Connie Lenzen, Certified Genealogist


Heritage Books and Family Lore

A Jackson Test in Missouri and Idaho.

An article written for the March 1998 NGS Quarterly.

By Connie Lenzen, CG [1]

When evaluating family traditions, the genealogist needs to continually question the details. What, or who, is the source? How was the information gathered? What is the probability that the event occurred?

Traditions cannot be considered valid until they have been evaluated for consistency and verified with documentary evidence.

Traditions are one of the oldest sources of family history and one of the least reliable. Chronicles become distorted as they travel from person to person and generation to generation. Facts are embellished and events move out of sequence. Some accounts lose all connection to the individual(s) who experienced them and are morphed, by descendants, into different identities or other families. Yet, often the only thing a genealogist has to begin with is family lore.

The question is especially relevant today, given the widespread growth of county-level "heritage books." As commonly structured, their publishers focus upon an area, solicit local-society sponsorship, invite area residents to submit family sketches, and then publish the contributions unedited and— almost invariably—undocumented. Commonly, too, the sketches are a mix of handed-down accounts and personal research. Quality varies drastically; but, with no documentation, how is the user to discern reliable tradition from guesswork and supposition, or careful research from indiscriminate name gathering?

A search for George W. Jackson of nineteenth-century Missouri and Idaho, a man separated from his siblings by both time and distance, offers several opportunities to pose instructive tests.

The Problem

George Jackson is mentioned in three separate family sketches published in a Phelps county, Missouri, heritage book of recent vintage—accounts contributed, apparently, by three different writers. [2] On one level, even a superficial comparison of the three Jackson articles—one titled for George's grandfather, one for George's father, and one for George's brother—spotlights drastic contradictions in data for George's parental household. Figure 1 (below) summarizes those differences, which speak for themselves. As shown there, two of the accounts present details for George that at least differ, if not conflict; and one of those sketches relates a rambunctious tradition of the type that any family historian would cherish. But can it be believed?

This paper begins with the tradition and explores the trail of evidence to which that tradition leads. The results reflect both the strengths and the weaknesses of oral history and the undocumented "heritage books" in which many such accounts are found.

The Family

William P. "Willie" Jackson, father of George, was born in Kentucky about 1790. [3] In Green County, Kentucky, he married Jinny Sally on 9 November 1810. [4] In the 1820s, the couple and their children crossed the Mississippi River and settled in Washington County, Missouri (next door to Crawford County, from which Phelps was created in 1857). George, who is cited as the eldest son in all three family sketches, was actually the last son and tenth child born to William P. and Jinny (see figure 1). Within a year or two of Jinny's death, William wed again—this time to Mahala Garrett (14 June 1835), [5] by whom he fathered six more children. [6]

The unidentified family member who contributed the Philip Jackson sketch is the one who recorded the family lore on George—devoid, as tradition often is, of date or time frame.

Philip's older brother, George, looking for adventure, crossed the plains and arrived in the state of Idaho with his scalp still in place and started prospecting for gold. He hit it rich at a place called Rocky Bar, a typical mining camp . . .

In a copyright story carried in the Portland Oregonian about George Jackson, it related the following: Two women decided to visit the Jackson camp. In crossing the mountains, they were trapped by a blizzard. One lady's feet were frozen so badly that they had to be amputated. This posed a dilemma as the only tools available where [sic] hunting knives and a handsaw. The operation was successful, however, with the woman recovering.

It also became necessary to lay down the gold pan and pick up a rifle occasionally as the Bannock, Nez Perce, Shoshone, and Duck Valley Indians were on the warpath and quite a number from both sides were killed.

Family papers and mementos left by Francis Minett Jackson—the sibling just older than George—include two other items concerning the family adventurer: [7]

George Jackson George Jackson's sons
A tintype of a man, with the name "George Jackson" on the reverse. A photo of two boys, similarly captioned "George Jackson's sons."

These keepsakes are also undated. George is a strong-looking, bearded man, dressed in a prosperous-appearing suit. The two boys, also suited, seem to be about four and five years old.

These fragments give us teasing glimpses of George Jackson; the ambitious gold miner, swishing the gravel around in his pan; the anxious pioneer, looking over his shoulder for danger; the horrified witness to a tragedy when a woman's feet were amputated; and the proud father of another line of Jacksons. But the accounts also raise questions:

What happened to George?

Who were those sons?

Was his wife indeed Sarah Ann Cordell, as reported in the heritage book?

How can the clues within the tradition be used to find this wandering branch of the Phelps County Jacksons?

Fig. 1

Family of William P. "Willie" Jackson

As variously identified in Phelps County, Missouri's Heritage Book

Willie Jackson Sketch Johnny Jackson Sketch Philip Jackson Sketch
(pp 211–12) (p. 209) (pp 209–10)
Family of Willie Jackson was: Family of Willie Jackson was: Family of Willie Jackson was:
Father: John Pentecost Jackson (Rev. Sol.) Father: John Pentecost Jackson (Rev. Sold.) Father: John Pentecost Jackson (Rev. sold.)
  Ancestors: Andrew Jackson; Stonewall Jackson  

Wife: Jinny Sally

Wife: Jinny Sally (m. 9 November 1810) Wife: not identified
  Wife 2: Mahala Garrett  
  Wife 3: Unidentified  
Children (by Jinny): Children (by Jinny); Children:
George George (m. Sarah Ann Cordell) George (went to Idaho)
John (m. Emily Payne & Mary Wilson) John (m. Emily Pain & Mary Wilson) John (m. Mary Wilson)
Philip (m. Catherine Hamilton, 1836) Philip (m. [--] Baker & Catherine Hamilton) Philip (m. Catherine Hamilton)
Martha Martha "Patsy" (m. J. L. Sullivan)  
H. Smith Smith (disappeared)  
Frances Minet (m. Cecelia Renaud & Sarah Christian) Frances Minet (m. Cecelia Renaud & Sarah J. Christian)  
  Polly (m. Henry Kepler)  
  Sally (m. Francis Declue)  
  Andrew (General)  


When evaluating family traditions, the genealogist needs to continually question the details. What, or who, is the source? How was the information gathered? What is the probability that the event happened? Traditions cannot be considered valid until they have been evaluated for consistency and until or unless they have been verified with documentary evidence.

