The Children of John Blackwell

Oregon Pioneer Biographies


An Extract From
The Children of John Blackwell
An American Odyssey
Peter Blackwell Preston
January 1999


Clement Cude Blackwell was the seventh of nine children of Joseph Blackwell and Mary (Polly) Wilkins. He was born on 6 April 1826 on Wolf Creek, a tributary of Duck River, in the area that became known as Blackwell Hollow, in the northwest corner of Hickman County, Tennessee, astride the Hickman County-Perry County line. Clement Cude was named for his maternal grandfather Clement Wilkins, and John Cude, a close family friend and neighbor on Duck River (for whom Cude's Bend is named).

About five miles west of Blackwell Hollow, in Perry County, lived the Samuel Morris family on the Red Bank Branch of the Buffalo River. Samuel Morris had been born in Maryland and was married to a Cherokee Indian who was given the name Mahala. Mahala was born in North Carolina and was given a birth date of 15 May 1789. Her Cherokee name was Singing Water (as in a rocky stream or bubbling spring). She and Samuel Morris, who died around 1839, apparently had many children, the last of which was Jane Morris. Jane and Clement Blackwell were married on 6 September 1846 at Beardstown (there is still a church at that location), now incorporated into the current town of Lobeiville, in Perry County, Tennessee. Widow Mahala Morris came to live with them in Blackwell Hollow.

Their first child Jesse was born in 1848; twins Thomas and James died soon after their birth in 1849. In the autumn of 1850, within a short time after the birth of Jeremiah (later known as Dick), the Clement Blackwell family moved far to the west to Franklin County, Arkansas, northwest of Little Rock. They joined their cousin Jesse Blackwell (b. c l808) who had moved there from Hickman County around 1841, as noted in Chapter 3. Accompanying their immediate family was widow Mahala and possibly Clement's parents, Joseph and Mary. In the next few years, three more children were born: Samuel 1851, Richard 1853, Nancy 1854. Clement's father Joseph is believed to have died in Franklin County in 1858.

In search of an improved environment, Clement Blackwell moved, in 1855, to Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Texas; however, their stay was only a little over a year then returned to Arkansas. On their return trip by wagon their daughter Perniece was born on 11 March 1856, somewhere in northeast Texas. Upon their return to Arkansas, they settled in the Ozark Mountains on the Johnson County-Newton County line, in the same community to which cousin Jesse (b. c1808) had moved from Franklin County. By 1863 the community was joined by the James M. Shields family (see Chapter 3).

Between 1858 and 1867, six more children were born to Clement and Jennie at this location. Clement's first son, Jesse, married Matilda Hudson on 14 July 1867. She was a daughter of Andrew Hudson, a neighboring farmer in Newton County. In the same year Matilda Hudson's sister Eliza was married to William (Bill) Marion Carter. Bill was born in Polk County, Tennessee, on 1 October 1844 and came to Arkansas at age seven with his parents Zion Bly Carter and Berthenia Wright Carter, who was born in Tennessee on 5 September 1822. During the Civil War, Bill Carter was a private in the Union Army, in Company E, 4th Arkansas Cavalry, under Colonel Moore and General Runnels. In 1872 Bill Carter's wife Eliza Hudson died of childbirth complications, leaving him with three small children: Benjamin 1868, Sarah 1869, James 1872. Bill Carter apparently knew the Blackwell's through the Hudson's. So the story goes, Bill met Perniece Blackwell in the peanut patch and they were married on 11 December 1872, when Perniece was age sixteen.

On 17 August 1869, Clement Blackwell's eldest daughter Nancy, then age 15, married Simon Howard, who was then age 25. Around this time Richard, Nancy's brother, married Martha C. Byrd. In addition to marriages, the Blackwell-Hudson relationship became a common fence line when Clement Blackwell purchased 130 acres adjacent to John Hudson on the Hudson Fork of the Buffalo River in Newton County, near Parthenon. The land was purchased from Ambrose R. McPherson on 20 December 1869.

