Mon, April 06

1875: FIRST FAMILIES; Lett Family, August 28.

A man named Charlie Buster left Missouri and wandered out west. He was in the Salt River Valley when he wrote a letter in the fall of 1874, to his friends in Missouri. He gave a glowing account of the area. Preston Burford, who had been a neighbor of "Parson" Bristow, read the letter. As Pres. Burford knew Charlie Buster well, it set him on fire to move to Arizona Territory. The family of "Parson" Bristow and his son-in-law, James Human, decided to travel with the Burford family. Then the cousin of "Parson" Bristow, James Oliver Bristow, decided to join the group.

The next person who decided to travel to Arizona Territory was "Brother" Lett. He was a strong Baptist and a member of the same church as "Parson" Bristow. "Brother" Lett was described by "Parson" Bristow, as a good man, but he was so close in his dealings that to use "Uncle" Dick Smith's expression, he would skin a flea for his hide and tallow. "Brother" Lett had no children of his own, but was raising 2 orphan children.

The next families who decided to go were those of "Uncle" Sam Dickinson, and Mike Gaddis. They were joined by the Hutcheson, Pankey, Parker, Stackhouse, and Waggner/Wagner families. Because the families lived in different settlements, some left their homes as early as April 26, to meet at Humansville, Missouri. The ox-drawn wagon train left there on May 10, then began their long journey together on May 11, 1875. After they were on their way, the family of "Tommy" Smith and his son-in-law, W. P. "Pleas" Bristow, caught up. Morris Smith and John Claxton were with them along with the family of William Hawkins. Over 50 people, with their horses and cattle, traveled in this wagon train.

After a dispute about the routes in New Mexico, the families of William Hawkins, "Parson" Bristow and James Human, left the main group to travel the northern route with their horses and herds of cattle; they spent the night of August 16 at the Wales Arnold Ranch. The main group, led by the Wagon Master, Pres. Burford, traveled the southern route, arriving at the Wales Arnold Ranch on August 23. The Gaddis and Lett families traveled with that group, then stopped so their stock could rest, at Sunset Crossing, a few miles above what became Winslow. They traveled onward with a wagon train from Arkansas, then camped at what would become McGuireville on August 28, 1975.

(A Sketch of the History of My Traveling from Southwest Missouri to Arizona; by James Clawson Bristow; October 5, 1909; manuscript; pages 1-5, 7; and Pioneer Stories of Arizona's Verde Valley; 1933, 1954; The Verde Valley Pioneers Association' page 127.)

The family of Joseph D. Lett was listed in the 1870 Census of Washington Township, Cedar County, Missouri on August 9, 1870. Joseph D. Lett, age 44, a farmer, was born in Indiana and lives with "Catharine" Lett, age 40, who was also born in Indiana. Kansas Adon, a female, age 25, born in Indiana (alias Kansas Enable, Kansas Noble, Kansas Lett) and George Adon, age 2, born in Missouri, are with them. In the 1880 Census, Liberty County, Kansas, Kansas Adon is with Thomas Lett, who is believed to be the older brother of Joseph D. Lett. ( The 1870 Index for Washington Township lists #80, Joseph D. Lett, age 44, living near #82, Benjamin Burford and #83, P. Burford, and in the area of #76, Morris Smith and #69, James O. Bristow.

Apparently, the Lett family did not settle permanently in the Verde Valley. The name "Lett" is not on the Great Register of Yavapai County in the Verde Valley with other members of the same wagon train from Missouri, in 1875 or 1876. The 1880 Census of Yavapai County does not include the name "Let" or "Lett." The exact identity of the "Brother" Let mentioned by "Parson" Bristow is not known, however, that person may be Joseph D. Lett.

Joseph Downs Lett is the son of Jesse and Pricilla (Williams) Lett. Joseph Lett married Catherine Mary Newport in Knox County, Indiana, on October 22, 1847.

Joseph Lett was involved in military service during the War of Rebellion, then applied for a pension when he lived in Coos County, Oregon, in 1883. On his application, he states that after the war he had lived in Indiana, Missouri, Arizona, and Oregon. Joseph died on August 12, 1898. His brother, Samuel T. Lett, signed an affidavit in support of Catherine's application for a widow's pension. Another affidavit was submitted by William L. Lett (of unknown relationship). Jesse Lett, a nephew, also made an affidavit in Oregon. Catherine Lett lived in Palestine, Oregon, with her niece, Amanda Lett. Catherine Lett died on July 6, 1901. (GenForum;, posted by Marvelyn Norton, who had the pension file of Joseph Lett.)

General Land Office records indicate that a Joseph Lett received land patents in the area of Willamette, Coos County, Oregon (033985, 036000, 036006) where there were other members of the Lett family.

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