Thursday, April 21, 2016

John Redfern.....My Wandering Ancestor Part 3

Here is where we left off on the last installment--

It's 1860 and John Redfern is farming in Richland Township, Jackson County Iowa.  Also living with him are his second wife, Mary Hagen Redfern and some of their children; Alice(14), Francis(12), Peter(9)and Anna(9).

Also in 1860 we find Sarah Redfern, daughter of John Redfern and his first wife, Sarah Elizabeth O'Neal, married to Robert Spencer Bowman and living in Orange County, New York.  They have five children together and all the children are living with their parents.

Since John Redfern does not appear on any 1870 Federal Census we have to go to other types of documentation available to us to track his movements.
If you thought he'd still be living in Jackson County Iowa in 1870 you would be very much mistaken!
Yes, John Redfern was on the move again.

In December 1868 John Redfern appears on a tax assessment list for 1000 acres of land he owns in Stinking Water Valley Montana.
Also appearing on that same assessment page is James, his son, as the owner of property in nearby California Gulch Montana.  Jame was assessed taxes on his 412 acres in July of 1868.

So we know by this tax record that by the end of 1868, both John Redfern and son James were in Montana.

Then we can look at the Montana Pioneers Society applications for John Redfern and three of his sons; William John, James and Francis Redfern.  Part of this Society application asks when and where the applicants arrived in Montana and where they traveled from to get to Montana.

William John Redfern, John Redfern's oldest son, was the first to make the move to Montana, arriving in late August of 1863 at Bagdadtown, Biven's Gulch.  He said he traveled from Denver, Colorado through Salt Lake City, but we don't know how long he was in Colorado before leaving for Montana.  When he arrived in Montana he was 32 years old.

Here is the most probably route William John took to Montana....

The leg from Jackson Iowa to Denver Colorado is 864.9 miles.

The leg from Denver CO to the Ruby Valley area of Montana is 925.7 miles.

Before we tell of the journeys of the other Redferns here's a bit about western overland travel during the 1860's.

First off there were no highways, trains, ferries or even much of any roads once you got west of the Mississippi River in the 1860's.
There were well established trails which the native peoples in America had forged and used for well over 300+ years.

In the 1840's after the discovery of gold in California and as the US government began land grabs from the British and Spanish and Mexico to annex those resource rich lands to America, and the Native peoples were driven off by the US military, people began moving beyond the Mississippi in larger numbers.

There were 3 important migration Trails at this time; The California Trail, the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail.

This was basically one trail west, the starting point of which was Independence Missouri(except for the Mormons who started from Nauvoo IL).  Many groups took boats up the Missouri River from Saint Louis, but others made the trek from somewhere East to Independence MO to begin their Westward journey.

Once you made it into Wyoming at South Pass which was on the Continental Divide where two passes were located through the Rocky Mountains that is where these three trails diverged.

The Mormons headed southwest into the Salt Lake Valley of modern day Utah.
The CA and OR bound travelers zigged northwesterly to Fort Hall Idaho Territory where the CA immigrants headed south westerly across Nevada and then decided on which of three routes into California, while those with an Oregan destination verged off from Fort Hall ID northwesterly across Idaho and into Oregon.

Here's the route of the Oregon Trail in full.

And here is the Mormon Trail.

You can see that the bulk of the trail of all three traveled along the same route, following along the banks of the Great Platte River from Omaha NE into Wyoming.
There were no bridges along the route so rivers had to be followed and then forded where water levels were low using makeshift rafts to cross the water.

Traveling into the west was a slow arduous process, fret with bad weather conditions, having to stop for months at a time and "winter over" at forts or outposts of civilization.  Add in the danger of wild animals all around you and that there were still native peoples that hadn't been driven onto reservations or into other parts of the country by the US Calvary plus bands of marauders(of all races) who lived off of raiding settlers wagon trains(not to mention killing many of them).
And don't forget about injuries and diseases that were likely to visit upon these immigrants.  If you didn't break your leg fixing a wagon wheel or run out of fresh water then you might get dysentery instead.  Many who traveled in these wagon trains died and where buried along the trail.
This was no pleasant journey.

We don't know how long William John Redfern took to make his crossing from Denver to Ruby Valley Montana.  We know that from Kanesville Iowa on the Missouri River until they reached the Salt Lake Valley, the first party of Mormons took 10 weeks in relatively good weather to cover that much ground.  We also don't know if William John went to SLC and then North or zagged North into Wyoming via the Soda Springs Cut-Off route and then due North into Montana.  We just know that it was a difficult journey and he didn't travel alone but with a wagon train of other settlers of some sort.

William John is listed in the 1870 Federal Census, living in Madison County, Montana Territory with a wife, Margaret.  (This is Margaret Cain, born about 1840 in Ireland.  Looking through the immigration records I haven't been able to pinpoint which Margaret Cain she is and who her parents were but it's most likely that she immigrated to America from Ireland as a teen or adult and came alone.  There are only a couple of official documents attached to her, one being her marriage record and the other being her mention in this 1870 census.  She died before the 1880 Federal Census was taken.)

Now as for James his brother.....
James Redfern, the second son of John Redfern, was the second to make his way to Montana.  In 1860, a family narrative says, he was living in Nebraska, though he doesn't appear in the Census for that year.  You'll recall he arrived in America in 1850 and made his way to his father's family in Iowa.  At some point he made his way to Nebraska by 1860.
Jackson Iowa to Nebraska is a journey of 548.9 miles

He arrived in Virginia City, Madison County, Montana Territory from somewhere in Nebraska in 1864.

Again we don't know if James traveled via Salt Lake Valley and due North into Montana or if he traveled via the Soda Springs Wyoming Cut-Off.  The second route would have taken off a measurable amount of miles from his journey as the NE to MT via SLC route is 864.9 miles.

