On the 18th of April, 1846, J. Q. Thornton and his wife left Quincy, Illinois, to go to Oregon. They went first to Independence, Missouri, the outfitting point. They purchased wagons and teams, and on the 12th of May left Independence over the Oregon Trail. On the 15th they came up with the party of Ex-Governor Boggs, of Missouri, and W. H. Russell, camped to await other expected companies of emigrants. Thornton and his wife were invited to attach themselves to this party, which they promptly did. The Boggs caravan consisted of sixty-three wagons. The whole company crossed the Wakarusa on the 15th. Others must have joined the party on that day, for an examination made that night revealed seventy-two wagons, one hundred and thirty men, sixty-five women, one hundred and twenty-five children, sixty-nine thousand pounds of breadstuff, forty thousand pounds of bacon, eleven hundred pounds of powder, twenty-six hundred pounds of lead, one hundred and fifty-five guns, one hundred and four pistols, and seven hundred and ten cattle. Some were bound for Oregon and some for California. The emigrants were moved by different motives. Some desired land in a new country. Some were fleeing debts incurred, some had been stripped by creditors, some were in pursuit of health, some were in search of adventure, and others knew not why they were on the road.
The ferry on the Kansas River was reached on the 17th of May. This was the Papan Ferry, at the present Topeka. The crossing was effected by six o’clock. Mrs. Thornton gave the ferryman’s wife some tracts. Indians were numerous in what is now North Topeka, some bedecked in savage splendor, but most of them filthy and covered with vermin. On the 19th additions to the party were made, increasing the number of wagons to ninety-eight. Twin boys had been born to a Mrs. Hall on the night of the 18th. The camp was made on Soldier Creek on the 19th.
This emigrant caravan followed almost exactly the route of the Oregon Trail. The Big Blue River, called in the record the Great Blue-Earth River, was sighted on the 26th of May, and camp was made on its left bank. Rains had swollen the river so that no crossing could be safely attempted for a day or two. A boat called the “Blue River Rover” was built on the 28th. It was constructed by joining two cottonwood canoes twenty-five feet long, and proved an ample conveyance when the crossing was made on the 30th and 31st. On the 2d of June the party separated, those going to Oregontwenty wagonsgoing on in advance. This division of the caravan occurred near the north line of Kansas beyond which point we can not follow the company.