William T. Lieuallen and Margaret Fuson were married on April 5, 1864, the day before they set off from the Fuson home to get ready for the trip to Oregon. William was the middle child of eleven children born to Peyton and Jemima Lieuallen in Anderson County, Tenessee. In 1843 or ’44, following the birth of their last child, Peyton and Jemima moved the family to Missouri. After moving to Missouri, the Lieuallen boys just sort of kept on going. All but one of Peyton and Jemima’s sons emigrated to the Pacific Northwest.
William was a latecomer to Oregon. Most of his brothers and several family friends had emigrated in earlier years, so William and Margaret had a firm destination in mind when they set out.
The Lieuallen homesteads in eastern Oregon were well short of the Willamette Valley, but by 1864 that no longer mattered nearly as much as it had before. Gold had lured prospectors to the dry side of the Cascade Mountains by then, and boom towns, ranches, and respectable settlers had inevitably followed. There were stores and small towns stretching well into Nebraska and Idaho, shortening the trip through unsettled lands still claimed by Indian tribes.
Even so, traveling the Oregon Trail in 1864 was still a serious undertaking, but William was inspired to risk the trip to get away from wartime conditions in the East. A letter from John Wesley Lieuallen to his brother Josiah, dated August 30, 1864 — while brother William was camped along the Snake River en route to Oregon — described conditions as, “very troublesome here, and so they were [before you left for Oregon], but nothing to compare with what they are now. And they get worse every day, my language fails me to tell how low and degraded the people have got, mind cannot think of anything too mean for them to do. …there has been murdering and stealing all around us.”
On his journey west, William kept a journal, recording the daily conditions and keeping a record of his mileage as best as he could reckon. Note that this is not a diary — William rarely if ever recorded his personal feelings or detailed information except where it pertained to the wagons, livestock, and traveling conditions. This is not unusual in records kept by men; women were more likely to keep diaries than impersonal journals.
After meeting his older brother, Thomas Tyndall Lieuallen, at his claim, William and his brother Noah immediately set about finding their own land. This took less than a week, and by October William was hard at work building the cabin in which he and Margaret would spend their first winter in Oregon. Aside from the occasional trip into town, a few days off to help friends and relatives raise their cabins, and two or three days spent husking corn for his brother, William worked for about three weeks to build his cabin, and a further two weeks building a stone chimney. William and Margaret finally moved into their new house on December 8, 1864, after William finished the hearth and put in a wood plank floor. This was fairly ambitious as first-year cabins went, but with his brothers already established nearby, William didn’t have to worry about securing food, tools, and other supplies he and Margaret would need to build a home.
William chose to stake his claim on sloping, hilly ground because he found a spring and small stream, and he considered the presence of year-round water important enough to prefer the foothills of the Blue Mountains over the prairie on the valley floor. This choice proved to be a wise one, as he and his family prospered and expanded their land holdings over the years.
In 1875, William built a proper frame house for his growing family. Sadly, the home of William and Margaret Lieuallen burned to the ground on January 8, 1987, its wood-shingled roof apparently set ablaze by sparks from the chimney. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured, but the family lost many precious heirlooms and photographs in the fire.
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