GEORGE COLUMBUS GOWING TOOK THE OREGON TRAIL IN A WAGONTRAIN FROM KANSAS IN 1879
George Columbus Gowing, son of William Pleasant Gowing and
Priscilla Miller Gowing, was born March 4, 1857 in Anderson
County, Kansas, according to Mary Ruth Marsh Gowing, Founda-
tion member. He was married April 17, 1879 in Linn County,
Kansas to Emily May Davis, daughter of Jesse Washington Da-
vis and Susan P. Chambers Davis. She was born April 17,
1859 in Hancock County, Illinois.
Less than a week after their wedding, they joined a wagon-
train traveling from Kansas to Oregon. George Columbus Gow-
ing was 22, and his bride was 20 when they set off on the ad-
venture of their lives. Marshall C. Davis, brother of Emily
May Davis Gowing, kept a diary of the trip which was furnish-
ed to the Foundation by Mrs. Gowing:
“When We Crossed the Plains from Kansas to Oregon
April 22, 1879–Started from La Cygne, Kansas, seen the In-
sane Asylum at Osawatomie, went through Paola, camped on Pull
April 23–Got lost and came through Wellsville and Black Jack,
passed through some fine country.
April 24–Rained in the forenoon and in the afternoon we pass-
ed through Baldwin City. The roads were very muddy, camped
eight miles south of Lawrence.
April 25–Crossed the Wakerrusa and came into Lawrence and
crossed the Kaw River on the bridge and came on six miles
northwest of Lawrence and into camp. Went fishing, but did
not catch any.
April 26–Came through Williamstown and Perrysville and came
through Media, stopped for noon on the Kansas River. After
noon we crossed the Grasshopper River and the Big Muddy.
Came through Grandville and went into camp three miles north-
east of Topeka. [Elev. 806′]
April 27, Sunday–Laid over in the forenoon, the weather was
chilly. Hitched up and drove into Topeka, corralled and went
to visit the Capitol building which was a fine sight. Lots
of niggers, only 20,000. Was on guard half the night.
April 28–Crossed over on the north side of the river and
came to Venike and came on to Silver Lake and stopped for
noon. Came through Kingsville, then to Rossville. Camped
three miles east of Wameg.
April 29–Started in the morning, came through St. Marys and
stopped for noon on the Blue Vermillion. The country was
beautiful. In the afternoon we came to Louisville and St.
George and went into camp west of town at night. We went to
town to hear the telephone and played the Banjo for them.
April 30–Laid over west of St. George on account of the
rain, went through the grain elevator, up 73 feet from the
ground. A very fine building.
May 1–Drove through Manhattan and crossed the Big Blue on
the Iron Bridge. Manhattan is a very fine place. Came on
through Wildcat. Camped on Wildcat. Went a fishing.
May 2–Started northwest over the prairie and came to Balla
and stopped for noon. In the afternoon travelled over some
fine prairie and camped on a little creek four miles east of
May 3–Came through Clay Center, a beautiful town. See Ander-
son & Company’s Circus and Menagerie. Came on through Morgan
City and camped on little creek.
May 4–Sunday–Started and came on through Clifton, went into
camp three miles east of Clyde, laid over in the afternoon.
May 5–Started in the a.m, came through Clyde and Ames Station.
Stopped for noon four miles east of Concordia. In the after-
noon came through Concordia and camped on a lake in a nice
cottonwood grove. Stood guard two hours.
May 6–Started in the morning, came northwest over a fine
looking prairie to Scandia. There we crossed the Republican
River on a bridge, came on northwest over the prairie to White
Rock. Camped there.
May 7–Rained in the forenoon, laid over all day on White Rock
Creek, visited he White Rock Water Mill which is a fine structure.
May 8–Started northwest. It rained a little. We came on to the
bridge over the Republican River, south of Superior [Nebraska.]
Stopped for noon on the Nebraska line. In the afternoon we came
through Superior and came north over a beautiful prairie and
camped two miles south of Guide Rock.
May 9–Started in the morning, came over some very rough roads to
Guide Rock. Came northwest and stopped for noon on the prairie.
