I offer thanks to
relatives, and ancestors whose strength of purpose
led me to my own. A special thanks to my co-author,
Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel, for her deep love and dedication to me and this project.
Without her tireless effort and selfless interest,
this liberating history of Oregon would never have been written.
Slavery and Oregon Statehood 1854
Meanwhile Curry had acted as governor
in succession to Davis, and November 1, 1854, he was appointed
by Pres. Franklin Pierce (1804-1869). This ought logically to
the aspirations of the home rule party, but as a matter of fact
advocates of statehood as a measure of expediency had so far
to the general principle that, notwithstanding the appointment
man, the constitution movement continued. Its adoption by the
as a party measure gave it the benefit of party organization
dogma of statehood" became the predominant issue in the
it also received the support of one of the whip leaders, David
bill submitting the question to the people, therefore, was
legislative session of 1856, and a special election was held in
at which the majority against a constitution was reduced to 249.
in Congress, this year introduced a bill for admission to
congressional action. His bill failed to pass for the ostensible
that the members of Whig apprehensions in the eastern states
state, which had persistently send a Democrat to Congress,
itself on the side of slavery
in both House and Senate. Soon after this, however, there was a
change of sentiment in the territory, which found expression in
of the Whig leaders in Oregon that Pres. James Buchanan
preparing a policy of forcing slavery upon free territories by
action, and that "if we are to have the institution of slavery
upon us here, we desire the people resident in Oregon to do it,
the will and power of a few politicians in Washington City."
November 1, 1856) The question of statehood was submitted again
1857 election, and this time it was carried by a vote of 7,617
a decisive, overwhelming majority of 5,938.
There was more than the usual surface opposition to Lane for delegate to Congress in the election of 1857, too, which was the direct result of his known pro-slavery inclinations. A peculiar combination of circumstances by this time prevailed which made it seem not only possible but even highly probable that slavery might be imposed upon the territory. The party division in Oregon was preponderantly in favor of the Democrats and while it was true that many local Democrats were opposed to slavery, it could not be denied that nationally the real Democrat issue above all over was slavery.
It is interesting now after the lapse of so many years and after the burning questions concerning slave holding are no longer living issues to note that there were courageous men among the Democrats who did not disguise their opposition to the introduction of slavery into Oregon. As early as 1853, Judge George H. Williams, a Democrat appointed to hold office under a Democrat administration, dared to decide according to his conscience, although against what was then the prevailing popular opinion. In an address made by him many years afterward to the Oregon pioneers he told the story in these words:
Among the first cases I was called upon to
when I first came to Oregon in 1853 was an application by a
in Polk County to be liberated upon habeas corpus from their
who had brought and held them here as slaves. They were held
that the Constitution of the US protected slave property in the
but it was my judgment that the law made by the pioneers upon
(in 1844) was not inconsistent with the spirit of the
was the law of the land, and the petitioners were set free; and
as I know this was the last attempt at slave holding in Oregon.
state government was formed, strenuous efforts were put forth to
a slave state; but inspired by the example and sentiments of the
pioneers we decided to go into the union as a free state.
The undercurrents of opinion, the conflicting desires and emotions of the people, and in particular the sound reasons which the opponents of slavery had for apprehension as to the outcome, have been set forth by a keen observer of and participant in the events of that stirring time, T. W. Davenport, who says:
Some pro-slavery Democrats, confident of the approval and patronage of the Washington administration, would not be silenced, and were advocates, by speech and press, of their opinions. And they were far more numerous than those Democrats of free-state proclivities who dared speak out. And of the latter some would say, "I shall vote against slavery, but if it carries I shall get me a nigger." Add to all these the fact of the great donations of land by the general government, section and half-section claims occupying the valleys of the richest portion of the territory, and the scarcity and high price of labor, and we may not wonder at their anxiety.
Donation Land Act Leads to Indian Wars 1851-1856
The 1850s in Oregon was a decade of
and also of refinement of what was at hand. There was
areas—the economy, transportation, education, government, the
of everyday life. But overlaying all of this, there was a stain,
was the stain of blood. From 1851-1853 and again from 1855-1856,
wars plagued both Southern and Northeastern Oregon.
The problem was land. With the Donation Land Act of 1850, Congress offered "free land" to the immigrants before arranging for its purchase from the Indians—treaty after treaty negotiated for such a purpose and never ratified. Some of the settlers sympathized with the Indians in their plight, but many urged their extermination. "Indeed, this seems to be the only alternative left," editorialized the Oregonian in the fall of 1853. Certain individuals took it upon themselves to do just that, but others, such as Joseph Lane and Joel Palmer, sought to gain fair treatment for the Indians.
Dregs of American Society
The ideas that dominated the thinking,
it may be termed that, of Americans who flooded the West during
Century are not beyond explanation. To achieve an understanding
one need only remember that by far the larger number of persons,
and female, who crossed the Missouri as emigrants were not
great intellects. They were people of the backwoods, of the city
unlettered common laborers and farmers and hunters and trappers,
proportion of them the dregs of American society. They were,
notable exceptions, uncouth, ill-mannered, crude, ignorant and
They were religious and racial bigots. All of them were looking
A great fallacy still harbored by a regrettably large number of Americans and still promoted by hypocritical patriots and politicians is that every man and women who chose to enter Indian Country beyond the Missouri was a hero or heroine. Pœans still ring throughout the land for the brave souls who set out for the unknown, facing the great perils of the wilderness with a burning dream of building a greater America.
They didn't do any such thing. They thought lest of all, and most likely not at all, of their country's future. The only dreams they had—except nightmares caused by fear—were of free land and free gold, of becoming rich and secure, with a minimum of exertion and little expense.
It could hardly be expected that people afflicted with such deficiencies, of such low levels and backgrounds, could be expected to display intelligence in their relations with Indians. Obviously they could not make use of qualities by animalistic and materialistic instincts, and the purity of these characteristics was seldom adulterated even by small portions of compassion, consideration or justice. As they were unable to understand Indians, they treated them with disdain, hatred and contempt, all thoroughly normal reactions.
The colorful euphemisms that newspapers, books and periodicals showered on the squatters who crossed the Western Plains enhanced the public's overall picture of the Golden West, but they concealed the ingredients of depravity and viciousness that existed. Most of the frontiersmen, pioneers and conquerors of the wild western domain, were, and still are, highly lauded and eulogized for courage that did not exist in them, and praised for moral principles they did not possess.
Religious and Racial Bigots
God-fearing was a term generously applied to them. True, they attended church and listened to sermons and sang hymns on Sunday, but it was also true that they conveniently forgot all biblical admonitions as soon as they left church services. They turned their religion on and off with an effective mental spigot. They advocated and practiced a method of putting the Indian in touch with heaven that was more certain and less complicated than that commanded by the doctrines of churchianity. It was, "Shoot them where you find them."
Tyee John's Last Battle 1853
Notwithstanding the second treaty made
Joseph Lane, the treaty of 1853,
Rivers were all again on the war path killing and robbing the
in 1855 and 1856. The widely scattered settlements of the
of Southern Oregon could not be successfully defended by any
force of white men, because they could not live and attack and
the mountains as the Indian could. Tyee John359 was the leader
of this last Indian War, and an Indian better qualified for
could not have been found. It is impossible to record in this
the battles, routes, murders and toilsome marches of a dozen
commands of volunteers and regulars endeavoring to keep the
continually on the move from one hiding place to another that
be exhausted, surrender and go on the then provided Indian
By this strenuous effort nearly all the old men, women and
the Indian tribes were gathered up, but the able bodied warriors
roved about the country murdering and robbing whenever there was
The Indians had made the junction of the Illinois and Rogue river streams their headquarters; for while this location was difficult to access by regular US soldiers and their equipment, it was an ideal point for the Indians to convene at and run away from if attacked, furnishing three water-level valleys in three different directions as line of access or escape. To this point Lt. Col. Buchanan in command of the US regulars, directed his efforts in hopes of convening there all the warring chiefs for the purpose of inducing them to go on the Indian Reservations in Benton and Yamhill counties. Word was sent out in all directions inviting the outstanding warriors to meet Buchanan at Big Meadows near the mouth of the Illinois River. Tyee John accepted the invitation and came May 21, 1856, with all his men, and Tyee George, Tyee Limpy and other minor chiefs. Tyee John was invited into the soldiers' camp for a talk, and assured of protection. He came and had a long talk with Buchanan, and which was finally ended by Tyee John's speech to him, saying:
You are a great chief; so am I. This is my country. I was in it when those large trees were very small, not higher than my head. My heart is sick with fighting; but I want to live in my country. If the white people are willing I will go back to Deer Creek and live among them as I used to do. They can visit my camp, and I will visit theirs; but I will not lay down my arms and go with you to the Reserve. I will fight! Goodbye.
Then he returned unrestrained to his own
had been agreed.
After much argument and promises of many presents all the chiefs but Tyee John came in four days after and gave up their arms and were escorted by a part of the soldiers to Fort Lane on their way to the Reservation. Cpt. A. J. Smith had given notice that in three or four days he would be back at the common rendezvous with his men to receive the remainder of the warriors; and to hasten their decision had told them that if he found any of them roaming around the country with fire arms he would hang them. But when he got back to camp no Indians appeared, but instead thereof, two peaceably disposed Indian women came in and informed Smith that he might expect an attack from Tyee John on the next day. Smith immediately hurried off a courier to Col. Buchanan asking for reinforcements to meet this sudden change in Tyee John's disposition, and then immediately moved his camp to higher ground, but further away from water, and had to leave his cavalry horses in the meadows below him. The men worked all night, getting no sleep, digging rifle pits with their tin cups, having not a single spade in camp, and planting their Howitzer so It would command one approach to their position while the men lying flat in their shallow pits could protect the other approach with their carbines.
Tyee John's first move was to send forward
warriors for a talk with Cpt. Smith, and as they advanced to the
they called on Smith to come out and talk. The captain was too
of Indian tactics to trust himself in their possession, and so
them to retire and deposit their arms at the edge of the timber.
Smith prepared to attack, and no chance to capture him by
Warriors returned to their camp, and within an hour, on May 27,
commenced the last pitched battle of the Rogue River Indian War.
simultaneously attacked both sides of Smith's camp, firing their
rushing up the defending slopes with hideous yells. They were
range with the deadly fire of the carbines on both sides and
to fall back to the timber. Not being able to get at the
approaches, the Indians made desperate attempts to scale the
sides with perpendicular banks, and the regulars were compelled
their rifle pits and hurl back the desperate foe with shots at
and even some Indians with clubbed muskets. The Indians
reckless daring and bravery in repeated attacks throughout the
to get into Smith's camp, but all to no purpose but the loss of
the attacking party. Thus the long day of May 27, was spent;
hard work all the succeeding night digging more rifle pits and
breastworks; without food, water or sleep. On the 28th the
the attack; and to the non-indians was added not only the labor
of defense, but also the fatigue from loss sleep and the torture
The Indians understood the frightful condition of the white men,
their covert in the edge of the timber, tauntingly called out
ticka chuck" (You very much want water?); "Halo chuck Boston"
for white man.) And to this taunt they added another (referring
threat to hang all Indians He found roaming over the country
in their hands) "That they had ropes to hang every trooper, the
not being worth the powder and ball to shoot them;" and
rope would be hung out on a bush and Smith was told to come out
himself. All sorts of insulting epithets in tolerable English
at the soldiers from the nearest fringe of timber. This terrible
continued until 4pm the second day of the battle, when one third
command was murdered and wounded. About sundown the Indians held
and relying on the exhausted condition of their non-indian foe,
to charge Smith's camp with the whole force. "It was an hour
forgotten"—says the letter to the soldiers—"a silent and awful
the expectation of speedy and cruel death." Suddenly an infernal
of yells burst forth from Tyee John's camp, and the whole army
in one blood-curdling roar of demoniac fury; they rushed upon
camp from all sides. The life of every non-indian hung in the
and the yelling, and savage thirst for non-indian blood had
Indian chief from discovering that at that same instant Cpt. C.
responding to Smith's call for aid, had silently crept through
timber, and as the Indians charged down upon the beleaguered
Augur's men rushed upon the rear of the Indian attack firing a
and then charging with the bayonets, and the battle was over in
the Indians wildly fleeing in all directions, abandoning their
Thus ended May 28, 1856, the last battle of Tyee John and the
Tyee John was a very unusual Indian. He is described as a bolder, braver and stronger man mentally than any chief west of the Cascade Mountains. When dressed in a non-indian costume he might have been easily taken for a hard working, sun burnt farmer of the western states. With slight resistance after his last battle he, with all his warriors, came in and surrendered to Cpt. Smith, and Gen. Palmer, superintendent of Indian affairs, on June 1, 1856, thus ending the Rogue River Indian wars for all time. The final result was that about 2,700 Indians old and young were removed from the Southern Oregon country to the Siletz and Grand Ronde Reservation, and showing that before the war commenced there must have been an Indian population of fully 5,000 in the region. Many minor events, bloody reprisals, and isolated murders from both sides have been recorded, but which have not been referred to, but which are well worth preserving. These have been collated by Dr. William L. Colvig, and given to present day readers in an address by him to the reunion of Indian war veterans at Medford on July 26, 1902; and all of this Indian war history compiled in the above address, and which has not been already recorded within, will now be given and credited to Colvig's careful work.
The first recorded attack between Indian and non-indians in any portion of Southern Oregon occurred in 1828 when Jedediah Strong Smith and seven other trappers were attacked by the Indians on the Umpqua, and 15 non-indians were slain, only Smith and three of his companions escaping. The next attack of which we have any account was in June 1836, at a point just below the Rock Point Bridge, where the barn on the Colvig estate stands. In this attack there was Dan Miller, Edward Barnes, Dr. William J. Bailey, George Gay, Saunders, Woodworth, Irish Tom, and J. Turner and squaw. Two trappers were murdered, and nearly all wounded. Within my recollection, Bailey visited the scene of the attack, and pointed out to my father its location. In September 1837, at the mouth of Foots Creek, in Jackson County, a party of men who had been sent to California by the Methodist mission to procure cattle, while on their return were attacked by the Rogue Rivers and had a short, severe fight, in which several of the non-indians were badly wounded and some 12 or 14 of the Indians murdered. In May 1845, Cpt. John Freémont (1813-1890) had a fight with the Indians in the Klamath country; it may have been a little over the line in California. Four of Fremont's men were murdered and quite a large number of the Indians. Kit Carson was a prominent figure in this battle.
A few bold adventurers had located in Rogue River Valley as early as December 1851. During the spring, summer and autumn of that year there was a considerable amount of travel by parties from Northern Oregon going to and returning from the great mining excitement of California. Fights between these travelers and the Indians were of frequent occurrence. On May 15, 1851, a pack train was attacked at a point on Bear Creek, where the town of Phoenix is now situated, and a man by the name of Dilley was murdered.
At the massacre of emigrants at Bloody Point, Klamath County, in 1852, 36 men, women and children were murdered. Cpt. Benjamin Wright, and 27 men from Yreka and Col. John E. Ross and some Oregonians went out to punish the Modoc. Old Schonchin, who was afterwards hung at Fort Klamath in 1873, at the close of the Modoc War, was the leader. Wright gave them no quarter. He and his men, infuriated at the sight of the mangled bodies of the emigrants, murdered men, women and children without discrimination.
I cannot give you the names of all who were murdered in Rogue River Valley during the years 1851 and 1852, and 1853. I mention some that were murdered in 1853. In August of that year Edward Edwards was murdered near Medford; Thomas Wills and Rhodes Nolan, in the edge of the town of Jacksonville; Patrick Dunn and Carter, both wounded in a attack on Neil Creek above Ashland. In an attack with the Indians on Bear Creek, in August 1853, Hugh Smith was murdered, and Howell Morris, Hodgins, Wittemore, and Gibbs, wounded, the last named three dying from their wounds soon after. These murders, and many more that could be mentioned, brought on the Indian War of 1853. Southern Oregon raised six companies of volunteers, who served under the following named captains, viz. R. L. Williams, John K. Lamerick, Cpt. John F. Fuller, Elias A. Owens, and W. W. Fowler. Cpt. Bradford R. Alden, of the 4th US infantry, with 20 regulars, came over from Fort Jones, California, and with him a large number of volunteers under Cpt. James P. Goodall and Cpt. Jacob F. Rhodes, two Indian fighters of experience. Cpt. Alden was given the command of all the forces. The battle of the war was fought August 12, 1853, and was an exciting little attack between about 20 volunteers under Lt. Burrell W. Griffin, of Cpt. Miller's company, and a band of Indians under Tyee John. The volunteers were ambushed at a point near the mouth of Williams Creek, on the Applegate. The non-indians were defeated with a loss of two murdered, and Lt. Griffin severely wounded. There were five Indians murdered and wounded in the battle. On August 10, 1853, John R. Harding and William R. Rose, of Cpt. Lamerick's company, were murdered near Willow Springs.
