James and Mary Jory – Emigrated 1849

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Pioneer Families


James Jory, Senior, was born in the village of St. Cleer, in Cornwall, England on August 7, 1787. His father was gamekeeper and gardener on an English estate, and James became a carpenter and mechanic. His wife, Mary Stephens Jory, was born October 28, 1792. They were married on September 28, 1814, and all of their eight children — two daughters and six sons — save their youngest child, Hugh, were born in England.

They were a working class family, which limited their prospects in England. Partly in search of opportunity and partly to escape an apprenticeship law which could take young boys away from their families and set them to work at the age of nine, the family left England for Canada in 1830, and settled about 40 miles upriver from St. Johns, New Brunswick.

The family farmed in Canada for six years but were frustrated by the poor soil. They moved to St. Johns and the men worked in the shipyards, where they heard that there was good land to be had in central Canada. The family booked passage to New York with the intention of taking the Erie Canal inland, but soon after arriving on October 31, 1836, they met a man from Missouri who convinced them that his home was in every way superior to Canada. They left New York a week later aboard a sailing vessel bound for New Orleans. From there, they took a sidewheel steamer up the Mississippi River to St. Louis.

In search of their own land — and to get out of Missouri, as the family didn’t approve of slavery — the Jorys moved upriver to Pike County, Illinois. They bought 40 acres of rich, tall grass prairie and put it to plow. The family stayed there for almost ten years.

It was the younger James who prompted the family to move to Oregon. He was concerned for the health of his new wife, Sarah Budd Jory, as young women seemed to be most vulnerable to malaria, a mosquito-borne disease which was commonplace at the time. Oregon had a reputation of being free of such maladies and having a healthy climate. After talking it over with his wife, father, and brothers, all but two of the family members emigrated to the Oregon Country in 1847.


Like his father, the younger James Jory was apparently not only a skilled mechanic, but frugal, as well. The son bought a ruined wagon which had been built of green wood. The wood had, of course, shrunk so much that the wagon was unusable, so the maker was selling it for $50, the price of the running gear. James realized that since the wood had shrunk under the sun but not warped, he could simply plane everything down to even up the joints and retighten the hardware. After he did so, he had a wagon which he knew would hold up to the dry air of the plains and deserts he and his wife had to cross. He customized it to make it as comfortable as possible. In addition to putting new, thicker bows under the bonnet, he replaced the bonnet itself with a double layer of canvas, which offered the best possible protection from rain, dust, and wind. He also drilled holes all the way around the top of the wagon box to allow him to weave a mesh of sturdy cord — an old-fashioned method of supporting a mattress that provided a proper bed for his wife to rest in. Since no wood was needed, it added little weight to the wagon and left enough room underneath to store the supplies needed for the journey.

James, Jr., and his wife were to meet the rest of the family at Independence, Missouri, but with so many emigrants getting ready to jump off from Independence that year, James couldn’t find his father or brothers. He set out anyway, with his wife, his wagon, and a small herd of cattle that included a few head of stock that belonged to his father.

They had the good fortune of joining the groups of pioneers who elected Joseph Magone to captain them to Oregon. Magone, a New Yorker, was an adventurous man and he was also an intelligent, conscientious leader who guided his wagon train to the Oregon Country in safety. Along the way, James, Jr., was particularly impressed with the tiny nursery of fruit trees in the back of fellow emigrant Seth Luelling’s wagon, whom he encountered several times as they passed one another on the Trail. The grafts on Luelling’s little trees would vastly increase the value of Oregon’s orchards. The most memorable moment of the trip, however, was the birth of his first child, Phoebe Ann Jory, along the banks of the Burnt River on September 21, 1847.

James and Sarah stopped at the Umatilla River to wait for the rest of the family to catch up to them. James, Sr., and the clan came by in due time, and the entire family arrived safely in the Willamette Valley together. They settled in the hills south of Salem, the boys staking out neighboring claims about six or eight miles from the future capital of Oregon. They planned to make their fortunes as ranchers.

Instead, they made their fortunes in the California gold fields. James, Thomas, and William Jory, accompanied by their brother-in-law John Fenn — who married Mary’s younger sister, Elizabeth, shortly after arriving in Oregon — had a somewhat nerve-wracking trip south in a crude, Oregon-built schooner with logs fastened to the sides of the ship to act as gunwales and keep it from capsizing in rough waters. Once there, they ran into two men they knew from Salem working a claim. They pointed the brothers to a nearby abandoned claim, complete with tools and sluice boxes. Fenn and the Jorys worked the claim and found that it was still bearing gold. They worked hard and came home with enough gold for them and their parents to live out their lives in comfort.

James Jory, Senior, died in 1870, and Mary Stephens Jory five years later. Their children and grandchildren continued to farm and ranch their claims until selling them in the early Twentieth Century to a land company which developed the hilly fields into orchards.

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