The 1870 census indicated that Jesse and his family were living in a separate household near his father and family. A few months prior to the census, on 2 March 1870, Leona Emmaline Blackwell was born, the fifteenth and last child of Clement and Jennie (Jane) Blackwell. Family matriarch Mahala, then 81, was still living with them, however, she died on 22 January 1874, at age 84. Mahala was buried in the Union Cemetery, on the south side of the town of Cincinnati in Washington County, Arkansas, near the Oklahoma border. The reason for her burial at that location is unknown, as the site is far removed from the Blackwell homestead. There is the possibility that, knowing death was near, she was being taken to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to seek solace among the Cherokees.

The Blackwell Family Moves to Oregon

Early in 1875 Bill and Perniece Carter, she then pregnant with their second child, moved to Bill's mother's farm in Barry County, Missouri, a short distance north of the Arkansas-Missouri border. It appears that, commensurate with this move, the extended family of Clement Blackwell made plans to move to Oregon, which began on 5 April. All the 20 members of Clement's extended family in Arkansas, and the James M Shields family, were involved in the move. From their farms in the Ozark Mountains they headed northward toward Independence, Missouri, with mule-drawn wagons, where they would head west on the Oregon Trail. Enroute to Independence the Blackwell's stopped at the Carter farmstead in Barry County to await the birth, on 24 April 1875, of Perniece Blackwell Carter's second child Maude. With a few days' rest for Perniece, the seven Carter's joined the wagon train, making the number 27 Blackwell-Carter's for the trek west.

Contemporary accounts indicate that five or six wagons would be used by the 27 Blackwell's for their supplies and furnishings to establish a new community in the western frontier. During the formation of a full wagon train in Independence, Clement Blackwell, then age 49, was elected captain of a train of some 50 wagons. According to Clement's very brief account, they "started across the plains with teams," bound for Oregon and that "the journey was consummated without accident or incident."

Although in 1875 the Oregon Trail had been established for some 30 years, and the transcontinental railroad had been completed in 1869, it was still a harsh and dangerous venture to travel those 2000 miles by wagon through hostile territory. This was the time period of the major Indian wars. Their route west took them up the Platte River, along the path of the railroad and the old Overland Stage Road, through Cheyenne and Laramie which, according to Clement's account, were the only places en route where supplies could be obtained. In the vicinity of Fort Bridger in southwestern Wyoming they picked up the Oregon Trail which took them northwesterly along the Snake River.

The Oregon Trail crossed the Snake River, from south to north, at Three Island Crossing, the current site of Glenn's Ferry in southwestern Idaho. It was here that Clement's son Sam Blackwell left the wagon train with a sack of flour and a few supplies to make his own way. Sam became a prosperous cattle rancher and his descendants still live in the area of Glenn's Ferry.

The Carter family bible includes a notation that as they continued along the Snake River, "the wagon train rested for two weeks at Boise City", noting that there was one store there. Recent investigations by the Idaho State Historical Society indicate that this resting place would have been at the town of Middleton, which was known as "Lower Boise." There was a ferry near Middleton, operated by "French John" Carrey who had migrated from France in 1872. The situation strongly suggests that he met the Blackwell family there, in 1875, as four years later, in 1879, he married Clement's daughter Mary in Grant County, Oregon.

Oregon Trail Historian Sarah LeCompte, at the Baker City Interpretive Center, says that from the Boise area the Blackwell clan probably followed the Malheur River west to the present village of Drewsey, then northwesterly to Silvies and north to John Day, which became their destination, arriving there in late September of 1875. The journey from Arkansas to Grant County, Oregon, had taken the better part of six months. In 1875 John Day and neighboring Canyon City were mining communities populated by some 300 Chinese and very few Anglos. At that time there was one store in John Day, operated by a man named Hackney. The Bill Carter family lived on a small ranch (a squatter's claim) on the John Day River for three years before moving north, in 1878, to the area of Long Creek in central Grant County.

The Clement Blackwell family spent the winter of 1875-76 in Fox Valley, north of John Day, where there was living only one other family. The Blackwell's survived the winter on very meager rations. Fox Valley is so named because the Blackwell boys trapped blue foxes there. The next year (1876) Clement rented a farm near John Day, then moved north again to Long Creek where he established the family homestead in 1877. The Blackwell homestead was located three miles east of the crossroads at Long Creek village and remains in family ownership. At that time Long Creek Valley was mostly vacant, with only a small store operated by Joe Keeney and the homestead of Tom Scroggins and his father which was settled at the same time as the Blackwell's. When Clement moved to Long Creek, Jesse Blackwell, Clement's oldest son, and his family departed, moving first to Bakersfield, California, for a year, then returned to Newton County, Arkansas. The reason for their return to Arkansas is not known, but is suspected to be homesickness for the Hudson family.

