Settlement History of Jones Donation Land Claim

An historical account of the Jones Donation Land Claim that borders the Gahr Farm in Muddy Valley.

On September 16, 1819 in a modest home in Dorcetshire, England, a baby boy was born to William Jones and his wife, Anna. His mother was just as anxious as to color of eyes, weight, features and so forth as mothers of today. He was destined to make long voyages, said some aunt or grandmother, because his fingers were long, or because he was bow-legged, or for some other equally logical reason. If this was not predicted it should have been, for William Thomas Jones sailed the “Seven Seas” at the age of sixteen he first ventured forth, as was customary in his day, apprenticed to William Simmons, master of the ship Kingsdown.

For four years, he sailed, then was discharged by Bowley who, after the death of the captain, took charge of the ship. Whether there was mutiny aboard, which cost the life of the captain, we do not know, but a daughter seems to remember ‘Dads saying something about mutiny.”

After about two years at home, again the sea called him, and once more he sailed away, this time never to return to the land of his birth. Many other shores did he behold, but never England’s. He saw the Islands where Captain Cook was killed, and traveled to many other places; but never back to England. He might have returned but for the fact that his ship put into San Francisco harbor in 1846. There, William Jones, in conversation with landlubbers heard of Oregon. He heard much of Oregon, for “Oregon fever” was aff1icting many in those days. Oregon was the place where farms were given away, where the climate was heavenly, where plenty stretched out a hand to all. Probably young Jones would have told you in later years that plenty did stretch out a hand, but that the pioneer’s arm had to be long and strong to meet her. Be that as it may, he took French leave of his ship and started north for Oregon. On his way, he stopped to work for a certain Captain Sutter who was a prominent miller of the country. Captain Sutter paid him well for his work, and encouraged him to go to Oregon. Little did he know that he was working in the very spot where gold was to be discovered, gold that spread a “fever” beside which “Oregon fever” was mild. William worked until he had earned enough to make the trip, then he set out for Oregon. How he made the trip, we do not know, but certainly he didn’t travel alone. Possibly he went by boat. That he went, we know, for he reached Oregon in 1841. Then, to find a desirable location. At the time, stock raising seemed important, so a claim must be secured where there was plenty of water and plenty of wild grass. Such a place took William’s eye, and he took up a homestead in Muddy Valley about seven miles from McMinnville.
What a task was that of the pioneer, carving a home out of the wilderness. A habitation must be secured and the only way to secure it was to cut the trees and build. This William did, undoubtedly having both advise and help from his neighbors. Certainly his seaman’s life had not fitted him for a homesteader except that it had accustomed him to hard work and plenty of it. With help or without, as the case may be, he built a log cabin on practically in the same spot where the house has stood ever since. The fourth house stands there now. This first log cabin was burned when William, with his neighbors, practically all of them, were in California digging for gold in ’49 or ’50. The Indians did not burn his cabin while he was gone; they only set fire to the grass, and the cabin, being in the path of their fire, burned, too.

When William came back from California, a sadder but wiser man, he built another log house, this time a larger and better one. When his family increased, he built another log house with a covered porch between it ant the old one making a very pretentious house for those days, a double log house. Later he built a frame house, a very commodious one that his children love to recall. It had a large front room with an immense fireplace where all the family cooking was done; where guests were always welcome, where Alfred recalled seeing Isaac Lambright, the hired man, sit to oil his cowhide boots just before his wedding. This house was the loved Jones home, the home of Commodore Jones, as William came to be called by all his neighbors. It was torn down in 1901 to erect the house which still stands on the place.

On January 9, 1838, Elizabeth Meader was born in Clarkinwell, London. She grew up a dainty, quiet, soft voiced girl who spent her time about the household duties and in pleasant companionship with her sister Mary and Elizabeth’s aunt, who married William Jones father after the death of William’s mother; Anna. When William was at home in England after his first sea voyage, he had a very ardent admirer in little Elizabeth. She who had always stayed at home, hung no doubt, upon his every word as he boasted of the places be had been and the things he had seen.

When William had returned from California and had settled down in his second log cabin, he sent to England for his father and his step-mother, the step-mother who was Elizabeth’s aunt. They came and for a time he seemed content, but he kept inquiring about Elizabeth who was now a young lady. Elizabeth’s aunt played the role of match maker, inviting Elizabeth to come to Oregon. In 1856 our timid, demur, little Elizabeth began collecting her trousseau. Among the articles in her trousseau were a linen sheet, a bedspread and sterling teaspoons which the family still treasure. Gifts were given her, articles and clothing were purchased, and one fateful day farewells were said. Long farewells, and Elizabeth sailed away for a six month’s trip around Cape Horn and into the harbor at Portland. What courage it must have taken for a young girl who had always lived in London, the largest city in the world, to set out for the unknown wilds of Oregon. True heroes, Indeed, were our pioneer parents.

William met his lady fair in Portland and conducted her to his house, to visit her aunt. There, after time for acquaintance, and courtship they were married on July 14, 1857. Elizabeth lived at Butte Farm for fifty-one years. Coming there as a young girl, she stayed until she was a frail, 1itt1e white-haired old lady. How many changes took place in that time! She had seven children.

What joys and sorrow Elizabeth met! She buried her aunt, then her father-in-law, and finally her William. Bad days, sorrowful times, lonely hours when she couldn’t sleep and the days of her youth, the days of her courtship, the years when her babies were little must have passed through her mind over and over as she faced the years without that dear companionship by her side. She was a quiet lady, a real Eng1ishwoman, so kept her sorrow to herself, making them the harder by that very act. Dear little Mother Jones! I count as some of the very finest hours of my life, the ones spent with her as she told me of the days of long ago.

