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Gateway to the Cascade Mountains
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The First Wagon Train over Natchez Pass

There has been much written about the 1st wagon train over the Natchez Pass [now Naches]. It was a collection of some 5 groups coming from Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois who merged at Independence. There they decided upon a 5 member board instead of a single captain. Because of this, it has been known as the Biles train, Longmire train, Longmire-Biles train and other names. Stories about James Longmire are well published and the family returned some 20 years later and settled in the Wenas Valley. Consequently, Longmire is the most common name given to the train today, but it varies with different accountings and sources. Some of the folks in the train took the traditional route down the Columbia, but 36 wagons and about 172 people opted for the new but untried Northern route which was believed to have been completed, but in fact had been left unfinished.

The train had to cross the Naches River some 68 times before reaching the summit, only to find no road at the top of the West Side. James Biles, original captain of the large Kentucky train, gave up two of his
oxen to make rawhide ropes to lower the wagons when they found their existing ropes too short. After much difficulty they finally made it down to the Sound.

Our thanks to Mike Sweeney of the US Gen Web Project for sharing this story. His great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Byles and her family, were members of the first 1853 wagon train over Naches Pass. Her uncle James Biles was co-captain of the train.

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