The Humphreys Family: Wisconsin to Washington State

Although the Humphreys returned to Wisconsin after the first move west, the desire to seek out land or opportunity further west apparently remained. Although Owen was still in Springvale when the Civil War draft registration occurred in 1863, by the time of the next Federal Census in 1870, the family had again moved to Minnesota, this time to Bristol in Fillmore County. Son William (now 13), was joined by daughters Martha (10) and Anna (6), both born in Wisconsin, and sons Griffith (5) and Gaynor (3), both born in Minnesota. Thus, Owen and Jane likely made their second move from Wisconsin to Minnesota around 1865.

The map below shows the relative locations of Springvale, Wisconsin (the pointer to the east, in Wisconsin, of course), Blue Earth, Minnesota (the pointer to the west), and Bristol, Minnesota (the one in the middle):

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 7.50.27 AM

As with Frank Reeve Jones, I have not been able to find Owen and family in the 1880 census yet, and perhaps portions of the state were missed or the relevant census pages are extremely difficult or impossible to read.  More research is needed.

I do have other evidence as to the location of the family in the years after 1870, however:

  • Daughter Sarah Elizabeth was born in Bristol, Minnesota on 3 June 1870, and daughter Mary was born in Minnesota in 1872 or 1873. Another daughter, Nellie, seems to have been born in Minnesota around 1875 or 1876, also.
  • Son John was born in Washington in August 1877. I do not know what county the family was in at the time, but it seems they went from Minnesota to eastern Washington sometime in the period 1875-1877.
  • Oldest daughter Maggie married Henry Teel in Columbia County, Washington in January 1879, and the couple were both identified as “of this county.” The map below shows the location of Columbia relative to the other Washington counties in 1880:

1880 WA map

Basically, it is the southeast corner, to the east of Walla Walla County (it was part of that county until 1875), and includes what later became the separate counties of Garfield and Asotin. To show this in relation to Bristol, Minnesota, here’s another map, this one of the western half of the northern US:

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 7.29.00 AM

  • On 28 August 1880, Owen (identified as “a native of Wales, England”) was naturalized in the County of Walla Walla, and renounced any potential allegiance to Queen Victoria (for some reason this does not appear to have been finalized, and nor was Frank Reeve Jones’s similar document in 1881).  Owen was finally naturalized in Spokane in 1893. (More research is needed on this too.)

Owen Humphreys naturalization

  • William married Sarah Howard in Columbia in March 1881, and Annie married Frank Jones at the home of Owen Humphreys also in Columbia County on 15 Jul 1881.
  • By the time of the Washington territorial census for 1883, the family was in Garfield County (created from the middle part of Columbia County in November 1881, so they may not have actually moved at all). The census records are too faded to make out much more.
  • In 1889, the family appears in the last Washington territorial census (1889 is the year Washington became a state) in Lincoln County. Owen was identified as a farmer. He and Jane were listed as ages 61 and 57, with children William (29), Griffith (24), John (11), and Nellie (13) — I have not found her later, but in 1900 there are said to be nine children of whom two died, and John and Nellie make eight and nine children after William, Maggie, Annie, Griffith, Gaynor, Sarah, and Mary, so she is likely an additional child. Anyway, this census shows that Owen and Jane moved between 1883 and 1889, as Lincoln was north of Columbia as shown in the map from 1900 below:

1900 WA mapt

From the information about Annie and Frank Jones, they seem to have remained in Garfield County. As expected given its location, Lincoln was a rural county and was and is most prominent as a wheat-growing area. More detail is here:

As in neighboring counties, ranching was the earliest Lincoln County industry, flourishing through the 1870s. The region’s entire cattle industry was destroyed by the bitter winter of 1880-1881.

The industry slowly rebounded throughout the 1880s but was again devastated by another frigid winter in 1889-1890 that destroyed 90 percent of the area’s cattle. Although wheat production became Lincoln County’s dominant industry, the region maintained a ranching industry. As of 2006 Lincoln County has about 30,000 head of cattle….

The county’s first fruit-producing region was the Orchard Valley located in the sandy bottomlands along the Columbia River near the mouth of Hawk Creek. By 1909 fruit farmers in the Orchard Valley town of Peach were producing apples, pears, peaches, apricots, pears, plums, strawberries, and cherries. This area was inundated in 1939 when Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake rose behind Grand Coulee Dam.