The War of 1855-1856 was preceded by a great many murders and depredations by the Indians in different parts of Southern Oregon.
Soldiers Massacre 30 Near Grants Pass
On account of these various depredations, Maj. J. A. Lupton raised a temporary force of volunteers, composed of miners and others, from the vicinity of Jacksonville, about 35 in number, and proceeded to a point on the north side of the Rogue, opposite the mouth of Little Butte Creek. There he attacked a camp of Indians at a time when they were not expecting trouble. It is said that about 30 men, women and children were massacred by Lupton's men. The major himself received a mortal wound in the attack. This attack has been much criticized by the people of Southern Oregon, a great many of them believing that it was unjustifiable and cowardly. Two days after this affair a series of massacres took place in the sparsely settled county in and about where Grants Pass is now situated. On October 9, 1855, the Indians, having divided up into small parties, simultaneously attacked the homes of the defenseless families located ink that vicinity. I will name a few of those tragic events. On the farm owned by James Tuffs, a man by the name of Jones was murdered, and his wife, after receiving a mortal wound, made her escape. She was found by the volunteers on the next day and died a few days afterwards. A woman by the name of Wagner was murdered by the Indians on the same day. Her spouse was away from home at the time, but returned on the following day to find his wife murdered and his home a pile of ashes. The Harris family, consisting of Harris and wife and two children, Mary Harris, aged 12, and David Harris, aged ten, and T. A. Reed, who lived with the family were attacked. Harris was shot down standing near his door, and at a moment when he little suspected treachery from the Indians with whom he was talking. His wife and daughter pulled his body within the door, and seizing a double-barreled shotgun and an old fashioned Kentucky rifle, commenced firing through the cracks of the log cabin. They kept this up till late in the night, and by heroic bravery kept the Indians from either gaining an entrance into the house or succeeding in their attempts to fire it. Just back of the cabin was a dense thicket of brush and during a lull in the attack the two brave women escaped through the back door land fled through the woods. They were found the next day by the volunteers from Jacksonville, our late friend, Henry Klippel being one of the number. Ms. Harris lived to a good old age in this country. Mary, who was wounded in the attack, afterwards became the wife of G. M. Love, and was the mother of George Love of Jacksonville, and Ms. John A. Hanley of Medford. David Harris, the boy, was not in the house when the attack was made, but at work on the place. His fate was never ascertained, as his body was never found. The Indians stated, after peace was made, that they killed him at the time they attacked the Harris house. Reed, the young man spoken of, was killed out near the house.
The Battle of Hungry Hill
On October 31, 1855, the battle of
Hill was fought near the present railway station of Leland. Cpt.
Smith of the US army was at the battle, and a large number of
The result of the battle was very indecisive. There were 31
and wounded, nine of them murdered outright. It is not known how
the Indians were murdered, but after the treaty was made they
to 15. The Indians were in heavy timber and were scarcely seen
two days' battle.
In April, 1856, after peace had been concluded between non-indians and Indians, the Leford Massacre took place in Rancheria Prairie, near Mount McLoughlin, in this county, in which five non-indians were murdered. This event was the last of the "irrepressible conflict." Soon afterwards the Indians were removed to the Siletz Reservation, where their descendants now live and enjoy the favors of the government which their fathers so strongly resisted.
The war in Rogue River Valley had not virtually ended. "Old Sam's" band, with an escort of 100 US troops, was taken to the Coast Reservation at Siletz. Tyee John and Tyee Limpy, with a large number of the most active warriors, who had followed their fortunes during all these struggles still held out and continued their depredations in the Lower Rogue River Country and in connection with the Indians of Curry County.
Gen. John Ellis Wool (1784-1869), commander of the Department of the Pacific, in November 1855, had stopped at Crescent City while on his way to the Yakima country. He received full information while here of the military operations in Southern Oregon. Skipping many details, it is sufficient to state that he ordered Cpt. Smith, to move down the river from Fort Lane and form a junction with the US troops under Cpt. Jones and Cpt. E. O. C. Ord (afterwards a major general in the US army) who were prosecuting an active campaign in the region from Chetco, Pistol River, and the Illinois Valley. Cpt. Smith left Fort Lane with 80 men—50 dragoons and 30 infantry. I can only take the time to mention a few of the attacks in the region during the spring of 1856. On March 8th, Cpt. John H. Abbott had a skirmish with the Chetco at Pistol River. He lost several men. The Indians had his small force completely surrounded when captains Ord and Jones with 112 regular troops came to his relief. They charged and drove the Indians away with heavy loss. On March 20, 1855, Lt. Col. Buchanan, assisted by captains Jones and Ord, attacked an Indian village ten miles above the mouth of Rouge River. The Indians were driven away, leaving several dead and only one non-indian wounded in the attack. A few days later Cpt. Augur's company (US troops) attacked Tyee John and Tyee Limpy's band at the mouth of the Illinois River. The Indians fought desperately, leaving five dead on the battlefield. On March 27, 1855, the regulars met the Indians on Lower Rogue River. After a brisk attack at close quarters the Indians fled, leaving ten dead and two of the soldiers severely wounded. On April 1, 1855, Cpt. Creighton, with a company of citizens, attacked an Indian village near the mouth of the Coquille River, killing nine men, wounding 11 and taking 40 squaws and children prisoners. About this time some volunteers attacked a party of Indians who were moving in canoes at the mouth of the Rogue River. They murdered 11 men and one squaw. Only one warrior and two squaws of the party escaped. On April 29, 1855, a party of 60 regulars escorting a pack train were attacked near Chetco. In this fight three soldiers were murdered and wounded. The Indians lost six murdered and several wounded.
Tyee John Throws Down the Hatchet
On May 31, Gov. Curry ordered the
forces to disband—nearly all the Indians had surrendered. About
the various tribes that had carried on the war were gathered in
Port Orford. About July 1, 1856, Tyee John and 35 tough looking
the last to surrender, "threw down the hatchet."
A large number of non-indians rendered valuable and distinguished services in this long, bitter and sanguinary combat with the redmen. Gen. Lane; majors Latshaw; J. A. Lupton; James Bruce; colonels J. E. Ross; John Kelsay; W. W. Chapman; captains A. J. Smith; J. M. Kirkpatrick; William H. Packard; B. Wright; J. H. Lamerick; John F. Miller; E. A. Owens; W. W. Fowler; B. R. Alden; Creighton; Lt. B. W. Griffin; Dr. W. L. Colvig; and Mary Harris; all of whom have passed over the Great Divide, except Maj. Bruce, and Cpt. Packwood, who are at this writing (May 1, 1912) both still in the full vigor of their mental faculties and good bodily health.
Chapter 9: Wild Women West
Following the gold strike of 1849 near
prospectors who had moved north discovered gold in Siskiyou
and later in Jackson and Josephine counties in Oregon. Their
an influx of miners and settlers to Southern Oregon, anxious to
the gold bonanza. By 1852 pack trains were making regular trips
to the head of tidewater on the Lower Umpqua to the mines in
Canyonville became an important way station. Rough Canyon
rest stops mandatory. Supplying miners, packers, and early
good business. Agnes Stenslackin in her book, Destination West,
in 1853, while operating a hotel in Canyonville, she made $2,500
In 1852, Congress appropriated $120,000 to build a military road from California to Oregon. The road through the canyon, however, was not completed until 1858. It was built under the supervision of general "Fighting Joe" Hooker of Civil War fame.
The Hooker survey became the overland road used by freighters and the California-Oregon Stage Company, organized in 1860, and by other north-south bound travelers until 1920. Today I-5 closely follows the original Hooker survey through Canyonville—minus many curves and grades.
While it has been a century since Southern Oregon has heard the pounding hoofbeats and grinding axles of an approaching Portland-to-Sacramento stagecoach, the West's first organized interstate transportation system hasn’t been forgotten. Such stageline stopovers as Wolf Creek Tavern, north of Grants Pass, and Jacksonville, west of Medford, have been commemorated with National Historic Landmark and National Historic District status. In addition to these evocations of the era, the story of a romantic figure, One-Eyed Charlie, help to bring back a time when the Wild West lived up to its name.
One-Eyed Charlie's Last Ride
Charlie was a stagecoach driver,
commanded considerable respect back in 19th Century Oregon. A
roadbeds of such wagon-route remnants as I-5 between Grants Pass
and OR-238 north of Jacksonville might help you to understand
Indians, ruthless highwaymen, and inclement weather plagued
thoroughfares. Even without such hazards, bouncing along for
on a buckboard carriage, minus shock absorbers and air
Of all the men on the Oregon-to-California line, One-Eyed Charlie, who lost an eye shoeing a horse, was the driver of choice whenever Wells Fargo needed to send a valuable cargo. Despite a salty vocabulary, an opinionated demeanor, and a rough appearance, all of which might have rankled some passengers, no one was better at handling the horses or dealing with adversity.
When the stage would roll into Portland or Sacramento, One-Eyed Charlie would collect his paycheck and disappear for a few days. It was said he was a heavy drinker and gambler during his sojourns deep into the seamy frontier underworld. When it came time to make the next trip through, however, he'd be back at the helm, sober and cantankerous as ever.
One day, One-Eyed Charlie's hard-drivin' hard-drinkin' life caught up with him. When the coroner was preparing the body for burial, he made a surprising discovery. One-Eyed Charlie was really Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst (1812-1870)!
Orphaned at birth, Parkhurst first donned male clothing to escape an orphanage in Massachusetts. She learned how to drive a six-horse team in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and after working in stables until about 1851, she moved to California and settled in Santa Cruz County. She began driving stagecoaches and is reputed to have killed at least one bandit. The advent of the railroad forced her to turn to ranching and lumberjacking.
Shock waves reverberated up and down the West Coast at the realization that a woman had been best at what was considered exclusively a man's domain. The discovery of Parkhurst's true identity made much newspaper copy. The San Francisco Call remarked that "No doubt he was not like other men, indeed, it was generally said among his acquaintances that he was a hermaphrodite" and that "the discoveries of the successful concealment for protracted periods of the female sex are not infrequent."
But the real kicker was that she had voted in the 1860 and 1864 presidential elections for Abraham Lincoln, over half a century before a woman could legally vote! As the voting records have been lost, legal scholars have been unable to prove or debunk the persistent legend of One-Eyed Charlie, but Soquel, California honors Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst as "...the first woman in the world to vote in a presidential election. Although it might well be true that this woman who lived as a man all her life voted here for or against Ulysses S. Grant, she is more a legend for her daring exploits as a stagecoach driver..."
Madame Boisverd's Lover
Charlene Parkhurst was not the only
West woman who passed as a man or married a woman.
During Thompson's stay at Fort Astoria, he renewed acquaintance with an unusual and colorful woman of the Flatbow Indians. She was to become not only the most publicized personage of early Kutenai history, but, next to Sacajawea, perhaps the best-known Plateau Indian woman of the period. In addition, she was in part responsible for the early exploration of the Pacific Fur Company into the interior. Water-Sitting Grizzly, as she became known to her people, married Thompson's servant, Madame Boisverd, in 1808. He took her to a fur post, probably Kootanae House, to live. There her conduct became so loose, contrary to Kutenai standards, that Thompson was compelled to send her home. Madame Boisverd explained to her people that the white man had changed her sex, by virtue of which she had acquired spiritual power. Thereafter she assumed a masculine name, donned men's clothing and weapons, adopted manly pursuits, and took a woman for a wife.
Her presence later at Spokane House, a trading post in Washington, became objectionable and Finan McDonald, to get rid of her, sent her and her lady lover with a message directed to John Stewart at Fort Estekatadene, in British Columbia. The two lost their way, followed the Columbia to its mouth and wound up at Fort Astoria, a fairly long journey even today. The traders at Fort Astoria elicited from the lovers "important information respecting the country in the interior," and decided to send an expedition under command of David Stuart.
Upon encountering the pair at Fort Astoria, Thompson at once recognized Madam Boisverd and described her background to his hosts. On July 22 a party consisting of the Thompson party, David Stuart and his men, and two Kutenai women, set out for the interior. The latter had agreed to act as guides for the Astorians. Madame Boisverd's prophecies of smallpox and other fearful happenings made en route down the Columbia had not been pleasing to the local Indians, so that upon her return she and her wife were the objects of threats. The couple at one point sought protection from Thompson, who reassured the lower Columbia tribes as to the future. Thompson and his men pushed on to the Snake, ascended that river as far as the Palouse, and then proceeded overland to Spokane House. The Stuart Party, guided by the couple, turned up the Columbia and Okanagan rivers to establish a post in Shuswamp Indian territory.
Madame Boisverd and her companion are said to have continued on to the post in British Columbia and were attacked by hostile Indians during which the former was wounded in the breast. They delivered their dispatch to John Stuart and returned to the Columbia with a reply.
Wild West Womanizers
In 1825, a woman named Bundosh,
described as wearing men's clothing and a leading character
is mentioned in the journal of John Work, Hudson's Bay Company
Flathead Post. Twelve years later the Kutenai berdache is
the journal of William H. Gray, the Protestant missionary, who
to the states and traveling with Francis Ermatinger, the
A party of Flathead had been surrounded by Blackfeet, and
back and forth trying to mediate between them. On her last trip
the Blackfeet while the Flathead, as she knew, were making their
to Fort Hall. Bundosh was killed by the Blackfeet after saving
of Flathead, the people with whom she had been intimate in her
Jeanne Bonnet grew up in San Francisco as a tomboy and in the 1870s, in her early 20s, was arrested dozens of times for wearing male attire. She visited local brothels as a male customer, and eventually organized French prostitutes in San Francisco into an all-woman gang whose members swore off prostitution, had nothing to do with men, and supported themselves by shoplifting. She traveled with a "special friend," Blanche Buneau, whom the newspapers described as "strangely and powerfully attached" to Jeanne. Her success at separating prostitutes from their pimps led to her murder in 1876.
Trinidad restaurateur Charles "Frenchey" Vobaugh was a woman who passed as a man and, along with "his wife," assumed the outward appearance of a mixed-sex couple in order to remain married for 30 years. Colorado newspapers were full of successful lesbian and gay elopements.
In 1889, the town of Emma was "rent from center to circumference" over the "sensational love affair between Miss Clara Dietrich, postmistress and general storekeeper, and Ora Chatfield." Letters written between them caused the Denver papers to remark that the "love that existed between the two parties was of no ephemeral nature, but as strong as that of a strong man and his sweetheart." Despite attempts to separate them, the lady lovers successfully eloped. "If the case ever comes into court," wrote the Denver Times, "from a scientific standpoint alone it will attract widespread attention."
Scout of the West
In American history and folklore, Calamity
Jane is the popular name for
(1852-1903), who was noted for her marksmanship, trick riding,
dressing. She wore buckskin and "passed" as a male scout for
Armstrong Custer (1839-1876).
Calamity Jane always claimed she had
secretly married to Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876), the dashing
marshal who was shot in a poker game in Deadwood, South Dakota
2, 1876. However, some accounts allege that Calamity was a
that her affair with Wild Bill Hickok was a coverup, because he
to be gay.
Hollywood's movie Calamity Jane, starring Doris Day (1924-?) and Howard Keel (1919-?), tells how she wins the love of Hickock. But in the 1995 release, Buffalo Girls, she anti-marriage sentiments when she claims that women could do only two things in the West: "wife'n" and "whor'n!" She is also portrayed as a lesbian.