An overview of the history of the John Day area, as well as all of eastern Oregon, is found in An Illustrated History of Baker, Grant, Malheur, and Harney Counties, 1902, which includes historical sketches of Clement Blackwell and William Carter. A personalized view of the history of Grant County is found in Gold and Cattle Country (1961) by the late rancher Herman Oliver who lived in the south part of Grant County. In Oliver's book there is no mention of the Blackwell-Carter families, but the flyleaf to the book, shown on page 9-4, includes a number of cattle brands of the Blackwell's, Carter's, and related families. Click here to view a sampling of the brands.

The Blackwell's and the Indian Wars

The establishment of the Blackwell homestead in eastern Oregon was not with- out problems in this frontier country. By the mid-1870's Anglo settlement in traditional Indian hunting and foraging areas in the Northwest began to disrupt the Indians' food gathering and resulted in hunger. By 1878, said Clement Blackwell, he had lost all but one horse to Indian trouble. The "Indian trouble" began when the U.S. Government abrogated the treaties of 1863 and 1873 with the Nez Perce Nation, inciting some Nez Perce bands to war with Anglo settlers in northeast Oregon in the summer of 1877. Those incidents led to the now- famous long march and eventual surrender of the Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph, in Montana on 5 October 1877. The Nez Perce war had an unsettling effect on other tribal groups in the Northwest. Thus, when Anglo settlement began destruction of the camas lily, a food staple growing on the Camas Prairie 90 miles southeast of Boise, a "war" began with the wounding of two settlers in the spring of 1878. This was the beginning of what came to be known as the Bannack-Paiute War.

As the Bannack-Paiute War unfolded, the Indians, numbering around 700, included Bannacks, Paiutes, and Umatillas. The number of warriors was about 450. The mounted Indians headed west from Idaho to the Steens Mountains of southeastern Oregon where they were joined by other Paiute bands. On 23 June 1878 the First Cavalry routed the Indians from the Steens Mountains and they began moving northward "through tortuous terrain of the upper branches of the John Day River, skirmishing with militia and pillaging ranches." The Blackwell homestead on Long Creek was along the Indians' northward move, as they "pushed hard to stay ahead of the Cavalry." The Blackwell ranch was attacked on 2 July, during which livestock was killed or driven off and buildings were burned.

The following account of the attack on the Blackwell ranch is from an oral history of Herman Blackwell, son of Clement Washington Blackwell and grandson of Clement Cude Blackwell. As Herman was not born at the time of the incident, his account presumably results from family stories. Herman said, "When we got to Oregon the Indian Wars broke out. They [the Blackwell's] built a fort. If it hadn't been for that the Indian's would've killed all of us. They sent my dad's brother [Henry] out to scout to see where these Indians were. They [the Indians] shot his horse out from under him; killed his horse but he made it back to the fort." Henry Yowell Blackwell, then age 19, was a private in the Oregon Militia, in Captain Frank Maddox's Company, and the Oregon Cavalry in Captain Green's company. He was a pension claimant, as James Y. Blackwell, in 1928 for his service in the 1878-79 Indian wars.

Close on the heels of the marauding Indians, the lead units of the First Cavalry camped in Fox Valley on 2 July, the day of the Long Creek attack, arriving in Long Creek the following day. Cavalryman F.W. Mayer recorded in his diary for 3 July, "found settlers in stockade and rancho's burnt." With knowledge that the Indians were heading their way, the Blackwell's and other Long Creek residents, had hastily built a log fort (noted above) on 20 June. As shown on the location sketch on page 9-6, the fort stood on the north side of the Long Creek road, about a half mile east of the Highway 395 intersection. The fort was built over a spring to ensure an adequate water supply and was occupied beginning 28 June in preparation for an attack. The logs of which the fort was built were later used to build the Craven house about a mile northeast of the Long Creek cemetery. The house was subsequently occupied by the Chapman family, but the house has long since fallen apart.

