of Ada Sprague Mowell
From page 320 of
Early History of
Thurston County Washington Together
With Biographies and Reminiscences of
Those Identified with Pioneer Days
Compiled by Georgiana Blankenship - 1914
Clinging like the last withered leaf on the
tree, only waiting for thepassing breeze to
waft him to join his parents and five brothers
lives Lewis N.Bush, the youngest son of that
hardiest argonaut of them all, George Bush and
his faithful wife, Isabella James Bush.
The Bush family arrived in what is now known
as Thurston County as early as 1845, while
this section was an unbroken wilderness and
with their party consisting of about thirty
people were the very first settlers north of
the Columbia River.
The original families consisted of the
Bush family, father, mother and five sons,
William 0., Joseph T., Reilly B., Henry,
Sanford and Jackson J.; Mr. and Mrs. M.
Simmons with their four sons, Mr. and Mrs.
McAllister with their son and two daughters;
David and Mrs. Talitha Kindred and their son
John K.; the Jones family, consisting of
father and mother and sons Lewis and Morris
and daughter, Elizabeth and two single men,
Samuel Crockett and Jesse Ferguson.
When the start was made from the old home in
Missouri the elder Bush had laid in a
bountiful stock of supplies enough to last him
and his own family for several years of
frontier life, but all his associates had not
been so well equipped and even before the last
and final stop was made there was a shortage
of necessities among several of the emigrant
families. Bush, with the generosity and kind
heartedness which was his most marked
characteristic, divided with the less
fortunate, even to the subsequent deprivation
of his own family.
Beaching Puget Sound, the families settled on
what has ever since been known as Bush
Prairie, and took up donation claims of 640
acres to a family. Lewis Bush enjoys the
distinction of being the only man living on an
original donation claim west of the mountains.
In every other instance the original owners of
claims have parted with them, but the Bush
claims has descended in an unbroken line from
the father George Bush, to the youngest, son
and to a grandson, Mr. John S. Bush, son of W.
The first winter spent on Puget Sound was one
to try mens' souls, there was absolutely
nothing in the wav of provisions to be bought
for love or money. It is true the Hudson Bay
Company had a post on the Nesqually with Dr.
Tolmie manager, but already there was a
feeling of jealousy springing up in the minds
of the managers of the company, over the
rapidly increasing number of emigrants coming
to share the ranges and preempt the fertile
land. The agents were forbidden to extend aid
to the settlers, so although Dr. Tolmie was
inclined to feel kindly towards the newcomers,
he was forbidden to openly sell them the
necessaries of life.
Clams, salmon, game and oysters were the
substantial of diet eked out, with a little
wheat and dried peas, which still remained of
the stores. The settlers learned to eat with
relish the roots of ferns which they used as
green stuff. Flour there was none until the
Simmons mill was finished in Newmarket. The
men of the new settlement went right to work
building cabins for shelter for their families
against the winter weather, which was about to
close in on them. The cabins were covered with
split shakes and the floors were of puncheon,
while the few simple articles of furniture
were manufactured from the cedar logs lying in
profusion on the ground.
Mr. Bush, shortly after his arrival, set out
fruit and shade trees the seeds of which he
had brought with him from his old home. Many
of these trees grew and flourished and stand
to this day, noble monuments to the hardy old
George Bush died in 1863 and his wife a couple
of years later. After their deaths the
homestead passed into the hand of his three
sons, W. O., J. T., and H. S. Bush. In time W.
U. Bush married and became the father of the
lady who is now Mrs. George Gaston and John
Bush. Lewis Bush in speaking of his earlier
experiences on the old homestead said:
"Yes, those were hard times. We all had to
scramble for enough to eat. There was simply
nothing we could buy from any market for
several years. I remember one summer day an
old squaw came to our house with something to
eat which she wanted to sell. Mother tried to
dicker with her but she only wanted clothes.
Money was of no use to her. She wanted a shirt
for one of her papooses. Now, we had been away
from home a long time and clothing was getting
scarce but mother wanted whatever it was the
squaw had so badly that she stripped the shirt
off of my brother Sanford's back and gave it
to the siwash.
