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Homsley Emigrants to Oregon ~ Oregon Trail ~ Homsley Twins ~ Rev War Drummer ~ Fort Laramie ~


Len Holmes
It is sometimes asserted that the main business of a
historical writer is interpretation. In the view of the
author the main business is accuracy. He has sought
to be exact; and he here echoes the prayer of the
conscientious Elliot Coues that every error committed,
" whether in ignorance or by inadvertence, may be
exposed and corrected." H. M. Chittenden



The lovely, Mary Oden Homsley (20 Jul 1824), was from historical accounts about
five feet two inches tall, blue eyed, with Chestnut hair that could fall to her ankles.
She met her husband after her Oden family migrated from
Fayette, Kentucky to Lincoln,Truxdale, Arkansas.
She married Benjamin Franklin Homsley on the 3rd of June 1841 at
Vernon, Missouri just before her seventeenth birthday.

Benjamin Franklin Homsley born September 15, 1815 in Sparta, White, Tennessee
being about the fourth child born to War of 1812 veteran,
Joseph Homsley, (abt 1780-abt 1822) and Barbary Foulkes (1760-1845).
Benjamin Franklin Homsley is the grandson of 
Benjamin Homsley (1748-1824) and Jemima Self (1740-1820).
His maternal grandfather, Revolutionary War veteran of Bunker Hill,
Brandywine and Cowpens as a drummer,
Charles Foulkes (abt 1755-abt 1815) is historically credited
as being the drummer in George Washington’s funeral.
Charles is interred in Lincoln, North Carolina. Research has not revealed his wife’s name.

The Benjamin Franklin


Mary Oden Homsley Children

Two unknown
These are most likely the twins that died.

Leura Homsley Gibson b 1847-? HOMSLEY, Leura (1847-1939):
married  23 Dec 1864 GIBSON, George;
d/o Benjamin and Mary E. Homsley; born 06 Mar 1847 Warren Co, MO
(in an interview she states that the family bible was lost during
the emigration and her father told her he thought she was born in May
but wasn't sure so she never really knew when to
celebrate her birthday); Leura died 30 Nov 1938 Portland, Multnomah Co, OR;
mother of 5 children (May, Alberta, Frona, Ralph R. and Eugene)

Sarah Ellen Homsley Taylor b 1850- HOMSLEY, Sarah Ellen (1850-1917):
 married 23 Dec 1864 TAYLOR, Samuel Richard;
d/o Benjamin and Mary E. Homsley; born Feb 1850 Warren Co, MO
and died 26 Nov 1917 Portland, Multnomah Co, OR;
buried Rock Creek Cemetery, Canby, Clackamas Co, OR;
mother of 2 children (Nellis H. and Hattie L.)

Lycurgus Homsley (1843-1852)
Georgina Homsley (1841-1852)
HOMSLEY, Infant Son (1852 -1852); died on trail of measles.
“Emigrants to Oregon in 1852”, Surnames A-I,
compiled by Stephenie Flora
 copyright © 2009

The Two unknown children is a sad tale.
It is said that an embittered slave poisoned the children.
Ray Homesley, prominent Homesley author, states it could have been tainted food.
Lycurgus and Georgina succumbed to illness along the trail and died,
Lura and Sarah Ellen survived the trip on the trail to Oregon.


Bailey was born in Warren County, Missouri, Feb. 22, 1838,
left home when he was 14, and traveled widely with many colorful adventures.
Remarkably surviving the Oregon Trail, Bailey explored many of the western states,
mined for gold in California, freighted in Montana, and fought at the age of sixteen
in the Indian Wars with the Oregon Mounted Volunteers.
He then traveled by boat via Cape Horn before returning to Warren, Missouri.
He married Sarah Winfred Giles Oct 03, 1867.

Their children:

Thomas Chamberlain Homsley (1871 - 1944)
Eugene Via Homsley (1877 - 1983)
Charles Bailey “Cisco” Homsley (1879 - 1962)
Lillian Sarah Homsley Jenkins (1888 - 1983)
Bertha Evalyn Homesley Shelnutt (1891 - 1988)
Lucie Homsley (1 Oct 1873 - 25 Feb 1874)


The Jacob Norris Oden’s were a pioneer family that built the first house
in Fayette, Kentucky. Jacob Norris Oden (1800-1885) married Sarah Fine (1799-1885)
on March 31, 1820 in Montgomery, Missouri. The couple had about ten children,
most of who went on the Oregon Trail. They are: Mary Elisabeth Homsley,
Rebecca Rachel Oden Homsley, William Green Oden, Levi Oden, Vinette Oden,
Thomas Oden, Fine Oden, Virgil Oden, Lucritia Frances Oden, Charles R. Oden.