Early settlers, many of whom had grown wheat in other places, planted the crop beginning in the early 1880s. Lincoln County is now (2006) the second highest wheat-producing county in the state after Whitman County and also the second-highest barley-producing county, again after Whitman County. Grass seed, oats, and potatoes are also major crops….

The Northern Pacific Railroad and Great Northern Railway literally conjured up much of Lincoln County’s settlement, laying rails and establishing rail stops on the flat scrub-steppe terrain, building depots named for various railroad officials, and then sending railroad promotional materials as far away as Eastern Europe to summon up farming families who bought or homesteaded the land. From the nucleus of the railroad depot these towns sprouted churches, schools, libraries, granges, fraternal organizations, and other icons of community that connected families who labored nearby, breaking sod, planting wheat, hoping for rain.

Life in early Lincoln County was not easy. Almost without exception these towns each experienced devastating fires (sometimes more than once). If a town was near a creek or the Columbia River, that town inevitably flooded during the spring, following a very snowy winter, and the floods sometimes inundated local homes and businesses.

In 1881 the Northern Pacific Railroad laid track through Sprague as part of a spur line between Sand Point, Idaho, and Ainsworth. The Northern Pacific established a Division Headquarters in the town. Another Northern Pacific spur (in this region using the name Central Washington Railroad) through Reardan, Davenport, Creston, Wilbur, and Almira and on to Coulee City was completed in late 1888. Initially these lines were used to transport cattle to eastern markets. As farming began to eclipse ranching in Lincoln County, they were used increasingly to transport grain. The Northern Pacific also carried new settlers into the county.

The Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad operated a line from Spokane Falls through a station near Davenport in 1888 and directly through Davenport beginning in 1889. The Great Northern Railway completed the Lincoln County portion of its line west from Spokane through Edwall, Harrington, and Odessa in 1892.

As rail travel ebbed in the wake of the automobile, many towns found themselves cut off from easy tourism when new highways by-passed Main Street. Rail travel had meant connection to the wider world beyond Lincoln County, and the lack of it meant increasing isolation for the citizens of many small towns in the sparsely settled Big Bend region.

  • Griffith married Celia Evans in Wilbur, Lincoln County on 1 Oct 1891, Mary married Fernando Long in Creston, Lincoln County in 1893, and Sarah married Charles Milliken, also in Lincoln, in 1894. I don’t yet know which, if any, of these communities Owen lived in, as the Washington census doesn’t give that information (oddly), but from the source quoted immediately above, some more on Wilbur:

Wilbur is named for Samuel Wilbur Condon (born Condit), one of the future Lincoln County’s earliest settlers. Better known to his contemporaries as Wild Goose Bill, Condon’s nickname resulted from an oft-told and perhaps apocryphal incident in which he mistook a flock of tame geese for wild geese and shot several.

Condon started a ferry service across the Columbia River in 1885 and platted the town in April 1889. The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad later that year increased demand for property. By 1891 Wilbur had a flour mill and shipped the product as far away as China. Wilbur suffered severe fires on October 4, 1891, and again on July 5, 1901. Both times, the town rebuilt. Ongoing employment opportunities at Grand Coulee Dam, both during construction and subsequently, greatly benefited Wilbur.

At the time of the 1900 Federal Census, Owen and Jane Humphreys were living in Grand Coulee Precinct, Lincoln, Washington. (The current town of Grand Coulee seems to be just over the boarder in Grant County, but looking at the division of Lincoln County for the 1900 Census, it would have been in the closest part of Lincoln County, most likely, just west of Wilbur. The 1900 Census also provides the information that Owen and Jane had been married for 46 years (or since about 1854) and had had 9 children, 7 of whom were living (the ones who had died were Gaynor and, probably, Nellie). The youngest of those children, John, age 22, was living with them, but the others were not. The census further states that Owen, a farmer, had immigrated in 1847 (but the evidence indicates that it was really 1851, although Jane came in 1847), and was naturalized.

Owen died on 26 Jan 1903 in Lincoln County, Washington, of “apoplexy.” At the time of the 1910 Census, Jane was living with her son William (who had been widowed) on a farm in North Davenport, Lincoln. Her immigration date was given as 1846. In 1820, she was living on another farm in the area with daughter Maggie and her husband and children, and died shortly thereafter, in August 1920, at age 88.


One thought on “The Humphreys Family: Wisconsin to Washington State

  1. Pingback: My Family and Immigration in the First Half of the 19th Century | My American Journeys

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