The George Jackson traditions stem from records and stories among the offspring of his siblings who stayed in Missouri. The details and the photographs suggest correspondence between George and his brother Francis Minett. Or perhaps the adventurous George returned to the homeplace, at some point in time, and recounted his escapades.


The stories give a place and hint at a time: Rocky Bar, Idaho, on the Boise River in the gold-mining days, when Indians were actively defending their tribal rights to ancestral homelands. As for place, Rocky Bar appears even today on Idaho road mps. It is in the Middle Fork of the Boise River drainage system. One gazetteer reports: [8]

Rocky Bar (Elmore) T4N R10E sec 17. A mining ghost town 8 mi N of Featherville. Second county seat of Alturas County, but became part of Elmore County when it was carved out of Alturas in 1889. Post office, 1868–1927. The town was laid out in 1864 after a major gold discovery was made in S[outh] F[or]k Boise Basin in 1863.

The cited Indians ranged across a much broader swath of land, but the Rocky Bar site remains compatible with the details of the family traditions. The nomadic Shoshones crisscrossed most of the West but principally dwelled in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming. The Nez Percé generally confined themselves to Idaho, northeast Oregon, and southeast Washington. The Bannock, a small Idaho tribe that merged with the Shoshones in the nineteenth century, were localized in southeastern Idaho, not far from Rocky Bar. Duck Valley was not the name of a tribe, but that of the reservation to which the region's Paiute were relegated in 1867. [9]

Time wise, recorded facts of history bracket George's adventure between 1863 and 1878 — possibly narrowing it to 1863–69. Gold was discovered in Idaho in 1860, but the Rocky Bar rush dates from May 1863. By 1869 the boom was over, although mining continued until 1942. [10] Concurrent with Idaho's gold rush, of course, was the Civil War—which made a battlefield out of Missouri. George, an apparent bachelor in his late twenties, was a prime candidate for either adventure; apparently he chose the goldfields. The risk may have been comparable. Bannock resentment of white intrusion onto their hunting lands created escalating clashes that ended with the Bannock-Paiute War of 1878. Losing that offensive, the Bannocks were confined to a reservation. [11]


Can George Jackson actually be placed at Rocky Bar — more precisely, can any George Jackson be placed there? If so, was he the George from Phelps County, Missouri? Answering these questions calls first for an overview of the area's political bounds. Idaho Territory was formed in 1863, after fifteen years as part of the territories of Oregon, Washington, and Dakota, successively. Rocky Bar initially lay in the county of Alturas — which was abolished in 1895 to create Blaine and Lincoln Counties (Alturas's records are now in Blaine). Prior to the abolishment of Alturas, other counties were also cut away, including Elmore in 1889.

For Elmore County also, a heritage book has been published. It confirms the settlement there of a miner named George W. Jackson. A family sketch submitted by this man's granddaughter offers details that both support and contradict the information gleaned from the Phelps County, Missouri, book:

George W. Jackson was born in Missouri in 1834 and married Margaret Ann Halbert, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 1871. She was born Dec. 23, 1843. George W., Jr. was born in Missouri. The family moved to Colorado where Frankie Lee and Grace were born. The lure of the gold mines in Idaho apparently brought the family to Rocky Bar where our father, Robert Jackson, was born in 1881 and later another daughter, Laura. The 1880 census of Alturas County listed Grandfather's occupation as a butcher.

In one article Grandfather was named as the owner of the Golden Star Mine at Rocky Bar, one of the biggest gold producers of its day. Another stated about the year 1870 the Elmore Mine was discovered by God Almighty Jackson (Grandfather) and his two partners. They worked it and took out a lot of gold, finally selling it for $45,000. In several articles Grandfather's name was listed as one of the many closely identified with the history of the old Rocky Bar camp. When Grandfather died he was buried in Rocky Bar but later moved to Mountain Home. Grandma Jackson died in 1921 and is also buried in Mountain Home. [12]

Again, as with the Phelps County book, the author of the sketch does not identify the "articles" whose information she relates as fact. Nor is there evident an effort to determine the reliability of the data. Were those articles published within George's lifetime — suggesting that perhaps he provided the data? Are they early-twentieth-century reminiscences by other "old-timers"? Are they writings of recent vintage, by someone relating local lore without actual research to verify the information being published? In any case, the referenced "article" that alleged the Elmore's discovery in 1870 by a man named Jackson definitely errs. All reliable area histories and mining histories give 1863 as the date quartz was discovered at Rocky Bar (including the Elmore site) and identify the entrepreneurs involved in its development. Not one mentions George Jackson.