"I was born on the homestead after the folks
reached Bush Prairie, so I cannot remember as
well as could my brothers about, the Indian
war. I know we were all anxious and worried
for several months and when the first scare
was on and the red skins had killed McAllister
and Northcraft father moved his family into
the Fort at Tumwater for a while. But as time
went on he was anxious to get back to his
place, as were the other settlers of our
neighborhood, so they went to work and built a
fort of their own on father's farm.
"Saplings probably fourteen feet long were cut
from the woods and a trench dug several feet
deep. In this trench was set upright the
saplings in a double row clear around the
enclosure. This made a high wall which was
practically bullet proof. Inside this
enclosure were the cabins of the settlers each
by themselves. We were comfortable enough and
lived that way for several months. This fort
was always known as Bushs' fort.
"I was a big lad, probably twelve years old,
before I had my first pair of shoes. There
were none to be had in all the country, so I
was forced to go barefoot, not that I
considered that any hardship, for I was used
to it and only wanted shoes to put on style
with. Well, when the first sailing vessel came
into harbor at Olympia, father went on board
to see what of the cargo he could buy. There
was a whole box of shoes of all sizes among
the articles father bought. Of course, the
elders had first pick at the shoes and when I
had a turn at the box there was only one pair
of No. 10s left. They would have been big
enough for any large man but I was only toe
tickled to get them and wore the shoes with
great pride on Sundays and special occasions.
Those shoes lasted me for years.
"Mother made friends with Dr. Tolmie and it
was through him that she got her first start
in poultry and sheep. She had traded for a few
hens from a French family who were connected
with the Hudson Bay Company, and when one of
these hens showed her willingness to set,
mother got a setting of turkey eggs from Dr.
Tolmie. She was very successful with this
hatching and by coddling those young turks
soon had a nice flock. Dr. Tolmie had not been
so lucky with his turkeys so he told mother he
would trade her a fine ewe for every turkey
she would let him have. She was glad to do so
and in that way she got the first start of the
large flock of sheep which was one of the
greatest sources of profit in a few years.
From Dr. Tolmie also we got the first start of
Well, so we lived for years, always getting
ahead a little and I am glad to say, always
having a little to share with our poorer
neighbors. Neither father nor mother could
bear to deny anyone who applied to them for
Lewis Bush might have gone on and related how
the Bushs, father and sons were always willing
and ready to extend a helping hand to the
settlers who soon began to pour into the
country. The Bush farm was the stopping place
between the settlements of Olympia and New
Market and the Cowlitz landing and there are
still men and women living who can recall
being entertained at this home. Night or day
the Bushs kept open house to all comers, no
one was turned away without being fed and
sheltered and in many cases their wagons
carried substantial gifts of fruit, garden
truck and grain from Mr. Bush's abundant
Mr. George H. Himes relates a story about the
elder Bush which is given here as being
characteristic of the open handed generosity
of not only himself but his six sons as well.
One year there was a great scarcity of grain.
The yield, owing to unfavorable conditions,
was unusually small. Seattle by this time was
quite a town and speculators from that place
came to Mr. Bush and offered him an almost
fabulous price for all his harvest. They were
astounded when their offer was refused, and
were very chagrined over their failure to
corner the output of grain. They asked Mr.
Bush what he intended doing with his surplus.
"I'll just keep my grain to let my neighbors
who have had failures have enough to live on
and for seeding their fields in the spring.
They have no money to pay your fancy prices
and I don't intend to see them want for
anything in my power to provide them with."
With the flight of years the Bush homestead
developed into a model farm under the skillful
management of W. O. Bush, who took great pride
in raising and preparing for exhibition
samples of the grain and produce grown on his
place. Exhibits were made at the World's fairs
of Philadelphia, Chicago and Buffalo, which
attracted general attention and won for Bush
medals and diplomas from all three fairs.
These exhibits were of inestimable value in
advertising the resources of the Territory of
Washington and besides the medals and diplomas
awarded Mr. Bush personally the County of
Thurston and the Territory and State of
Washington were also awarded medals for the
best exhibit of grains made by any section of
the entire United States. In the planting,
selection and arranging of the specimens Mr.
Bush was assisted by his young daughter,
Belle, who took as great an interest and pride
in the exhibit as did her father. That young
girl is now Mrs. George Gaston of Olympia.