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History and Background of Pioneer Bush Family

From: 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 the descendants of George and Isabelle James 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 3, 1831, he married Isabelle James, the daughter of a Baptist preacher. She was born in Tennessee in 1801.

When Col. M.T. Simmons was organizing the party to make the trip to the 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. At one time, when the party was crossing the plains and were running out of supplies, h e 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 and family settled on the prairie which bears his name. Lewis N., the youngest son, was born December 25, 1848.

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 (when the article was written in 1945) and makes his home on the old Bush homestead. He is the last living male descendant bearing the Bush name and the only descendant of the Simmons parting living on the original homestead.