More problematic is the marital information given for George. While the above miner was born in the right state, the identity of his wife (Margaret Ann Halbert) is totally at odds with the spouse attributed to the Phelps County George (Sarah Ann Cordell). Did two George Jacksons prospect at Rocky Bar? That proposition is not unlikely, given that sixteen thousand people, half of them miners, had crowded the Boise Basin by 1864. [13]


One other element of the Phelps County reminiscences begs to be followed: that "copyright story carried in the Portland Oregonian about George Jackson" and the two women who crossed the mountains to the "Jackson camp," where one lost her feet. Several compiled indexes exist to Portland's nineteenth-century newspapers, but they offer no apparent reference to this story. [14]

Again, the Elmore County heritage book provides a needed link. The George Jackson account, in passing, enigmatically mentions "Peg-Leg Annie," saying the story of this legendary local was well known to the Jackson family because George's son Robert came upon the frozen Annie while on his mail round. Another local writer supplies a fuller account. Details differ but are clearly recognizable. [15]

The most noted tragedy of the area was that of Annie Morrow. Born in 1860, she came to Rocky Bar with her father at the age of 4 in a pack on his back. She attended school in Rocky Bar until the age of 14 when she was married to a man named Morrow. He as reportedly a cruel husband and in a very few years the child bride became a widow and was a leading lady of the night in gold-boom camps of Atlanta and Rocky Bar. Her father Steve McIntyre was killed in a street fight which left Annie on her own. The following account was dictated by Bill Tate to Salome McNeilly . . .

While we were packing the mail was when Annie B. Morrow and Dutch Em started to Rocky Bar, from Atlanta, over the hill. It was payday so they started on a Friday night some time in the night. I got out pretty early the next morning, and when I got up on James Creek and I could see their tracks where they were wallering in the 3 or 4 feet of fresh snow. I didn't know who they were but I thought I would catch up pretty soon with them and finally I did, at the foot of the Turner Hill. I said "Well, where are you going?" and they said "We're going to Rocky Bar." I says "You better go back, you can't make it." And they said "We'll make it or die." So I says "Well, I think you'll die." That's just the words I said to them.

I went on up to the cabin and met John . . . up there[;] and we had some coffee and fixed a lunch up there. We stopped there about an hour and a half. We rested and changed mail sacks. I started on back. I met Annie and Dutch Em on the Big S down there. They hadn't come only about 3/4 mile from the cabin, I said to them "Well, do you think you can make it?" Annie says "Well, I don't know Bill. Em is about to give out and I have been packing her for the last half a mile." I says, "Well, I'll help you to the cabin and I've sent for you some skis from Rocky Bar. You can't make it any further." I helped them around to the cabin. There was a bed and plenty to eat and lots of wood in there and they were supposed to stay there until them fellers came up and met them. But some time along after I left them they started out again and they went to Little Baldy Mountain and instead of turning to the left they turned to the right and went down into Black Warrior. That was Saturday night and they went down in there and Monday morning I came out and got onto the top of the mountain and I couldn't see no sign of them. I was going around Bald Mountain and Annie seen me and hollered at me. She said "Hello, Tate, I've had a hell of a time since I seen you last." She pointed down into Black Warrior to that big rock that's down there and she said, "Em's right there by that rock. She froze to death Saturday night. I was all day Sunday climbing out of there myself." Then while I was talking to her and she was showing me where Dutch Em was, John came along and we took her around to the cabin. She hadn't had nothing to eat for three days.

Everything was froze in the cabin but we fixed her up a lunch as best we could. She said she knew she was froze, but she didn't know how high up. We left her in the cabin and went back to Atlanta and sent Winnie Elliott up after her with some skis. We'd asken her if she thought she could ride down on skis. She said, "You're damn right I can ride down on them — even if I am froze."

He come up and got her and she rode down the hill all right and got to the bridge down there and it was bare ground from there on and she walked on the bare ground from there on and she packed her skis and went home. By that time I told them people in Rocky Bar to send for Doc Newkirk to come and cut her legs off because they was froze. . .

There was a story that Tug Wilson sawed Annie's legs off with a handsaw, but that isn't right . . . This was in about 1899.

A search of Idaho Historical Society's newspaper indexes pegged the event more closely. [16] Armed with a date, it then proved easy to locate the Portland account mentioned by the Missouri family, even though the Portland newspaper indexes did not suggest its presence.

The Portland Oregonian

30 May 1896

Page 3, column 5

Lost In The Mountains

Two women, Mrs. Thomas Morrow and Miss Emma Hoffman, had a terrible experience in the mountains near Rocky Bar, Idaho, and one which resulted fatally to Miss Hoffman and may yet cause the death of Mrs. Morrow. The story was told by a passenger, who arrived at Baker City on the west-bound O.R.& N. overland train Thursday evening. Mrs. Morrow and Miss Hoffman started on snowshoes from Atlanta to Rocky Bar, a distance of 18 miles. After being out for a time they lost the trail and night overtook them. The details of the terrible scenes that must have ensured could not be learned. However, during the night Miss Hoffman died, and the next day a mail-carrier passing along found Mrs. Morrow in a very exhausted condition, holding the dead woman in her arms. They were found 1 1/2 miles from the regular trail through the mountains.

The scene was as startling as it was pitiable; the anguish of the survivor, holding the corpse of her friend in that out-of-the-way place and alone in the night, was more than the mail-carrier could stand without tears.

Mrs. Morrow is now lying in a critical condition. She was divorced from her husband, who is a resident of Boise city.

There is little room for doubt that the above account is the one reported in the Missouri heritage book. Yet, one significant difference exists. Contrary to the statement of the Jackson descendant in Phelps County, the Portland Oregonian article is not "about George Jackson." It does not even mention the "Jackson camp" or dismembered feet. How, then, did that detail become part of the Portland clipping reported by the Phelps County family — if the Idaho George (husband of Margaret Ann Halbert) was not the Phelps County George (purported husband of Sarah Ann Cordell)? Did George mail that clipping to Missouri kin, with his personal "connection" penned thereon? Or have twentieth-century researchers from the Missouri and Idaho Jacksons exchanged material that now appears in Phelp's heritage book, commingled with actual tradition?


