Bob Hembree 11819 Maple st. Whittier, ca. 90601
10th Edition January 1992
Next year the State of Oregon will be celebrating the anniversary of the wagon trains, which brought about the settlement of the state, thus it seems an appropriate time to relate something of the life of Hembree families who went there. To do so, I chose to write about three monuments erected to family members who were also members of “The Applegate Wagon Train”. I hope to visit the monuments to Absalom and Joel Jasper this summer.
Upright monuments especially in larger cemeteries are almost a thing of the past. Like the liberal idea of spreading the wealth to make everyone the same, the flat headstones of exact size and shape may be ideal in making everything seem the same. Maybe great for mowing machines but they accomplish little to nothing in expressing the personality of the deceased, as did the older cemetery with the varied style of tombstones. More likely they probably expressed the personality of the survivors who thought it appropriate to the personality of a loved one. Whichever, a visit to and older cemetery can be an interesting experience, the craftsmanship in some of the tombstones, the expressions of love in verse, or the simple chiseling of a name and or date of passing of a lost one, the monuments tell a story, and with a little imitation you can go back in time and have a pleasant visit, even in a cemetery. Be advised to wear boots in the older cemeteries, the weeds can get tall.
In 1842 the first wagon train (19 wagons) arrived in Oregon but it was late October & early November 1843 when the large train, crossed the Columbia River and made there way into and around the general area now known as Portland, with little time to find space or prepare a shelter before the winter storms. Moving to land claims would wait till the spring of 1844 for most of the settlers.
Approximately 120 wagons, 5000 head of cattle, 850 to 1000 people, depending upon which report you read, headed west from Independence MO to make up what was known as the Applegate Wagon Train. Among them were several members of the family of James Hembree and his wife, Nancy. 1. Joel Jordan Hembree and his wife, Sally Paine and their eight children. 2. Absalom Jefferson Hembree (bro. To Joel) and his wife Nancy Dodson and their three children. 3. Sarah Elizabeth Hembree Pennington (sister to Joel & Absalom) and her husband John Barton Pennington and one daughter. (Another daughter, Mary Jane born enroute, at Ash Hollow, N. Platte, Utah Territory) 4. Uncle Andrew Thompson Hembree (brother of James Hembree) and his wife Martha McCoy. 5. Wayman C. Hembree, son of Joel and Sally. 6. James Thomas Hembree, also a son of Joel and Sally.
It is said the early settlement of this country simply followed the bees into the interior, by merely extending a relatively short distance into the frontier. The opening of Oregon to settlement was 2000 miles from civilization, mostly unexplored territory. Today it’s only a few hours by air, with all the comforts of home, yet I’m sure there are people receiving this newsletter who have never made the trip.
The Applegate Wagon Train was the second major migration westward and was six months and ten days on the road. That they were brave souls goes without saying and probably few among them that were not heroes, but they were not the Hollywood version of the solitary hero fighting the entire Indian nation. In fact, no major problems with the Indians occurred enroute, possibility because of the large number of armed men included within the train. They were fairly large family units moving together and unlike many of the earlier settlers, those that went to Oregon in the beginning were mostly educated people, generally of some wealth. To further make the point, one member of the wagon train was Peter H. Burnett, who later went south and became the first governor of California. At least the Hembree’s on that train were educated family members, who upon arrival in the territory became successful farmers, Judges, Politicians, Storekeepers, etc.
JOEL JORDAN HEMBREE, Since Joel & Sally were part of the wagon train, and the parents of two of those to whom the monuments were erected, I’ll also give their history. Joe, b. 7 Dec 1804 Spartanburg, SC moved with his family to Warren / White County, Tennessee and there on 20 December 1825 married Sally Paine, and before leaving Tennessee had six children, all boys. From Tennessee they moved to Polk County MO (later Dade County), (Sec. 21, Twn. 32, Range 25) 40 acres, where Sally continued the presentation of a male offspring, her seventh. Their eighth child was also born there, a daughter. One child was born enroute to Oregon and three children were born in Yamhill County, Oregon after their settlement near Lafayette. Total, 12 children, 8 boys & 4 girls. Following the death of Sally on 15 March 1854, Joel married Mrs. Letitia Woolery. (See chart for complete family makeup).
The year 1843 must have been a memorial year in their lives as their daughter. Sarah died in February 1843 before departing MO, son Joel Jasper was killed in route to Oregon, and nine days later, Sally gave birth to daughter Nancy Jane in Utah territory.
That Joel and Sally were among Oregon’s earliest settlers is evidenced by their Donation Land Claim Certificate #116. Sec. 34 & 35. T3S, R4W and Sec. 2 & 3, T4S, R4W. (640 ac). Joel was a merchant as well as a farmer and operated a general merchandise store in McMinnville, Oregon for many years. Though successful, his will is evidence that he was not without some concern, as he knew not the whereabouts of one son, Huston. Joel’s will and the administration of it, is a genealogists dream. It sets forth his family, location and years of residence for each, etc. If Joel ever saw the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean I do not know, but he was born in Spartanburg, SC, which is about the same distance from the Atlantic as McMinnville, Oregon where he died on 8 September 1868, is from the Pacific Ocean.