There was the hard winter, the winter of 1861 and 62, when snow came in December and lasted through March. William had stored away a sufficient amount of hay for his cattle, so he got them up when the snow came and began feeding them. He fed generously at first, then as the snow did not melt, more and more sparingly, until his feed was absolutely gone and still snow lay on the ground. Finally, there was nothing to do but turn the cattle out to shift for themselves. This they could not well do and William began reporting “dead cow” or “three dead this morning”. When spring finally came, only a very few remained, and these were a sorry spectacle. But out on the hill were one cow and her calf that were in fine condition. She had been too wild to corral, so had shifted for herself all winter, and she came through in good shape.

One time when Elizabeth was all alone at home after her arrival from England, an old Indian came to the back door to ask for matches. Elizabeth said, “yes, yes”, and went through the house ostensibly to get them. Instead, she ran out the front door and off across the fields to the nearest neighbors, the Dearing.

There were plenty of Indian scares. One time the neighbors gathered on a high hill back of the house, to watch for signal fires that were to be built on high peaks if all residents should get together for defense. On this particular night William and two or three other neighbors watched anxiously. Suddenly a flare, and great anxiety, followed by relieved laughter as the moon came up.

When father Jones was returning from California after his fruitless quest for gold, he was shot in the back by an arrow from the bow of one of the treacherous Rogue River Indians. He was carried to the home of some settler in the valley where the party halted for his recovery. During all the years of his life, Father Jones told of the treat that was accorded him because he was an invalid. The woman of the house brought out a package of precious tea that she had brought across the plains and that she was treasuring for just such occasions. He, being English, appreciated tea as no American can and was almost sorry when he was well enough to eat more common fare.

One Christmas they spent at Yamhill visiting the Burtons. As a very special Christmas treat, every one in the assembled company had the gift of an apple, the first that Father Jones had seen in Oregon. They used to go on long visits to Yamhill or French Prairie or Wheatland. Then they took their turn at entertaining visitors from those parts.

The wild grass grew so high that when the oxen were turned out to graze, the grass was over their backs and finding when needed was a big task. They had trodden paths through this “jungle” and Father Jones must needs go up and down these trails to find them. Fences were built as soon as possible.

All fall and winter, Mother Jones, Aunt Jones, and later the little Jones girls made butter. Wearily, steadily, everlastingly, the dasher went up and own. The sweet golden butter was packed with layers of salt into large wooden vats. When spring had made the dirt roads passable, the women folks worked for a week or more taking this butter out of its salt, reworking it, and molding into two pound rolls wrapped in cloth, ready to be taken to Portland to market. The spring’s laying of eggs was carefully packed in oats and added to the load. Sometimes bacon and ham were not needed at home, and they joined the other products. Then some fine morning the oxen were hitched to the wagon and at daybreak the party set out for the city. As the family grew larger the children took turns at making the pilgrimage, and great was the joy of the child or children whose turn it was to go to town. The trip could not be made in a day, but everyone along the road was glad to have company for the night; and the night in Portland was always spent at Ben Selling’s home. Ben bought the butter, eggs and hams, and in exchange sold tea, sugar, and calico. What more natural than that he entertain over night customers from afar! When Alfred was a middle-aged man, he told young Ben Selling of those days and of his father’s family being entertained at Mr. Selling’s home. Alfred always believed that Ben thought he was hinting for the same sort of treatment, for he assured Alfred, “Times have changed”.

One time on the way to Portland, Charlotte’s small pink bonnet was lost from the wagon. When the family returned to the store the next day before setting off for home, Mr. Selling’s handed mother the bonnet, asking if it were hers. Some one had found it in the road soon after the Jones family had passed, and thought it might belong to one of the little Jones girls.

Alfred used to say that there were only two holidays a year in their childhood, Christmas and fourth of July. Christmas was wonderful with toys, books, clothing, candy; things that took much planning in the early days when trips to town were infrequent. Only once did Mother’s and Father’s resources fail them. Alfred couldn’t remember why, but he recalled on that Christmas morning, there were only some homemade candy in their stockings. (Mary remembered it as cookies).

The family took the “Youth’s Companion”, the great weekly paper for young folks in those days. Father read aloud all the stories and articles and one week he read them the story of a farmer out in Oregon who dropped some ashes from his pipe in the hay he was loading. Soon the whole load was ablaze and they had time only to unhitch and save the horses. The farmer was “Commodore” Jones himself.

The Jones family, like nearly all pioneers of Oregon, were deeply religious. “commodore Jones and his family first attended the South Yamhill Baptist church which was organized before 1867. Later when the Methodist organized and built the McCabe church in 1887, the Joneses joined this group. So long as they lived in the neighborhood they worked with and for McCabe. In the early days they used to put hay or straw in the wagon bed and drive to Webfoot or to Hibbs’s camp-ground to attend camp meetings.

The patent for the William Jones homestead was signed by Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, in 1866. This farm remained in the Jones family until 1943, ninety-six years from the time “Commodore” first settled there.

* This story was written in 1947 by Grace Jones who was married to William and Elizabeth Jones’ son, Alfred. tg

This brief account has been written from my memory of the tales that Mother Jones told me as I sat beside her at the fireplace while Mary and Etta got supper. I was teaching school in the district and was boarding in the Jones home. The account has been supplemented by facts and figures supplied by my husband, Alfred Jones, and his sister Mary Judd.

* Births and deaths of children of William and Elizabeth Jones.
Eliza Jane – December 16, 1859 –
John William – April 29, 1861 – June 21, 1929
Mary Elizabeth – June 16, 1863 –
Charlotte Anna – October 19, 1865 – March 15, 1922
Alfred Thomas – October 19, 1867 – December 6, 1929
Esther Emeline – May 28 1870 – Aug 2, 1945
Henry Walter – April 21, 1874 – August 1, 1939