The Souvenir of Western Women/Mrs. Emiline Himes< The Souvenir of Western Women
Mrs. Emiline Himes
By GEORGE H. HIMES.
MRS. EMILINE HIMES was born in Le Roy, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, December 27, 1821. Her maiden name was Holcombe, her father, Hugh Holcombe, descending from Thomas Holcombe, who came from England to Massachusetts, in 1860, on the ship "Mary and John." He removed from Connecticut to Pennsylvania in the year 1796, and settled in Bradford County, which was on the extreme frontier at that time. It is a family tradition that Mrs. Himes' mother, Prudence Bailey, descended from one of the company which made tea in Boston Harbor. Mrs. Himes was married to Tyrus Himes in Bradford County, May 1, 1843, and to this union eight children were born, five boys and three girls, four in the East, two boys and two girls', the first boy, George H., in Pennsylvania, May 18, 1844, and the other three children in Illinois, to which state the family removed in the autumn of 1846, settling at Lafayette, Stark County. In 1838 Mr. Himes became imbued with the idea of going to Oregon as a result of hearing Rev. Samuel Parker, D. D., of Ithaca, N. Y., lecture on Oregon in Bradford County, Pa., in 1835. Mr. Himes really started for Oregon in 1846, but illness caused him to stop in Illinois.
On March 21, 1853, the westward march was again begun, and after a trying journey of seven months the family arrived at Olympia in what is now Thurston County, Washington. At the date of starting on this journey Mrs. Himes had a little daughter six months old. This child had beautiful auburn hair, and this fact caused the Indians through whose country the "Oregon trail" passed to observe her very closely—in fact, the Indians at different times wanted to buy the child, and one chief on the western slope of the Blue Mountains offered some hundreds of ponies for her. As may be imagined, this desire upon the part of the Indians caused considerable apprehension at different times on the part of my mother.
Our train was the first to enter the Puget Sound Basin direct, and the experiences of that expedition over a most rugged road, with scanty food much of the time during the month we were in the mountains, were most trying to all, but particularly to mothers of little children. T^he little ones when hungry could not understand why food was not forthcoming. After arriving at the settlements on Puget Sound and securing shelter in the rudest of log cabins for the first winter, my father was compelled to be away from home a great deal in order to earn funds to keep the food supply going. Everything was high, and mother patched clothing for the children and herself and also spun yarn from wool that she got on s'hares from neighbors, made socks and stockings for a family of six, and in addition knit at least three pairs of men 's socks a week to sell, besides making garments whenever father could get ahead enough to get a piece of clothing stuff. Her life was a strenuous one, indeed. My father was a very industrious man, so between the two the family began to get on, and at the end of two years the way seemed clear for a little relief from the incessant toil which had been the lot of both parents; and the children large enough to work had their allotted tasks. In October, 1855, the Yakima Indian war of 1855-56 broke out, and continued until September, 1856. During this time the family removed four times from one blockhouse or stockade to another, all the while apprehensive lest the Indians would make an attack. During those perilous months Mrs. Himes bravely bore her part without complaint, and never gave in any public way the slightest hint that she was at all disturbed.
One of the hardest experiences she had to undergo frequently for months at a time was the lack of religious privileges. For the first five years in the Puget Sound Basin there were but few religious services of any kind oftener than once in three -months, and these were held in a log schoolhouse, with a puncheon floor, three miles distant. When an appointment was made she always attended with my father, the children accompanying, all walking, as the family had no team. Social intercourse was scant, aside from the Indians, which she could not tolerate on account of their uncleanly habits; yet she always treated them kindly and honestly; and that is probably the reason why the family was not cut off, for it certainly was in great danger a number of times. Occasionally she would visit a neighbor, particularly in case of sickness—there was but one physician in the country, and he five miles away, and his lowest fee for a country visit was $10.00—walking five to ten miles', and would knit socks while she was walking. My father died April 22, 1879, and mother managed the farm five years with the aid of two sons in their teens. At length she sold it, and in 1885 returned on a visit to her girlhood home in Pennsylvania, after an absence of thirty-nine years. That was a red-letter experience in her life; but she could not be prevailed upon to stay in the East, and so, after a visit of six months, returned to the Pacific Coast, better satisfied than ever with it, and took up accustomed round of duties, mainly in keeping house for an unmarried son. While thus engaged she sustained a serious accident, the breaking of the right hip, and for three and a half years thereafter she was compelled to remain in bed, as the broken limb never united. During these grievous years her sturdy character shone more brightly than ever. Once fa'he said to me, "I do not know why I am permitted to live; I am of no use to anybody whatever—just a burden." I repeated her express'ion to another old lady, and she said: "I know why your mother is permitted to live. It is for her good example, her cheerfulness under trying circumstances, and the excellent counsel she always has ready for those in trouble. She never complains, but always makes the best of everything. The influence for good and right living emanating from your mother's bedside is not second to any church influence in this community."
This tribute from an intimate friend of my mother who had known her for more than forty years amid almost every trial that can be conceived of, was certainly deeply appreciated by me. But the end came finally on October 28, 1898, and one of the best of mothers passed on to her reward beyond, leaving behind her six children, twenty grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Among the many good lessons she taught her children none stand out more prominently than the precept which was a part of her daily life—"That if one could not speak well of another, it was best not to speak at all." Whatever she might have thought of a neighbor, or any other person, she was never known to speak disparagingly of them.
Reminiscence of Mrs. Julia A. Wilcox (a pioneer of 1845), widow of Ralph Wilcox, who was the first school-teacher in Portland, Oregon: "In crossing the plains on Meek's cut-off we were without water for thirty-six hours. The cattle had disappeared; they were found by a spring where they had found the water. A great many of the company were taken sick and died from eating the cattle that had been driven so far. Food was scarce and the cattle had to be killed and eaten. In some places the mountains were so steep that the wagons nearly stood on ends; the oxen were taken oft' the wagons and the men had to hold on to the back of the wagons to keep them from tipping. An Indian swam the Deschutes River and carried a rope across. The wagon beds were fastened to the rope, and the people and provisions were carried across this way."
Dr. Robert Newell in 1840 brought the first wagon over the mountains from Fort Hall and left it at Whitman's Mission.