In the afternoon I went a hunting. The train left me, walked
about six miles, got our water kegs filled at a well and camped
on the prairie. Not a twig in sight anywhere.
May 10–Started in the morning over a high prairie ’til we came
to Millington on the Little Blue stopped for noon. Visited the
Water Mills. In the afternoon we came nine miles to Hastings
and then six miles west to Juniata. Camped on the prairie.
May 11, Sunday–Started in the a.m. at Juniata and drove through
Kenesaw. Stopped for noon in Platte Valley for the first time.
In the afternoon drove four miles west to Lowell.
May 12–Started west in the morning, came to old Ft. Kearney,
visited the old fortifications. Came west to the bridge, camped
on the south side of the river. Went to town and got caught in
a fearful rainstorm.
May 13–Rained in the morning, cold as Greenland. In the after-
noon drove over the river on the bridge, three-fourths mile long,
camped west of town.
May 14–Started west in the a.m, along the U. P. [Union Pacific]
road, stopped for noon on the prairie. After noon drove west
and camped on the prairie. Drove through Elm Creek. At night
we had an alarm which kept us all awake all night.
May 15–Started in the morning, came to Plum Creek. Stopped for
noon and in the afternoon drove west along the U. P. Railroad and
camped with the Montana Train.
May 16–Started west along the R.R. through the Platte Valley.
Stopped for noon on the river. Had a very dull day of it.
Camped with Montana Train on the Platte River.
May 17–Started in the a.m. Came west along the R.R. Seen some
antelope. Stopped for noon on the prairie and camped in three
miles of North Platte [Elev. 2821′]. Corralled the wagons for
the first time.
May 18, Sunday–Started in the a.m. Drove over the R.R. and
Wagon Bridge combined, came through North Platte. Stopped for
noon on the prairie and seen five antelope. Camped at Odallon,
corralled with the Montana Train, making 30 wagons all together.
Stood guard with Robert Crawford ’til midnight.
May 19–Laid over all day. The women washed. The men went an-
telope hunting and got no meat. No one took a nap.
May 20–Started in the a.m. came over the prairie west and came
through Alkali. Stopped for noon, and in the evening came to a
section house and camped.
May 21–We came over the plains west along the R.R. and stopped
at noon on the prairie. Then came through Ogallala [Elev. 3211′]
and camped in the corral with the Montana Train on the Platte River.
May 22–We came west over some terrible sandhills ’til we came to
Big Springs. Filled our water kegs and stopped for noon on the R.R.
Big Springs is where the U. P. Express train was robbed in ’77.
Afternoon we came over sandy roads to Julesburg [Colorado]. There
we had to give the parting hand to Jim McCawley and family, also
some other fellow travellers that were going to Colorado. Jules-
burg was burned a few years ago by the Indians, and 45 people were
killed. Camped one and one-half miles west of town on Lodge Pole
Creek, in Colorado, as we just crossed the corner of the state.
May 23–We seen Antelope and stopped for noon on Lodge Pole Creek.
In the afternoon we came through Lodge Pole and camped nine miles
east of Sidney [Nebraska].
May 24–We came through Sidney which is a beautiful town of about
15,000 inhabitants. Stopped for noon west of town,. and in the
afternoon we travelled up the Lodge Pole Valley which is a beautiful
little valley about one mile wide. We camped about three miles east
May 25–We came through Potter and stopped for noon on Lodge Pole
Creek. In the afternoon we came through Antelope and camped two
and one-half miles west of town [Kimball, Nebraska, Elev. 4,700′].
May 26–Drove west along the R.R. Went on an antelope chase; got
no meat. Stopped for noon on Lodge Pole Creek. In the afternoon
we came west. One of the boys killed an antelope and came on to
Pine Bluffs [Wyoming]. Bade farewell to Nebraska. Camped in a
beautiful valley one mile west of town and went up on the Bluff.
Had a fine time. Also a good mess of antelope for supper.
May 27–We travelled west over some fine country, had good roads,
and we stopped for noon on a little branch, grazed our horses
about two hours, then drove 10 miles and camped at a sheep ranch.
