Notes on William Brigham Parkinson
Maud Grant Alexander, Uncle Dave Discovers Gold
(Pendleton, Oregon: East Oregonian Publishing Company, 1972)

[p. 67]

In 1860 Mary Ann [Nutman] married John T. Parkinson and went to Omaha, Nebraska to live. In 1861 she gave birth to a daughter Eliza Elizabeth Parkinson, and on February 14, 1862 she had a son John Thomas Parkinson, Jr. In April of that year the family with two small children and a twelve year old boy, William Brigham Parkinson, who was a son by a former marriage, left for the Oregon gold fields.

One incident on the trip as told by Mrs. Littlefield was that one morning when she had made griddlecakes for breakfast, Mrs. Grant, who had been too ill to eat, told her husband that those cakes smelled so good that she wished that she might have some. The doctor came to the Parkinson wagon and asked if he could buy some of the griddlecakes. That was the way [p. 68] Dr. Grant and Mrs. Parkinson met. After that they exchanged courtesies. Mrs. Parkinson did all that she could to help Mrs. Grant and the doctor did what he could to help Mr. Parkinson.

Mr. Parkinson became very ill on the way and died before reaching the end of the journey. They were traveling with ox team and covered wagon. It is supposed that he was buried by the trail somewhere in what is now called Willow Creek Country. His grave was marked by the foot board of the wagon with his name burned on it. No one was ever able to locate the grave, although his son and grandsons have looked for it.

Mrs. Parkinson was alone with three children, a wagon, an ox team and a twenty dollar gold piece. She began at once to wash, mend and bake for the miners. She had to make her own soap, also make the lye from which the soap was made. She carried water from the creek and heated it over a bonfire and washed on a board. At night she sewed and mended by the light of candles which she molded. As she had no sewing machine she did the mending by hand.

In the early spring of 1863 Mrs. Grant, wife of the wagon train doctor, passed away. As life was rugged and companions were few, later that same year Dr. Grant and Mrs. Parkinson were married. To this union two children were born; Charles J. Grant, Jr., on June 7, 1864 and Mary Isophene Grant on November 21, 1865. On October 14, of this same year Elizabeth Parkinson passed away; she too, is buried in the Auburn Cemetery. Then, as if Mary Ann had not yet endured enough heartache, on August 1, 1866 Dr. Grant, too, passed on.

For a number of years Mary Ann carried on, sewing, washing, mending, and baking to support herself and her family.

[p. 69]

On December 13, 1871 Mrs. Grant and David Littlefield were married. …

On September 21, 1872 a son Rufus was born, on February 25, 1874 a daughter, Eva Jane was born and on June 15, 1877 a daughter, Grace Ellen was born. …

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[p. 42]

Although histories and references do not mention Dr. Grant, they list Dr. Rackerby as the only doctor registered in Auburn. They both arrived in 1862 and were both practicing medicine at that time. In 1864, however, Dr. Grant moved his drugstore to Baker and owned the first pharmacy there. It stood where the post office building now stands. An old ledger containing records of the Baker store is now in the Library of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Dr. Grant’s Bible, now in the possession of his granddaughter has as its earliest date his marriage to Miss Mary Richardson on June 12, 1851. They had two children who died in early childhood. Mrs. Grant was suffering from tuberculosis and the doctor felt that a change of climate would benefit her. They joined an early wagon train and arrived in Auburn in the early summer of 1862.

Here are some excerpts from an old memorandum book of Dr. Grant’s. …

[p. 43]

"Auburn, May 28th, 1863; Buried Wife. Paid Digging grave six dollars ($6.00), to Mrs. Coleman for trimming $1.50. To Ironside $5.00 to be paid for trimming on coffin. Settled with Ironside and squared former account by paying $1.25 which leaves him in my debt $5.00. Have suffered greatly from heartache. I cannot realize that my wife is dead. …

[p. 16]

When the miners and others of the masculine population saw that women were coming in with the ox teams and wagon trains, the chivalry and morals of the community were greatly improved. When Mrs. John T. Parkinson who had lost her husband on the trip from Omaha, Nebraska let it be known that she would wash, mend, and bake for the miners they were so pleased that they joined forces and built her a log cabin. She in turn did many things for them. Mrs. Parkinson, who ten years later was to become Mrs. David Littlefield, had at that time a son four months old, a daughter two years old and a stepson twelve years old, so it was imperative that she work hard. …

[p. 34]

By 1863 the residents of Auburn began to look upon themselves as substantial citizens of a worthwhile city. Among these earnest, public minded persons were Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Smith, affectionately known to most of the town as "Aunt Tammie and Uncle Tommie Smith." …


Both Aunt Tammie and Uncle Tommie were always the first to try to lend a helping hand and so when Mrs. Parkinson’s stepson William became more than she could control the Smiths offered a solution. They offered to adopt him and the offer was gratefully accepted by the already over burdened stepmother. The plan, however, was not acceptable to William. He was born in England to Mormon parents and his greatest hope was to reach the city of his dreams, Salt Lake City.

William Brigham Parkinson slipped away one morning when his stepmother was busy, and persuaded the driver of some mule team freighters to let him come with them. He made his way to the home of a friend of his father, a Mr. John Chapman, in Helena, Montana, who welcomed him into his home and sent him to school. Later he legally adopted him but when Mr. Chapman died William who was entitled to a share of a very large estate declined to fight for his share. He had lived with the Chapmans about three years which would make him about sixteen years old.

William then went to Wyoming where he worked on a ranch for a Mr. Bushard. Eventually he had money enough to go to Utah and to the city. He was educated by the church and became one of Salt Lake City’s most prominent doctors.

At that time polygamy was accepted or rather encouraged by the church. William had four wives and twenty-four children. But when the government of the United States outlawed polygamy William had [p. 36] just married his fourth wife, and to avoid the authorities he and his fourth wife visited his stepmother, Mrs. Littlefield, and also his step-sister Mrs. Alexander in Auburn. For a short time after that William lived and worked in Pilot Rock, later returning to Salt Lake where he served on the Board of Regents of the Brigham Young University.

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