Alvis Kimsey

Name: Alvis Kimsey
Born: 26 March 1816 / Bedford County, Tennessee
Died: 14 August 1856 / Wasco County, Oregon
  • Cassie Simpson Kimsey
    • Married: 29 May 1839 / Platte County, Missouri
    • Died: 1846 / Along the Oregon Trail
  • Elizabeth Kincaid Fulkerson
    • Married: September 1846 / Polk County, Oregon 
Arrived in Ore.: 1847
DLC: OC 0912
Occupation: Farmer
  • Melissa Ann Kimsey Gaines (1840 – 1872)
  • Mary Jane Kimsey (1849 – 1921)
  • Rachel Emeline Kimsey (1852 – 1899)
  • Wiley Alvis Kimsey (1854 – 1938)

Note: Oregon Secretary of State’s Early Oregonian Index lists Alvis Kimsey’s burial place as being located on his Donation Land Claim (north of the Odell Pioneer Cemetery), but until this is verified we will include him as a possible burial at the Odell Pioneer Cemetery.  

Alvis Kimsey was born in Tennesse on the 16th of May, 1816, to parents Samuel Kimsey and Rachel Townsend.  His father died when Alvis was 13 years old.  Alvis helped out with the family until his mother remarried, after which he relocated to Missouri. There he married his first wife, Cassie Simpson, in 1839. The following year the couple welcomed a daughter, Melissa Ann.

In April 1846, the Kimseys, along with their extended family, joined a large wagon train bound for Oregon of 100 wagons, 600 people, and nearly 1000 head of livestock.   Cassie was suffering from Tuberculosis, and the family hoped the new climate would improve her health.  Sadly, she died early on their journey to Oregon, leaving Alvis and their young daughter.

Alvis Kimsey and his younger brother Thomas, along with two women and six other men, left the wagon train at the Raft River in Idaho. This junction of the California Cutoff was a frequent jumping off point for pioneers who chose to settle in California instead of Oregon.  It is unclear whether or not Alvis’ daughter, Melissa, accompanied him and his brother or continued on to Oregon with the rest of the family. While in California, he and his brother Thomas joined the Army to fight in the Mexican-American War.

In 1847, Alvis returned to Oregon, where he settled on a donation land clain of  644.04 acres.  His land bordered Abram Coovert’s land to the north and John Odell’s to the south.  He married widow Elizabeth Fulkerson Dorris in September of 1848.  Elizabeth’s husband, Hiram Dorris, died during their journey to Oregon in 1847.  Alvis and Elizabeth had three children: Mary Jane (who later married Hiram Peery, also buried at the Odell Pioneer Cemetery), Rachel Emeline, and Wiley Alvis.

Alvis returned to military service in 1848, when he served as private in Company A, 2nd Regiment of the Oregon Riflemen in the Cayuse Indian War. He fought in the Battle of Abiqua, along with his brother Thomas. The battle took place at the base of the Cascade Mountains near the head of Abiqua Creek (above present day Scott’s Mills), where a large group of Klamath Indians, who were known to travel around and harrass settlers, had gathered. The pioneers were on edge during this time because of the Whitman Massacre which had occurred a year earlier, and the militia set out to disband the Native Americans who had gathered in the area. The battle was largely forgotten – intentionally – because the militia was known to have been particularly harsh to the Kalamath during the battle, killing over ten men and women and taking several women prisoner. Several years later the Battle of Abiqua re-emerged in the public memory and the militia were hearlded as heroes. A more complete version of the Battle of Abiqua is told by David G. Lewis, PhD, on his research blog

In 1849, Alvis headed back to Califoria, lured by dreams of gold. He returned to Oregon after a short time with a couple of gold nuggets in his possession.

Alvis served as sheriff of Yamhill County for a time and was active in politics, but contracted tuberculosis in 1855 and was forced to retire from all active work. He relocated to the Dalles in hopes the drier climate would improve his health, but he unfortunately died in 1865. He was only 40 years old. His wife, Elizabeth, returned his body to Dayton, and buried him in the Webfoot area. An iron fence was erected around his grave, and his headstone was inscribed:

Farewell – Alvis Kimsey
Born Mar 26, 1816 – Died Jan 26, 1856*
Oh fondly we gather beside thee today,
Thy form in earth’s bosom we tenderly lay;
But still, mid our sorrow one thought will remain
Thy spirit in glory shall blossom again.

