Mary Ann Jordan

Mary Ann Jordan was a very courageous woman with all the characteristics of the pioneer woman of her generation. She reached the age of 82 years having outlived three husbands and having given birth to fourteen children.

She was born March 1, 1833 in the state of Illinois. She was the first child and the only daughter of John and Eliza Jane Sadorus Jordan out of a large family of one daughter and eleven sons. Her parents John and Eliza Jane moved to Mexico and Texas via flat boat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers when she was not older than two months old in the spring of 1833. Her father John Jordan was a Texas Ranger during the independence war with Mexico which ended in 1836 and was won by the Texas army under General Sam Houston.

Mary Ann grew up in the state of Texas. She helped her parents with making a home where ever it happened to be and with helping her younger brothers. Her parents finally settled down at Jordan Saline where they manufactured salt. They built their last home in Texas.

Mary Ann was seventeen years of age when her parents left the state of Texas in a covered wagon and moved to California in 1850. They came by the southern route. She told of several harrowing experiences while traveling to California. One experience was a very close call and she told of it many times. She and her girlfriend Amanda Harris had rode on their horses out ahead of the slow moving train, which they had done several times before, but this time they were out far ahead and came to a large group of bushes off the main trail. They tied up their horses to some bushes. While enjoying the shade, they laid down and soon fell asleep.

When they woke up and saw that the wagon train had passed them up a short distance down the trail, they started to untie their horses and while doing so saw an Indian buck approaching them. They then broke into a dead run toward the wagon train leaving their horses behind. The Indian buck was in pursuit after them. As they reached the tail wagon running past it, the Indian just about caught Mary Ann by her hair. Her hair lay down her back in a long braid. Amzi Cortner, the bull driver of the trail wagon lashed out with the butt of his bullwhip knocking the buck to the ground nearly unconscious. The train came to an abrupt halt and they held a conference in regards as to what to do about the Indian. Several wanted to kill him but Captain John Jordan would not hear of that. He said the best thing that they could do was to turn him loose after a good flogging, which they did. Captain John Jordan said that if they killed the Indian they would certainly have an Indian fight on their hands and that is not what they wanted, although they were not afraid of the Indians.

Mary Ann was the one that handed us down the most of the history of crossing the plains through her son Allen Freeman Thomas with the help of her brothers.

Mary Ann Jordan married Danicl Wolford in the autumn of 1850 in San Diego County. They moved with Mary Ann's parents, Captain John and Eliza Jane Jordan, to San Juan Bautista, Monterey County in the town of San Juan helping them to build a hotel and store. They then made their home near the town of San Juan and ran cattle in the west coastal mountains which was Zree Range at that time. They made a fairly good living. They marketed their cattle by driving them to the mines in the Mother Load Country east of the San Joaquin Valley up around Jack or Jamestown and Sonora. The following children in line are Caroline Amanda, born July 6. 1851, who died in infancy; William Wilder, born June 18 1853, who died in infancy: John, born February 13, 1855, who died as a young man; and Rose Ann born February 25. 1857. Rose married Gilbert Bullard. She died January 4, 1882 and was buried in the Hamilton Cemetery.

In the year of 1856, Daniel Wolford was out in the coast mountains looking after his cattle when he came upon a large, black bear. The bear was in the process of killing one of Daniel's yearling calves. He got off his horse with his gun in hand and took aim and shot at the bear but only succeeded in wounding him. The bear then charged and they were locked in deadly battle. The bear mauled Daniel very severely, finally biting him in the back and leaving him for dead. The bear went off into the bushes. The rescue party found the bear dead from the only shot Daniel got into him about 100 yards back in the bush.

The rescue party got Daniel, who was in very serious condition, back home. A few months after the bear fight, Daniel died from the bite in his back. Mary Ann was distraught and sorrowful but carried on and disposed of her property and then moved to Tulare County with her parents in 1857. She stayed with her parents helping them to get settled.

In the year of 1858, Mary Ann Jordan Wolford married William Washington Thomas in Visalia, Tulare County, California. They made their home near Visalia and engaged in farming. In 1859, their first child was born, Allen Freeman Thomas. The following year, 1860, William Washington Thomas died and was buried in the Hugh Hamilton burial plot.

Mary Ann again was very sorrowful and forlorn with grief, but she came out of the difficulties in fair health, with three young children on her hands.