A heroine in town for her devotion to the miners during a smallpox epidemic, Calamity Jane returned to Deadwood in May 1903 after years of roaming the West as a scout, bullwhacker, and notorious hooligan. She told friends she was "ailing," and on August 2, she announced, "It's the 27th anniversary of Bill's death. Bury me next to Bill." Ten thousand mourners marched in her cortege, and Calamity was buried here in a black skirt and dainty white blouse, closer to Wild Bill in death than she probably ever was in life. Matching monuments mark their graves. Mistrustful of her claim to be Bill's wife, the townspeople labeled her grave "Mrs. M. E. Burke," for one of her traditionally accepted husbands. But her famous nickname is carved in bold white letters on the stone wall above.
Song of the Lark
Born in Virginia, legendary writer Willa
Cather (1873-1947) moved with her
Red Cloud, Nebraska, when she was 11 and launched a now
gender rebellion as the rough-and-ready "William" Cather Junior,
with male attire, crew cut, and a convincingly bass voice.
trousers for a skirt when she entered college, but classmates
on her "masculine personality."
The author of 19 books in a variety of genres, Cather explored the power of the land and the complex, passionate relationships of those who dwell on it. She often used Nebraska and Western pioneer farm settings to frame vividly crafted characters, including memorably strong women.
Before her death, Cather took pains to destroy as much of her personal correspondence as she could lay her hands on, and it is likely that she would have fought any attempt to consider her writing in a lesbian context. Clues to her sense of personal identity, however, survive in letters written while in college to Louise Pound in which she laments her "unnatural" attraction and love for the young woman. Some biographers and critics now acknowledge her lesbianism and explore its impact on her writing, and historians cite her reticence as evidence of the dramatic increase in social awareness and disapproval of lesbianism in the 1890s, contrasting her discomfort with the acceptance given previously to romantic friendships between women. Cather appears to have been in love with Isabelle McClung in Pittsburgh and Edith Lewis with whom she lived nearly 40 years in New York.
Dr. Alan L. Hart: An Oregon Pioneer
It would be difficult to find a
original than the life and career of Alberta
Lucille Hart, who became the
novelist Dr. Alan L. Hart (1890-1962).
Hart grew up in Albany as Lucille Hart and attended Albany College (now Lewis & Clark College) and Stanford University. She graduated from Albany College in 1912, and in 1917 obtained a Doctor of Medicine Degree from University of Oregon Medical Department in Portland (now Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine). She was the only woman in the class and took top academic honors. She worked at a Red Cross hospital in Philadelphia for a short period following graduation.
According to psychiatrist J. Allen Gilbert, who Hart consulted, Hart was sexually attracted to women, often dressed in men's clothes, and "had a loathing of the female type mind." Hart married Inez Stark in California in February 1918, using the name Robert Allen Bamford, Jr. Her therapy with Dr. Gilbert led Hart to have a hysterectomy later that year. She then assumed the identity and clothes of a man, renamed herself Alan L. Hart, and began medical practice in Southwest Oregon at Gardiner Hospital. There, Dr. Gilbert wrote, "she was recognized by a former associate, [and] the hounding process began." The Gardiner incident was apparently not the only one in Hart's career. The challenges of Hart's passing as a man in the medical profession and literary circles for four decades involved a complicated life of deception and discrimination and led to numerous moves, job changes and financial challenges.
As Hart wrote of the character Sandy Farquhar in his 1936 novel The Undaunted:
He has been driven from place to place, from job to job, for 15 years because of something he could not alter any more than he could change the color of his eyes. Gossip, scandal, rumor always drove him on. It did no good to live alone, to make few acquaintances and no intimates; sooner or later someone always turned up to recognize him. And then there was that wretched business of resigning by request to be gone through again, and after that the concoction of the plausible story to account for the resignation and the ordeal of hunting another job without explaining exactly why he had left the old one and, at the same time, without lying about it. Each time he underwent these humiliations, his self-respect seemed first to writhe and then to shrink.
Hart's practice in Gardiner lasted
six months. In 1919 and 1920 he practiced in rural Southern
the crash of the autumn of 1920 wiped out most of the Montana
stockmen, and me along with them." When he could get work, Hart
remaining years of his medical career in public health
working in radiology. He held positions in tuberculosis
x-ray clinics in New Mexico, Illinois, Washington (Spokane,
Seattle), and Idaho. He obtained a Masters Degree in radiology
University of Pennsylvania in 1930 and a Masters Degree in
from Yale in 1948. Hart was a prominent figure in the
and for the last 16 years of his life he headed mass x-ray
Connecticut for the State Health Department. He wrote one book
articles in his professional field.
In The Undaunted, Hart writes of Sandy Farquhar:
He went into radiology because he thought it wouldn't matter so much in a laboratory what a man's personality was. But wherever he went, scandal followed him sooner or later. If he could have gone in for himself, I think he might have succeeded in the face of all of the odds for he was a grand man with sick people. But he had no capital and so had to work for other doctors or hospitals all his life. That ruined all his chances because eventually his story would get around and then he’d be forced to leave. "Resigning by request" was the way he put it.
Inez Stark left Hart in 1923, and they were
in 1925. Later that year he married Edna Ruddick, a school
became a social worker and administrator. During the Depression
1930s, Edna and Alan Hart lived in Seattle where Alan had
getting full-time work. He wrote: "I am sure I would have done
rather desperate if I had not turned to writing." Fortunately he
result was four novels with Northwest settings, published from
1942, which constitute a significant body of social fiction and
greed and prejudice in the medical profession. Each presents
portraits of underdogs seeking social justice and changes in the
In 1935, Hart wrote a reviewer: "The ugly things that have grown up in medicine are the result of the ugliness and falsity of society as a whole, of our American preoccupation of things rather than their use for a fuller human life. These things are not the fault of the individual physician; and neither can they be remedied by him. So long as the American people are permeated with the spirit of
I'm going to get mine, no matter how," just so long will that attitude filter into all the professions; doctors are people first and are affected by the current ideals just as other people are.
Hart's first novel, Doctor Mallory
is the story of an idealistic general practitioner in a small
It is based on Hart's experience practicing medicine in
the publication of Doctor Mallory, Hart wrote that one of his
was "to be an 'official observer' of the medical profession
remainder of my life" and "to write a novel about a research
another about hospitals, another about a family of doctors." He
wrote all three. Hart's other novels are In The Lives of Men
Doctor Finlay Sees It Through (1942).
Hart’s novels received a fair amount of critical attention and were reviewed in The New York Times, The New York Herald-Tribune, Saturday Review of Literature and other leading publications of the times. Intriguingly, in reviewing In The Lives of Men, the Saturday Review’s critic wrote that, "for a doctor, he seems to know surprisingly little of women. His portraits of them are little more than profile sketches. Those he approves are colorless and negative, the others incredibly cold and selfish." Although Hart was one of the few pre-WWII writers in the Pacific Northwest who wrote novels dealing with social issues, he has been overlooked in studies of the region's literature.
Edna and Alan Hart moved to Connecticut in 1946 and purchased a home in West Hartford in 1950. They were active in the community and in the Unitarian church, and lived together until Alan died of heart disease on July 1, 1962. In accordance with Alan's will, his body was cremated. The ashes were shipped to Port Angeles, Washington for scattering. The will also provided that no memorial be erected or created, and he instructed his attorney to destroy certain letters and photographs contained in a bank safety deposit box and in a locked box in his home.
Edna Ruddick Hart lived until 1982, when she died at the age of 88. Her obituary said she was "always vitally interested in young people, [and] she aided a generation of students attending local colleges by providing them rooms in her home." At the memorial service held for Edna, one of the speakers said, "I remember her stories about her husband, Alan Hart. I always felt that it was as if he never died because of her memories and their special relationship."
Hart's contributions to medicine continued after his death at his old medical school, even though few people there have heard of him. The residue of Edna Hart's estate was left to the Medical Research Foundation (now Oregon Health Sciences Foundation),
in loving memory of Alan L. Hart, MD, a graduate of the University of Oregon Medical School, whose mother died of leukemia, whose life was devoted to medicine and whose earnest wish was to someday give financial support to medical research in its efforts to conquer leukemia and other diseases.
Each year, the Alan L. and Edna Ruddick Hart
at OHSF funds research grants in the field of leukemia.
Hart’s two marriages and his two "lives" obviously present complex issues of sexuality, gender, identity and sexual discrimination. Jonathan Ned Katz, who revealed the double life of Hart, maintains in his works that Hart was "clearly a lesbian, a woman-loving woman." Recently, Katz has been quoted as saying he would not make that claim today. In Portland, lesbian and transsexual advocates have each claimed Hart as a representative of their causes.
In her recent book Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton, Diane Wood Middlebrook writes that Alan Hart and the musician Billy Tipton, who grew up as Dorothy Tipton, but lived as a man from age 19 until she died at 74:
seem birds of a feather. As young women, they were sexually attracted to women and socially attracted to work reserved for men. Each was a self-confident pragmatist who intended to get what she wanted, and each devised a home remedy for the problem of being female in a man's world.
After Billy Tipton's death, some observers
that neither medical technologies nor cultural and political
of homosexuality had been available to ease Billy's path. Yet
of Alan Hart and Billy Tipton provide historical information too
to ignore. In each case, a fairly simple disguise provided
the liberation of a distinctive creativity. Neither of them
work, companionship, or sex. They were successful in the eyes of
and in the eyes of the people closest to them, they did no evil.
The life of Dr. Alan L. Hart involves considerably more than the sexual and gender aspects of his life which drew the initial attention. Hart deserves to be remembered as a remarkable person of tenacity, intellect, idealism and courage, who made contributions to medicine, literature and humanity under difficult circumstances.
Chapter 10: Camels West 1856
On May 16, 1885, the secretary of war wrote a short note to an officer of the Quartermaster Division of the US Army which prompted one of the most remarkable experiments performed in the country before the Civil War. The entire text of the note is given because it opens up all the avenues of inquiry that will be explored in this paper.
Washington May 16, 1856
I hereby furnish, for your information and guidance, a copy of the instructions this day given to Lt. D. D. Porter, US Navy, who is associated with you in the duty of carrying into effect the law making an appropriation for the importation of camels.
your obedient servant,
Secretary of War
Brevet Major Henry C. Wayne
Quartermaster US Army
New York City
From this almost laconic note stems one of
most amazing chapters in the story of the expansion of the
It is not the intention of this paper to relate the history of the camel after his arrival in the US. Most of the facts have been buried in fantastic tales and legends which, although they had their bases in truth, have sometimes been exaggerated beyond the realm of credibility. As interesting as this part of the camel episode is (and it also has its comic moments), even more arresting is the story of the men who projected the idea of bringing the exotic animals from the still fabled East and put in motion the complicated machinery which finally landed them in America. It is this aspect rather than the legends which grew up later that will be examined. Since the real facts are stranger than fiction, there is no need for exaggeration.
Many people will be surprised to know that camels ranged the American western desert a hundred years ago. Moreover, even one hundred years ago, when one of the "ships of the desert" plodded in sight along the trails from Texas to California, people could hardly believe their eyes. Tall tales of the camels began to grow from the moment of their arrival in America, and since then, legend has generally replaced truth. Incredible as the legends are, however, almost as unbelievable were good reasons for importing camels in mid-19th Century, and there were sensible men who sponsored the experiment. The story of the camels is also the story of a remarkable group of men who later attained fame in other fields.
During the Westward expansion immediately following the discovery of gold in California in 1849, the authorities in Washington and forward-looking commercial interests in New York began to visualize safe and permanent land routes across the southwestern section of the country now know as New Mexico and Arizona. The government, as well as the financiers in New York, had in mind the safety of emigrating citizens and the pacification of the Indians between settlements along the Missouri and the rapidly populating territories of the coastal Southwest. The immediate commercial aspect included the transportation of goods and passengers in well protected convoys and stage coaches with future prospects of a railroad. Among the obstacles to be conquered was the great expanse of desert with its intense heat and lack of water. Washington was concerned not only with the commercial aspect of the expansion of the western territories but also with the protection of the newly acquired land from foreign aggression. Since the discovery of gold in California, the territory had become even more valuable to the economy of the country, so it was of primary concern for the government to seek a method of rapid transportation to its new territory on the Pacific Coast.
Even before 1849, however, the need for rapid transportation to the Far West had been felt, and tentative proposals had been made in Congress. As far back as 1836, George H. Crosman suggested the use of camels in exploring the western territories. His proposal carried weight because he had had experience in combating hostile Indians who were among the major obstacles in the path of westward expansion. Col. Crosman asked Maj. Henry C. Wayne of the Quartermaster Division of the US Army to study the question. At first amused but quickly convinced by the novel idea, Maj. Wayne suggested to Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), then US senator from Mississippi and chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, that camels should be imported from Turkey or Egypt for military use. In the systematic research about camels that followed this remarkable proposal in 1848, it was learned that as early as the 16th century, the Spanish had introduced camels into South America, that there had been a shipment to Jamaica for work in the mines and plantations, and that some of the animals had been brought to Virginia in 1701. The obvious failure of the first ventures was brushed aside in the rush to obtain new means of transportation across the almost impassable expanse of land beyond the Mississippi.
The Mexican War, which ended in 1848, had added to the US all the land which now is included in the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and the western parts of Colorado and New Mexico, an area of 529,000 square miles. In the treaty that ended the war, the US had agreed to protect the Mexican border towns from the Apache, who had the advantage of knowing the country well and of being mounted on swift horses. Some means of rapid retaliation on the marauding Indians were especially pressing. The fact that the camel was represented as being unusually swift was as important to those advocating importation of the animals as the fact that the camel could thrive in a desert where food and water were so scarce that pack mules and horses perished.
The person who listened most sympathetically to the advocates of the camel was Jefferson Davis, who studied the subject form every angle and became more and more convinced that the camel was the solution to the military transportation problem. There was an abundance of material to study and people to consult. Books of travel have always been popular reading, and there had been a great number written about the Near East in the last 50 years. French travel books went back as far as Travernier in the 17th Century but also included accounts of the famous camel corps of Napoleon in his spectacular conquest of Egypt in 1798-1799 as well as recent reports about explorations in Asia. Among the German volumes were scientific treatises about the anatomy, habits, and habitats of the camel. The British accounts of African and Asian explorations and the published accounts of the many attempts to find the source of the Nile and the Niger were avidly read by the Americans. Also the excitement generated by the expeditions sent out by the British Museum between 1846 and 1848 was infectious. The tangible results in the form of the monumental remains from Africa and especially from Babylon and Nineveh were in London for the American traveler to see (and continue to see to this day in the British Museum). Undoubtedly, such evidence affected the intellectual ferment of the young nation which had a terra incognita of its own to explore, conquer, and settle. It was a subject which spurred to action government officials, army and navy officers, financiers, and ordinary citizens. To most dwellers on the eastern coast of the US, the new western reaches of the American continent were as unknown as the Arabian desert. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the middle of the 19th Century before the invention of the automobile, camels were accepted seriously as the means by which the American desert could be conquered.
The Senate heard about the plan for the first time from Jefferson Davis during the presentation of the Army Appropriations Bill on March 3, 1851. Routine discussion about various parts of the bill had been disposed of before the section relating to the transportation of the army to the western territories was introduced. Almost casually, senator Davis announced that he had an amendment to offer:
For the purchase of 50 camels with their equipage, and the employment of ten Arabs for one year, $30,000.
The amendment was greeted with such hearty laughter that Senator Davis replied somewhat heatedly with an abridged version of the many reports he had gathered about the usefulness of the camel in the Near East, connecting the information to parallel situations in the American West:
I am sorry that any of my friends should laugh... But I think if senators were aware of the extent to which this animal is used, they would be seriously inclined to adopt this proposition. It is truly, as figuratively, the "ship of the desert"... It is used by the English army in the East Indies in transportation, and even carrying light guns on their backs. It was used by Napoleon in his Egyptian campaign. He understood the value of the dromedary corps in dealing with the race to which our wild Apaches and Comanches bear a close resemblance. If gentlemen knew how great is the embarrassment, especially in the cavalry corps, in waiting for a great train of mules to draw the guns with which they are encumbered, I do not think the proposition would excite a laugh. Nor would gentlemen smile... if they knew how essential they were in the pursuit of wild Indians, who now escape from our cavalry in nearly every pursuit which is made... These dromedaries who drink enough water before they start to last 100 miles, traveling continually without rest at the rate of 15 or 20 miles an hour, would overtake these bands of Indians. This the cavalry cannot do.