At any rate, James married in 1866 in Montana, to Julia Edwards, and appears in the tax assessment book for Montana in July 1868. James was about 31 years old when he got to Montana.

Then in 1864, John Redfern, along with his son, Francis Redfern, left their home in Jackson County, Iowa and made the journey to Montana too, arriving 16 August 1864 to Stinking Water Valley. Stinking Water is one of the names people used for the Ruby River, a tributary of the Beaverhead River.  It is said that this area on the River had sulphur deposits which made it "stink".  The deposits also kept the area warmer than surrounding areas in Montana so it had been a hunting ground for Native Americans as the warmth and running water even in Winter brought wildlife to this spot.
Francis Redfern was a boy of 15 years old and John Redfern was an elderly man of 59 years old when they arrived in the Ruby Valley of Montana.

We do know from the Pioneers Society application that John and Francis took a route from Jackson Iowa across the Great Plains(Iowa and Nebraska)to Salt Lake Valley and then North into the Ruby Valley of Montana.  This route constituted a 1650.3 mile journey.

Another family narrative fills in some of the details on the migration of Francis and John Redfern.
John and family(besides my ancestor Sarah)were living in Eastern Iowa up to late 1863 when John decided to head to Oregon to homestead there.  Oregon had just been made a state in 1859 so there was plenty of wide open spaces still and land to lay claim to there.
At some point before 1860 James left the Redfern homestead in Iowa for Nebraska and William John left Iowa also for Denver Colorado-date unknown but probably before 1863 when his father John Redfern decided to move to Oregon.
I find it interesting that John the father was going to Oregon but his oldest two sons most probably were headed to Montana as their destination as neither mentions in their applications about a change of plans from Oregon to Montana.

Teh family narrative continues that John and Francis along with some of the Edwards family(a multi generational clan of one of an Edwards line)who were neighbors in Jackson Iowa left in a wagon train headed toward Oregon.  The wagon master was a man named Charles Wesley Gideon.  This is most probably the husband of Phoebe Edwards.  (Phoebe Edwards was the sister of Manville Eli Edwards, who was the father of Julia Edwards, whom married James Redfern in 1866 in Montana.  More on the Edwards Family later.)

There was tragedy surrounding this trip.  Just before departing two Edwards children drowned in a river.  This was probably a smaller tributary of the North Fork of the Maquoketa River called Farmer's Creek.  Farmer's Creek is where the Redferns and Edwards homestead were located.

The wagon train made is as far as Salt Lake City before having to Winter over in place. Another of the group's 2 year old child died that winter in SLC.
At some point along the way news got to them of silver being found in Montana which made the group vote to head North to Laurin, Montana instead of continuing onward to Oregon.
So it's only by chance(and the prospects of making it rich in a silver strike)that John Redfern ended up in Montana near his oldest sons.

What was my direct ancestor, Sarah Redfern Bowman, during these years?   In the 1860 Federal Census she and husband Robert Spencer Bowman are living with their five surviving children in Montgomery, Orange County, New York, as we saw in the last installment of this saga.
In 1863 the US Congress passed a conscription which was the first wartime draft of US citizens in american history.  This act required the registration of all males between the age of 20 and 45, including aliens who had the intention of becoming citizens in the future.  You could buy an exemption from this draft for $300(this would be over $5000 in today's money)or by finding someone who would go in your stead.
I don't need to mention that this exemption which only the wealthiest families could afford led to the NYC Draft Riots of 1863.(If you saw the film, "Gangs of New York", these riots were briefly touched on in this movie.)
Robert Spencer Bowman/s name appears in the records for the 11th NY Congressional District which included Orange County NY.  He was 36 years old and still not a citizen of the USA.  Thankfully my ancestors were tucked away "upstate" in June of 1863 and weren't in the midst of the 3 days of murder and violence of the Draft Riots.

We get a bonus as New York state did their own state census a few times in the 1800's so we have a record of the family in 1865 as well which is only one year after her father John and half-brother Francis Redern made it to Montana.  My Redren/Bowmans are still living in Montgomery, NY and Robert the father is still working as a laborer. Two more children have been born since 1860; James M. in 1861, and Sarah J. in 1864. James Bowman is my 2 x Great Grandfather.

So why didn't the rest of John Redfern's family(his wife Mary Jane, and children Barnabas, Margaret, Alice, May, Anna Susan, her twin brother Peter Joseph, Patrick and Mary J)go to Montana as well?
And what happened to them all?  And what happened to the 4 Redfern men who went to Montana?
And what happened to John Redfern's daughter by his first wife, Sarah Redfern Bowman and her family in NY?

All will be revealed next time in Part 4 of our saga.



  1. VERY COOL and Oh my gosh! How crazy that you'd be writing all this right when I found out about my cousin John Bidwell who led the very first wagon train to California. The Bidwell Bartleson party left Missouri in 1841.

    I just finished reading John Bidwell's account of the trip. It's been published "Echoes of the Past." And then you write this post :)

    The Bidwell Casaba melon sprouts are doing good so far too.

    1. lol!
      I always wonder if anyone ever reads these genealogy posts so thanks for reading it. It makes me feel like I am not just spitting into the wind. lolz
      I sure hope your Casaba melons do well way up in your growing zone since John grew them in Chico CA. Otherwise you'll just have to MOVE, right? lolz

    2. TOTALLY going to move if the sprouts don't fruit :)

      These posts are really great!!! You put so much into them and they are really entertaining (granted I find history fun).The one you wrote about your outlaw relative (I think his name was Abner) was one of my favorite blog posts ever. I mean, that totally needs to be a movie. This saga is really fun too.


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