Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cassandra - Oregon Trail Pioneer

I always knew growing up that my grandfather had a fascination with Native American history and western history.  I don’t think he ever knew all that much about his family beyond his more current relations.   I think he was interested in learning about his family heritage…but he had no one to ask to provide him with information – he certainly would have been thrilled to learn about his great grandmother’s trek across the country along the Oregon Trail.

Cassandra Arrasmith was born on 20 Aug 1823 in Bourbon Co., KY to John Richard Arrasmith and Nancy Wood.  Cassandra’s family moved to Missouri and she met and married William Crumpacker on 21 Dec 1843 in Linn, Osage Co., MO.  William and Cassandra were the parents of 11 children born between 1845 and 1862.  William Crumpacker died on 3 Mar 1862 leaving his widow pregnant with the youngest two children, who were twins.  It is unknown what William died of…he was 44 years old and probably died in Chillicothe, Livingston Co., MO where his youngest children were born, although he was recorded in Sullivan Co., MO in the 1850 and 1860 census.

Cassandra’s oldest son was 17 years old and while I’m sure some of her 11 children were no longer alive – she must have had to make a difficult decision.  Her husband died in March and she had the twin girls in July of that year.  Looking at history, it is easy to see that the Civil War was wreaking havoc on the country and perhaps she had no other recourse other than to leave for a new life.  Whatever caused her to make the decision, she packed up her family and headed west on the Oregon Trail.  I believe the family left Missouri about 1864.  Her oldest son, Henry married a Rachel Frazier on 13 Jan 1864 in Sullivan Co., MO.  Their oldest child was born on 11 October 1864 in Boise, ID then the Washington territory. So Cassandra and her family probably packed their wagon and headed west in the spring of 1864.

When I first started researching Cassandra, just about everyone had her killed on the Oregon Trail.  Evidently their wagon train was attacked on route and she was injured badly enough that some thought she had died. From what I have read, Cassandra drove her own team even though she was still nursing her twins.  She must have been quite a woman – traveling towards a new home with no knowledge of what she was to face on the journey or even what her destination would be like.  I believe that I have read that some of her family (her mother’s relatives) came west about the same time – so perhaps there was comfort in numbers.

The family arrived in Washington State in late 1864 perhaps in Pomeroy, WA but most likely in the Walla Walla, WA area.  According to some researchers, Cassandra married a B. F. Newland on December 21, 1843 probably around Walla Walla.  She then married Schuyler Woolery on 6 Mar 1876 in Columbia Co., WA.  I’m not real sure if she stayed married to these men or left them and moved on.  However, I do know that she is recorded with her youngest children in the 1870 census in Walla Walla, WA territory under her own name, and also in 1880 is recorded as Mrs. C. Crumpacker.  I know that she married John Lewis Tewalt in 1889 and she herself is buried at the Pataha Flat or Schoolhouse cemetery near Pomeroy, Garfield Co., OR. 
Cassandra Arrasmith Crumpacker Tewalt's grave

Pataha Flat Cemetery, near Pomeroy, WA.

While there is still plenty of mystery surrounding Cassandra’s life from the time she left Missouri in 1864 until her death in 1893, I find Cassandra an interesting puzzle.  If nothing else she was a survivor – she survived being left as a widow with eleven children – traveled across the United States to make a new life for herself and lived to see her children marry and have children of her own.  She is someone that I wish my grandfather would have known about…he would have liked her and admired her!