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History and Background of Pioneer Bush Family

The Olympia News

September 6, 1945

Now that we are celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the settlement of Tumwater, the people of the State of Washington should know the real history and background of George Bush and his wife, Isabelle James Bush, who were members of the Simmons party.

Their story is a matter of Congressional and historical record as well as from the Bush Family Bible. All of which is in the possession of descendents of George and Isabelle Bush.

The father of George Bush, Matthew Bush, was born in India and was brought to America as a young man before the Revolution by a British shipping merchant by the name of Stevenson.  Mrs. Stevenson had an Irish maid who married Matthew Bush.  George Bush, an only child, was born near Philadelphia in 1779.  Matthew Bush sailed many years on the merchant ships.  He and his wife cared for the Stevensons in their declining years, as they had no family of their own, and at their death, they left a vast fortune to Matthew Bush.

George Bush was raised a Quaker and educated in Philadelphia. In spite of his religious belief he was a veteran of the war of 1812 and is credited with being the soldier who persuaded General Jackson to use bales of cotton as barricades in the battle of New Orleans and thus bring about the defeat of the British.  He was also a veteran of the Black Hawk Indian war, at which time he was wounded.

In 1820, with some companions, he made a trip to the Pacific Coast, traveling from Mexico to the Columbia river, trapping and hunting for a fur company of St. Joseph, Missouri.

On July 4, 1831, he married Isabelle James, the daughter of a Baptist preacher.  She was born in Tennessee in 1801.  Five sons were born to the union in Missouri.

Censorship of mail and telegrams in Illinois and say [Bush] was at Naveau [Nauvoo], Illinois, the night of the departure of Joseph Smith. In later years he gave Brigham Young $5,000 to help build the Mormon Tabernacle. [This matter of his relationship with Mormons was later proven incorrect.]

When Colonel M.T. Simmons was organizing the party to make the trip northwest, George Bush became interested at once, disposed of his property and helped finance the expedition.  The story of his building a double floor in his covered wagon in which to carry his money has been told and retold as one time when the party was crossing the plains and were running out of supplies he purchased enough flour at $60 a barrel and sugar at $1 a pound to last the entire party until they reached Oregon City.

The party arrived at Puget Sound in October 1845, and George Bush and his wife, with their five small sons, William Owens Bush being the eldest, settled on the prairie, which bears his name.  Lewis N. the youngest son, was born December 25, 1845.

George Bush died April 5, 1863, and Isabelle James Bush died September 12, 1866.

Their generosity was a by-word.  Old timers said that the way was never too long nor the night too stormy to go to the assistance of some neighbor or newcomer in distress.

John Shotwell Bush, the son of William Owens Bush, still lives and makes his home on the old Bush homestead.  He is the last living male descendant of the Simmons party living on the original homestead.