It is yet unclear where Alvis’ Kimsey’s grave lies. There is conflicting information stating that he was both buried on the center of his Donation Land Claim in Dayton, as well as being buried in the Odell Pioneer Cemetery. No grave exists in the cemetery fitting the description noted above.

*This date conflicts with the date listed in his obituaries, which were provided to the newspapers by his brother, Thomas.

Weekly Oregonian, 13 Sep 1856, p.3

Obituary: Weekly Oregon Statesman, 2 Sep 1856, p.3


Although many years have elapsed since the death of Alvis Kimsey, there are many in Yamhill county who recall his worthwhile endeavors while making a home for his family in this then wild section of country. Mr. Kimsey was born in Missouri May 26, 1816, and owing to the death of his father when he was but thirteen years old he was early obliged to assist in the maintenance of the family. His mother eventually married a second time, and when his services were no longer needed on the home farm he also married, taking for his wife a Miss Simpson, who was born in Missouri. The death of his wife temporarily shadowed his life and left him with one small child, with no guiding hand at the hearthstone.

Joining a band of west-bound emigrants in 1846 Mr. Kimsey reached his destination in California without any particular difficulty, and once arrived at his new destination he had the opportunity of serving in the Mexican war. During a part of his service he was a commissioned officer, and his soldier days were marked by particular courage and devotion to the cause. In 1848 he removed from California to Oregon and took up a donation land claim of six hundred and forty acres on what is now called the Middle Salem and Dayton road, about four and one-half miles southeast of Dayton. In September of the same year, 1848, he married Mrs. Elizabeth Fulkerson Dorris, who was born in Missouri, and whose husband died while crossing the plains in 1847. When Mr. Kimsey purchased his claim there was a small log house upon it and this continued to shelter the family for a few years, but subsequently he put up a more comfortable and commodious residence. The discovery of gold in California about this time enticed him thither, but his stay was of short duration, and upon his return home resumed his agricultural duties. In 1855 he retired from active labor and took up his residence in The Dalles, the change being necessitated by overwork and responsibility. His death occurred in the latter home September 14, 1865, and was mourned by all who had known him. At one time he took a prominent part in politics, and served as sheriff of Yamhill county, an office which he was compelled to resign on account of impaired health.

Three children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Kimsey: Mary J., born on the old homestead, where she now lives, in 1849: Rachel E., deceased; and Wiley A., a resident of Albany, Ore. Some years after the death of her husband Mrs. Kimsey was united in marriage with Willis Gains, who crossed the plains in 1852.

– Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley, p.708

Do you have any information about Alvis Kimsey? Or, do you love researching and would be willing to donate your time to the Odell Pioneer Cemetery Research Project? If so, please contact:
Reference: 1850 United States Federal Census; Early Oregonian Index, Oregon Secretary of State;; Missouri, Compiled Marriage Index, 1766-1983 [database on-line], Operations Inc, 2004; Missouri Marriage Records, Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City, MO, USA; Oregon Historical Society, Index Collection: Pioneer Index; Oregon, Compiled Census Index, 1841-1890 [database on-line], , Operations Inc, 1999; Probate Records, Yamhill County Court, Oregon; Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley, Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, 1903; Overland in 1846: Diaries and Letters of the California-Oregon Trail, Vol.1, edited by Dale Lowell Morgan, University of Nebraska Press, 1963, pp.90-100; Lewis, David G., Molalla Chief Crooked Finger, the Battle of Abiqua and the 1851 Molalla Treaty, blog, 2016; History of Oregon v. 2. 1848-1888, Hubert Howe Bancroft, The History Co., San Francisco, 1886, pp. 746-749; Abstract from manuscript of “Kimseys, Crowleys, Simpsons, Burnetts and Their Connections”, June Baldwin Bork, 2000