaron Payne of Yamhill Co., Oregon. His brother (Adam) was a Quaker preacher, and Blackhawk's first victim (in 1832). They captured him on his way to his appointment. He carried no arms, according to the Quaker custom. The Indians said he was a brave man to travel there in this way; but even this heroic spirit did not prevent them from taking his defenseless head and carrying it on a pole. Rev. A. (Aaron) Payne had been a widower since 1847.

His family had all died with the consumption, except one son (William)." Emeline and her husband went to live on Aaron's place for two years, then to Aaron's property in Tillamook Co. before taking a "pre-emption" joining Aaron's place. They lived in that area for five years. The Coast Range of mountains "...are covered with the finest timber that can be found. The timber in Wis. looked like shrubbery beside those great trees. The fruit was abundant and delicious. The climate was very mild..., It is a great place for fishing and boating..."
In 1870, they sold their property in Tillamook Co. and moved to Eastern Oregon for about two years. After this they moved into Washington Territory.

"We farmed, kept a store and stage stand, or travelers' home. Many of the officers and soldiers of the late war stopped with us; Generals Howard and Wheaton I remember well..., After the death of my husband our property there was sold and passed into the hands of strangers, and now there is a city on our old place..., Since I returned to Wis. Mr. Melvin Fuller of Pardeeville, Wis., and I were married. He was a widower with seven children at home." After four years, they separated as Emeline had some problems with the older children (apparently she never had children of her own). "Now I live beside my Uncle Payne, and his family in Marshfield, Wis..., In 1861 I was converted to God and joined the Close Communion Baptist church. Since then I have found Jesus to be a 'friend that sticketh closer than a brother..., I shall meet my dear ones some sweet day in that beautiful heaven beyond,

Far from a world of grief and sin;
With God eternally shut in."

Recommended Reading:
"Left By The Indians," by Emeline L. Fuller and "Massacre On The Oregon Trail in the Year 1860: A Tale of Horror, Cannibalism & Three Remarkable Children," by Carl Schlicke, 1988, Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington
"Utter Disaster on the Oregon Trail," by Donald Shannon (available through OCTA)

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Copyright © 2000 by CiCi (Robinson) Morse, for ORGenWeb