In spite of his assurance that the
$30,000 would cover all costs, even to sending the Arabs back
a year, and that the importation of camels
would not only help in the transportation problem in the West
start of a profitable industry in new livestock, the Senate
amendment, 20 to 19.
But Davis was convinced of the practicality of the camel. When Franklin Pierce was elected president in 1852, he lost no time in having an amendment proposed to the annual Army Appropriations Bill introduced on August 28, 1852, by James Shields (c1806-1879) of Illinois, now the chairman of the Military Affairs Committee. It is evident that the whole subject of camels had been carefully studied during the intervening year and a half. A new approach was offered, and the amendment now stated
that the Secretary of War be directed to procure a sufficient number of camels, to ascertain whether or not they can be naturalized and rendered serviceable upon this continent, and that the sum of $30,000 be appropriated for the purpose.
Confessing that he had voted against the amendment in the proceeding Congress, Senator Shields continued,
Since then [Mar. 5, 1851], the Committee on Military Affairs have made a thorough examination of this matter, and they have come to the conclusion, that if camels can be naturalized and acclimated in this country, through the whole South and Southwest, and away to the Pacific, they will perform better service for us than any mode of conveyance that we have yet adopted. All that we want is to made the experiment.
In spite of the fact that the amendment was
by a vote of 26 to 16 in the Senate, however, it was killed in
The research that went on behind the scenes was intensive and exhaustive. Maj. Wayne contributed his monograph entitled "General Remarks On the Use of Camels and Dromedaries For Transportation and Military Purposes Other Than Those of Burden—As For Expresses, The Pursuit of Marauders, Etc." He also translated from the French language a recent account of the use of the camel in Persia. A former Ambassador to Turkey, George P. Marsh (1801-1882), gave popular lectures on the subject which had "long since engaged my attention as a problem of much economical interest" at the newly established Smithsonian Institution in Washington to which the public as well as government officials flocked to hear. Marsh, who was later to become a professor of linguistics at Columbia University, had studied nearly everything that had ever been written on the subject and quoted copiously from all languages, ancient and modern, to prove the usefulness of the animals in the western deserts of the US. His information was persuasive because he had traveled extensively in the Near East (some of his journeys by camel-back) and had observed the camel at close range in Turkey, then an empire that comprised the lands surrounding the Mediterranean.
Nor were the money interests absent. In 1854, a charter was granted by the state of New York to the American Camel Company for the importation of camels. A 15-page publicity pamphlet contained a copy of the charter and an article "showing that the camel is the animal of all others the best adapted for the business of transportation over the desert lying between the Mississippi and the Pacific Ocean." Legends started before the camel arrived in the US. The first of many fictional works, The Camel Hunt: A Narrative of Personal Adventure, by Joseph Warren Fahrens, appeared in 1853.
The influence of Jefferson Davis was felt beyond his own bailiwick of the War Department. In the Agricultural Report for 1853, the subject of the camel as a beast of burden for military use was covered in some detail. It was clearly stated that most of the information upon the "habits, management, diseases, and peculiarities" of the camel was found in a manuscript by General Harlan, of Cochransville, Chester County, Pennsylvania,
who resided 19 years in the East, during a part of which period he was actively involved in the military operations of Dost Mahomed, Amur of Cabul, and Gungeet Sing, Prince of Punjaub, prior to the conquest of Cabul by the British. As general of the staff of the former, he commanded a division of the Army of Cabul, destined to the invasion of Bulkh, a part of ancient Bactria. On this expedition he was accompanied by a caravan of 1,600 camels... in addition to 400 attached to his own command.
After such irrefutable evidence of the
of the camel in military affairs, the Agricultural Report warned
that "the idea of the domestication of the camel tribe in the US
of great importance in various ways, that it is surrounded with
not likely to be foreseen by careless thinkers, and that the
the design, through any defect of plan, would be a national
On the heels of this report came Davis' annual report as secretary of war on December 1, 1853, in which he quoted extensive summary of the explorations for the proposed railroad to the West, he reviewed patiently what he had already said about historical use of the camel and its importance to the army in the western territories in times of war and peace. In speaking of the possible necessity of defending the Pacific coast, he summarized his report with
For military purposes, for expresses, and for reconnaissance, it is believed the dromedary would supply a want now seriously felt in our service; and for transportation with troops rapidly moving across the country, the camel, it is believed, would remove the obstacle which now serves greatly to diminish the value and efficiency of our troops on the western frontier.
Again, Congress failed to appropriate necessary funds. A year passed; and on December 4, 1854, secretary Davis again made a plea in his annual report:
I again invite attention to the advantage to be anticipated from the use of camels and dromedaries for military and other purposes; and for the reasons set forth in my last annual report, recommend that an appropriation be made to introduce a small number of the several varieties of this animal to test their adaptation to our country.
It was conceded by all that well
overland routes were absolute necessities to the thousands of
who were streaming across country to the gold diggings in
of many expeditions by army engineers and independent interests
studied by government agencies and officials. A wagon road was
by financiers as the first step toward the building of a
hero, Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale, who had crossed the continent
first lump of gold from California to dazzle the eyes of
New York and had made several exploring trips for the railroad
was convinced that camels could be successfully used in his
one of his trips from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean,
accompanied by Gwinn Harris Heap, whose father had been US
where young Heap had spent some of his youth. His knowledge of
camel, coupled with his experience of crossing the country with
1853, resulted in his attaching a short monograph, "Camels, as a
for Horses, Mules, Etc." to his published account of their
By this time, public enthusiasm had been aroused throughout the country. The newly arrived settlers in California joined the demand for swifter communication between the East and the West, and early in 1855, the editor of La Estrella de Los Angeles (later The Los Angeles Star) put in a good word for the camels:
We predict that in a few years these extraordinary and useful animals will be browsing upon hills and valleys, and numerous caravans will be arriving and departing daily. Let us have the incomparable dromedary, with Adams & Company's express men arriving here triweekly, with letters and packages in five or six days from Salt Lake and 15 or 18 days from the Missouri.
The forward looking editor called upon
to undertake the job, "for we have not much faith that Congress
anything in the matter."
But he was mistaken, for popular demand had been so overwhelming that when Congress met on March 3, 1855, Secretary Davis had the satisfaction of hearing as a part of the Army Appropriations Bill,
And be sit further enacted, that the sum of 30,000 be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, to be expended under the direction of the War Department in the purchase of camels and importation of dromedaries, to be employed for military purposes.
Davis let no time elapse in assembling
remarkable and resourceful group of men. His first choice as
of the enterprise was the knowledgeable Maj. Wayne, who had
to him since 1848. Lt. David Dixon Porter (1813-1891) of the US
kinsman of E. F. Beale and brother-in-law of heap, was appointed
of the navy storeship, Supply, which was to transport the camels
Near East. Gwinn Harris Heap, with his knowledge of the
of the East and his recent experience with Beale, was recruited
agent. The three men, Wayne, Porter, and Heap, made an
completely dedicated to the successful culmination of the task
The short note dated May 16, 1855, quoted [at the beginning of this paper], is official in tone and does not reveal the close bond which existed between all the men engaged in the enterprise, nor does it give a hint of the satisfaction that Davis felt. In the letter which accompanied the note, however, the secretary poured out to lt. Porter detailed and specific instructions which showed not only his amazing accumulation of knowledge about camels but also his personal concern for the success of the experiment. He had already arranged with the Secretary of the Navy for the Supply under Porter to rendezvous with Wayne in Spezzia, Italy. On his way to the Mediterranean, Wayne was to consult with experts in England, France, and Italy, and when the two officers joined forces at Spezzia, they were to go into the Levant, to Persia, to Africa, or wherever necessary to obtain the best breed of camel.
For seven months, beginning in July 1855, Wayne, Porter, and Heap sought information and camels in London, Paris, Pisa, Malta, Constantinople, Alexandria, Cairo, Smyrna, and Crimea, where the Crimean War was being waged. By February 15, 1856, they had selected a cargo of 33 camels and left Smyrna on the voyage to Indianola, Texas, where they arrived on April 29. The second trip took only six months, Porter and heap leaving America in July 1856, and returning in January 1857, with 44 camels, which were immediately sent to Camp Verde, Texas, where Wayne had established a successful scientific breeding and training encampment with the first shipment.
The entire project had been carried out with enthusiasm from its inception in spite of almost insuperable diplomatic difficulties with foreign governments and unbelievable trickery and chicanery on the part of lying and thieving camel dealers and individuals in Alexandria and Smyrna. Remarkable physical endurance was displayed by every person engaged in the undertaking—from Wayne, Porter, and heap, down to the lowest sailor who had volunteered for the extraordinary voyage. Thanks to the imagination, enterprise, and energy displayed by lt. Porter in converting a conventional supply ship to an efficient sea-going camel carrier, the animals were not only transported safely from Turkey to Texas, but during the two voyages, important scientific experiments were conducted on board which were to further the adaptation of the camels to the American environment when they finally arrived.
But time was running out for the experiment before it had fairly begun on American soil. The first rumblings could be heard of the coming Civil War, which was to stop the orderly development of the project and finally kill all hopes for its success. It was not the fault of the brilliant men who had carried out the usual assignment with such high expectations that the camel is not a domesticated animal in America today. Even before the second herd of 44 camels had arrived on American shores, Maj. Wayne saw trouble ahead. Writing to Jefferson Davis from Camp Verde on December 4, 1856, he reaffirmed his faith in the project and reported that the experiment had proved successful so far, but he added,
As the political changes of the coming year may terminate your official connection with the War Department, and later the policy heretofore observed in the experiment, I have thought it advisable to make a few suggestions at this early date, that if you agree with my a system may be organized, that the matter may be left to your successor in as complete a form as possible.
There must have been a number of senators who never had believed in the camel program. There is a hint of this doubting attitude in Maryland Senator James A. Pearce's resolution which was introduced in the Senate on February 2, 1857:
Resolved, that the secretary of war be directed to furnish the Senate with any information in his possession, showing the results of the trial of the camel as the a beast of burden and for the transportation of troops; and showing, also, the characteristics and habits of the animal, and the number imported up to the present time.
Events moved swiftly after the Pearce resolution, which had been passed with unanimous consent. By February 12, Davis had directed Wayne to submit his suggestions for the care of the camels to Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Jesup, quartermaster general of the army, in a letter to whom Wayne summarized his position succinctly:
...from my first connection with the experiment, in 1848, to the present time, I have never entertained the idea that the benefits to be derived from the introduction of the animal among us would be extensively realized in our day. I regard it more in the light of a legacy to posterity, of precisely the same character as the introduction of the horse and other domestic animals by the early settlers of America has been to us... The military benefits to be derived from the introduction of the camel, are in my view, of little moment in comparison with its bearing upon trade and communication throughout the vast interior of our continent.
On February 26, Jefferson Davis had
the entire correspondence, documents, translated articles, logs
voyages of the Supply, bills, reports, and latest news of the
the animals and submitted the lot to the president pro tem. of
with a covering letter which included his concluding sentence,
trial which has been made has fully realized my expectations,
my confidence in the success of the experiment.
Without Wayne’s supervision, the camels at Camp Verde remained in a state of limbo until the new secretary of war, John B. Floyd (1806-1863), decided to test them by having them used on an expedition to survey a wagon road from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, to the Colorado River along the 35th Parallel. The leader of the expedition was E. F. Beale, who had thought about camels ever since he had crossed Death Valley with Christopher "Kit" Carson (1809-1868) before the goldrush.
Beale had taken with him for nightly reading Abbé Huc’s Travels In China and Tartary and was convinced that camels could be used equally as well in America as in Asian deserts. When the expedition started May 12, 1857, Beale took with him the younger generation, sons of some of the men who had been connected with the experiment from its inception. Among them were Porter Heap, son of G. H. Heap, Hampton Porter, nephew of D. D. Porter, and May Humphreys Stacey, a young man of 19 who kept a detailed journal of most of the trip. His entry for June 21 records his first sight of the camels which had been brought from Camp Verde:
The first intimation we had of their approach was the jingling of the large bells suspended from their necks. Presently, one, then two, three, four, until the whole 25 had come within range in the dim twilight. And thus they came, these huge ungainly beasts of the desert, accompanied by their attendants, Turks, Greeks and Armenians. Who would have thought, 100 years ago, that now camels would be used on this continent as beasts of burden? ...It was a fine scene, and one calculated to awaken curious sensations in the breast of the observer. What are these camels the representation of? Not a high civilization exactly, but of the "go-aheadness" of the American character, which subdues even nature by its energy and perseverance.
Beale's personal diary shows deep anxiety for the success of the camels. Starting out after their many months of ease at Camp Verde, they seemed "soft" for the first month, but soon Beale could write, "The more I see of them the more interested in them I become, and the more I am convinced of their usefulness. Their perfect docility and patience under difficulties renders them invaluable, and my only regret is that I have not double the number." At El Paso, Texas, on July 24, he could report to the secretary of war,
It gives me great pleasure to report the entire success of the expedition with camels so far as I have tried it. Laboring under all the disadvantages arising out of the fact that we have not one single man who knows anything whatever of camels or how to pack them, we have nevertheless arrived here without an accident and although we have used the camels ever day with heavy packs, have fewer sore backs and disabled ones by far than would have been the case traveling with pack mules... If the Department intends carrying their importation of the camels further... I would strongly recommend... that a corps of Mexicans be employed to herding and using them. The Americans of the class who seek such employment are totally unfit for it, being for the most part harsh, cruel and impatient with animals entrusted to their care.
Beale, the most sympathetic and
of all the people who used the animals, had unerringly pointed
of the most important factors of the subsequent failure of the
lack of proper personnel. There were also other adverse
against them. The most sobering reality was that Jefferson Davis
longer in a position to protect the project. After 1857, his
was increasingly turned to political issues which finally led to
of the war between the states and made him the president of the
in 1861. During the Civil War, other swifter and more efficient
communication had been so well established between the East and
that the plodding camel became first an embarrassment, then an
and finally a derelict out into the desert to shift for himself.
The complete story of the camel is not generally known, for popular taletellers seldom care why the experiment was started or how the camel came to the American continent. Moreover, with the exception of avid historians of Western America, few people know the end of the story. Some storytellers will regale the willing listener by the hour with the saga of Greek George or Hi Jolly [Hadji Ali], two of the camel drivers who came with the first shipment and stayed to become legends in their own right before they died in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Hi Jolly's tomb, with its pyramid-shaped monument, is an impressive sight in Quartzsite [Arizona]. It is constructed of black malapai rock, petrified wood, gold-bearing quartz, and natural red, white and blue rocks (symbolizing the flag). Crowning the pyramid is the silhouette of a one-humped camel made of copper. A vault in the base contains a few old letters, Hi Jolly's government contracts as camel driver and scout, and less than a dollar in change (his total wealth when he died). Also, the vault contains something else that was dear to his heart—the ashes of Topsy, the last of the original camels he brought to this country.
Other storytellers will follow the tragicomic camels as they blundered in and out of the rapidly growing centers of civilization and finally wandered into and remained in the gradually diminishing western desert until the last one died in 1934. Most of the tales are true stories that are hard to believe, and they prove again the old adage that "Truth is stranger than fiction."