Find A Grave Memorial #54951145
Daughter of
Eugene Via Homsley (1877 - 1983)
Granddaughter of
Bailey Anderton Homsley (1838 - 1927)
Accompanied the Benjamin Franklin Homsley Family at 14. (abt 1852)
Great Granddaughter of
Thomas Jefferson Homsley (1805 - 1851)
Great Great Granddaughter of
Joseph Homesley (Abt. 1780 - 1822)
Benjamin Homesley (1748 - 1824)


Preparing to leave for the Oregon Trail must have taken many tasks that would overwhelm us in our modern day. The Benjamin Franklin Homsley and Mary Elizabeth Oden family of Lincoln, Truxdale, Missouri were dismantling their lives and loading it on the Covered Wagon to head into the Great American frontier just as their ancestors had done before them. To say they would go where no man had ever gone would be a misnomer. The Native Americans inhabited these lands for millennia.

The lovely, Mary Oden Homsley (20 Jul 1824), was from historical accounts about five feet two inches tall, blue eyed, with Chestnut hair that could fall to her ankles.

Benjamin Franklin Homsley (15 Sep 1815) a blacksmith by trade was a welcomed addition to the trail members.

On an agreed time the wagon train trip began, and the Oden and Homsley families on their way to begin a new life in Oregon via the Oregon Trail. Accompanying the families was Benjamin Franklin Homsley’s fourteen-year-old nephew, Bailey Anderton Homsley. (Volume 20 Number 4 - July/August 2001 The Life of Bailey Anderton Homsley, Genealogical Society of Central Missouri).



Reading historical accounts of the daily life on the Oregon Trail, one learns that a daily mileage was about 15-20 miles per day. It is said that those who walked the trail had the highest mortality rate.

H. M. Chittenden: The American Fur Trade of the Far West, 1929 in his sentinel work which includes a cite from: "The Oregon Trail," Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. I, No. 4 (December 1900).

The Santa Fe Trail being first established, a
signboard was later set up to show where the
Oregon Trail branched off. It bore the simple
legend "Road to Oregon." . . . Surely so
unostentatious a sign never before nor since
announced so long a journey.

The Oregon Trail branched from the Santa Fe Trail at Independence, Missouri, the “Queen City of the Trails” as three trails converged: Santa Fe, Oregon, California.

Wickipedia states that, initially, the main "jumping off point" was the common head of the Santa Fe Trail and Oregon Trail—Independence, Missouri/Kansas City, Kansas. Travelers starting in Independence had to ferry across the Missouri River. After following the Santa Fe trail to near present-day Topeka, Kansas, they ferried across the Kansas River to start the trek across Kansas and points west. Another busy "jumping off point" was St. Joseph, Missouri—established in 1843.[2] In its early days, St. Joseph was a bustling outpost and rough frontier town, serving as one of the last supply points before heading over the Missouri River to the frontier. St. Joseph had good steamboat connections to St. Louis, Missouri, and other ports on the combined Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi River systems. During the busy season there were several ferryboats and steamboats available to transport travelers to the Kansas shore where they started their travels westward. Before the Union Pacific Railroad was started in 1865, St. Joseph was the westernmost point in the United States accessible by rail. Other towns used as supply points in Missouri included Old Franklin,[3] Arrow Rock, and Fort Osage.

There were dangers in camping along the trail, particularly along the Platte River. During the years (1849-1855) it was important to drink upstream or on the many creeks that flowed into the Platte due to cholera which is caused by many travelers using the same camping spots with no sewage facilities. In most cases cholera was swift in that a healthy person in the morning would die by evening. The Oregon Trail has many unmarked graves of those who succumbed. Our Homsley ancestors did not escape the Cholera epidemic.

The Oregon Trail branched into northeastern Colorado following the South Platte River through present Julesburg, Colorado. Here the Homsley train of migrants entered WyomingFort Laramie, Wyoming, the last army outpost, and junction of the Laramie River and North Platte at Independence Rock was a major stopping point.



At this juncture of the arduous journey to Oregon, Benjamin Franklin Homsley and his family made a fateful decision in 1852. Mary Oden Homsley had just given birth to a child who became infected with her Measles. Oddly enough the disease was treated by applying egg white on the affected areas. The deadly affliction spread rapidly on the wagon trains.

Benjamin Franklin Homsley made the fateful decision to cross the swollen river to Ft. Laramie to aid his wife and newborn child. The wagon was overturned by the swift high waters of the Laramie River. Mother and child and contents of the wagon were soaked in the frigid river. The newborn died that day and Mary Oden Homsley was drenched and having the Measles complicated matters for her well being. One can almost feel the grief today that the brave band of pioneers felt as they buried their newborn baby along the trail. One can visualize the halted wagons of the train as the Homsley and Oden families buried this newborn. Bailey drove one of the wagons with the sick, and Benjamin drove the other wagon.