May 28–We drove northwest over hills and sand and came in sight
of the Grand Old Rockies. Came to Cheyenne [Elev. 6100′]. Stop-
ped in town a while. Went out north of town two miles and camped
at a lake. Went back to town and visited the [Railroad] Round-
house and Machine Shops. Also took a look at the town and seen
the first irrigating that I had ever seen.
May 29–Started in the a.m, drove northwest. The wind was very
high. The dust blew fearfully. We came over the foothills and
came to Cheyenne Pass and corralled in the mountain pass. In the
evening I went up on the mountain, about one mile high. Took a
look at Longs Peak and Freeman Peak. Beautiful beyond description.
Go West, Young man and see the country!
May 30–Started in the a.m. and came up the mountains higher and
higher, ’til we reached the summit. It rained and snowed all day.
Cold enough for January. We stopped for noon in a canyon, plenty
of wood and water. We soon had a rousing fire which was comforta-
ble beyond description, had dinner and drove about one hour. All
at once we looked over in the valley west of the Rockies. Had a
look at Laramie City [Elev. 7100′], then we began to descend and
soon found ourselves in the city. Went one mile east and corral-
led at a big spring. Frequent showers of rain and snow. Turned
in for the night.
May 31–Laid over in camp all day. Mended boots and shoes all
day, had a stampede at night. Big excitement!
June 1, Sunday–Rained and hailed all day. Laid over. I took a
nap in the morning. In the evening we went to town and hunted up
some old friends. Visited the Roundhouse and came back to camp.
June 2–Came through town, crossed the Big Laramie and came to
Little Laramie. Stopped for noon. In the evening we crossed Five
Mile Creek and camped on Seven Mile Creek.
June 3–We came on and crossed Three Mile Creek and forded Rock
Creek and camped on a little stream.
June 4–We laid over all day, went hunting and killed one sage hen.
After noon we went into the mountains. Seen more fine timber than
a little. Seen bear and elk tracks.
June 5–Started in the a.m. and came to Medicine Bow, forded the
river and stopped ’til noon. Afternoon we came to the range of
foothills, crossed and came to Pass Creek and camped.
June 6–We came on to the Platte River and stopped for noon. The
Montana gang crossed on the boat and went down to the ford. We
crossed on horseback and over to the government buildings. Had a
fine time. Came back and corralled the wagons. Stood guard until
June 7–Came across the Platte River on a flat boat and came up
into Ft. Fred Steele. Left town and came 15 miles to Rawlins [Elev.
6785′]. Halted there about an hour and came six miles north to a
little lake and camped. Cold enough for Christmas!
June 8, Sunday–Still cold. Wore an overcoat all day. Came about
14 miles, stopped for noon in a sage desert. After noon we came
about six miles and camped.
June 9–Started in the a.m. and came over some very sandy hills til
noon. It was very heavy pulling [at] the last. We stopped for noon
on a little stream. After noon we had a wild hunt, but failed to
kill anything. We came to Whiskey Gap, seen where a party of U.S.
Troops were massacred by the Indians. Visited the graves of the
poor boys, 30 in number. Came on two miles and camped.
June 10–Father [Jesse Davis] went a antelope hunting and came back
and reported one killed. Next was to go and bring it in. I was one
of the detail who brought it back and skinned it and divided it out.
Came on and stopped for noon at Sweetwater. Capt. Nichols brought
in another antelope. After noon we travelled northwest and camped
at a cattle ranch on the Sweetwater
June 11–Started in the a.m. and came past Three Crossings. Got some
wood and came on and stopped for noon. After noon we drove 12 miles
to Sweetwater and camped again.
June 12–Laid over all day, and the women washed. The men went
hunting. About 2:00 o’clock father came in and reported three
antelope killed. George C. Gowing, Bill Gage and myself started
to hunt for them, but only found one of them and came back.
June 13–We drove about ten miles, stopped for we had some very
rough roads. After noon we arrived at Rock Creek and Strawberry
and camped at Willow Creek.
June 14–Drove west in the a.m. across Sweetwater about 10:00
o’clock and then we came on the ridges ’til noon. We came to
Sweetwater and nooned at an abandoned mine. After noon we came on
to Pacific Springs. Crossed the summit of the mountain and camped
at what is called the Big Meadows.