Four types of records are common to mining frontiers such as the Boise basin in the late-nineteenth century: censuses, newspapers, tax rolls, and courthouse records. As the booms subsided and families settled in, institutional records developed — those of churches and schools. Ultimately, as the twentieth century took hold, that most fundamental of genealogical sources emerged: registrations of births and deaths. All would be used or sought while answering the riddles posed b this research project. This paper explores just some of them.


The boom period in the Boise Basin is bracketed by two federal enumerations. George's presence at Rocky Bar at the time of the 1860 census seems at least possible, although no evidence suggests likelihood. Nor was he found there in Idaho that year. If George's strike was indeed a good one, his continued presence through 1870 would seem likely; but the search proved inconclusive. Two Jacksons are listed there at Rocky Bar, on an undated sheet: J. W. (aged thirty-seven) and A. (aged twenty-eight) — Missouri-born bachelors who shared a household between the Rocky Bar butcher and a cluster of Chinese miners. [17] The siblings of George in Phelps County did include one Andrew. Yet the Missouri Andrew was older than George, not younger; and similar initials do not establish an identity.

The next census clearly accounts for the George W. of Elmore's heritage book:

1880 U.S. census, population schedule. [18]

Alturas County, Idaho

Supervisor's Dist. 1, Enumeration Dist. 4, p. 12

Rocky Bar precinct, dwelling 70, family 70

15 June 1880

Jackson, George W., white male, 46, butcher, born Mo., father born Ky.

----- Margaret, white female, 31, wife, keeps house, born S.C., father born S.C.

----- George W., white male, 6, son, at school, born Mo., father born Mo.

----- Frankie, white male, 5, son, at school, born Colo., father born Mo.

----- Grace, white female, 4, daughter, at school, born Colo., father born Mo.

When this census information is tested against the tradition, arguments can be posed both for and against an assumption that the butcher George is the adventurous sibling from Phelps County:

Supporting evidence

Three points of similarity exist. First, both the butcher George and the Phelps County George were born in Missouri. Second, both of their fathers are said to be Kentucky natives. Third, the photograph of "George Jackson's sons," preserved by the Phelps County family, depicts boys of about four to five years of age; and boys of a year or so apart appear in the census household above.

Contradictory evidence

Two obvious dissimilarities exist: occupation and children's birthplaces. A miner who "struck it rich" is not expected to labor as a butcher. Also, the Missouri tradition includes nothing about a sojourn in Colorado, where two of the butcher's children were born.


The 1873–74 birth data for the oldest son encourage a "working hypothesis"; George does not appear on the 1870 Idaho census because he returned to Missouri, where he married and remained for several years. That Missouri sojourn would explain how the Missouri kin knew of his Rocky Bar activities.

Whether or not the Rocky Bar George is the Phelps county adventurer, he settled permanently in the area. When Alturas County was split in 1889, his residence fell into the new county of Elmore. There — at Junction Bar, not far from Rocky Bar — the 1900 enumerator found him and Margaret, raising grandchildren who appear to be offspring of his Colorado-born daughter, Grace:

1900 U.S. census, population schedule [19], Elmore County, Idaho, Supervisor's Dist. 1, Enumeration dist. 4, p. 12, Junction Bar precinct, dwelling 66, family 66, 11-15 June 1900.

Jackson, George W., white male, 67, farmer, born January 1833, Mo., married 29 years, parents born Ky., owns farm, free of mortgage

----- Margaret A., white, female, 51, wife, born December 1848, S.C., married 29 years, 8 children, 5 living; parents born SC.

----- Robert P., white, male, 19, son, farm laborer; born April 1881, Idaho; father born Mo., mother born S.C.

----- Laura A., white, female, 15, daughter, at school,; born August 1886, Idaho,; father born Mo., mother born S.C.

----- Frank L., white, male, 24, son, day laborer, born October 1875, Colorado, father born Mo., mother born S.C.

Bickel, William D., white male, 2, grandson, born December 1897, Idaho; father born Germany, mother born Colo.

----- Edna M, white, female, 1, granddaughter; born December 1898, Idaho; father born Germany, mother born Colo.

Katz[--?--], Herman, white male, 17, servant; born December? 1883, Illinois; parents born Germany.

Subsequent censuses suggest that George died in Elmore County between 1910 and 1920. The 1910 details for the household (consisting of George, Margaret, William D., and Edna) are unusually consistent with those of 1900 above. [20] The 1920 enumeration cites Margaret H. Jackson as a widow, living at nearby Mountain Home with her son, Frank L., and her grandson, William D. Bickel. [21] During the forty years spanned by these records, no other Jackson of compatible birthplace or age appears in the censuses for Rocky Bar, Junction Bar, or Mountain Home.

The George W. Jacksons of Alturas and Elmore Counties, 1880–1910, are surely one and the same individual. He is also of compatible age and birth state to be George of Phelps County. Yet curiously, and contrary to his granddaughter's heritage book account, none of the foregoing records identify him as a miner. Nor do any of the reliable histories of the area's mining activities include a George W. Jackson.

The suspected connection remains unproved. More evidence is needed.