Chapter 11: Immigration 1840-1880
Mr. Editor: Subjoined you will find a
of the principle articles necessary for an outfit to Oregon or
which may be useful to some of your readers. It has been
from correct information derived from intelligent persons who
the trip. The wagons should be new, made of thoroughly seasoned
and well ironed and not too heavy; and large double sheets.
be at least four yoke of good oxen to each wagon—one yoke to be
as extra, and to be used only in cases of emergency. Every
have at least two good milk cows, as milk is a great luxury on
The amount of provisions should be as follows; to each person except infants:
* 200 pounds of bread stuff
* 100 pounds of coffee
* 12 pounds of sugar
Each family should also take the following articles in proportions to the number as follows:
* From 1 to 5 pounds tea
* From 10 to 50 pounds rice
* From 1/2 to 2 bushels beans
* From 1/2 to 2 bushels dried fruit
* From 1/2 to 5 pounds saleratus
* From 5 to 50 pounds soap
Cheese, dried pumpkins, onions and a
portion of corn meal may be taken by those who desire them. The
article, however, does not keep well. No furniture should be
as few cooking utensils as are indispensably needed. Every
to have a sufficient supply of clothing for at least one year
arrival, as everything of that kind is high in those countries.
cattle should be driven for beef, but much loose stock will be a
annoyance. Some medicines should also be found in every family,
and quantity may be determined by consulting the family
I would suggest to each family the propriety of taking a small sheet-iron cooking stove with fixtures, as the wind and rain often times renders it almost impossible to cook without them, they are light and cost but little. All the foregoing articles may be purchased on good terms in this place.
The immigration encouraged by the missionaries began in the early 1840s, for a number of reasons. The Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio river valleys from which so many of the pioneers started out was the most economically depressed region of the country, and this, combined with the promise of free land in the West, was a weighty incentive. Also, no region in the country was more unhealthy than these valleys, malaria endemic and a scourge; whereas Oregon already had its reputation of being a tonic place. Finally there was the plain American restlessness.
Women Uprooted Reluctantly
As there were different reasons for
so there were different kinds of immigrants. There were the
but there were also the failures and the lawless. Also, there
body of pioneers, nearly a half, who in many cases set out with
women! On the whole, however, the wagontrain pioneers were a
body. Except for the bachelor drovers and household hands, most
Almost all were protestants. Very few were people of means, and
were impoverished, since it took money to buy the gear to get to
Finally, the great majority were farmers.
A distinction is sometimes made between the kinds of people who went to Oregon and those who favored California. And some say the distinction is valid. From the beginning California tended to attract the single adventurer, particularly with the advent of the goldrush. Oregon, on the other hand, from the beginning often attracted sober and respectable individuals. Hall J. Kelley, the Boston schoolteacher who first encouraged immigration to Oregon, called for "pious and educated young men," and, as we have seen, the first American squatters in Oregon were in fact missionaries. Also that memorial carried by Lee to Congress in 1838 made it clear that the squatters did not care to be joined by the "reckless adventurer," by the "renegade of civilization" or by the "unprincipled shapers of Spanish America," that is, Californians. Some of the diaries and letters of the immigrants tend to confirm this attitude. Charles Pitman, traveling with a group bound for California who had begun to have second thoughts, wrote
If things are not as anticipated when we left, in fact the aristocracy or respectable portion of the companies will go to this valley (in Oregon).
And Jesse Applegate wrote to his brother
...almost all the respectable portion of the California immigrants are going on the new road to Oregon and nearly all of the respectable immigrants that went last year to California came this year to Oregon.
It is marvelously summed up in the apocryphal story of the branch in the Oregon Trail, the route south to California marked by a cairn of gold quartz, the none north by a sign lettered To Oregon. Those who could read came here.
No Profane Swearing Allowed in This Company
The trek started in the spring at
Missouri, that "great Babel upon the border of the wilderness."
wagons—on the average ten feet long with two feet wide
tools, and clothes, seed, perhaps a harmonium, a clock; and the
bacon, beans, sugar, salt, coffee and probably a keg of whiskey.
2,000 miles to go and it would take six months.
Before starting out, or shortly thereafter, captains were chosen and, because they were entering a land where no civil authority existed, it was necessary to draw up regulations covering all aspects of behavior.
...no profane swearing, no obscene conversation, or immoral conduct, allowed in this company.
There was also the very thorny problem of whether to travel on the Sabbath.
Campsites Rank With Odoriferous Feces
The first four-fifths of the journey
ordinarily not a hardship, at least for the men who, relieved of
of farm chores, often found it a lark. It was decidedly less so
women because it was hard to keep house and manage children in a
ten-foot box, and there were almost always the clouds of
kicked up by the vanguard. Then there were the campsites. These
a pleasant grove of trees by usually well back from the river
avoid dampness and mosquitoes; this meant for the women long
over which to haul the water. Then, too, the campsites had often
the night before by a forward party and so could be rankly
with animal and human feces.
There were other problems as well, shortages of grass for the cattle, raging rivers to cross, sometimes bitter hand-to-hand fighting on the part of the men. Death by drowning and by the accidental discharge of firearms was far from uncommon and killed more of the immigrants than the natives. Indeed it is estimated that between 1840 and 1860 more natives were slaughtered by the immigrants than vice versa.
Prayer Meetings and Lovemaking
But there were pleasures too. Despite the fights, there was considerable camaraderie. "This trip finds us together like a band of brothers." Many of the women might have said the same. At night there were prayer meetings to attend or a fiddle to dance to of friends with whom to share a jug. And as 17-year-old Susan Parish wrote, "...Where there are young people together there is always lovemaking."
Crossing the Blues With Block and Tackle
On the last leg of the journey,
Fort Hall in Idaho to the Willamette Valley—the pleasures were
Now food supplies were low, and both immigrants and animals were
by the long months of the trek. Worst of all lay before them the
Blue Mountains, which, because of the steepness of the grades,
be crossed with the aid of block and tackle. The immigrants
now in late September the snows of winter would not come early
On finally reaching the valleys of Oregon, the immigrants—53,000 of them between 1840 and 1860—without exception were glad the journey was over.
And what did they find? The geography of the Willamette Valley was the same then as now; roughly 100 miles long, 20 to 30 miles wide, flat green prairie swelling here and there into buttes, oak savannas, streams pouring from both ranges of mountains through slopes of hemlock, spruce, fir and incense cedar to feed the river, which meandered the whole of the valley’s length and gave the place its name. What astonished the immigrants, however, was not so much the valley, about as Edenic as they had expected, but rather something above it, the great white escarpment against the blue of the eastern sky, the mountains.
There were other surprises too, some pleasant, some not. By the mid-1840s the valley was pretty well hunted out, so there was a scarcity of game. Also, the immigrants were disappointed that the wild plum of their native forests did not grow here. More disappointing yet, there were no bee trees filled with honey. On the other hand, hazel nuts abounded as did a variety of berries. The climate, too, was welcome, the temperate winters, the gentle summers, the relative absence of thunder and lightening, but—and a novelty and delight to all—the frequency of rainbows.
This then was the world where the immigrants settled, most typically or anyway most ideally claiming land—the expected 640 acres for a husband and wife—on the prairie margins, close to both timber and the open land. They needed the timber to build their houses and barns, the open land for their animals to graze on and to plant the wheat—shelter and food, the bases of their life.
But these things could take time and the beginnings were difficult. Peter H. Burnett, an immigrant of 1843 and first governor of California, provides us with a picture:
Many of the men immigrants were childish, most of them discouraged, and all of them more or less embarrassed. There was necessarily, under the circumstances, a great hurry to select claims; and the newcomers had to travel over the country in the rainy season in search of homes. Their animals being poor, they found it difficult to get along as fast as they desired. There were no hotels in the country... the old settlers had necessarily to open their doors to the new immigrants... our families were often overworked in waiting upon others and our provisions vanished before the keen appetites of our new guests. They bred famine wherever they went.
McLoughlin Offers Aid to Immigrants
No single person aided the immigrants
than did John
McLoughlin. Touched by the
had endured, he helped them again and again with money, supplies
counsel even though his instructions were to discourage
finally the instructions were adamant: he was to discontinue all
"Gentlemen," it said he replied, "if such is your order I will
no longer." And he did not, resigning in 1846 to retire to the
he had founded in 1829, the first in Oregon, indeed the first to
in the west, Oregon City.
As mentioned earlier, the wagontrain immigrants were in their makeup remarkably homogeneous. The people among whom they settled were far less so. On the Tualatin Plains lived the "Rocky Mountain Boys," aging American fur trappers, rugged types with Indian slave-wives and children. Across the Columbia in their library were ensconced the gentlemen of the Hudson's Bay Company with their ruby port and London journals. In the vicinity of Saint Paul, those first settlers, the French-Canadians, remained on. With them now were those two very sharp thorns in the Protestant side, fathers Blanchet and Demers. Upriver at Mission Bottom struggled the Methodists. In the towns lived yet another type—New England merchants, most of whom had arrived with their goods by ship. This was not the only respect in which these New Englanders differed from the wagontrain emigrants who, for the most part, embodied the traditions and attitudes of the Southern small farmer. Finally, there were the vanishing Native Americans. By 1845 the Willamette Valley's 2,000 squatters had outnumbered them. Such then was the diversity with which Oregon began.
There was, however, one common characteristic. Only seven percent of these 2,000 squatters were over the age of 45. In other words, it was a remarkably young community and, like all young communities, was boisterous and thus required restraint, or that is to say laws—particularly laws relating to land title and claim jumping.
Barlow Petitions Provisional Government for Franchise on Toll Road 1845
That winter before Christmas, Samuel K. Barlow went to the Provisional Government seeking a charter to build a toll road from The Dalles to Oregon City. Much of the Barlow Trail went through heavily timbered areas where many trees had to be removed to get the wagons through the Willamette Valley, and Barlow said he would clear and maintain the road if he could collect tolls. He stated in his petition that
...the cost of making the road is estimated at four thousand dollars in cash (by me alone); all other persons that have seen the route make larger estimates than shown...
The charter was granted in Oregon City on December 18, 1845. George Abernethy, the territorial governor, signed it with authorization for a toll road from January 1846 to January 1848, at the following rates:
For each wagon, five dollars. For each head of horses, mules or asses, whether loose, geared, or saddled, ten cents. For each head of horned cattle, whether geared or loose, ten cents.
The $4,000 estimate was based on costs of $50 a mile, and when Barlow and his partner Philip Foster of Eagle Creek started construction the following spring, Barlow remembered something. He had forgotten bridges across the Zigzag and Sandy rivers. The supplies were bought on credit. By August 1846, the road was ready for travel.
Francis J. Revenue Builds Sandy River Bridge 1853
There weren't any bridges until 1853,
Francis J. Revenue, Sandy's first permanent resident, built a
from the Sandy River ford at or near the location of the present
River Bridge on Ten Eyck Road. He used his own funds and
Gate No. 2, which he operated from 1853 to 1865. He also started
post, and he and his wife Lydia Ann aided and encouraged both
and passersby enroute to the Willamette Valley.
Operating a toll gate was not easy, as many emigrants had no money. When they arrived at the toll gate hungry and penniless, the alternatives often were barter: a shirt, a cow, a blanket, or a promise to pay later. The chivalrous Barlow allowed widows to pass toll free.
When Barlow received a commission as a justice of the peace for Clackamas County in 1850, his road had experienced some hard times following the discovery of gold in California in 1849. Barlow gave up the charter, but other men applied and continued to operate the toll road until 1915. It had become a two-way road, with emigrants coming and going. Many took up homesteads in Central and Eastern Oregon after looking over the Willamette Valley first.
In 1859, Oregon became a state and the legislature declared November though May as "Free Passage" months. Legislators also set rates that could be changed, making the investment of the franchise holders, Samuel Barlow and his successors, less valuable.
In 1846, the families of prosperous
George and Jacob Donner, furniture manufacturer James Reed, and
came together in Independence, Missouri, and set out for
the wagon trails. Their journey would become one of the greatest
of the overland crossings.
The preliminary preparations for organizing the Donner wagontrain took place in Sangamon County, Illinois. Early in April 1846, the party set out from Springfield, Illinois, and by the first week in May reached Independence, Missouri. Here the party was increased by additional members and the train comprised about 100 persons. The members of the original party numbered about 90. Independence was on the frontier in those days, so ample provisions were laid in for the long journey.
The travelers were full of enthusiasm for their long migration and the new lives they would find in California. A new book by Lansford W. Hastings, an unscrupulous land promoter, painted a rosy picture of the journey and of the wondrous lands that awaited on the Pacific Coast.
The Donner Party set out on the Oregon Trail with unrealistic expectations for an easy crossing. They traveled in large, luxurious wagons that were heavy with extra comforts.
It is not certain where the Leabo family joined—many were with the train during a portion of the journey—but for some cause or other became parted from the Donner wagontrain before reaching Donner Lake. Soon after the train left Independence it contained between 200 and 300 wagons, and when in motion was two miles in length!
On July 20, 1846, George Donner was elected captain of the train at Little Sand River. From then on it was known as the Donner party.
The first part of the journey went well. Before reaching Fort Bridger in Wyoming Territory (1868-1890), the train was never seriously molested by the Sioux, but occasionally, while seeming friendly, they would steal trivial articles which struck their fancy. The party rested at the fort from July 28 to 30, 1846.
Around that time Mary Lewis Leabo was tenderizing some meat and a young brave tried to steal it. In that split second his hand got in the way of her knife and she chopped some of his fingers off. The chief was angry and demanded that Mary be given to them! Some members of the Donner party thought they should let her go. The Leabos would not abandon their daughter to such a fate and were ordered to leave the train.
There is another version to this story told by Lillian Lewis Cutsworth of Estacada:
In the year 1846 my great aunt, Mary "Polly" Leabo, left her home in Kentucky and came to Oregon with her husband and children:
The wagontrain made camp on the banks
the Rogue and, as game and fish were plentiful, they spent
On the evening of which I write, the men were later than usual returning from their hunt. Aunt Polly was busy cooking juicy venison steaks, the children closed around her eagerly waiting for their evening meal.
Out of the dusk a figure appeared. Slowly it walked toward the fire and squatted down beside aunt Polly. He was and Indian and entirely nude.
Nudists colonies with their benefits to health were unheard of in those days. Why, the very thought of "nudity" was intolerable. Polly was angered more than she was scared, but what could she do?
She continued frying her steak, using a large butcher knife to turn it and lift it out of the platter. Every time she would place a steak on the platter, the Indian would reach out and grab the meat and eat it.
Polly finally had had enough! As the Indian reached for the next steak, she brought down the knife across his wrist with all her might. The Indian jumped up howling with pain and disappeared into the forest.
When the men returned and Leabo was told of the incident he said, "Why, Polly? What ever possessed you to do that? He will get his entire tribe and return and massacre all of us."
"Massacre or no massacre," said the little woman, "I'm not going to endure the sight of any 'naked redman.'"
The Indian had evidently learned his lesson, as the whites were not molested and continued their journey on into the valley of the Willamette.
The huge group split up when it
Bridger in Wyoming Territory (1868-1890), a mere camp or trading
the western side of the Rocky Mountains. Quarreling and petty
were fundamental causes for the calamities that befell the
The Donners and their party of 87 that took the Hastings Cutoff
the ill-fated Donner party, the pioneer martyrs of California
in cannibalism in order to survive the bitter winter. This was a
that Hastings described in his book. He claimed it would cut 400
out of the trip, but the route had been tried with ox-drawn
it turned out to be much more difficult than Hastings suggested.
The rest of the wagons, including the Leabos, went to California via Fort Hall II and reached California in safety. The Leabos eventually left the Humboldt River Trail and came to Oregon on the Applegate Trail.
Obituary for James R. Leabo
James R. Leabo, a pioneer of 1846,
paralysis at Good Samaritan hospital at noon yesterday after an
of even weeks. During all his sickness he was unconscious and to
he was unable to recognize those of his family who gathered
He was 75 years and 7 days old.
Mr. Leabo was born in Cooke County, Tennessee, August 18, 1823. He came to Oregon in 1846 and served with the volunteers in the Cayuse War. He lived in Yaquina Bay for a year or two and settled in Clackamas County in 1851. He engaged in farming there until 1883, when he moved to Portland. Since then he resided in this city almost continuously.
Mr. Leabo's wife and five children survive him. He married Emily Armina Lee on March 16, 1851 in Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon. Emily was born on 22 July 1828 in Jefferson County, New York. She was the daughter of Philander Lee and Anna Harvey Green. Their children are: S.B. Leabo of Astoria; Mrs. A. H. Clift of Kakama; Mrs. R.H. Mast of Bandon; R.L. Leabo; and Mrs. M. Wilson of Portland.