June 15, Sunday–Started in the a.m. and came to Dry Sandy and
filled our kegs and made a dry camp at noon. After noon we came to
the Little Sandy again and camped. I was good and sick.
June 16–We came to the Big Sandy and crossed at a stage station
and stopped without any grass. I was very sick. After noon we
came to Big Sandy again and camped. Only 50 wagons were in camp.
I felt some better at night.
June 17–Started early in the morning and made a 15-mile drive to
Green River [Wyoming, Elev. 6080]. Stopped for noon and in the af-
ternoon we crossed the river on a ferry boat and drove about four
miles and camped on the river.
June 18–Drove northwest 10 miles and came to the river and stopped
for noon on Green River. After noon we came northwest over the
roughest roads in the territory, wind and dust prevailed. Stopped
overnight on Slate Creek.
June 19–Started in the morning and came about eight miles and stop-
ped for noon on a little creek, Slate Creek by the way. After noon
we came about 15 miles over the mountains and camped on the Little
Branch, plenty of good wood for a change.
June 20–Started over the mountains in the morning and came to Hams
Fork at noon. After noon we laid over and went fishing.
June 21–Laid over all day and grazed the horses. I went out pros-
pecting and found some fine views. Stood guard ’til midnight.
June 22, Sunday–Started early and came across the creek and up the
mountain which was nine miles to the top. We seen a Snake Indian
family, the first redskins we have seen. Came down the mountain
which was very steep and stopped for noon in a canyon. Afternoon
we came over some high mountains and down steep hills. The wind
high and the dust blew fearful. Went into camp on Bear River.
June 23–Started in the morning and came up to Coalville, made
a halt there and came across Thompson Creek on a little Toll
Bridge. Came up the river and stopped for noon. Dick Polito
was too sick to travel and we laid over.
June 24–Dick was no better, and we laid over all day. Cold in
the morning, ice ½ inch thick. In the p.m. Susie [wife, Susie
Miller Davis] and May, [sister May Davis Gowing] and George
[brother-in-law George Columbus Gowing] and myself went fishing.
Caught some trout. It was my night to be on guard, and I turned
in early. In the p.m. we had a Shawnee Indian family visit our
June 25–Felt very poorly. Started early and come over some
foothills ’til noon. Stopped for noon on Bear River. In the
p.m. we came through a fearful canyon in the mountains to Mont-
pelier [Idaho]. Done some trading, a very nice little town.
Our first night in Idaho.
June 26–Started in the a.m, came three miles to Bennington,
a little Mormon town, came through quite a settlement. By
irrigating, there is considerable grain raised in Bear River
Bottom. Stopped for noon on a little branch nine miles south
of Soda Springs. At noon we had some Indians come to camp.
After having some fun with them, we gave them some bread, and
they took a walk. We also came to a little town by the name
June 27–In the morning the guards reported 10 head of horses
gone. Soon the boys were out on the hunt. About nine a.m.
they found them up on the foothills. We started out and came
to Soda Springs for noon. We went into camp and visited the
springs, a natural Soda Fountain. After noon we went up the
creek one mile to the big spring. The greatest curiosity I
ever seen in my life. After drinking ’til we thought we
would have to use a stomach pump, we came back to camp. Then
we visited Formation Spring where grass and leaves petrify.
Then came up and while writing my memoranda supper was called.
Stopped now and dealt on potatoes for a while.
June 28–Started early in the a.m. Came down Bear River about
five miles and got lost and divided from part of the train.
Came over some high mountains and camped on a little creek
about three o’clock. Concluded to stay ’til a.m.
June 29, Sunday–Started in the morning and recrossed the
mountains. Had a hard time of it over the prairie ’til about
3:00 o’clock. We found water and then we got our horses and
mules poisoned and we drenched them with lard, and by sundown
they were better.
June 30th–Stared in the a.m. Some of our horses which were
poisoned were very sick. We drove ’til noon and camped on a
little creek. In the p.m. we came up with the rest of the
train. Explanations were made, and at night I stood guard
’til 1 o’clock.