Death or probate records

With the death of George in Elmore County narrowed to a single decade of the twentieth century, a death certificate is an obvious possibility and parental identification a reasonable hope. Yet a search of the death register kept in Elmore County between 1907 and 1911 did not reveal this George. [22] Nor is he included in the Idaho Death Index from 1911 to 1932. [23] Now is he listed in the Elmore County probate index of that period. [24]


Alturas County, during the mining boom, was served by the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, published at Boise City. Only one relevant item was found therein: a list of 6 December 1870 identifies the persons "wintering" at Rocky Bar. [25] Only one Jackson is listed: Andrew — the same name borne by the fourth son in the Missouri family, who was four years older than George. (That list silently says much about the nature of the locale. Winters in Rocky Bar often started in September and lasted until June. When the snows came, few people ventured out of the area.) Clearly, George was not a Rocky Bar miner in December 1870.

For George's last years in Idaho — explicitly, for his death between 1910 and 1920 — useful newspaper indexes exist at the Idaho State Historical Society. [26] The obituaries of George and Margaret are included. The first specifically links George to Washington County, Missouri, but identifies neither a parent nor a sibling for him. The chronicle a past that indisputably matches the Phelps County tradition. They confirm the speculation that George returned to Missouri to wed, about 1870. And they richly augment the previously sketch details of his life.

George's obituary

Mountain Home New Time

20 September 1913

Page 1, column 1

Respected Pioneer Passes Away.

One of Idaho's most respected pioneers in the person of George W. Jackson quietly passed away at his home on south Boise river, near Featherville, Ida., on Saturday, Sept. 13, 1913, after an illness of two weeks.

Mr. Jackson was well and favorably known throughout this entire section of Idaho, having first journeyed overland to Boise basin, and thence to Rocky Bar in the spring of 1862, coming from California, whither he had gone during the gold excitement of 1850. He was fairly successful in his mining ventures, and as one of the original owners of the famous "Elmore" mine made considerable money.

He left Rocky Bar for his native state of Missouri in 1870, and there, in 1871, was married to Miss M. A. Halbert, returning with his wife soon after, to Rocky Bar, where he again engaged in mining until 1887, when he located on a homestead, where he died.

Deceased had a family of eight children, and is survived by a widow and four children. Mr. Jackson joined the Masonic order in California, and affiliated with the lodge at Rocky Bar, until the last-named lodge surrendered its charter for lack of membership. He was born in Washington county, Mo., in 1833, and was 80 years and 9 months old.

The remains were interred at Rocky Bar on Monday, all of the oldtime residents in the vicinity and from a distance gathering to the funeral to pay their last respect to their comrade of pioneer days. The floral offerings were many and beautiful, and the funeral services conducted at the cemetery by Wm. A. Nixon, were appropriate and impressive.

In three ways, this obituary seems to confirm the suspicions and hypotheses made from the Idaho census data. As usual in situations of this type, however, the analysis process required that still-other records be combed and correlated with the evidence already known.

Compatibility of census data

The obituary's reference to George's 1850 California venture offers another opportunity for verification. June 1 was the official census enumeration date that year. Migrants who left Missouri for California usually did so in April or May—i.e., after the prairie grass had greened enough to feed the livestock en route. [27] Thus George W. Jackson should not be listed on either the Missouri or California returns, presuming that the enumerators correctly listed only those who resided within their jurisdictions on 1 June 1850. As expected, no George Jackson of the correct age or birth state appears in either locale. [28]

The obituary cites George's birth in Washington County, Missouri, about January 1833 but names no parent. Missouri's 1830 census index reports only one William Jackson family in that county. [29] In the fall of 1850, as George's westward journey neared its close, William Jackson was again enumerated in Washington County. As expected, George was not reported as a resident of his household on 1 June.

1850 U.S. census, population schedule

Washington County, Missouri

Page 154, dwelling 926, family 929

29 October 1850

Jackson, William, white male, 60, farmer, born Ky.

----- Mahala, white female, 48, born Ky.

----- Sally, white male [sic], 17, born Ky.

----- Jasper, white male, 14, born Mo.

----- Thomas N., white male, 10, born Mo.

----- Lucinda, white female, 7, born Mo.

----- Richard, white male, 7, born Mo.

----- Lafayette, white male, 6, born Mo.

----- Bisay [Visey], white female, 4, born Mo.

Reliability of tradition

Phelps County lore relates that the adventurous George "hit it rich" with a mine near Rocky Bar, Idaho. The granddaughter of the Idaho George reports virtually the same in Elmore County's heritage book. George's 1913 obituary — whose data, one might assume, were provided by his widow — identifies him as one of the "original" owners of the famous Elmore mine and reports that he made considerable money. That mine, discovered at Rocky Bar in 1867, was considered the richest lode in the South Boise Basin. [30] Thus, the obituary and both family traditions appear to agree — although that does not necessarily make them correct.

Accuracy of hypothesis (George's return to Missouri)

Census data of 1870 and 1880 suggest that George returned to Missouri to find a wife. The 1880 enumeration reports a Missouri birth for his first known child, about 1873–74. The 1870 census, when examined closely, shows few single women at Rocky Bar. To find a wife, the twenty-seven-year-old George would have had to go elsewhere. His obituary supports that hypothesis. His widow's obituary confirms it.

Margaret's obituary

Mountain Home Republican, 2 July 1921

Page 1, column 1

Passed from this life to the other life, Thursday, June 23, Mrs. Margaret A. Halbert Jackson, at the age of 72 years and six months, at the home of her sons, Frank and Robert Jackson, in Mountain Home, Idaho. She was born in South Carolina in 1848.