Mary Elizabeth Homsley survived till June 25, 1852. Among her last words were to her husband, “Don’t separate the children.” She died at age 29. What grief Benjamin Franklin and her parents, brothers and sisters, the Odens must have endured. There was no lumber available to construct a coffin. The infected feather bed on which she and her newborn rested was her shroud. She was laid to rest on the trail near Ft. Laramie, Wyoming.

Benjamin took his jackknife and inscribed on a slate her name. With great sorrow they then continued the epic journey to the rich farmlands on Elliot Prairie, Clackmas County, Oregon. It is said that he seldom spoke of it again, but made his promise good to not separate the children.

By the time the train approached Boise, Idaho tragedy struck again, Lycurgus Homesley, 9 years old, born in 1843 also died of the measles. He was buried in an old tool chest along the trail near Boise. It is said that Georgina Homsley, 11 year old, died of the Measles about this time and is also buried on the trail in 1852.

Sarah Ellen Homsley married Samuel Taylor and survived the journey to Oregon.  Their children:  NELLIE TAYLOR, HATTIE L TAYLOR.

Lura Homesley survived the journey and married George D Gibson 23 Dec 1864 in Clackmas, Oregon.  Their children are MARY MAUD GIBSON, ALICE ALBERT GIBSON,  RALPH RETURN GIBSON, SARAH SAPHRONIA GIBSON, and EMERA EUGENE GIBSON. An interview with Mary Homsley’s daughter, Lura Homsley Gibson, can be found in The Lockley Files: Conversations with Pioneer Women, by Fred Lockley, edited by Mike Helm (Eugene, OR: Rainy Day Press, 1981), pp. 173-76.

United States Census 1860 Benjamin Homesly
16 1862 1550 Homesley Benjamine 40 M Farmer 800 500 Tennessee
17 1862 1550 Homesley Laura 13 F Missouri X
18 1862 1550 Homesley Sarah E. 10 F Missouri X
19 1862 1550 Sweat John J. 32 M Laborer 200 150 Ohio
Remarks: Lower Molalla Precinct Concluded: Lines 20-24 Blank

By the year 1880 Benjamin Franklin Homesley was living
with his son-in-law SAMUEL TAYLOR Film number: 1255080
Household     Gender     Age
Samuel R. Taylor  M   35
Child  Sarah E Taylor F  29
Nelly L Taylor  F  11
Hattie L Taylor  F   1
Benjamin Homesly   M   60

Benjamin Franklin Homsley died September 6, 1908 and is buried in ROCKCREEK CEMETERY. It is said that Ben Homsley took his wife’s death very seriously and never ceased mourning.

This determined family succeeded in moving to Oregon. Mary Oden Homsley’s children settled near ROSEBURG, OREGON.


A news article on the discovery, published in
the Fort Laramie Scout, was followed by an editorial in the
Portland Oregonian, which asked the question,
" Who was Mary Homsley.''
A daughter of the pioneer soon answered the question.
The woman, Mrs. Laura Gibson, of Portland, who, seventy-three
years before, at the age of three, had witnessed her mother's
burial. Her father, Benjamin Homsley, a blacksmith, with his
two young daughters, had reached Oregon and had settled on
a homestead. There he carefully brought up his children, and
there, in the fullness of time, he passed on. A reticent,
undemonstrative man, he had never talked of the tragic loss, and
only through the newspaper articles did Mrs. Gibson learn
the place of her mother's death. From contributions by
citizens of Wyoming a cement monument, in which the old stone
is imbedded, was erected at the grave, and on
Memorial Day, 1926, it was dedicated by Professor Hebard.
"The road to Oregon, a chronicle of the great emigrant trail" H. M. Chittenden        


In 1925, some cowboys were riding the range near Ft. Laramie, and discovered the broken tombstone that Benjamin Franklin had carved with care in 1852. The rest is history.

The original headstone has been placed in a large stone obelisk and encased in glass. A wooden fence protects the site that has also been marked by the Oregon-California Trails Association.

The site is not listed on the National Register.


H. M. Chittenden: The American Fur Trade of the Far West, 1929::  "The Oregon Trail," Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. I, No. 4 (December 1900).

Miller, Neal E., "Annals of Wyoming", Vol. 42 April 1970, Number 1. Published biannually Wyoming State Archives and Historical Department, Wyoming State Historical Society, pp.94-95.  The Settling of Oregon and Its Pioneers is my number one hobby and addiction. Visit my site and learn about early Oregon and the natives, explorers, fur traders, missionaries and pioneers that settled it. Includes pioneer lists through 1855, pioneer diaries, Oregon Trail information and a photo gallery of early pioneers.

Stice, S. (#46944589) Find A Grave, Find A Grave Memorial # 63194207 Note:  Excellent pics and data

Oregon-California Trails Association:

GIBSON, Lura Homsley reminiscences  [Conversations With Pioneer Women by Fred Lockley p.173-176]


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