James John facts for kids
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|Died||May 28, 1886
|Other names||Jimmy John, St. John|
|Occupation||educator, fisherman, ferry operator, merchant|
|Known for||founding the settlement of St. Johns, Oregon (1846)
Bartleson–Bidwell Party (1841–43)
James John (1809–1886) was founder of the settlement of St. Johns in Oregon. The area later became a city when it passed a charter in 1902. It was annexed into Portland in 1915. John worked as a general store and ferry operator across the Willamette River to Linnton. He once served as Justice of the Peace and was twice an election judge. John was born in Ohio and first settled in Indiana with his wife and child where John worked as an educator. He joined the Bartleson–Bidwell Party in 1841, who were one of the first groups that trekked the California Trail. By this time, John's wife and child had died. He came to Oregon Country in the employment of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1843 after making it to Sacramento Valley.
Following John's death in 1886, his estate was executed by Philip T. Smith who met court injunctions from John's sister and niece. Smith was replaced as executor by Robert Catilin who battled John's relatives until 1907 when the estate was finally settled. In John's will and testament he gave a large portion of his property towards the erection of a new public school for St. Johns and designated his personal effects liquidated and the funds be used for building materials. His only condition for the school was that it not be related to any religious "sect". In 1907, Catilin ordered the City of St. Johns to forfeit the land given to them by John, but gave them a small portion of the land to erect a school on. James John High School opened in 1911 and closed in 1921.
James John, who born in Donnelsville, Ohio in 1809. He first settled in Lafayette, Indiana and worked as an educator before moving to Oregon by way of California. John was a widower in Indiana and never remarried. His son also died in Indiana.
Missouri to California (1841–43)
While working for John Bidwell as a part of the Bartleson–Bidwell Party starting in 1841, John became one of the first people who made the California Trail trek. He was of the first people on the expedition from Missouri to California when he left on May 16, 1841. Like all member of the crew, John was required to keep a journal but as noted in Nancy Kelsey's documents, John often neglected his writings. Two days after leaving, John was delayed when his oxen strayed. Later that day he met up with Bidwell and his party. On May 20, they reached the Kansas River and were assisted across by Native Americans who floated their items to the other shore. The next day they were invited to a Pawnee festivity where they smoked a calumet, what John described as the "peace pipe".
During their time crossing the Rocky Mountains, John and Bidwell were trapped at the top of a peak and were forced to walk down the mountain in the dark, with their moccasins shredded from sharp rocks. They eventually reached a Native American settlement where they made camp. One of John's primary jobs on the journey was to acquire fish, trout being one of the parties preferences. Bidwell referred to John as "Jimmy". John went a separate route from Bidwell to get to Sutter's Fort in present day Sacramento, California which made him the one of the first members of the party to finish the journey.
When he completed his journey to California in 1843 he accepted a job with the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver in Oregon territory. On July 2, 1844 John wrote in his journal that he camped across the Willamette River from Linnton, Oregon which was likely the present day site of St. Johns. He resided in Linnton for the first few years where he intended to build a warehouse. However, he moved across the river established the settlement of "St. Johns" in 1845 by plotting a homestead. Land claim records were filed with Clackamas County in 1846 and 1848. By then, a dozen families had made St. Johns their home.
John was known to offer warm meals to hungry people and even land to the homeless. He established a general store in 1850 and a rowboat ferry service across the Willamette River to Linnton in 1852. On April 5, 1853 John received a ferry licence from the Clackamas County recorder. John was elected the settlement's Justice of the Peace in 1870. He was a member of the Republican Party. In 1870, John constructed derricks for the United States Customs Service office in Portland. In 1876 and 1877, John fellow St. Johns resident B. O. Severence served as the settlement's election judges. In 1874, John heard rustling in his orchard and fired what he said was a warning shot that hit a 15-year-old boy in the leg. John said he regretted firing the weapon and requested to be placed at the Portland jail, which was granted for one night. When the case was brought before a grand jury John was acquitted of all charges.
Death and estate
On May 28, 1886, John was found dead in his bedroom. The coroner said John succumbed to "natural causes". He was discovered by his neighbor T. D. Taylor who recalled the incident, "This morning at 8 o'clock [am] I went and rapped on Mr. John's door and received no answer. I returned again between 11 and 12 o'clock as I wished to see him on business. I got no reply. I then went and called Mr. Crooks and told him I though something was wrong. We returned together and knocked at the door and still received no answer. We then placed some boxes beneath the window of his bedroom. Mr. Crooks got up there and noticed John lying in his bed, dead." John was 77 years old at the time of his death. Prior to 1904, James John's grave had no headstone. Citizens of the newly incorporated City of St. Johns funded the marker on his grave site at Historic Columbian Cemetery on Columbia boulevard.
John's will was signed and dated on May 14, 1888. It called for his personal property to be sold and his property be leased for a period no longer than 15 years. One plot of land was set dedicated to a public school for St. Johns. John's document read, "[the school] shall be public and open to the children of the school district, which shall embrace the town of St. Johns [...] It is not my intention to direct the particular branches of education should be taught, nor in any way to limit the use of money in promoting certain types of education, only I desire that it shall never be used to inculcate the doctrines of one religion sect one more then the other".
In September 1893, John's sister Elizabeth Erwin and his niece Ira John from Indiana challenged his will in a Multnomah County court on the grounds that he was not fit when the document was made out and signed. Edward A. Deadly and H. B. Nicholas came forward to say they had witnessed James John sign the will and that he was of sound body and mind when he did so. His land was valued at US$100,000. Plans to sell the property were halted by the courts during the preceding. Philip T. Smith, the executor of the estate, was allowed to start selling plots of land in 1897 through 1900.
Robert Catilin was appointed by the state circuit court to administrator the estate of James John in December 1901. The court allowed Catilin to start selling more land in June 1902. In 1903, the court cases were no longer pending so the funds in the estate could be used to build a new public school in St. Johns, per John's request. However in September 1907 the trustees announced the city did not own all the land that was left to the settlement and they had to turn it over with the exception of small plot where they eventually erected a high school.
In November 1906, the newly built St. Johns–Linnton ferry was named the James John "in honor" of the founder of the settlement. The citizens of St. Johns held a "Pioneer Day" where it was announced a statue of James John would be raised in the town if they could fund the project. It was their intention to have the monument ready for next years festivities. John's vision of a public school building for St. Johns was realized in 1911 when James John High School opened on the plot that was not repossessed by John's trustees.
The following are journal entries from James John as recorded in the St. Johns Review by Oregon Historical Society director George H. Heins in 1906.
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