As Miss Margaret A. Halbert, she was married to George W. Jackson, at Steelville, Mo., February 5, 1871. To this wedlock eight children, four boys and four girls, were given. Her husband was buried at Rocky Bar eight years ago, and near him two children: other two lie, one in Missouri and one in Colorado. She is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Laura Hunter of Oakland, Calif., and Mrs. Grace Ryan, of Hillsboro, Ore.; and two sons, Frank L. and Robert P. Jackson. She has ten grandchildren, the two oldest being Mrs. Edna Schartt of Gillette, Wyo., and Willie D. Bickel of Mountain Home. All were present at her bedside at the last parting, and she knew them all.

The deceased was an Idaho pioneer. The same year of the marriage, 1871, Mrs. Jackson with her husband came on the overland route, by way of Salt Lake and the old Mountain Home near Rattlesnake creek to Rocky Bar. Mr. Jackson at one time owned the Elmore mine, and Mrs. Jackson helped to sack out the gold ore in belt pockets around the waist.

Thirty-two years of her life were associated with the Jackson ranch, near the Boise river bridge near Featherville. This valuable property was started and developed by Mr. and Mrs. Jackson. The past few years her home has been with her sons in Mountain Home.

Reliability of obituary's detail

It is logical to expect Margaret's obituary to be less reliable than George's Presumably, she supplied the newspaper's information at her husband's death, and she likely recalled with some accuracy the main events of their lives together. However, the details in her own memorial were more probably supplied by one of those sons who had not yet been born or was at least too young to remember the family's migration or the early mining years. Some of their points are easily confirmed:

Margaret and George were indeed married on 5 February 1871. The original record is found in Washington's neighboring county, Crawford, from which Phelps County had been cut in 1857. [31]

The facts of the 1871 marriage in Missouri, the 1873–74 birth of a child in Missouri, and the 1874-76 births of two children in Colorado are repeatedly confirmed by census data. The obituary's reference to yet-another child buried in Colorado suggests that George and Margaret's residence in that territory lasted at least another two years (to 1878) before their second return to Idaho.

An 1871 return to Rocky Bar after a may 1871 marriage in Missouri was logistically possible. A cross-continental railroad linking St. Louis with Salt Lake had reduced to a matter of days a hazardous journey that previously took months.

Reliability of tradition

Yet the research to date also contradicts tradition in at least two important ways:

Both heritage-book accounts and both obituaries offer conflicting evidence regarding the success and timing of George's mining adventures. Both branches of the family and George's obituary report his making "considerable money" in mining; and his granddaughter dates the period at 1870. However, Margaret's memorial refers to her physically laboring at her husband's side after their 1871 marriage—hardly a testimonial to wealth.

Neither obituary offers support for the assertion in the Phelps County heritage book that George was the husband of Sarah Ann Cordell. One George W. Jackson did wed one "Sally Ann, a marriage that ended in a divorce suit in 1866–67. Two factors known at this point suggest that the George who married Sallie is not the one of our interest. First, more than one man of that name existed in Phelps County—a second being the apparent first son of George's brother Philip, who married in 1836. [32]

Second, the Idaho George is reputed to have been at the mines, not in Missouri, at the time that divorce took place. Establishing a chronology for the Idaho George, through land and tax records, is essential to clarifying this issue.

Land and tax records

As with farmers, tradesmen, professionals, and most other ancestral classes, the mosaic of a miner's life cannot be fitted together properly without research in extant property records. The claim registrations and deeds that George created in Alturas County both confirm and correct the traditions, hypotheses, and suppositions accumulated in this project.

Prior to his marriage to Margaret, George W. Jackson was a typical, low-capital prospector in a boom area where wealth came to those who already had money. As one mining history reports for the Boise Basin:

By 1864, stamp mills were being shipped into the area with little regard to exorbitant freight costs, and very little thought given to having ore ready for their operation. Recovery losses were high and many stamp mills proved utterly useless. . . Hard labor [had] developed claims to this point but now the future of a mine [was] dependent upon capital. An ordinary prospector-miner might discover and have his quartz lode tested. He might even get it recorded. [But] even a small mine [was] usually out of "pocket" reach for the claim owner. . . Million dollar investments were made. [33]

Another history elaborates:

For many years after 1866 and 1867, unpretentious arastra operations and a few modest stamp-milling enterprises were about all that survived the failure of early, large-scale quartz mining in South Boise. The placers, likewise, seemed by 1867 to be mainly suitable for Chinese operations. . . In 1869, Rocky Bar was described as "dull and looking rather dilapidated very much in need of repair." . . . By superior management and by working better grade ore, John McNally was able to keep his Wide West mine. . . in operation through 189. By the end of the year, his was the only stamp mill going. . . Not until 1886 could the district be developed satisfactorily. [34]

If George arrived at Rocky Bar on the eve of the boom (1862, his obituary states), then he made no progress until after the bust. On 22 February 1866 he made his first known appearance on record. Over the next thirty-four months, he staked four claims of the usual size (200 feet in length along a ledge) — each in a partnership with two to six other men — but he soon sold his interest in three of them, pocketing just $302. Three other tracts he purchased: one of them alone, paying $100; the other two with partners who shared the $500 cost per claim. [35] His failure to make a lucky strike during this era is attested by the 1868 quartz-assessment roll, on which he is charged for nothing but his personal poll.[36]

Between 1 December 1868 and 3 July 1871, George is noticeably absent from the claim and deed files of Alturas County, although his obituary says his departure was not until 1870. That record gap matches his dubious appearance on the 1870 Idaho census, his omission from the 1870 "wintering list" at Rocky Bar, and his May 1871 marriage in Missouri. If all relevant property records are registered, then he still owned parts of four claims at the time of his departure: two whole strips (400 feet) of the Emily claim, in Middle Boise District; one strip (200 feet) of the Discovery claim in the Black Gulch lode, about a half mile above Rocky Bar; and one-third interest in four strips (825 feet), known as the Golden Star in Bear Creek District about a quarter-mile above the Discovery. Whether his partners protected his interests in his absence or whether they abandoned the claims is unclear form extant records. The Golden Star is one of the two ventures mentioned for him in the Elmore County heritage book — although the report, there, that the Golden Star was "one of the biggest producers of its day" is not borne out by either mining histories or George's land tax records.