After leaving the Blackwell ranch, the Indians continued northward toward the Umatilla reservation. On 8 July the Cavalry found the Indians on the bluffs on Birch Creek near Pilot Butte and routed them in a decisive skirmish. Another skirmish on 12 July, and other small skirmishes in the few days thereafter, saw the scattering of the Indians in small bands and the end of the Bannack-Paiute War of 1878. A few "renegades" of this war were involved the following year in the Sheepeater War in the Salmon River Mountains of central Idaho.

Another account of the Indian attack at Long Creek, by newspaper editor W.O. Harryman in the 30 January 1903 issue of the Long Creek Light, suggests that the incident was not as described above. Mr. Harryman wrote, "the Indians passed by without making an attack, satisfying themselves by driving off all stock in their reach." But it is known that buildings were also burned from the detailed account in the cavalryman's diary, noted above. Mr Harryman's account has Henry Blackwell riding up to the fort from John Day immediately after the attack and was mistaken for an Indian and would have been killed had Jim Macy's rifle not misfired. Another twist to the story told by Tom Scroggins says that Jim Macy was so excited about shooting an "Indian" that he could not get his rifle pointed through the porthole of the fort. Whatever the truth, the Blackwell's and others in Long Creek were involved in an exciting event.

Soon after the Indian attack at Long Creek, the Bill Carter family moved from the squatter farm on the John Day River to establish a homestead on Long Creek where he became a prosperous and well respected cattle rancher. Around this time also, Bill Carter's widowed mother Berthena Carter (1822-1902) disposed of her farm in Barry County, Missouri, and came west to join her son's family. Berthena brought with her Bill's sister Sarah and younger brother R.W. (Woods) Carter. Bill's mother bought a farm in adjacent Fox Valley on which she lived until around 1900. Bill's sister Sarah married Charles Ballance, of Long Creek, in 1881. Charles' first wife Eliza died in 1877 and was the first person to be buried in the Long Creek Cemetery, located on one of the original family homesteads. The cemetery now contains seven generations of Blackwell's and Carters.

The Early Long Creek Community - Click here to view Early Long Creek Ranch Map

By the end of 1878 there were about a dozen families settled in the area of Long Creek. The James M. Shields family arrived that year, whose daughter Fannie married young Clem Blackwell, and whose son Julius married Annie Blackwell. The Shields' had traveled across the plains by wagon in 1875 along with the Carter's and Blackwell's. Homes were built of logs hauled from the nearby mountains and were roofed with handmade shakes. Settlers helped one another; there were no jobs or wages. Foodstuffs were grown in home gardens. Cattle, hogs, and sheep were driven to market at Heppner or The Dalles, at distances of 50 to 100 miles. On the return trip supplies were brought by wagons driven by early teamsters Dan Morrow, and "French John" Carrey, who married Mary Blackwell in 1879.

The first business in Long Creek was the general store built by Joe Keeney, which was purchased by Edward Allen about 1882. About that time a saloon was established, followed by a feed stable, a hotel, and other small businesses. The Long Creek Post Office was established in 1883, with James M. Shields as postmaster. The Williams and Blackman water-powered flour mill was built about a mile from town in 1885. By 1902 there were two general stores, a grocery and drug store, a jewelry store, the Monumental Hotel, a livery stable, two blacksmith shops, a butcher store, a harness and saddle store, and a newspaper. The 1993 book, In the Land of Bunch Grass, Gold, and Trees, by Blackwell-Carter descendant Reiba Carter Smith and co-author Louetta Zumwalt Shaw, has details of the early history of the Long Creek community. Of general interest is a letter written in 1888 by Clement Blackwell to his cousin Jackson Blackwell (see Chapter 6) in Hickman County, Tennessee. This letter was found in the possessions of one of Jackson Blackwell's descendants.

Clement Blackwell's family history statement, made in 1902, notes that his children were living in the following locations:

  1. Jesse Blackwell and family were in Newton County, Arkansas (later moved to Oklahoma)

  2. Jeremiah (Dick) Blackwell in Sparta, a mining community in Baker County, Oregon, on the south flank of the Blue Mountains.