NOTE: Take caution when researching Joel Jordan Hembree as the name Joel is in common usage in the family during the 18th & 19th century. He had an uncle Joel B. Hembree, born in the same year and same district of SC as himself. They would have played together as their families moved to the same general area of Tennessee, at or near the same time period. He also had a nephew named after him who likewise, resided in the same locality of Oregon.
MONUMENT TO joel jasper Hembree, (b. 2 March 1837, McMinnville, Tennessee, d. 19 July 1843) son of Joel & Sally was the first recorded emigrant burial on the trip westward, and the monument is a stone chiseled “1843” J. Hembree”. He died from injuries one day after falling while riding on the wagon tongue. Not yet seven years old, his body was buried with an Oak dresser drawer covering it, and stones piled upon the grave. Recently a proposed dam necessitated reburial. The Oregon Trail Association, arranged for a new monument, which includes the original stones, near the burial site approximately 10 miles west of Douglas Wyoming. The site was moved about 1625 ft west of the original burial spot. (Overland Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2 Spring 1985 “The Grave of Joel Hembree”).
MONUMENT TO Wayman clark Hembree, (b. 7 March 1829, Warren County, Tennessee; d. 22 March 1920 McMinnville, Oregon) is an expensive cemetery monument and is noteworthy because of the information it contains. It stands in the Masonic Cemetery, McMinnville, Oregon and contains genealogical information on all sides. On the front or west side – names and dates of birth & death of himself and his 1st wife Nancy Ann Garrison, the mother of his children. On the south side – same information is given for three of his children, which preceded him and his wife in death. The rear or east side of the stone lists his mother, father, and siblings which preceded him in death, and the north side, information is given for his second wife Nancy J. Beagle Crisp.
An article written about Wayman in The Centennial History of Oregon starts out “The first home of WC Hembree in Oregon was a log cabin. Today he is the owner of the finest residence in McMinnville.” Quite a change from the ox team wagon driven by Wayman over the Oregon Trail, when he was only 14 years old. His wagon was reported to be one of the first teams to clear a point west of the Cascade Mountains. He arrived in Oregon 1 November 1843 and later, when of age, settled his claim (Cert. #937, Sec. 16, 17, 20 & 21, T3S, R4W, 319 acres) on 15 June 1850. In Yamhill County, Oregon on the 19th June 1861 he married Miss Nancy Ann Garrison, b. 5 September 1835 in Kentucky and d. 16 April 1914 in McMinnville, Oregon. Wayman was a Mason, a Captain of Company “E” Oregon Volunteers in the Yakima Indian War, and both he and his wife Nancy Ann were members of the Oregon Pioneer Association. Their family consisted of 9 children, 3 boys and 6 girls. (See Chart for children’s names, etc.)
MONUMENT TO absalom jefferson Hembree (b. 13 December 1813, White County, Tennessee, d. 10 April 1856) is a monument to his bravery. Absalom was killed in battle in an Indian skirmish on a mountainside near present day Yakima, Washington. He is credited with saving his company and the monument is said to read “Erected to the memory of a grand and good man who died that others might live.” Absalom was returned home for burial in the family Cemetery, located on the claim he settled 30 August 1844, and built a long house, where a marker lists his dates of birth and death.
On 22 January 1835, Abaslom married Nancy Dodson, (b. 22 June 1813, White County, Tennessee, d. 12 January 1886, Lafatette, Oregon) and they were the parents of nine children, 6 boys, 3 girls. In 1836 they moved with other family members to Polk, now Dade County, Missouri where they remained until early May 1843 when they proceeded westward with the Applegate Wagon Train and reached Oregon City, Oregon on 13 November 1843. In the spring of 1844 they filed Donation Land Claim (Cert. #115 Sec. 23, 24, 25, 26 T3S, R4W, 639 acres). Nancy is also buried in the family cemetery.
It is said Absalom built his house in two halves, one-half for his family, and one-half for those arriving in the new land that needed help getting started there. A study of the land claims shows he was certainly well known and respected from the number of claimants who asked Absalom to certify their claim documents. He was known to assist many in filing their claims, without charge. Absalom was elected to the Legislature, in 1846, 1847 & 1848 and to the Oregon Territorial Legislature in 1849, 1851 & 1854. He also served as president of the Pacific Telegraph Company Elected Captain of Company E, “Oregon Mounted Volunteers”, a militia, which he formed, originally to defend the area against invaders and scavengers. He was also a Mason.
Absalom’s Will was written 8 years before his death, which to me, indicates he well knew the risks of life on the frontier and it is interesting in that he seems to know that his son Andrew Jackson Hembree, who was only 2 years of age at the time the will was written, would be raised by Absalom’s Uncle, Andrew Thompson Hembree and his wife Martha. It proved to be the case. Absalom’s Will provided that following the death or remarriage of his wife Nancy, his estate to be equally divided among all his children, except his son Andrew (age 2) is to have a good horse, saddle & bridle, a good cow and calf, and a good suit of clothes.
ANDREW THOMPSON HEMBREE filed Donation Land Claim (Cert. #950, Sec. 9 and 16 T4S, R4W 640 acres). He died in California and for more information on him see Edition #4.
SARAH JANE HEMBREE PENNINGTON will be covered in a later issue.
PROMISES PROMISES – Traveling again and returned home with a mean case of the shingles (now over 2 months) leaves me even further behind in answering letters but I will get with it. More next time.
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