Margaret's obituary correctly chronicles George's return (and ostensibly hers) to Rocky Bar shortly after their marriage. For three months in 1871, July to September, he appears again in the mining records — and for this short interval he is indeed associated with the once-fabulous Elmore. Together with N. B. Jackson (George's nephew, Napoleon Bonaparte?) and five other partners, George staked claim to one strip of the Ada Elmore site on 3 July 1871. Eighteen days later, he and another partner sold two of his three interests in the Golden Star for $500, to be split between them — possibly to finance his work at the Elmore. In any case, the Elmore venture was clearly not successful. On 1 September he quitclaimed his interest there for just $200 and thereafter drops again from the records of Rocky Bar. [37]

Census rolls remain the only evidence to date of George's ventures over the next decade. His first known child was born in Missouri about 1873–74, then two more in Colorado about 1874–76. Another, born about 1878–79, should be the child buried in Colorado, according to Margaret's obituary. By 1880 the family had returned to Rocky Bar, where George supported his family as a butcher. Like many butchers of that era, he seems to have raised beef as well. About 1889, if Margaret's obituary calculates correctly, the family "homesteaded" its ranch. The term has various meanings, including a specific federal process by which public land was given to individuals as an inducement to settle. In the case of George and Margaret, the only patent on record is dated 26 August 1907 [38]

Reliability of tradition - alleged marriage to Sallie

The mining and deed records of Alturas County do not hint at a wife for George in the 1860s. They do not rule out the possibility; they are simply silent on the matter. However, a chronology drawn from these records casts doubt upon the contention that the Idaho George is the one who married Sallie Ann:


22 Feb


George personally enters a mining claim

25 May


Divorce on docket but postponed; George's presence or absence not mentioned

29 May


George personally appears to file petition

11 Jun


George enters a second mining claim

25 Jun


George purchases a mining claim



Case reintroduced; George is represented by counsel


14 Mar


George purchases another claim

27 Mar


Divorce finalized; George's presence or absence not mentioned

25 Sep


George purchases another tract

The identification seems to hinge on the 29 May to 11 June 1866 period. If the miner George is the George of the divorce suit, could he have traveled from Phelps County, Missouri, to Alturas County, Idaho, in thirteen days? Transportation modes of that era suggest not.

Final Evaluation

Most traditions have a germ of truth. Those reported for George Jackson in the Missouri and Idaho heritage books have proved true to form. He as a miner — though reports of his "hitting it rich" and "taking out a lot of gold" are exaggerated (a not-uncommon situation in a society that encouraged role inflation). He as briefly associated with the famed Elmore mine, and the year of that association is almost given correctly (1871, not 1870) — but he was by no means one of its original owners, and the price he sold it for belies any rumor of wealth. Family accounts published in Elmore correctly identify his wife (not surprisingly, since the identity was provided by a granddaughter). But the Phelps report of his marriage to Sarah Ann Cordell (put forth by descendants in a collateral line) remains unsubstantiated. The undated Portland news item reported by Phelps County kin can be verified, and the victims may have been rescued on or near George's property — but that article is not at all "about George Jackson," as alleged. It does not even mention him. The more-general accounts form Phelps display very typical errors and discrepancies — claims to descent from famous people, conflicting and incomplete lists of children, and erroneous citation of birth order.

The effort to verify published family accounts spotlights another indisputable fact; when family members or researchers possess a record or a piece of knowledge, publishing it without documentation is a disservice to others interested in that family. Clearly, such accounts cannot be accepted as fact, unverified. Yet the effort to locate records that a publication alludes to, in order to confirm or correct its undocumented details, is a costly and time-consuming venture. Published family lore can yield useful clues on which diligent researchers can build. But it is that search for verification that makes real people out of vague legends like William P. Jackson's son George.

[1] Connie Lenzen, CG. 10411 SW 41st Ave., Portland, OR 97219. The research was commissioned by a Jackson descendant who is now deceased.

[2] Connie Davidson, "Johnny Jackson," [anonymous], "Philip Jackson," and Marie Johnson, "Genealogy of Willie Jackson," in Phelps County, Missouri Heritage , 2 vols. (Rolla, Missouri: Phelps County Genealogical Society, Book Committee, 1992), 1: 209–12.

[3] 1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Washington County, Missouri, page 154, dwelling 926, family 929; National Archives microfilm M432, roll 421.

[4] Green County [Kentucky] Marriage Records (Campbellsville, Kentucky: Green County Historical Society, 1989), 37.

[5] Susan Ormesher, Missouri Marriages Before 1840 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982), 118.

[6] Mahala's children and Jinny's youngest daughter were enumerated in the parental household in 1850; see pop. sch., Washington County, p. 154, dwelling 926, family 929. Other identification of Mahala's children can be found in State v. Smith Jackson, a case heard in Franklin County, Missouri, in 1867. Depositions in the case, made before "Esquires Speck and Melvin at Sullivan, Missouri" on 7 august 1867, were in the possession of Smith's daughter, Elizabeth Jackson, in 1945, at which time typescripts were made by Ruth Kline Lee. Eugene Jackson has provided copies to this author.