The Funeral will take place tomorrow morning where Mr. Leabo's late residence, 690 Division Street, East side. The pall bears will be members of the Indidan War Verterans and Oregon Pioneer Association of which origination deceased was a member.
"Guy E. Leabo Memorial Gold Mining
by Mark Baker, The Register Guard
Cottage Grove: Sunday: October 26, 2003
He drove a Greyhound bus during the
but on weekends, Guy Leabo went mining. A lifelong Cottage Grove
Leabo died of cancer March 27 at age 71. But his gold- and
comrades won’t soon forget him. In fact, they’ve named the
Owners Association’s new museum after him. The Guy E. Leabo
Mining Museum held its grand opening Saturday on Main Street in
storefront. Most of the museum’s items have been donated, said
the museum director.
“We want to preserve what’s left of our mining history,” he said. “We want to keep it going so everybody can have a look at it and keep the history alive.”
The Bohemia Mining District is 35 miles southeast of town in the Calapooya Mountains and its history goes back to the 1860s when gold prospectors first came to the area. Legend has it that two men, James Johnson and George Ramsey, fled to the area in 1863 after killing an Indian in the Roseburg area. One day, while dressing a deer, Johnson caught a glimpse of gold quartz and the Bohemia Mining District was born.
By 1880, more than 100 claims had been staked at mines with such colorful names as El Capitan, Golden, Slipper, Cripple Creek, Oro Fino, Peek-a-Boo, Quickstep, Holy Smoke, Holy Terror and Tall Timber.
The museum includes old photographs of those mining days, mixed with recent ones; cases of rock minerals; old mining tools; books; and even some gold to buy in little capsules.
Leabo realized his dream of starting a gold mining mill in the mining district’s Crystal Basin about five years ago, said Bruce Stewart, the mining association’s president. And Leabo’s was the last mill to operate in the district, Stewart said. It wasn’t something that made him rich — those days are long gone in the district, Stewart said. It just made him happy.
“Bohemia Mines was his passion,” Stewart said. There he found not only gold, but silver, lead, copper and zinc. The Bohemia Mine Owners Association has about 350 members, Stewart said. And many of them have land claims among the district’s 1,000 acres. But operating a mill and processing gold has become too expensive, although he and some other members of the association still would like to get another mill going.
And getting a permit to use cyanide or other chemicals that dissolve gold and silver from ore is difficult these days because of environmental laws, Stewart said. Instead, members still pan for gold in the district’s creeks or dig it out, he said.
“There’s still lots of gold, it’s just that it’s costly to get it out.”
The Applegate Trail
In 1846 pioneers were anxious to
a southern pass over the Cascades and blaze a trail. Levi Scott,
the first expedition, soon turned back to enlist more men. Among
who made the second start were Lindsay and Jesse Applegate. Near
a party coming up from California had been attacked by Indians
man had been severely wounded. Proceeding cautiously they
swung down into northern California, turned eastward to follow
of Nevada and then cut up to Fort Hall II on the Oregon Trail.
Applegate was able to induce some
of the 1846 migration to follow his lead over the new trail; the
the party went ahead to clear the road.
Lindsay Applegate later wrote about the road-maker's experiences:
No circumstances worthy of mention occurred on the monotonous march from Black Rock to the timbered regions of the Cascade chain; then our labors became quite arduous. Every day we kept guard over the horses while we worked on the road, and at night we dared not cease our vigilance, for the Indians continually hovered about us, seeking for advantage. By the time we had worked our way through the mountains to the Rogue River Valley, and then through the Grave Creek Hills and Umpqua chain, we were pretty thoroughly worn out. Our stock of provisions had grown very short, and we had to depend to a great extent, for sustenance, on game. Road working, hunting, and guard duty had taxed our strength greatly, and on our arrival at the Umpqua Valley, knowing that the greatest difficulties in the way of immigrants, had been removed, we decided to proceed at once to our home in the Willamette.
At Salt Lake City, the pioneers bound
California soon learned that if they were late crossing the
into California they risked being trapped by violent blizzards.
Before long, the Donner party found itself crossing a great salt desert. The harsh landscape took its toll on both people and wagons. Heat and thirst killed many of the cattle brought along for food. Some of the wagons were damaged beyond repair, and whole families had to walk and live without shelter.
The strain and hardship of crossing the desert left the pioneers weak, confused, and angry. Fights and arguments sprung up readily. James Reed was banished from the Donner party after he killed a man in a fight. His family secretly supplied him with food and a gun to help him survive alone in the wilderness.
By the time the Donner party reached the Sierra Mountains in California, the winter snows had begun, and they were trapped until spring. With inadequate shelter and little food, they were now faced with starvation and fierce cold. As the winter wore on, the families ate the bark from trees, leather from their boots—and eventually each other—to stay alive.
Snowbound and starving in the High Sierra, Tamsen Donner refused to leave her dying spouse.
Margaret Breen, a feisty Irishwoman , crawled on her hands and knees in the snow, gathering fir boughs to make a fire to warm her five babies. She managed to bring her entire family through the ordeal.
Margaret Reed caught field mice, boiled strips of hide from the cabin roof, and cut up pieces of the rug for food; mindful of Christmas day approaching, she hid away little bits of bacon, dried apples, and some beans so that her children could have real food for a holiday dinner.
In the meantime James Reed managed to reach California. In February 1847, he and the other survivors formed a rescue party called "the Forlorn Hope," consisting of ten men and five women, that set out across the mountains for help. Eight of the men perished, but all the women survived.
By the time they were rescued in February 1847, more than half the men had died, but 25 of the 35 women had survived, each a heroine. All told, only 47 members of the group survived the bitter winter at what is now known as Donner Pass, and James Reed felt fortunate to find Margaret and their children among the few survivors.
The Reeds 12-year-old daughter Virginia, described her experiences in a letter to her cousin. "Never take no cutoffs and hurry along as fast as you can," she wrote as advise. Virginia Reed's letter about "our troubles getting to California," written after the teenager's rescue, is one of the most important records of those miserable four months. "That was three died and the rest eat them they was 11 days without anything to eat but the dead" was her sole terse reference to the cannibalism that almost all of the survivors resorted to, although several wives, faithful to the end, graciously declined to eat their husbands.
"I express my surprise that all the women escaped," wrote California's first governor, Peter H. Burnett. "I suppose it was owning to the fact that the men, especially at the beginning of the journey had performed most of the labor. They said that, at the start, the men may have performed a little more labor than the women; but taken together, the women performed more than the men. After the men had become too weak to carry the gun, it was carried by the women."
In 1939, one member of the Donner party was still living, Josephine Fine Baughn of Seattle, Washington. Near Jamestown, California, lived an elderly woman, Ms. John App, who, as a very small child was brought in this train, and would have died of starvation while snow bound in the mountains on that trip—had it not been for the soup made of her grandmother! Ms. App died in 1938, according to Unicy McBee, the granddaughter of Unicy Gillette (1795-1859), and Noah Leabo (1786-1878), and the daughter of Nancy Stone and Josiah Jacob Leabo. When she wrote her recollections in 1940, McBee was 90 years old and living in Dallas.
Donner Lake Memorial
The Donner Lake Memorial, a
grouping of men and women, anxiously looking west as a child
their feet, stands on the stone base, 20 feet high, the height
that trapped a group of 90 emigrants heading for California in
1846, forcing them to spend a bitter winter of suffering,
A museum at this historic site contains several of the emigrants' personal belongings, including Patty Reed's cloth doll, found years later. A huge boulder in the woods, marking the location of one of the cabins, contains a plaque with the names of these tragic pioneers.
By the time the Leabos reached a point
above Eugene City, their ox teams gave out and were unable to
load any further in the deep mud. It was December in the
wet winter of 1846. The Mansfield family was with the Leabos at
Mansfield, being an expert boatman, proposed utilizing the
and pulling a boat large enough to carry most of them and their
to the settlements. Their tools were dull, but after many days
finally launched a raft, a few days before Christmas. The two
of Leabo and Mansfield, consisting of nine persons—and all their
the first pallid people to navigate and explore the Upper
The voyage was successful and they landed safely at Jason Lee's
mission, ten miles below Salem, on the east side of the
This boat or canoe was used for a ferry boat to the place for several years after it was known as John Leabo's ferry.
With Isaac Leabo, who was a Mason, came the Masonic Charter, which is in the Masonic Lodge in Olympia, Washington, the oldest Masonic Lodge in the West.
Isaac Leabo settled on French Prairie and, in making a farm, the children helped to make it tillable by working in the fields, clearing and doing all they could. Hannah and Noah Leabo were working out of sight of home one day when they were surrounded by Indians in "war paint" and "feathers." The children had guns; they had to shoot to save themselves, and crippled some of the Indians.
Isaac and his brother James had to guard the family and stock from the Indians, and it was eternal vigilance.
Immigrants of 1844-1845 Threaten to Burn Fort Vancouver
Frances Fuller Victor, in her work, The Early Indian Wars of Oregon (1894), sums up the trials and sufferings of the immigrants of 1844-1845:
The immigrants of 1845 numbered about 3,000 persons and almost doubled the pallid population of Oregon; that of 1844 having been about 750. But if their numbers were small, their patriotism was large, and they made no secret of the fact that some of them had come all the way from Missouri to burn Fort Vancouver. So many threats of a similar nature had found utterance ever since the first large party of 1843 (estimated from 875 to 1,000 persons), that the officers of the British company had though it only prudent to strengthen their defenses and keep a sloop of war lying in the Columbia. What the company simply did for defense the squatters constructed into offense, and both parties were on the alert for the first overt act.
It seems odd that the immigrants of 1845 were feeling inclined to burn Fort Vancouver considering McLoughlin attempted to help them get settled:
By 1845, Fort Vancouver's location near the end of the Oregon Trail placed it squarely in the path of American westward expansion. Its role in shaping Oregon's destiny had changed. Emigrants stopped here on their way to claim farmland in the Willamette Valley. At this British outpost, chief factor McLoughlin gave supplies and encouragement to the people he came to view as the "rightful possessors" of the Oregon County.
The passage down the Columbia was one of excessive hardship and danger, each immigration having endured incredible suffering, and also loss, in coming from The Dalles to the Willamette Valley; families and wagons being shipped on rafts to the Cascades, where a portage had to be made of several miles, and whence another voyage had to be undertaken in such poor craft as could be constructed or hired, taking weeks to complete this portion of the long journey from the states, and the late and rainy months of the year; the oxen and herds being driven down to Vancouver on the north side of the river, or being left in the upper country to be herded by the Indians. The rear of the immigration of 1844 (estimated about 700 persons), remained at Whitman's mission [Waiilatpu] over the winter, and several families at The Dalles. The larger body of 1845 (estimated about 3,000 persons) divided, some coming down the river and others crossing the Cascades by two routes, but each enduring the extreme of misery.
The Meek Cutoff 1845
In 1844, John Minto (1822-1915), then a young man, said he found men in the prime of life
lying among the rocks at the Cascades seeming ready to die. I found there mothers with their families, whose husbands were snowbound in the Cascade Mountains without provisions, and obliged to kill and eat their game dogs. There was scarcely a dry day, and the snow line was nearly down to the river.
The scenes were repeated in 1845 with a greater number of sufferers, one wing of the long column taking the Meek Cutoff by following which they became lost, and had all but perished in a desert country. Minto continued:
Despair settled upon the people; old men and children wept together, and the strongest could not speak hopefully. Only the women continued to show firmness and courage.
The Perils of Plymouth Rock Compared to the Oregon Pioneers
The perils and pains of the Plymouth
pilgrims were no greater than those of the pioneers of Oregon,
few incidents in the history more profoundly sad than the
hardships undergone in the settlement of this country.
Robert Cruden, a history professor at Lewis and Clark College, speaks to their hardships:
The Indians believed they were engaged
just wars against aggression waged in violation of solemn pacts
Westerners understandably, did not share this view. The West was theirs, they believed, because their toil and suffering to make it productive gave them moral title, and because god intended the land for those who could make best use of it—justifications that harked back to the Massachusetts Puritans, who had so sanctified the taking of Indian lands. It was also argued that the Indians were an "inferior people," doomed to extinction in competition with whites.
In this light, Indian resistance to white expansion was seen simply as an expression of barbaric savagery, to be put down by any means. Campaigns against Indians frequently became campaigns of extermination, in which women and children as well as warriors were killed.
Barlow Road 1846
In 1846 when the Barlow Road was
were reaching out in several directions. A treaty was signed
Britain to establish American sovereignty for the Pacific
of the potato crop caused famine in Ireland and an influx of
to the US. California and New Mexico were annexed to the US, war
on Mexico, and Brigham
Young led Mormons to the Great
In 1847, Joel Palmer was captain of a wagontrain comprised of 5,000 emigrants, and by 1849 over 100,000 people had traveled the Oregon Trail with some heading for the goldfields of California and others to Oregon, and many took the Barlow Road.
It is estimated that 300,000 people crossed the route between 1840 and 1860. Average people, mostly farmers, responding to the lure of up to a square mile of free land, joined wagontrains heading West. Severe recession devalued commodities and livestock during "The Panic of 1837," and the harsh economic conditions encouraged many farmer families to seek a better life in the fertile soils of the West. Yellow fever killed 13,000 people in the mosquito-ridden Mississippi Valley, causing people to emigrate for health reasons, but the death rate on the Trail was a discouraging ten percent, the leading cause of death being accidents and disease, especially cholera.
Columbia River Route Both Costly and Dangerous
Ungreased axles squeaked over the
high desert and plateaus. The covered wagons finally reached
after fording the Snake, but their goal remained remote. Even
the Blue Mountains and following the Columbia downstream, the
faced formidable obstacles.
As they neared the Columbia River Gorge, even these stalwart hearts paused. They saw the turbulent rapids called "the dalles" by earlier voyagers; the steep canyon walls rising from the water's edge defied passage. Yet, pass it they did, by the thousands, by rafting and portaging through the awesome Gorge.
Nearly 3,000 people crossed the Great Plains for Oregon in 1845. There were three wagontrains, two from Independence and one from Saint Joseph. One of the Independence trains was captained by Presley Welch, for whom the town of Welches is named. Joel Palmer and Sam Barlow were his lieutenants.
Wagons were pouring into the east end of the Gorge, and so were the operators who offered the pioneers expert assistance (or at least the promise of such), for a steep price, to make the perilous trip down the great river. It took an amateur many days to build a raft, float it and pack his gear securely. Then only the most adventurous of foolhardy would contemplate taking his goods and family through the prairies and mountains only to perish in the cold raging waters of the Columbia.
In September of 1845, the Barlow party, originally from Ohio, arrived in The Dalles after the long journey from Independence. He had heard of the dangers of rafting the rapids down the Columbia and wanted to find a safer, less expensive, land route for his family and others. Having seen a notch in the south slope of Mount Hood, Barlow decided that "God never made a mountain that had no place to go over it or around it." Leaving his family at a travelers camp, Barlow headed south into the mountains seeking a pass across the Cascades and into the Willamette Valley. It was already fall and days were short, nights cold, and leaves had turned red and gold. Barlow was encouraged by what he saw and returned to The Dalles. Preparations completed, the party set out with seven wagons to make the crossing on this untried route. Near Tygh Valley they met and joined a group of 15 families led by Joel Palmer. Both men had the same goal, a safer land route to avoid the perils of the river.
The men who pioneered the wagon road around the base of Mount Hood were Sam Barlow, Joel Palmer, Henry M. Knighton, and William H. Rector, in particular, but there were many others, who crossed the mountains late in the year of 1845 on pack horses, barely escaping starvation through the exertions of Barlow and Rector in getting through to Oregon City and forwarding to them a pack train with provisions.
By October 20 some of the wagons had made it to White River on the flanks of Mount Hood. The party was low on supplies, starvation threatened, the livestock were hungry, becoming weak because of lack of forage. With snow threatening, families abandoned their wagons, which were impossible to move beyond Rock Creek, and set out with a pack train for the valley. After further exploration, which only confirmed the difficulty of the route, the group decided cache their belongings in a cabin they built and appropriately dubbed "Fort Deposit." Their goods, except such necessaries as could be packed on half-starved oxen, were stored there. Cold wet men trudged through the snow, taking with them what they could. Children with feet almost bare endured this terrible journey, and the like of which can ever occur on this continent. At least one woman rode a cow. The trek was miserable.
