By Chuck Haviland
ARTICLE 1: THE DECISION TO MOVE WESTWARD
The first free black man in the Washington Territory, was George Bush. He had lived in Missouri for a couple of years before coming out west, on the Oregon trail in 1843. Four white families joined in the westward journey: Michael and Elizabeth Simmons, James and Martha McAllister, David and Talitha Kindred and Gabriel and Keziah Jones. Many of these people were related to one another. Simmons sister Martha was married to James McAllister and Simmons wife Elizabeth was David Kindred’s sister. Michael Troutman Simmons was a longtime friend of George Bush. Upon arriving in the Oregon Territory, George was forced to live north of the Columbia River, near Vancouver, since the existing white men had already banned black people from the Willamette Valley. He settled on Puget Sound near what is now called Olympia. The area became known as Bush Prairie. His full name was George Washington Bush (no relation to our current or past presidents).
As a young man he served in the US Army and may have participated in the battle of New Orleans during the war of 1812. He married Isabell James on 4 July 1831. She was a Tennessee Baptist of German – American extraction. All that is known of her childhood was that she was born between 1804 – 1809. She had outstanding courage for her time to marry a black man in the Southern United States. Her marital choice may have been because she saw what no one else saw, a striking (nearly 6 foot) tall man who had already lived a lifetime of adventure and exploration of the unknown. George must have set quite an impression on Isabell for her to take such a leap. George was broad shouldered and weighed 180 pounds. He had dark eyes and a roman nose, with a heavy beard. He maintained a dashing air about himself and must have been very attractive to a young lady. George was about 40 when he met Isabell. She was a trained as a nurse although she had yet to practice her profession. Soon they were married and moving to Missouri. Once there, George honed his farming practices and became quite successful. While living in Missouri they had ten sons of which only five made it to maturity. Without today’s medicines life was very short for many people, even if they made it to maturity, death still took its toll.
Missouri was a quasi-free state. At that time only four states allowed black citizens to vote. “Free blacks” were only quasi – free. They had limited voting privileges and most state’s forbade marriages between the races. Their oldest son Owen was not even permitted to attend school. As time progressed it became gradually clear to George that he would never gain the respect and consideration of his neighboring white men. The Bush family started the journey, loaded down with seeds, farm implements, various fruit trees (some even in buckets). They also brought porcelain platters and the finer things of a woman’s life. Of all the books that they brought, the Bible and the traditional dictionary meant the most to them. At this time their family consisted of the following children:
1) William Owen Bush 1832 – 1907
2) Joseph Talbot Bush 1834 – 1904
3) Rial Bailey Bush 1837 – ?
4) Henry Sanford Bush 1841 – 1913
5) Jackson January Bush 1843 – 1888
6) Henry Sanford Bush 1841 – 1913
7) Jackson January Bush 1843 – 1888
To be continued…