In 1861 Mary Ann married William Coleman Cortner. The brother Amzi Cortner was the one that saved Mary Ann's life on the trip from Texas to California.

William Coleman Cortner had made a small fortune in the gold mines and came back to Tulare County and bought a cattle and hog ranch up in the foothills and east of Orosi and Cutler. He built a good house and out buildings on it a year or so before he got married. He took his bride Mary Ann to this home on his cattle ranch. They soon settled down to the business of raising cattle and hogs and doing very well when they got a family started. Their first child born was Ely in 1862. He died in infancy. The rest in line were Eliza Jane (Jennie) born 1863: Robert E. Lee born 1865 and who died in 1918; Aldula Melisa (Alice) born 1868 and who died in 1888; Mary Elizabeth born 1868 and who died 1938: James Frederick born 1870 and who died 1890: Elias Tolburt born 1872 and who died 1944: Preston B. born 1874 and who died 1960: and their last child Melcina born 1875 and who died in 1876. They had nine children in all.

In the year of the great flood of Tulare County (December 25, 1865) which brought huge redwood and pine logs out of the mountains into the valley which the settlers later used to make fence posts, William and Mary Ann had moved temporarily for a year or so to the Packwood area west of Visalia to fatten out some hogs on a ranch which they had rented. It had plenty of hog feed. While there, Mary Ann had another harrowing experience in her life. The fall and winter months of 1865 brought early and plentiful rains. The mountains were covered with a record snow pack. The day before Christmas, floods of water came down and on Christmas morning the water around her house got so high that Mary Ann had to climb up on the roof of her house. She was alone at this time. She had been up on her house for several hours when late in the afternoon two men came by in a row boat. It was a mighty relief seeing that row boat. The two men got her down from her house and took her to high ground.

Her husband, Coleman Cortner came looking for her in a row boat and saw nothing of her at their house. He was delighted to find her safe and sound. It was several days before the water subsided so that they could assess their property loss. They found that they had lost most of their hogs and a good many things in the house. It was quite a big job to find what hogs they had left as they were scattered over a five mile area. Of course, there were also tons of hog feed ruined by the flood waters. That spring they moved back to their foothill ranch smarting from the loss in the lower land.

William and Mary Ann had a wonderful good life together raising this large family and they prospered. Mary Ann was a very energetic person and willing to leave home to minister to the sick as she had a fair knowledge of medicine. People knew of her for miles around. She always found time to go far and near to help the sick and stay as long as they needed her. Her neighbors all liked and enjoyed her very much.

William Coleman Cortner died March 3, 1894 and is buried in the Hamilton Cemetery. Again, Mary Ann felt very lonely and mourned the death of her beloved husband of thirty three years. She then turned the ranch management over to her sons while she did more visiting and helping the sick.

In the year 1896, Mary Ann had another unpleasant experience. Two of her young grandsons Amzi and Ely Thomas,ages 10 and 8, were visiting at her home up at Auckland. The boys had been out hunting rabbits and squirrels and had just returned and Mary Ann was greeting them. When they were unloading their guns to put them away,one of the boys' shotguns accidentally discharged hitting their grandmother in the right arm just below the elbow. There was much excitement and concern as to what to do. She had them tie a tourniquet just above the wound to stop the blood. A doctor was sent for and it was some time before the doctor could get there. In that time, they came by horse and buggy. Mary Ann suffered much pain but the fortitude of this woman brought her through this ordeal unnerved.

After many hours, the doctor came. He looked the arm over and saw the condition. The arm was shattered so much he decided to amputate it just below the elbow. It was many days in healing with much pain. This did not stop Mary Ann from her work of cleaning the house and attending to the sick.

In the summer of 1913, James B. Jordan's children came down with chills and fever. Jim and his wife Ellener were not having much luck in combating this illness. Jim Jordan sent for his sister Mary Ann Cortner. She came and took charge and gave the children a round of medicine (Calomel, quinine and castor oil) and put the children on a diet of toasted bread and milk with sugar. (we children thought that the toast. milk and sugar were great as we liked it very much. This food was something we seldom ever had. In three weeks she had us well and happy.)

This was Aunt Mary Ann Cortner's life. She died at the age of 82 years in 1915 and is buried in the Hamilton Cemetery northeast of Exeter, California.