The emigrants were cold and hungry and some were sick from exposure. Yet many managed to keep their sense of humor. One of Barlow's daughters wrote in her journal:
We are in the midst of plenty—plenty of snow, plenty of wood to melt it, plenty of horse meat, and plenty of dog meat if the worst comes.
Two of the men agreed to stay behind
while the others then hurried on to the valley. It was the last
October 1845. On reaching the valley William Barlow, Sam's
loaded up supplies and hurried back up the mountain to the brave
had stayed behind.
By Christmas 1845, everyone had reached Oregon City, capital of the Oregon Territory, with no mishaps. The hardships of the trail were soon forgotten in the task of starting new homes.
Some of the more thoughtful men of the colony, taking into consideration the peculiar inaccessibility of Western Oregon from the east and the possibility of war with England, asked themselves how US troops were to come to their assistance in such a case. The natural obstacles of Columbia River Pass were so great as to be almost positively exclusive in the absence of the usual means of transportation, and the stationing of but a small force of a single battery, at the Cascades, would effectually exclude an army.
The colonists were still expecting the passage of Linn's bill, and with it the long promised military protection; but there was the possibility that the very moment of greatest need, they might be left at the mercy of an invading foe, and its savage allies, while the troops sent to their relief before fenced out and left to starve east of the mountains, or to die exhausted with their long march and the effort to force the passage of the Cascades.
Immigrants of 1912 Enjoyed "Colored Servants" on Train
And such were the hardships of the brave men and women who came to Oregon with ox teams; who blazed the way for civilization and everything that goes with it; who made it possible for their descendants, and 1912 immigrants, to ride to Oregon in palace cars, with dining cars, comfortable couches, and colored servants; and greater than all other things—saved Oregon to the US.
Chapter 12: Early Benton County
"America is change," wrote Lord James
(1838-1922). Certainly that was the case in the Oregon of the
at the beginning of the decade was 13,000, at its end 52,000.
of this increase was that settlement spread from the valley into
and some of it in the bottoms of the tributary streams pouring
two mountain ranges, some higher up where the falling water
to power mills. The valley floor itself was no longer burned
Indians and so the oak savannas multiplied, and here and
from the mountain slopes—there were groves of pointy firs. The
change, however, lay in the extent of cultivated land—wheat and
and potatoes, onions, the young orchards finally beginning to
protected from the growing herds of cattle by the zigzag of
fences. Finally, now that there were mills, the crude cabins of
logs were giving way to the white simplicity of Greek revival
lilac at the door and inside things almost unknown in the
stove, a sewing machine, perhaps a settee and some fiddle-backed
brought around the Horn.
Growth and change were reflected in another significant development as well: the towns. By the middle of the decade over 30 had been registered in the valley; hardly a valley town today that does not have sits origins in the 1850s. What is more, many of these towns were now linked, for by the middle 1850s, 14 steamboats made scheduled runs up and down the river. The towns themselves were not much, the buildings of a flimsy, slapdash sort, much clutter and muck about, but here and there a columned courthouse went up. And there was also the occasional academy where a youth could learn a little Latin and how to play the flute.
About 20 miles north of Kings Valley
deserted town of Ellendale,
developed around a gristmill built here in 1844 by James A.
was first called O'Neal's Mills and later Nesmith's Mills in
James W. Nesmith who served in the US Senate during the Civil
his mill, O'Neal erected a store and living quarters, and before
post office was opened. But in 1849 the mill was sold to Nesmith
Owen, who in turn, four years later sold it to the Hudson's Bay
In announcing the purchase of "the gristmills and contents..."
Statesman for July 19, 1853, the new firm assured its
that it was prepared to "furnish flour of the first quality to
the country trade;" that it had completed “arrangements whereby
of merchandise would be received by boat from San Francisco
and that it was the intention of the firm to have its "upright
sawmill" in operation in October.
To keep the latter pledge, Ezra Halleck and Luther Tuthill in 1854 built a dam a mile above the gristmill and there built the sawmill. It was the only dam of the kind for miles around and people flocked to see it. Part of the equipment was the only planer in that section of Oregon, all lumber having previously been dressed by hand; its installation proved a master stroke of enterprise on the part of the mill, which furnished much of the lumber for many of the buildings still in the neighborhood.
In the early 1860s, Judge Reuben P. Boise, one of the outstanding members of the Oregon Bar, and several others bought the mill and incorporated themselves as the Ellendale Woolen Mill Company, rebuilt the building, installed new machinery, and constructed a boardinghouse and other dwellings for mill employees. Ellendale, renamed in honor of Ellen Lyon Boise, rapidly grew into a busy village.
The small white building in to the rear of the boardinghouse was used as slave quarters for Polly and Robin Holmes, slaves belonging to Nathaniel Ford, one of the mill owners before the Civil War.
Kings Valley 1845: Nahum and Serepta Norton King
Coming across central Oregon, Sarah
of "camp fever." During the passage through the rapids in the
River Gorge, a raft overturned and son John, his wife Susan and
their three children drowned. The rest of the clan reached the
Plains and spent their first winter near what is now Forest
for free land, the menfolk followed the old pack trail up the
of the Willamette. They staked out their claims in the Upper
Valley and the area was named Kings Valley after this pioneer
Nahum and Serepta King were buried on their donation land claim, near the original house site. Their grave marker was of tufa, a very soft stone, and the inscription eroded away.
In later years, descendants had a memorial stone (approximately 24" X 17") made and planned to locate it near Nahum's claim, which is just beyond the junction of SH-20 and the Kings Valley Highway. They were unable to receive permission from the Highway Department to set the stone as planned and so placed it instead in the Kings Valley Cemetery where it now stands in honor of Nahum and Serepta Norton King.
Letter From Maria King 1846
Dear Mother, Brothers and Sisters:
After traveling six months we arrived
Linnton on the Willamette River, November 1. We had beautiful
the way, no rain of any account. We got along finely until we
Boise within three or four miles of Linnton when along came a
Stephen H. L. Meek who said he could take us a new route across
Mountains to the Willamette in 20 days, so a large company of a
200 wagons left the old road to follow the new road and traveled
months over sand, rocks, hills and anything but good roads. Two
of the immigrants ran out of provisions and had to live on beef,
it happened we had plenty of flour and bacon to last us through.
than all this, sickness and death attended us the rest of the
to you at Fort Larim. that the whooping cough and measles when
our camp, and after we took the new route a slow, lingering
Out of the Chambers, Nortons, John's and our family none escaped
Solomon and myself. But listen to the deaths: Sally Chambers,
(1813-1845) and his wife, their little daughter Electra and
a son nine months old, and Dulaney Norton's sister are gone.
lost his wife and daughter, Tabitha. Eight of our two families
to their long lost home. Stephen was taken with the fever at
he had not been well since we left Ohio, but was now taken
sick for three months, we did not expect him to live for a long
afraid of consumption, but is now well and hearty, getting
day, and he weighs as much as he did when he came over the
as for myself I was never heartier in my life since I left
have not had ever one sick day. The rest of our party are
now, I believe.
Those that went the old road got through six weeks ahead of us, with no sickness at all. Upwards of 50 died on the new route.
The Indians did not disturb us any, except stealing our horses. We have made our claim on the Luckiamute, a western branch of the Willamette, not a day’s ride from the ocean and 100 miles south of the Columbia. It is beautiful country as far as I have seen. Every person 18 years old holds a section by making improvements and living on it five years. They sow wheat here from October until June, and the best wheat I ever saw and plenty of it at 75 cents and a dollar per bushel, potatoes 25 cents, peas a dollar per bushel, corn 50 cents, beef six cents and eight cents, pork ten cents, sugar 12 and a half cents, molasses 50 cents, tea 75 cents, sheeting from 16 cents to 25 cents, calico from 25 cents to 50 cents, and salt from a penny a pound, and other things accordingly. Mills are plenty, no trouble about getting grinding. The water is all soft as it is in Massachusetts. Soda springs are common and fresh water springs without number. It is now the first of April and not a particle of snow has fallen in the valley, neither have I seen a bit of ice a half-inch thick this winter, but it rains nearly all winter but this does not hinder them from plowing and sowing wheat. We have the most frost in the spring. They don't make garden until the last of April or the first of May, but it comes in good when it does come. There are thousands of strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries, whortleberries, currents and other wild fruits but no nuts except filberts and a few chestnuts. The timber is principally fir and oak.
You perhaps want to know how I like the country. I like it well. It is an easy place to make a living. You can raise as many cattle as you please and not cost you a cent, for the grass is green the whole winter and cattle are as fat as if they had been stall fed the whole year round. Wheat is raised without trouble and will fetch anything, the same as cash. A wagon from $100 to $150, $100 for a yoke of oxen, $50 for a cow. And work will fetch anything you want at from $1 to $1.50 per day, $1 a hundred for making rails, and so on. And although I was much opposed to coming as anyone could be, if I were back there and knew what I know now, I should be perfectly willing to come.
The land you get is sufficient to pay for your trouble and if you were here and John and Warren each of them and yourself had a claim, I should like to live there. We have all got claims joining. What eastern states will do for us I cannot tell. You know more about that than I do. The Indians appear to be very "friendly"—like to have the "Bostons" come, as they call them. You think it is a long road and so it is. But the worst is over when you get started. Be sure and have plenty of flour, that is the main object; start with at least 175 to 200 pounds, and 75 pounds of bacon per person, fetch no more beds than you want to use, start with clothing a plenty to last you one year after you get here if you have nothing to buy with. Start with at least four or five yoke of cattle to the wagon, young cattle four or five years old are best. Fetch what coffee, sugar, and such things you like, if you should be sick you need them. I wrote to you as I had expected you to come. I need not do that as I know of although I wish you were here.
I can’t help but believe you would be suited—not that it will do my dear mother any good to see her children well fixed to get a living. That is if Congress ever does anything for Oregon. It is not like any new country—a farm to pay for—it is already paid for when you get here. You don’t know how I want to see you, and if I am never to see you let me hear from you as often as possible. I want to know you are all getting along and what you are doing.
Give my love and respects to all.
We have had two weddings in our family. Rowland Chambers (1813-1870) and Lovisa King (1828-1889) and Amos King (1822-1902) and Melinda Fuller. Young men have to pay $5 per year if the don't live on their claim. The people all look hale and hearty here. We are looking for Moses Moore and Herman S. Halleck this autumn.
Write the first opportunity, and give my love to everyone. It has been so long since I have heard from you.
From Your Affectionate Children,
Stephen and Maria King
The Meek Cutoff
The journey which Maria and Stephen
(1818-1852) were speaking of in their letter to relatives began
Boise when a number of wagontrains bound for Oregon's Willamette
met at Meek
Cutoff and made the tragic
Stephen H. L. Meek and pay him $5 a wagon to guide them, rather
the established Oregon Trail. All the exhausted and dispirited
knew of Meek was that he was the brother of Joseph L. Meek, who
Among those who decided to follow Meek were Sarepta Norton (1791-1863) and Nahum King (1783-1856), after whom Kings Valley was named, and their daughter, Sarah (1823-1845), and her spouse, Rowland Chambers (1813-1870).
It wasn't long before trouble developed. The ox-drawn wagons were in Malheur County named by French trappers. Sarah King Chambers died near where the hamlet Beulah later appeared and her grave appeared 40 years later. A crudely lettered stone was set to mark her grave. It was inscribed:
Ms. S. Chambers, September 3, 1845
The wagontrain toiled on at a maddenly
pace. Two days later, it stopped at a stream. Legend says the
picked up gold nuggets and played with them in a small blue
they hung under the wagon when it was in motion. The contents
until the end of the long journey. Wild excitement caused many
for the spot on the stream where the nuggets were found. The
did not join in the hunt. They were thankful to be able to
in the peaceful valley with no wish to return to the place of
and tribulations, even if they found it.
The fertile little valley the Nahum King family and widowed Rowland Chambers selected was separated from the Willamette Valley by a low line of hills. Their home became known as Kings Valley in honor of its first inhabitants. The King House, built in 1852, is one of the best preserved houses in the state.
Rowland Chambers was lonely, and soon married one of King's daughters, Lovisa. Maria and Stephen mention their wedding in their letter. He built a cabin and planted a large crop of wheat, as did most early squatters there.
Chambers built his own gristmill so he wouldn't have to ship his grain out for processing. The original wheel and several of the feed-grinders were still in use in 1951. The power for the mill, built in 1853, was furnished by the Luckiamute River, named for the Lakmiut, a subdivision of the Calapooya, who made their home on its banks. By means of a stone dam, he was able to get enough waterfall in the slow moving creek to turn an old-fashioned water wheel which generated power to the mill higher on the bank by means of large, handmade leather belts.
A. H. Reynolds was Chambers' capable partner. He discovered Chamber's diary records indicating they started work on the gristmill in June 1854.
In her Personal Memoirs, Clara Howard Mears expresses the importance of sawmills and gristmills to the survival land development of pioneer communities:
[In 1836] a man... built a dam across
creek and built two mills. A sawmill and a gristmill... I
the old mill wheel, all covered with moss, which used to furnish
to turn the upper and nether (lower) mill stones to grind the
...my father was under contract to N. S. Green to furnish flour barrels at 15 cents a piece... Green put in rollers to make patent flour, the first to be used in that part of the country. He made the Top Notch flour, the best flour we ever saw. It was packed in paper sacks instead of barrels.
Father was still employed there sacking and weighing flour until the mill burned with bushels of fine wheat and a quantity of flour.
On April 13, 1855, Chambers
Kings Valley post office and served as its first postmaster.
on the town grew rapidly. There was a sawmill, a store, and
A log school was built in 1849, followed by a church.
Solomon (1833-1913) and Stephen King (1818-1852) were sons of Nahum King. Stephen had 640 acres upon which he later built a gristmill. He died in 1854. His brother Solomon married his Widow, Anna Maria Allen King, in 1855, and stayed on the old homestead until 1872.
Solomon King: Benton County Sheriff 1876-1886
One of Benton County’s more colorful sheriffs was Solomon King, who followed J. B. Palmer with a ten-year term from 1876 to 1886—the longest term served so far in the county. Sol King was "taller and bigger than most men of his time" and the best known of the historic King family in Benton County. He came to Oregon on a wagon train when he was 12 years old. In 1872, Sol King and his wife and six children moved to Corvallis, where he purchased the Corvallis Livery, Feed and Sale Stable. The family ran the business for 14 years before giving it up after the barn burned. In 1876, King ran for sheriff for the first time and was given the support of the Corvallis Gazette, the local newspaper. The paper praised him for his struggle "to manhood thro' the pioneer difficulties...For his opportunities, no man, for generosity and whole-souled help, to those in need, has more to rise up and call him blessed than Sol King." King, a Republican, was nominated for the fifth term but declined to run because he did not have the full support of the nominating committee. He told the group he would accept the nomination only if it were unanimous. But two men--Democrats who changed their party affiliation a year earlier so they could attend the nominating meeting—voted against King and he refused to accept the nomination.
Heart of the Valley
In 1883, Benton County contained 1,110
miles, a population of about 8,000, a valuation of taxable
$2,357,692, exclusive of indebtedness according to the
of 1882. It is located in the heart of the Willamette Valley,
time, was bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east
Willamette and Linn County, and on the south by Lane County, and
north by Polk County. This county is noted for its rich soil,
timber, and healthful temperate climate.
Extending from Polk County to the California state line, Benton County was organized under the Provisional Government, December 23, 1847. The south line of the county was established January 15, 1851. The county seat was established at Marysville, January 23, 1851. The state capital was located in Corvallis, January 16, 1855. It was relocated at Salem, December 12, 1855. The Oregon Statesman was published at Corvallis during that time by Asahel Bush, state printer.
