Chapter 7, Liberty and Nancy (Briceland) Vaughan on the Prairie

Liberty and Nancy Vaughan

We left Liberty met Nancy back in the previous chapter. Much of the following genealogical information on the Bricelands has been provided by David Berry.  The information on Capt. Thomas Briceland and his sons James and John has come from internet sites.

The Bricelands were among the founders of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, which was originally a Scots-Irish settlement. David’s dad recalled being told by an older Vaughan relative that Nancy had such a strong Irish brogue that they could barely understand her. David isn’t sure whether this is true or if the relative was saying that “to rib my grandfather, who claimed to have no Irish ancestry as a way of teasing my grandmother, who was part Irish and rather embarrassed by it.”  quote from David Barry, and refers to his grandparents, George and Violet (Bray) Berry

Nancy’s grandfather was Capt. Thomas Briceland. He was born in Ireland about 1750. He married Margaret in 1774. In 1777 he joined the Second Battalion of the Cumberland County Militia.  Thomas was the 1st. Lt under Col. John Davis of the fourth Company.  In 1778 he was the 1st Lt. of Company Four under Capt. Andrew McKee.  In 1780 he was the 1st. Lt. of Company Six under Capt. Isaiah Hill.  By 1788 Thomas was made Captain of his own Company with 88 soldiers in his command. He was very proud of his military career and he keep his Company Role Call list for many years as a personal reminder of the men who served under him.

Many years after the war was over Eastern Pennsylvania began to be developed.  First the town of Washington, Pa. began as a center of commerce and in time the roads connecting it to Pittsburgh and other towns were built.  In 1787, John Canon laid out the town of Canonsburg.  He had operated a Gris Mill there for many years. The town was incorporated in 1802 and at that time  Thomas Briceland was assessed on property in the town, even though his residence may have been a little north of the borough.  He had been a resident of this vicinity many years prior to the incorporation of the town. He was a member of the first Council in 1802 and continued on all subsequent councils until the end of his term in 1808. In the 1860s, many years after Thomas’s death, two workers on the old Briceland Mansion found the old 1788 Roll Call of his Militia Company under some floorboards.

Thomas and Margaret had 6 children:

  • James, b. 1775, Washington County, PA. Died, 8 Oct 1860
  •  Polly, b. 1777, Washington County, PA.
  • Sarah, b. 1779, Washington County, PA.
  • David, b. 1789, Washington County, PA.
  • Margaret, b. 1791, Washington County, PA.
  • John, b. 1774, Washington County, PA. Died, 24 Feb. 1871

Capt. Thomas Briceland died on 12 Sep 1819, Margaret died on 13 Sep 1833 and they are both buried in Oak Springs Cemetery there. Many members of the Briceland family are also buried in the Oak Springs Cemetery. I have some confusion with Thomas as there is a grave stone with Lt. Thomas Briceland who died in 1915 in the Florence Presbyterian Church Cemetery.  There is no other mention or record of another Thomas Briceland being of a similar age and dying near the same time.  It also appears that both of these Thomas Bricelands served as officers in the Revolutionary War of 1777.

James, along with his father, were mentioned in the Canonsbury assessment role of 1802. A few later he moved to Hanover Township. Here in 1813, he opened a tavern at the cross-roads of Stubenville Pike and Smith Township State Road. He then began to purchase land surrounding the cross-roads and develop it for the village of Briceland Cross-Roads. Once he had surveyed the town lots he ran this advertisement in the the Washington Reporter of Aug. 15, 1814:

“New Town, – The subscribers respectfully inform the public that they laid out a town at the cross-roads in Smith’s Township, Washington County, Pa, where the roads from Pittsburgh to Steubenville and from Washington to Georgetown crosses.  Various circumstances conspired to make this an eligible situation for a town of village. The site of the town is handsome, the situation healthy, the land rich, the water good abundance of stone coal within 100 perches; the adjacent county is fertile and in a forward state of cultivation.  The roads passing through the village are much occupied at present and must annually increase, it being on the direct route by land from Pittsburgh, the focus of the western country, down the river – the distance from Pittsburgh 26, from Steubenville 12 miles.  The lots will be sold by vendue on Tuesday, the 6th of Sept. next. The sale to commence at 110’clock. An indisputable title will be given,  and the terms of sale made known by James Briceland and Moses Proudfit, Aug. 15, 1814,

James married Jane Finley and they had five children. I do not know anything about the first three, but the fourth and fifth were;

  •  Nancy, b. 4 Oct 1809 in Washington County, PA. Died 23 Dec. 1890 (our ancestor)
  •  Julia, b. 1815 in Washington County, PA.

James later he moved to the near by town of Washington and finally to Stubenville, Ohio, where he died. Briceland Cross-Roads is now known as Florence.  It appears that the family continued to operate the tavern at Florence and when the old Washington-Pittsburgh Pike was at the height of its glory, in the days before the Chartiers Valley Railroad was completed in 1871, this tavern was a famous stand.