[7] Originals of these photographs are in the possession of Eugene Jackson, the great-grandson of Francis Minett.

[8] Lalia Boone, Idaho Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 1988), 319.

[9] Clark Wissler, Indians of the Untied States, rev. ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1966), 203, 206–12, 235, 244–46, 249–58; and Idaho Blue Book, 1979-80 (Boise: Secretary of State, 1979), 23.

[10] Pauline Battien, The Gold Seekers: A 200-Year History of Mining in Washington, Idaho, Montana & Lower British Columbia (Colville, Washington: Statesman-Examiner, 1989), 9-26.

[11] Howard McKinley Corning, ed., Dictionary of Oregon History (Portland: Binfords and Mort, 1956), 20.

[12] Barbara (Jackson) Walter, "A History of the George W. Jackson Family," in Sandra Ransel and Charles Durand, Crossroads: A History of the Elmore County Area (Mountain Home, Idaho: Elmore County Historical Research Team, 1985), 229. Italics added.

[13] Battien, The Gold Seekers , 8.

[14] See particularly "Portland Newspaper Index," card file, Multnomah County Library, Portland, Oregon; and Leslie M. Scott, Memoranda of the Files of the Oregonian, 1850 to 1910 (Portland: Privately published, n.d.).

[15] Ransel and Durand, Crossroads: A History of the Elmore County Area, 112.

[16] An account was published in Mountain Home's Elmore Bulletin, 27 May 1896, p. 3, col. 3. This search was made by Gene Williams, CGRS, of Boise.

[17] 1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Alturas County, Idaho, Rocky Bar post office, stamped p. 41, dwelling 97, family [not given]; National Archives microfilm M593, roll 185.

[18] Throughout the entry on the copy filmed by the National Archives (T9, roll 173), all data on "mother's birthplace" are omitted.

[19] National Archives microfilm T623, roll 232.

[20] 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Elmore County, Idaho, Junction Bar precinct, SD 4, ED 118, sheet 6A, line 62, dwelling 3, family 3, National Archives microfilm T624, roll 224.

[21] 1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Elmore County, Idaho, 2d Precinct excluding village of Mountain Home, SD 59, Ed 149, sheet 2B, line 97, dwelling 45, family 45, National Archives microfilm T625, roll 291.

[22] Elmore County, Death Register, 1907–1911, FHL microfilm 1,321,406, item 8.

[23] Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Death Index, 1911-1932, FHL microfilm 1,543,540; originals are in the Vital Statistics unit, Department of Health and Welfare, Boise.

[24] Elmore County, Probate Court, Record of Wills, 1892–1936, FHL microfilm 1,432,908, item 8

[25] "Alturas Correspondence," Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, 13 December 1870, p. 2, col. 1.

[26] Search performed by Gene William, CGRS, December 1996.

[27] National Park Service, The Overland Migrations: Settlers to Oregon, California, and Utah, Handbook 105 (Washington: U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d.), 44–45, 60–65, 76.

[28] This researcher has not read all original census entries for the entire state. The conclusion that George was not enumerated there relies upon Alan P. Bowman, Index to the 1850 Census of the State of California (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972).

[29] Ronald V. Jackson, comp. 1830 Missouri (North Salt Lake: Accelerated Indexing Systems, 1981), 21–22.

[30] Merle W. Wells, Gold Camps & Silver Cities: Nineteenth Century Mining in Central and Southern Idaho (Moscow, Idaho: Idaho department of Lands, 1983), 16.

[31] Crawford County Marriage Records, 2: 332; FHL microfilm 8,914,147, item 4; the original is held by Crawford's recorder of Deeds, Steelville.

[32] "Philip Jackson," Phelps County, Missouri, Heritage, 209. Jackson v. Jackson , Phelps County, Circuit Court, vol. C: 273, 483, FHL microfilm 914, 759.

[33] Battien, The Gold Seekers, 10.

[34] Merle W. Wells, Gold Camps & Silver Cities , 23.

[35] Alturas County, Pre-State Quartz Record, vol. 5: 26, 95, FHL microfilm 1,510,181, item 7. Deed Record A: 162-63, FHL microfilm 1,509,972, item 6. Deed Record B: 3–4, 268–69, 351–52, FHL microfilm 1,509,972, item 7. Deed Record C: 150–51, 189–90, FHL microfilm 1,509,972, item 8. Deed Record C: 299–300, FHL microfilm 1,509,973, item 1. Search by Paul Hefti, Salt Lake City.

[36] Alturas County, Quartz Record Assessment Roll, Pre State, p. 211, FHL microfilm 1,510,182; the originals are located at the Idaho State Archives, Boise. Search by Gene Williams. Two Jacksons appear on this tax roll. On 29 July 1868, J. B. Jackson paid a personal poll tax of $4; G. W. paid the same on 31 July. J. B. Jackson remains unidentified.

[37] Alturas County, Pre-State Quartz Record, vol. 5: 304. deed Record D: 258–9, 269–70, FHL microfilm 1,509.973, item 2.

[38] Elmore County, General Index to Patents, 1891–1965, and Patent Records, vol. 15, 1889–1911, FHL microfilm 1,432,910, items 1 and 2. No actual homestead file has been found for George. Under some homestead acts, applicants could shorten the required 3-to-5-year residency, prior to title, by converting the homestead grant to a standard "cash entry" file at a modest sum per acre; see Val D. Greenwood, Researchers Guide to American Genealogy, 2d ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ. Co., 1990), 332–35. But the 1889 to 1907 variance is overlong.

© 2002–2011

Connie Lenzen, CG

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