• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Married 6 June 1890
Some records state that this marriage occurred 23 March 1890. We have a photo copy of a picture of James, date unknown, but none of Fannie (as she was known). We know little about his early life. Fannie told her children a few memories that they passed on to their children who wrote them down.
James Andrew McNicholl  circa early 1900's
Like many other people of their time this family moved many times and settled new frontier areas.   Prior to 1890 the US had a 'frontier of settlement'. The 1890 census announced that the frontier region of the United States no longer existed and westward migration would no longer be tracked.

In the scant records of names and birth, marriage and death records we can observe that many people, like the McNicholl's continued to 'go west'. Some sought land, some gold and other riches or opportunities, and for some the challenges were merely exhilarating adventures.

History teaches us that, "At noon on April 22, 1889, just a few weeks after [Benjamin Harrison was inaugurated President of the United States], a gunshot signaled the opening of the Indian Territory in Oklahoma—some 1.9 million acres—to white settlers. That day, 20,000 people crossed into the territory, claiming all the available acreage. This event in Oklahoma was on the heels of the land rush for over 11 million acres of Sioux Indian territory in the Dakotas two months earlier. On October 15, 1892, Harrison made an additional 1.8 million acres of the Crow Indian reservation in Montana available for general settlement."

Archives Unbound states, "To bring the lives of these settlers into focus, consider the Western land itself—the vastness, the boundless plain, and awesome mountain barriers. ... At first they travelled in covered wagons, then by steamboats and stagecoaches. The coming of railroads increased the speed of the journeys, but for the emigrant travelers there was little in the way of amenities. ... Westward settlers following trails west typically [followed one of several established trails]. Although each trail had a main route, there were many cutoffs and alternative routes, some of them were notoriously ill-chosen while others provided significant savings of time and effort...

"It is estimated by historians that up to half a million settlers crossed the West on these trails from the earliest wagon trains to the building of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. The journey across overland trails took settlers 2,000 miles and around seven months to complete. Most groups traveled at a pace of fifteen miles a day. Few traveled the overland trails alone; most settlers traveled with their families. Large groups of settlers joined together to form 'trains.' Groups were usually led by 'pilots' who were fur trappers or mountain men that would guide them ...

"The journey over the trails usually began in the spring to avoid traveling in the winter. The most common vehicle for Oregon and California-bound settlers was a crude farm wagon covered with a canopy and led by a team of oxen (which were greatly preferred over horses and mules)."
The first child in the McNicholl family, Lenora Blanch McNicholl was born 31 Aug 1893 at Hope, Steel, North Dakota; followed by Alice Mabel McNicholl born 9 February 1893 in Denton, South Dakota [place unidentified]. Sarah Isabell McNicholl, Papa's maternal grandmother, was born 7 December 1894 Yankton, Yankton, South Dakota. Next came Cora McNicholl  born April 1896 in South Dakota, Georgia McNicholl born about 1898 or 1899, who died as an infant 2 Feb 1899 in South Dakota, and the last child born to this family of girls was Dora McNicholl born 27 October 1906 in Volmer, Idaho [may be present day Craigmont].

In a cook book published for a Shelton / Bennett Family reunion in 1990, compiled by Carrie and Gina Shelton, cousins, there is a photocopy of an old photo of 3 McNicholl daughters.  The book is full of fun pictures of many family members. The Cookbook says photos and Geneology research were courtesy of June Shupe, her daughter Pat Shelton Erdman, and Hazel Bennett Berry.

Alice McNicholl back left, Sarah McNicholl back right, 
Cora McNicholl front  circa early 1900s

We are grateful for all the work, dedication and research these individuals, and others, give our family for the discovery, and preservation of,  records and photos. They also contributed significantly to a history of Sarah Isabelle McNicholl Shelton, a daughter of James Andrew McNicholl.

In that history of Sarah Isabelle McNicholl Shelton, Papa's maternal grandmother, some of her children tell some of the stories and memories they heard from their mother.

Sarah's son (Herman Shelton) records, "[In our family] the boy's height came from Fanny's uncles and James McNicholl was tall - 6 feet. I understand [Fanny] was nice but she was very strict. That's the way it was in those days ... James wasn't a farmer - he worked in town in a profession of some kind but Mom [Sarah Shelton] never told us what. I got the impression they were not poor."

Sarah's daughter, Katherine May (Shelton) Ames, known as Kit says, "Chief Sitting Bull (the Titular Chief - title existing in name only, not the renegade) was a friend of the family and several times was an overnight guest at [James and Alois McNicholl's] home. Sometimes the Chief and his wife would just drop in for a visit and stay for several days. The Chief gave [James McNicholl] his War Bonnet when he learned that the McNicholl family was going to Idaho."

I have been unable to find any support or evidence of whom these Native American visitors might have been. Chief Sitting Bull the renegade did live in the Yankton, South Dakota area but died in 1890 only a few months after their marriage, and four years prior to Sarah Isabelle McNicholl's birth.