Thomas and Margaret’s son, John Briceland is listed as one of the members of Council for 1840, 1842, 1843 and the Burgesses for 1852. John kept a hotel in Canonsbury many years, now Sherman House. John married Emily around 1857 and they had six children;

  •  Sarah, b. 1826 in Washington County, PA.
  •  Julia, b. 1827 in Washington County, PA. She died 27 Jun 1864
  •  Patterson, b. 1828 in Washington County, PA.
  •  John. b. 1831 in Washington County, PA. He died before 1900
  •  Garland, b. 1833 in Washington County, PA. He died March 1901
  •  Thomas, b. 1835 in Washington County, PA. He died 27 Jun 1864

To read about Thomas Briceland and his life in Washington County, PA go to <;. I have found conflicting information on the family, but I have used this book as my primary source.

For more information on the Briceland family  genealogy, please go to Jeff Bryant’s site at <;

James Briceland’s daughter Nancy married Liberty Vaughan, they moved to a farm not far from Liberty’s parents on Vaughan Road in the Delphi Township. They would have the following children here in Ohio:
. Andrew J., b. 1827
. Jonathan Stephens, b. 6 December 1829
. Ruth, b. 8 August 1831
. Mariah R., b. 14 December 1837
. George, b. about 1840
. Amanda, b. 1840
. James, b. 1841 and died in Galesburg, Illinois
. Miller, b. 22 January 1842
. Cyrus, b. 22 January 1844
. Alexander Stuart b. May 1, 1846
. Charles Henry, b. 5 September 1849

The 1850 census taken in Knox County, Illinois, shows all of the children were born in Ohio and it shows Liberty as being 44 years old and Nancy as being 43 years old, which would indicate that he was born in 1806 and she was born in 1807. Other records show Liberty as being born on 4 July 1803 and Nancy born On 4 October 1809. It also shows Andrew still living there. The census also shows them having a child, Thomas, 9 months old and born in Ohio. Should we trust the census records or the family documents?

Shortly after Liberty and Nancy’s daughter, Mariah was born, the country experience a second economic depression, ‘The Panic of 1837″. This caused failure of many businesses and even some banks. There were foreclosures of farm mortgages and below cost prices for farm crops. Although farming was dificult in Ohio, Liberty continued to stay there until all of the children were born

Before 1850, desperate to improve his family’s life, Liberty moved to the frontier of Western Illinois. Like Liberty’s ancestors who had left their homes to sail across the Atlantic to start a new life, the Vaughans were infused with an adventurous spirit. With subsequent generations, the family moved on to what they believed would be a better life for their family. Liberty’s grandfather, James, had pioneered the land in Vermont before it was a state and his father, George, moved west to settle the land along the Ohio Valley when it was still fraught with battles with the Indians. These were never easy choices, but they had confidence, believing in their own ability to succeed. They must have had a desire to prove themselves and succeeded with out the help of their parents. It is interesting that a pattern was now developing with these Vaughans, first James, then George and now Liberty. They had the adventurous spirit to move to the frontier but not before finding a wife. It seems they were free-spirited individuals who were not afraid of going forward to take on unknown challenges but they also had a desire for the security and support of a family. This was Liberty’s heritage and it would be the life of his descendants, more in some than in others.

When Liberty and the family moved west, their first stop was Peoria, Illinois where Mariah R. was born on December 14, 1837. In Peoria, everyone was talking about the Oregon Territory. The mood was mixed with tales of the Indians and hardships of the journey on one side and the promise of the fertile Willamette Valley on the other. While the Vaughans were in Peoria, Jason Lee had come to town. Lee had returned from Oregon to raise money and deliver a petition drafted by the Willamette Valley Settlers, asking Congress to provide them with some form of civil law and justice. He was there trying to encourage everyone to go to Oregon. Lee had established a Methodist Mission at French Prairie on the Willamette River. Here, Americans who had mostly arrived by ship had already established a farm community. French Prairie was the first agricultural community in the Oregon country with its 120 farms, herds of cattle numbering about 3,000 and 2,500 horses as well as a vast number of hogs. Although American settlers were continually flowing in, the control of the territory was still in dispute. The British claimed control with the Hudson Bay Company’s trading history; while the Americans were continuing to establish their rights to its ownership by populating it with American settlers. Needless to say, the Indians, who were numerous at the time, had little to say in the race for control of the territory. Many of the Indian tribes fought valiantly to keep control of their land but none succeeded. The most courageous were the tribes of the Rouge River Valley.

In 1839, when Andrew was 12, both the tales of the Indians and the opportunity of some day having his own farm way out west struck his imagination. Each year Andrew would hear of groups of wagons being organized for the long trek west. An “Oregon Society” had been formed in towns in Illinois and other states to help recruit emigrants for the trek to the west. With the publicity of the first sizable party of one hundred and twelve volunteers leaving Independence, Missouri on May 16, 1842, the “Oregon Fever” had spread throughout the entire Mississippi Valley. Dr. Elijah White organized the first wagon train. It included eighteen wagons with a long procession of horses, pack mules and cattle. White had spent three years as a physician at the Methodist Mission in Oregon, but after an argument with Jason Lee, he left and returned to the States by ship. The government then commissioned White as a sub-Indian agent. The wagon train arrived at Dr. Marcus Wightman’s Mission on September 14th.