  3. Samuel Blackwell, a cattle rancher near Glenn's Ferry, Idaho

  4. Richard Blackwell, a cattle rancher near Hamilton, Oregon

  5. Nancy Blackwell Branson, wife of Samuel F Branson, near Long Creek

  6. Perniece Carter, wife of rancher Bill Carter, near Long Creek

  7. Joseph Blackwell, at Sumpter, a mining community in Baker County, Oregon

  8. Henry (James) Blackwell, a cattle buyer at Burns, Oregon

  9. Mary Blackwell Carrey Dustin, wife of Bailey O. Dustin, at Sparta, Oregon; then in 1905 moved to the mining town of Warren, Idaho

  10. Clement W. Blackwell was in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1902; then moved that same year to Meadows, Idaho; to Warren, Idaho, in 1903, then to McCall, Idaho, in 1905 to remain for life.

  11. Jane Blackwell, wife of James Criswell, near Long Creek, Oregon

  12. John L. Blackwell, living with his parents at Long Creek

  13. Leona Blackwell Turk, wife of Edwin E (Ned) Turk, had been living near Long Creek when she died in 1900.

A more complete list of family members is included at the end of this chapter. The majority of Clement Blackwell's children remained in the vicinity of Long Creek, except those noted below. Family patriarch Clement Cude Blackwell died on 7 June 1906, at age 80, and is buried in the Long Creek cemetery. His wife Jennie (Jane Morris) died on 9 August 1914 and is likewise buried in the Long Creek cemetery.

Notes About Clement's Children Who Departed Long Creek Area

Jesse Almon Blackwell, Clement's first child, was born in Hickman County, Tennessee, in 1848. In the summer of 1850 Clement moved his family, including Jesse, to Franklin County, Arkansas. The family moved in 1855 to Fort Worth, Texas, then returned to Arkansas in 1856 to settle in the Ozark Mountains in the south end of Newton County. It was there that Jesse met and married Matilda Hudson on 14 July 1867. She was the daughter of neighbor Andrew Hudson. Jesse and Matilda, and their four children, journeyed to Oregon in 1875, along with Clement's extended family. Jesse and his family stayed in Oregon only two years then struck out on their own in 1878, going first to Bakersfield, California, for a year before returning to Newton County, Arkansas. Jesse and his family continued to move periodically, to Kiowa County, Kansas, about 1884, to Oklahoma in 1889, and back to Newton County, Arkansas, before 1902. At a later date Jesse and Matilda moved once more to Claremore, Oklahoma, where Jesse died in 1930 and Matilda in 1936.

Jeremiah (Dick) Blackwell (1857-1927) married Mary E. Parkinson (1856-1944) in Grant County, Oregon, on 23 August 1880. They are both buried in the Eagle Valley Cemetery at Richland, Oregon. They had nine children. Sometime prior to 1902 they had moved to the mining town of Sparta (now a ghost town) in Union County, Oregon, where Dick raised cattle. Sparta had a short life as a town of some 3000 people, with gold mining almost at an end by 1900; however, stock ranching continued in the area. The Sparta post office, established in 1872, was discontinued in 1952. Dick Blackwell's daughter-in-law, Lucinda Blackwell was Sparta postmistress form 10 Feb 1914 to 26 Apr 1924.

Clement (Clem) Washington Blackwell (1863-1951) married Lenora Frances (Fannie) Shields in Long Creek, Oregon, on 3 February 1885. Fannie was the daughter of Long Creek storekeeper-postmaster James M. Shields. They had two children, Herman and George. In 1900 they moved to Walla Walla, Washington, then in 1902 moved to Meadows, Idaho. Clem bought a band of sheep which he drove to the mining town of Warren, Idaho, and sold the meat to miners. Clem then operated a hotel-boarding house near Warren, in which Fannie ran the dining room. In 1905 they moved to McCall, Idaho, where Clem began a successful acquisition of businesses, including a hotel, saloon, butcher shop, cattle ranch, and part interest in the McCall sawmill. Their house, which occupied the site of the McCall Public Library, was the first house in McCall constructed of sawed lumber. Fannie died in McCall in 1928. Herman's daughter, Marie Blackwell Strode lives in McCall. George's son James Blackwell lives in Boulder City, Nevada.