July 1, Tuesday–In the a.m. it was cold. The ice was ½ inch
thick. We drove to a new foothill and came two miles nort-
hwest. Stopped for noon. After noon we drove eight miles
to Blackfoot Creek. Crossed on an old rickety bridge and
came up the creek a little ways and corralled. Had plenty of
July 2–We drove northeast ’til noon and made a dry camp.
In the p.m. we came to Eagle Rock and had some shoeing done
and got some feed. We concluded not to cross the river there,
so we left town and came down the river about three miles and
camped our first night on the Snake River.
July 3–We travelled down Snake River ’til noon. After noon
we came to Central Ferry. Stopped there a few minutes and came
one mile below and camped. I stood guard from 12 ’til day.
The old Fourth of July dawned clear and bright.
July 4–Independence Day was fine in the a.m. About 7:00 a.m.
the wind began to blow. We decided to cross the Snake River
and made arrangements to ferry the stream. The wind was high
and the current was swift. At last we were all safely over.
We came down river ’til noon, stopped two hours. The wind and
sand blew ’til we started, and after noon we came on down the
river and camped at a big spring.
July 5–Laid over all day and went fishing. Caught a fine mess
of trout and mended some boots and shoes, also shod the mules.
July 6–Laid over all forenoon. In the p.m. we came eight
miles to a spring and camped. Was on guard til midnight and
had a stampede and brought the horses into the corral.
July 7–We all turned out early in the a.m, filled our kegs and
jugs and started on the long drive over lava beds and dust six
inches thick. A rough road, lost a wagontire and stopped and
replaced it. Came on and stopped on the desert. No water and
no grass. Afternoon we came on to one of those three buttes
and found some water. The hardest days drive we have had on
the trip, 30 miles without water or grass over lava bed and
July 8–Started early in a.m, drove eight miles to Little Lost
River. Watered and came on up the stream a few miles and stop-
ped for noon. After noon we came eight miles and camped on
Lost River. The grass was very poor.
July 9–Started early, came west about 10 miles to a little
branch and stopped ’til noon. We came on over lava beds,
rough beyond description. There had been a volcano eruption
there years ago, said to have been in ’49. We came on and
camped at the foot of a mountain, good wood, water and grass.
July 10–Started and came over lava beds ’til noon. We had
the roughest road on the trip. The lava bed is a perfect mass
of rocks, hard as flint and in all manner of shapes, just as it
ran when it was melting hot. After noon we came around the
base of the mountains and camped on a little branch. After
supper, songs were sung by some cowboys which were listened to
with much interest by all.
July 11–We started in the a.m. and came on to a little brook
and stopped for noon. After noon we came on and cross Little
Wood River. Then we came three miles over the mountain to Sil-
ver Creek and camped.
July 12–Laid over all day and went fishing. Caught a fine lot
of trout, and the women washed.
July 13, Sunday–Started early and drove 10 miles to Big Wood
River, crossed and came on about a mile to the Hill. Stopped
for noon, fine grass. After noon we came over some very rocky
roads. We travelled about 25 miles and camped on a little
branch. Was on guard ’til midnight.
July 14–We came west over fine roads, through a beautiful val-
ley ’til noon when we stopped and grazed our horses by a little
brook. After noon we came on over to Camas Prairie, as fine a
valley as I even seen. Water every mile or two. We camped on
Soldier Creek. We had a big stampede about 10 o’clock.
July 15–We came on west up the valley ’til noon. Caut six sage
chickens. Stopped for noon on a nice little brook. After noon
we came on over some hills and got three more sage hens and
camped in a little canyon.
July 16–We came over some of the darndest of hills that we have
ever seen ’til noon and stopped on a little branch on the Little
Camas Prairie. After noon we came over another range of mount-
ains and stopped on a little branch for night.
July 17–Drove over some high mountains ’til noon and stopped on
a little branch. After noon we drove over one of the highest
mountains I have ever seen. We decided not to go the Toll Road.
We came to the hill, hitched four horses to each wagon and came
up to the top. We at last came to water and camped.
July 18–Started and came over the mountains ’til noon. After
noon came on and stopped at Indian Creek Store for a few min-
utes, then drove on six miles and camped.
July 19–Started and came seven miles and stopped to graze.