Although not ready to move to Oregon, Liberty left Peoria and moved to a parcel of land in Township 9W., Range 4E., forty miles away in Knox County, Illinois. The farm was near a small town called Galesburg, thirty miles east of the Mississippi River. To Develop the farm and break the tough prairie sod, their either broke a small area by hand and retained the rest for pasture or hired a farmer with a Gargantuan Plow pulled by three to six yokes of oxen to break a larger area. The cost of this was two dollars an acre, probably more than the cost of the land. Either way, they were planting crops by early summer.

The summer of 1847, Ruth who was not yet 16, began to talk of marriage to William W. Weeks, a man she had met who was 24, William was born in Green County, New York. In January of the following year, they were married. In the summer of 1848, when Ruth was pregnant with her first child, her mother Nancy became pregnant with her eleventh. Ruth’s daughter, Corrina, was born in Knox County in 1849. On the farm in Galesburg, Nancy had a son, Charles, on September 5, 1849.

The 1844 Democratic presidential candidate James K. Polk ran on a platform of taking control over the entire Oregon Territory and used the famous campaign slogan, “Fifty-four Forty or Fight!” (after the line of latitude serving as the northern boundary of Oregon at 54°40’). Polk’s plan was to claim and go to war over the entire territory for the United States. This was further encouragement to those considering emigrating to the West.

Through negotiations with the British after Polk’s inauguration, the boundary between the U.S. and British Canada was established at 49° with the Treaty of Oregon in 1846. The exception to the 49th parallel boundary is that it turns south in the channel separating Vancouver Island with the mainland and then turns south and then west through the Juan de Fuca Strait. This maritime portion of the boundary wasn’t officially demarcated until 1872.

Although many were talking of going west, Liberty had resisted the move. He had worked hard to build the farm and was reluctant to give it up and move again. The primary thing keeping more people from emigrating west was the difficulty of selling farms in the still depression plagued market. This was not a problem for Liberty’s oldest son, Andrew, as he had yet to set down any roots. In the spring of 1847, Andrew was twenty-one years old and he decided it was time to head out to explore the land in the West.

Vaughans had moved westward since the first Vaughan arrived in Newport, Rhode Island in 1638. These moves had been relatively easy compared to the one Andrew was contemplating. The six-month journey over the 2,000 miles to the Willamette Valley on the Oregon Trail would be a longer and harder journey than any American pioneers had attempted before. The first wagon train to set out for Oregon on the trail was Elijah Wight’s party in 1842. The tough, courageous and optimistic pioneers who started out knew there would be little chance of surviving if they did not make it all the way to Oregon before winter. They were being lured by the free land being offered to them by the government and the stories of fertile soil, clear streams and tall trees being written by those who had already been there and sent reports back to be printed.

Most of the pioneers’ knowledge of the trail who traveled west before 1847 came from either Hastings’ guide or the Fremont’s reports. It would have been this guide and report along with the newspaper articles that the Vaughans and others read as they planned and dreamed of their trip to the Oregon Territory. The newspapers put forward two sides of the story. They would tell of the opportunities and the ease of the trail in one article and in the next, would point out the dangers of the Indians and the ruggedness and difficulties of the trial itself.

In Appendix 7, I have describe what it was like when Andrew crossed the prairie and the mountains to arrive in Oregon.

In Chapter 8, I have describe their life after they arrived in Oregon.

return to Chapter 6
Continue to Appendix 7
continue to Chapter 8


One Response to Chapter 7, Liberty and Nancy (Briceland) Vaughan on the Prairie

  1. David Berry says:

    Hello Don,
    Wow! You’ve really created an epic historical account here – not only of the history of the Vaughan family, but also of the times they lived it and the impact those times had on them. Great job!

    I just wanted to add a couple of comments to this page:

    1) Regarding the line in the 2nd paragraph that says “David isn’t sure whether this is true or if the relative was saying that to rib my grandfather, who claimed to have no Irish ancestry as a way of teasing my grandmother, who was part Irish and rather embarrassed by it.” – just want to clarify for readers that the last part of that – “to rib my grandfather, who claimed to have no Irish ancestry as a way of teasing my grandmother, who was part Irish and rather embarrassed by it.” – is a direct quote from me, and refers to my grandparents, George and Violet (Bray) Berry, not to yours.

    2) Most sources I’ve seen, including his own gravestone, give Liberty’s birthdate as July 4, 1804, not 1803. Here are links to a couple of photos I took of Liberty & Nancy’s gravestone a couple of years ago –
    Grave of my gt gt gt grandfather, Liberty Vaughan, Gibbs Cemetery, Yamhill County, Oregon
    Gravestone inscription of my gt gt gt grandfather Liberty Vaughan
    Gravestone inscription for Nancy Briceland Vaughan

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