“STRANDED ON THE DESERT”

That was the headline on an article in the Poway Progress of November 30, 1895. That’s how the article began as well.

“Stranded on the desert, within twenty miles of Banning, is where J. Chilson of Fallbrook, has found his son-in-law, Bud Russell, and family,” stated the article, which attributed the story to a Fallbrook newspaper.

Russell and his family were part of a wagon train that left Oklahoma (then Oklahoma Territory) a few months previously, headed for California, the article said. They ran into some trouble, not specifically described other than to say their journey “has proved a most disastrous one to the whole party.”

“Just how nearly destitute they are is now known,” the article continued, “but on Saturday Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Shipley and J. Chilson left Fallbrook with two teams [of horses], to assist their relatives and bring them to Fallbrook.” The members of the stranded party were said to be “in good health, though their horses are broken down.”

The Shipleys, Chilsons and Russells were all part of the same extended family, descended from Oliver Cook and his wife Clarissa. They were also somewhat used to traveling together, if their family history is any indication.

After over 20 years as a successful farmer in Kansas, Oliver Cook, then in his late sixties, decided to pull up stakes and move to California in 1885. With Kansas in a recession and train fares reduced due to railroad price wars, Cook convinced most of his extended family to come with him. Arriving on the same train that day at the Fallbrook depot were Oliver and his wife Clarissa, daughter Clarissa and husband Elmore Shipley and their two sons, and daughter Mary Elizabeth and husband Joseph Chilson and their three children. Oh yes, and one of the Chilson’s children, daughter Mary Alice, came with her husband, Allen “Bud” Russell, and two sons.

The Russell branch of the family wasn’t quite finished with traveling, migrating to what is now Oklahoma in 1892. Although that didn’t work out too well, the Russells would re-establish themselves successfully in Fallbrook.

You can find out more about this very enterprising—and mobile—clan in my book, Valleys of Dreams, available for sale through this website.

Sources for this post included the archives of the Fallbrook Historical Society and the research of Susan M. Hillier Roe, third great-granddaughter of Oliver Cook.

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History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community

Art Animates Life and San Marcos Historical Society present a live train ride thriller, “Passage Into Fear,” September 19-21 at Heritage Park. A historical stage thriller in the tradition of Hitchcock and Christie, the play is set during World War I in recognition of the war’s 100th anniversary. Proceeds support the San Marco Historical Society’s educational programs at Heritage Park. Tickets $9 for adults, $5 for 15 and under. For tickets or further info call 760-716-0107 or visit www.smhistory.org .

Join members of the Santee Historical Society for their annual Barn Bar BQ and General Meeting Saturday, September 20 at 11 am at the society’s headquarters, the historic Edgemoor Barn, 9200 Magnolia Avenue. Speaker will be yours truly, the San Diego History Seeker, speaking on the lives of pioneer residents Hosmer and Fannie McKoon. $2.50 a plate for members, $5 a plate for non-members (you can join on the spot). RSVP by calling 619-449-2024.

Author Carol Fitzpatrick will speak on “Meriwether Lewis- Debunking the Myths of His Suicide,” at the next meeting of the Temecula Valley Historical Society, Monday, September 22, 6 p.m. at the Little Temecula History Center. Free and open to the public. For details call Rebecca Farnbach at 951-699-5148.

 

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