Then we came on to Boise City. There I concluded to stop a
August 19–After a stay of a month in Boise City, we were once
more on the road to Oregon. During our stay in Boise, I worked
at a mill for $40 per month. We came down the river 12 miles
and camped. Had a jolly good time once more.
August 20–Started in the morning and came down the valley, a
very pretty valley, came to Middletown and stopped for noon west
of town. After noon we came on down the valley ’til evening and
camped at a ranch.
August 21–Started early in the morning and came down the valley
to McDowell’s Ferry. Crossing the Snake River on a good boat
and at noon found ourselves in Oregon. After noon we came on an
18-mile drive to Willow Creek and camped. Slept rather late.
Got up and took a boat ride and after two or three hours we
started and came to Tub Springs for noon. After noon we came on
to Birch Creek and camped.
August 23–Started about 7:00 a.m. and came three miles to the
Ferry. There we struck the Burnt River Toll Road, bought our
ticket and came about six miles to Burnt River. Stopped for
noon. After noon we came up Burnt River, past the mines and
camped on the River.
August 24, Sunday–Laid over all day, went to the top of the
mountain, took a look at the hills, came down and stayed in camp
August 25–Started in the a.m. Came up Burnt River Valley,
passed some mines and a few ranches. After noon we came on
northwest over some hills and up the valley and camped on a
little brook at the head of Burnt River.
August 26–Started early and drove 12 miles to Baker City.
Stopped there a little while, came on four miles and stopped
for noon. After noon we came on to Sand Creek and camped.
August 27–Very cool in the morning. Came north, stopped for
noon seven miles from Union at a schoolhouse. After noon we
came down and into Grande Rounde Valley. Came through Union
and camped on Catherine Creek.
August 28–Started in the morning and west northwest about
four miles and then we went north and then east, having taken
the wrong road. We lost some time. We got to Grande Rounde
River about noon. Stopped for noon. After noon we came on
to Summerville and stopped two miles east of town. [In Oregon
On September 11, 1889 George Columbus Gowing purchased 160 acres
from James Henry Barton and Olive J. Barton in Wallowa County,
Oregon for $700, according to Wallowa County deed records.
They celebrated their golden wedding anniversary April 17, 1929
at the home of their daughter Effie Susan Gowing Barton in Eu-
gene, Oregon. They were residents of Cottage Grove at that
time. Susie Davis of Buckley, Washington, a bridesmaid of Emi-
ly May Davis Gowing attended.
They were enumerated in the 1900 census of Wallowa County, Ore-
gon, Prairie Creek township:
Gowing, George C. 44, born in Texas, farmer
May 41, born in Illinois
Frank C. 20, born in Oregon
Earl H. 17, born in Oregon
Effie S. 15, born in Oregon
Jessie 2, born in Oregon”
Emily May Davis Gowing died October 2, 1931 in Cottage Grove.
George Columbus Gowin died there January 23, 1940 of arterio-
sclerosis, according to his death certificate. They were bur-
ied in Prairie Creek Cemetery at Joseph, Oregon. He died at
the home of his daughter Jessie Fern Gowing Moon, according to
his obituary published in the “Eugene Register-Guard.”
He was “survived by one son, Earl H. Gowing, Lorane; two daugh-
ters, Effie Barton, Eugene and Jessie Fern Gowing Moon, Cottage
Grove; one brother, William Gowing, La Cygne, Kansas; one sis-
ter, Clara Gowing Early, Joseph, Oregon, 17 grandchildren and
Children born to George Columbus Gowing and Emily May Davis
Frank Clark Gowing born March 24, 1880
Harlan Earl Gowing born September 2, 1881
Effie Susan Gowing born September 16, 1884
Lois May Gowing born May 20, 1892
Jessie Fern Gowing born June 25, 1898
THE REST OF THE STORY IS AVAILABLE ON
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George Columbus Gowing was a son of William Pleasant Gowing
who was born in 1825 and who served in the Kansas State Mil-
itia in the Jawhawk War. His grandfather was George Wash-
ington Gowing who was born in 1802 and who served in the Kan-
sas State Militia in the Civil War. His great-grandfather
was Charles Gowens who was born in 1763 and who served in the
Revolutionary War. His great-great-grandfather was David
Goings who was born about 1730 in Virginia.