It has been claimed that 'Frank and Jesse James' were friends of the McNicholl family and stopped at the family home whenever they were passing through.' This seems quite unlikely as Jesse James was killed in 1882 (8 years prior to their marriage) and most of the James brothers infamously barbarous and cruel  exploits took place much further east and south than South Dakota. Although many romanticized legends sprang up regarding these men they were murderous criminals. Much of their lawlessness began as Confederate supporters in the Civil War.

Kit continues, "About 1906, after saying all their 'goodbyes', the McNicholl family joined a wagon train going west to Montana and Idaho [from Yankton, South Dakota - see below]. A history teacher says they probably took the Lewis and Clark route up the Missouri river and through South Dakota."

Kit adds, "By this time, most Indian tribes were friendly with the whites or at least not making war with them, so there was not the need for large wagon trains or military escorts.

"Theirs was a small group of a couple dozen or so wagons, heavily loaded with all their possessions. They took all summer going from Yankton, South Dakota to Grangeville, Idaho.

"There were the McNicholl family, the George Huckins family, the Robert (Bob) Dougherty family and a few other families. Mrs. Bob Dougherty was Daisy Huckins, a sister to George Huckins and Fanny Alois McNicholl was also a sister to George Huckins. So there were strong family ties causing these three families to be traveling together.
1900  census: Lower Methow, Okanogan County, Washington State
On the 1900 census the parents of Frances, James and Mary Huckins, were living in Washington state and Robert Dougherty was a boarder/miner living in their household. James Huckins was the foreman for the Tom Hal Mining Company formed in 1899. If Robert Dougherty was traveling with the group in 1906, as Kit describes, he has traveled west to Washington state previously. (Note: previous census records show many Dougherty families in Washington.)
Daisy is not with her husband (married 1897) or parents on this census. We find a Daisy Dougherty on the 1900 census of Heyde Park [Hyde Park], Cook County, Illinois near Chicago, as a neice of John and Mary McGrayel. Is this the sister of Frances Alois Huckins? I do not yet know. It is of interest however that Frances was born in that general area. 
"While crossing the plains, ... Sarah was the 'boy' of the family of six girls. She cut the wood, gathered buffalo chips for the fires, carried water and did boy chores - she liked that. ..."
In Donald James Shelton's history (special thanks again to cousin Pat Erdmann and all that many have helped her) Kit tells about visiting some of their mother's old friends in Entiat while moving from Oregon to Washington in the spring of 1929. "They came running out to the car and said 'hello Jim'. We were all surprised because, as Donald said to me, 'We ain't got no Jim'. We found out later that was what they called mom when she was a girl. She was the only one of six girls that would do boys work. Donald James Shelton was named after his mother's nickname Jim."

Kit continues her narrative, "As the covered wagons traveled through the mountains they had some very interesting experiences. When they came to a steep hill that they had to go down, they sometimes had to cut down a big tree and tie it to the back of the wagon so that it would be a drag and let the wagon down slowly.

"One of the stories Mom [Sarah Shelton] told us was: 'When they were in their covered wagon, coming across the plains they came to a river, which they had to ford. As arrangements were being made, an Indian rode up on his horse on the other side of the river and sat and watched them. They had heard so many Indian stories that they were scared to death of Indians and the girls were afraid he was going to scalp all of them when they got across the river. The bedding in the wagon was on top of the load, so the girls all hid under the bedding. The Indian apparently had seen them and knew what was going on. He met the wagon and came around to the back, lifted up the bedding, peeked at the girls, laughed and went back to talk to the rest of the people."

"They settled in Grangeville, Idaho, Idaho between then and the time Sarah's father, James McNicholl died on 29 March 1910 in Grangeville." Death certificate in possession of Pat Erdman.

James Died: 29 March 1910
GrangevilleIdaho, Idaho
Buried: 6 April 1910

Kit tells that, "Sometime after James McNicholl's death, Fanny married Roy Dougherty, brother of Bob Dougherty. Roy Dougherty was then Sarah's stepfather. Roy Dougherty and George Huckins later moved to Wenatchee, Washington where they lived for a short while and then moved up the Columbia River by stern-wheeler Steamboat to Pateros, Washington.
"To get to Pateros, one must go up the Pateros rapids, which is a pretty wild piece of water. It was so swift and rough that they would put a line ashore and hook it to teams of horses to help the steamer up over the rapids. On this particular trip, Grandpa's trunk was sitting on the afterdeck and the tossing of the boat shook the trunk overboard and it sank in the rapids. Chief Sitting Bull's War Bonnet was in that trunk."

Frances Died:17 May 1918, Weatherby, Baker, Oregon
Some records say she died in nearby Durkee.
Buried: 1918 Malheur, Malheur, Oregon

Update July 2012: see an interesting site about pioneer travel from South Dakota west at