Mary Mahala Blackwell (1 862-1928) first married John Carrey (nee Jean Carre'), known as "French John," on 25 April 1879 in Long Creek, Oregon. John Carrey had arrived in New Orleans, from his native France, on 18 May 1872, on the SS "Frankfurt." He made his way west where he built a toll road in the southwest corner of Idaho, from the mining area of South Mountain northerly along Succor Creek to the Snake River where he built a ferry crossing near Boise, as described in Owyhee Cattlemen by Mildretta Adams, 1978. It was at this ferry that he probably met the Blackwell family in 1875, and later moved to Grant County, Oregon, where he married Mary. They had a cattle ranch in Fox Valley, immediately south of Long Creek. They had nine children, three of whom died in a diphtheria epidemic in 1890. John Carrey died of pneumonia on 13 May 1896. Mary married a second time to Bailey O. Dustin. In 1902 they were living in Sparta, Oregon, near Mary's older brother Jeremiah (Dick), noted above. In 1905 Mary and Bailey Dustin left Sparta, crossed the Snake River at the Brownlee ferry, and made their way to Warren, Idaho, where they replaced Mary's brother Clem and his wife Fannie (noted above) as hostelers. They acquired a small ranch on the South Fork of the Salmon River, which became the base of operation for a mail carrier contract beginning in 1910 and was a family business until 1944. Mary's sons were involved in the mail-freight business, mining in Warren, and cattle-sheep ranching on the South Fork. Mary's living grandchildren include rancher-author John Carrey of Riggins, Idaho, and Marjorie McCall Deasy of Boise, Idaho; and great granddaughter Sally Preston of Mathews, Virginia.

(Note: An expanded history of the Blackwell's, and related families, of the area of McCall and Warren, Idaho, will be published as a separate document)

The Children of Clement Cude Blackwell and Jane Morris:

  1. Jesse Almon, b. TN 06 Apr 1827, d. OK 26 Apr 1930, m. Matilda Hudson, m. AR 14 Jul 1867.

  2. Thomas Jefferson, b. TN 07 Mar 1849, d. TN 11 Oct 1849

  3. James Madison, b. TN 07 Mar 1849, d. TN 13 Mar 1849

  4. Jeremiah Williams (Dick), b. TN 05 Jun 1850, d. OR 06 May 1927, m. Mary Parkinson, m. OR 23 Aug 1880

  5. Samuel Benton (Sam), b. AR 29 Dec 1851, d. ID 1939, m. l. Ermina Johnson, m. 2. Clara Dora Ethell, m. 3. Margaret Hyland

  6. Richard Solomon, b. AR 11 Apr 1853, d. OR 08 Jul 1937, m. l. Martha Byrd (in AR), m. 2. Margaret Cobb in OR 10 Sep 1885

  7. Nancy Elizabeth (Nance), b. AR 27 Feb 1854, d. WA 1934, m. l. Simon Howard, AR, 17 Aug 1869, m. 2. Samuel F. Branson

  8. Perniece Paralee (Niecie), b. TX 10 Mar 1856, d. OR 09 Feb 1949, m. William M. Carter (Civil War, Union Army Pvt., Co. E, 4th AR Cavalry)

  9. Joseph Rosa, b. AR 01 Mar 1858, d. OR 14 Apr 1945, m. Sarah Wainscott, m. OR 27 Feb 1878

  10. Henry Yowell ("James"), b. AR 12 May 1859, d. OR 1934, m. l. Ada Beason c l885 OR, m. 2. Lillian Lloyd

  11. Mary Mahala, b. AR 16 Mar l862, d. ID 03 May l928, m. l. John Carrey, 25 Apr 1879, OR (died), m. 2. Bailey O. Dustin, 22 Apr 1897

  12. Clement Washington (Clem), b. AR 16 Aug 1863, d. ID 16 Aug 1951, m. Lenora F. Shields (Fannie), m. OR 03 Feb 1885

  13. Martha Jane (Jane), b. AR 23 Mar 1865, d. OR 17 Nov 1949, m. James L. Criswell, m. OR 04 Jul 1883

  14. John Lyon, b. AR 16 Mar 1867, d. OR 16 Nov 1922, m. Mattie Settle, m. OR 07 Jan 1903

  15. Leona Emmaline, b. AR 02 Mar 1870, d. OR 18 Mar 1900, m. Edward E. Turk, m. OR 08 May 1890

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