Benton County Sheriffs 1847-1900
Shortly after Benton County was
created December 23, 1847 from Polk County by an act of the
government of Oregon, the first in a long list of sheriffs was
W. Hofins was the first leader of law enforcement in the county
was a short term. He took office sometime in 1848 and left less
year later to join the gold rush in California. Benton County
sheriffs since the 679-square mile county was established.
When the first sheriff left, Abraham Nelson Locke was appointed to take his place on October 15, 1849. That term lasted a year but Locke came back in 1860 to serve a second term, this time for two years. Locke was replaced in 1850 by Samuel F. Starr, who resigned in late 1852. S. M. Stout was sheriff from December 1852 to 1853. T. J. Wright followed Stout, serving from 1853 to 1855. John B. Clough followed, serving one of the shortest terms in the county's history—two months—before he resigned.
In 1855, James A. Bennett took the office for a year before being replaced after a year by Sheldon B. Fargo. Bennett tried for a second term in 1858 but was told he did not qualify. James P. Stewart followed Fargo in 1858, but resigned only three months after taking office. George P. Wrenn was appointed in December 1858 to take Stewart's place, serving through June 1860.
From 1862 to 1864, Joseph Alexander served as sheriff of Benton County. He later moved from the area and served in the state legislature. The terms started getting longer in the 1860s. Julius Brownson, who followed Alexander, served from 1864 to 1868 followed by J. B. Palmer, who served for eight years from 1868 to 1876.
Solomon King followed Palmer with a ten-year term from 1876 to 1886. He was nominated for the fifth term but declined to run because he did not have the full support of the nominating committee.
William Mackay followed King and put in six years as sheriff of Benton County, serving from 1886 to 1892 with David A. Osborn following with a four-year term from 1892 to 1896. Peter Rickard served a four-year term from 1896 to 1900, bringing law enforcement in the country into the 20th century.
In the early days of the fur traders,
River, which heads north of Marys Peak, was known as Mouse
journal for October 17, 1833, John Work refers to this stream as
de Souris, or Mouse River, and the context to show that the name
was already established. Duflot de Mofras used the name Riviere
Mice River, in 1841, and Joel Palmer called the stream Mouse
Cal Thrasher, an early county pioneer, is authority for the
Marys Peak in early days was called Mouse Mountain, a
translation of a
The name Marys River appears in an act passed by the Oregon legislature December 12, 1846, and it was apparently in public use at that time.
There are at least two stories about the origin of the name Marys River.
One is to the effect that it was applied to Adam E. Wimple, an early squatter from Oneida County, New York, for his sister, who have never been in Oregon! Wimple murdered his child bride, Mary, August 1, 1852, whom he had married the year before, and he was hanged at Dallas October 8, 1852. She had attacked him with a pistol. This story appeared in the August 8th, September 11th and 25th, 1852 issues of the Oregonian. The other story is that the stream was named by Wayman Saint Clair for Mary Lloyd, daughter of John Lloyd, who came to Oregon from Missouri, in 1845, and in 1846 settled near the present town of Monroe. She was said to be the first white woman to cross Marys River, in 1846. She married John Foster in Benton County, June 20, 1846, and died in August 1854.
Lloyd was born in North Carolina and died in Benton County, January 6, 1880. His house is said to have been the farthest south in the Willamette Valley at the time.
Wayman Saint Clair was a member of the territorial legislature in 1850-1851, representing Benton County in the lower House of Representatives. He and John Lloyd were alternate captains of the last party that followed the Meek Cutoff.
Corvallis in the Steamboat Years 1851-1868
Donation Land Claims were still being
in the current Corvallis location in the early 1850s. Among
claims on land that is now wholly or partially within the
limits were James A. Bennett (1825-? PA), Silas M. Stout, John
(1825-? MO), David B. Mulkey (1830-? MO), and Frederick A.
(1824-? Prussia) in 1851, Prior Scott (1826-? IN) and Charles E.
(1804-? KY) in 1852, and Albert G. Hovey in 1853.495 Many of
were actually in this area earlier but for various reasons did
a claim. For instance, Prior Scott was here in 1846, having come
sister Mary (1820-? IN) and her husband, John W. Stewart (1800-?
Other early arrivals who made bona fide claims in 1846 were: William Whipple, Herman C. Lewis, Arnold Fuller, Thomas M. Read, Alfred Rhinehart, John W. Stewart, J. C. Alexander, — Stemerman, Joseph Hugart, Wyman Saint Clair, John Lloyd, William Miller, Nicholas Ownby, Augustus L. Humphrey, N. C. Buckingham, Nimrod O'Kelly, Thomas Reeves, Col. J. S. Kendall, Alexander Smith, Nahum King, Rowland Chambers, Aaron Richardson, Green Berry Smith, and Lazarus Venbedder.
Joseph C. Avery
There are few names that appear more frequently in the pioneer annals of Great Northwest history than Joseph C. Avery (1817-1870).
Avery was born in Lucerne County,
June 9, 1817. He was educated in Wilksbarre, the county seat of
county. He moved to Illinois in 1839. In 1941, he married Martha
In 1845 Martha and Joseph crossed the Great Plains, arriving at
In the spring of 1846, Avery, who residents of Benton County remembered as a "noble and generous man," settled on property on the north side of the Marys River where sit flows into the Willamette.
Avery sold the first town lots, known as Little Fields, and in 1849, after returning with others from the California goldfields, established a store. He also built a general store which he operated for 23 years.
On January 8, 1850, Avery established a post office. The town was officially platted and designated the seat of the newly created county of Benton in February 1851. Known originally as Marysville, Corvallis was given its present name in December 1853, to differentiate it from Marysville, California. Avery coined the name Corvallis by compounding Latin words meaning "heart of the valley."
In 1851, he platted the town of Marysville on his claim. The plat was filed in February 1851 and consisted of 24 blocks and six fractional blocks oriented along the Willamette. The area encompassed by the plat extended from the Willamette west to Fifth Street, and from the current Western Avenue on the south to Jackson Street on the north. The plat also included a ferry lot on the Willamette between Jackson and Van Buren streets, and Avery operated a free canoe ferry to encourage settlement here.
Avery, who died June 16, 1870, figured prominently in the politics of the county for a quarter of a century. He was a member of the first territorial legislature for Oregon, serving several terms.
William F. Dixon
In August 1851, William F. Dixon
MD) platted Dixon's Addition to the town of Marysville. Dixon's
joined Avery's plat on the north and consisted of six blocks
and Third streets and Jackson and Tyler avenues and two
along the bank of the Willamette.
The decision to plat a town at this time was probably motivated by several factors. J. C. Avery had already established a store, and, on January 5, 1850, a postal station called Avery in this location. The office was discontinued September 9, 1850 when the name was changed to Marysville.
In 1851, the first steamboat navigated the Willamette as far as Corvallis, making this location the head of navigation on the Willamette, and wharves were heaped with freight brought up from Portland at $40 a ton. Additionally, the Southern Oregon gold rush began in 1851. Corvallis, situated near the overland trail to the mines and at the head of navigation, became a supply center for those headed to and from the mines.
When Corvallis was platted in 1851, the territorial legislature designated the town as the seat of Benton County. That same year, the southern boundary line of Benton County, which originally extended to the California border, was adjusted to its current location.
In 1852, the Baptists erected the first church, and a school was started. Out of this school in 1858 grew Corvallis College.
Because of the confusion created by two towns named Marysville—Marysville, California and Marysville, Oregon—the latter was renamed Corvallis in 1853. J. C. Avery is credited with coining this name which he made up by compounded the Latin words for "heart" and "valley."
Corvallis somehow escaped the raw, rough period undergone by most frontier settlements, though there was an occasional case of homicide— mob hanging of a half-blood or an Indian who had made trouble for settlers.
With the establishment of Marysville (Corvallis) as the county seat, Avery and Dixon both donated land for county seat purposes. The goal was to donate the land, sell the lots, and use the proceeds from the sale of lots for the construction of public buildings such as a courthouse. In 1853, Dixon signed a bond for land he donated to the county for public buildings. This land, including some that Avery donated, became the County Addition to the City of Corvallis, platted in 1854. A bond had to be signed because Dixon did not yet have the patent to his claim. The County Addition consisted of 29 blocks. Lots may have actually been sold earlier, in 1853. In 1854, Dixon also platted Dixon’s Second Addition which added 13 blocks to the city.
In 1855, the first Benton County Courthouse was constructed from the proceeds from the sale of lots in the County Addition. The courthouse was built by George Wrenn. A jail was built in 1856 with the stonework and carpentry completed by E. E. Taylor and the brickwork by William Caldwell. In 1857, the courthouse square was enclosed by a fence and in 1861, the grounds were planted with 150 maple trees.
Corvallis as Capital
January 13, 1855, a bill was passed by the legislature removing the seat of territorial government from Corvallis to Jacksonville. Legislators' baggage and office equipment were moved up the Willamette on the steamer Canemah, which was received in Corvallis with a great demonstration. Asahel Bush, who had been publishing the Oregon Statesman at Salem, brought along his presses and issued the paper here. He said that Corvallis at the time had a
first-class courthouse [that is] is nearly completed. There is but one better in the territory—the one at Salem... The work on the Methodist Episcopal church here is well advanced; a couple of stores and quite a number of dwellings have also been erected here this summer.
Avery donated a two-story, wood-frame
on the northwest corner of Second and Adams streets for use by
Several concerns were raised by this move including the right of
government to make that type of decision without approval from
and the fact that the US Congress had appropriated the money for
Capitol Building which was almost completed in Salem.
Since the work had already begun on the public buildings at Salem, opposition to the change was very strong. Gov. George L. Curry referred the matter to the secretary of the treasury, Nathan H. Lane (1855-1856) who deemed the change inoperative until acted upon by Congress. Curry and Benjamin Harding (1855-1859) then removed their offices to Salem, and for the second time, Oregon had two capitals. Asahel Bush took his Oregon Statesman along with it.
December 3, 1855, both Houses convened at Corvallis, and the first bill, which was introduced December 6, was to relocate the seat of government at Salem. This bill became law December 15, 1855. The capital was removed to Salem.
December 18, 1855, the legislature met in Salem. By a strange coincidence the new State House in which the legislature met, was destroyed by fire on the night of December 29. Considering the sudden loss of the State House which contained the library and archives of the territory, the legislature decided to submit the question of locating the capital to popular vote at the next general election. If it appeared that no town had a clear majority of all the votes cast, a special election would be held the first Monday in October to decide between the two receiving the greatest number of cast votes.
At the general election held June 1856, Eugene and Corvallis had the most votes, but neither had a clear majority. As was provided for by the legislature, the final decision was to be made between the two cities at the popular election in October.
However, the picture was complicated by the fact that four counties failed to make election returns according to law, thus causing the votes to be tied between Eugene and Salem.
Naturally, the citizens of Corvallis were greatly incensed and the public was much disgusted. So, when the first Monday in October arrived, few people took the trouble to vote. In many places, no polls were opened at all. Five counties made no returns to the secretary.
As a result of this shabby election, Eugene received the largest majority of votes and became the seat of justice.
In the mid-1850s, Indian wars erupted in Southern Oregon. At least one regiment maintained headquarters in Corvallis. As a result of the Indian wars in Southern Oregon, government policy required the removal of Native Americans from that region. Reservations were created on public lands located in the Coast Range. One of these reserves, the Siletz Reservation, was located in what was then Benton County. "The government held that it was outlawry on either side." As a result, Fort Hoskins was built in King's Valley. Supplies for the fort were shipped to Corvallis until the fort was decommissioned in 1865.
In January 1857, the City of Corvallis was incorporated. J. B. Congle became the first mayor. Corvallis was the fourth incorporated city in the state. That same year, Avery platted Avery's Addition, located adjacent to and south of the original townsite.
By the time Oregon achieved statehood in 1859, Corvallis had a population of almost 500 people. Because mining activity has slowed, Corvallis experienced economic lassitude at this time. In the early 1860s, gold was discovered in Eastern Oregon and Idaho. While Corvallis was not on the direct route to the mines as it had been in the early 1850s, there was still a demand for resources of the area including grain, other foodstuffs and livestock. Individual wealth was increased for those finding a more lucrative market for their products and in some cases, by an actual trip to the mines.
In December 1861, there was a devastating Willamette River flood which "destroyed" the rival town of Orleans located across the river from Corvallis. Damage in Corvallis was not great. A warehouse was carried away and another started from its foundations.
Perhaps because of the number of lots and blocks platted in the 1850s met the demand for land, there was no real expansion of Corvallis in the 1860s even though the population had more than doubled during the decade from 1860-1870—from 53 in 1860 to 1,220 in 1870.
In the decade from 1870 to 1880, population growth slowed with a gain of only 576 people. In this decade, two additions were platted by J. C. Avery: Avery's Second Addition, consisting of five blocks, was platted in 1871; and Avery's Third Addition was platted in 1872. The end of the mining boom, the Panic of 1873, and the completion of the rail line through Albany, may have been among the reasons for the sluggish rate of "progress" in Corvallis in the 1870s. With the exception of its own railroad connection, however, Corvallis was poised on the brink of a new era. In 1879, The West Shore revealed that:
Since it has become a fixed fact that the Oregon Central Railroad will be extended to Corvallis, next summer, real estate has perceptibly enhanced in value, and is changing hands. Several new buildings will go up early in the spring, and various improvements will be made. With railroad connections, Corvallis is destined to be one of the liveliest and most desirable business places, as it is the handsomest, in Oregon.
Stagecoaches rumbled over the crude
and in 1856, workmen strung the city's first telegraph line to
metropolis. The following year the city was divided into wards,
ordinance was passed prohibiting people from riding horses on
The second newspaper, the Union, began publication in 1859 and
until 1862, when it was suppressed for disloyal utterances. It
immediately succeeded by the Gazette, which for a time in the
was owned and edited by Samuel Leonidas Simpson (1846-1899), the
Simpson has been called the "Burns of Oregon." His father, Benjamin Simpson, who was Scottish, was born in Tennessee, 1818. His mother was a granddaughter of Colonel Cooper, a companion of Daniel Boone (c1734-1820) in Kentucky.
In 1846, Simpson crossed the Great Plains to Oregon with his parents. His mother taught him the alphabet when he was four years old by tracing letters in the ashes on the hearthstone of the primitive cabin in Marion County in which the family lived.
The first poems he ever read were selections from a worn volume of Robert Burns (1759-1796) which were presented to him mother by John McLoughlin, at Oregon City, where the Simpson family spent the first winter. An occasional country school of three months afforded the only opportunity for the boy had for education until he was 15. Then he was employed in his father's sutler's store at Fort Yamhill, a military post near the Grand Ronde Reservation. Here he became acquainted with then 2nd Lt. Philip H. Sheridan (1831-1888), who gave him a copy of Lord Byron's (1788-1824) poems.
When he was 16, Simpson entered Willamette University in Salem, where he graduated In 1865. Soon afterwards he became editor of the Oregon Statesman, continuing there until the paper folded in 1886. He was admitted to the bar in 1867, but clients were few and the law was not to his liking. In 1868, he wrote his only popular piece, "Beautiful Willamette."
Benton County Mills
In May 1846, with his two sisters and
judge Augustus L. Humphrey, Jacob M. Currier migrated to Oregon.
Baker family and Joseph Alexander traveled West with them. The
in Corvallis, December 5, 1846. Currier took out a claim at
autumn of 1847.
In November, he enlisted in the army and fought under Cpt. John Owen in the Indian War that raged east of the Cascades.
He left for the California goldfields in the autumn of 1948, but returned to Oregon in 1849; and in 1850, he homesteaded a 1600 acre stock ranch in Corvallis.
Currier and his wife had seven children: William A., Manly C., Laura, Elizabeth II, John B., Sarah and Eva.
The first gristmill in Benton County, built prior to 1850, was known as the Herbert Mill. A very primitive operation, it was built on Beaver Creek near the Currier place. The meal, as it came from the burs, was carried up stairs and run through the bolt by hand; one man ran while the other put in the meal.
In 1853, Rowland Chambers built a gristmill at Kings Valley, and the town developed around it. The original wheel and several of the feed grinders were still in use in 1951. The power for the mill was furnished by the Luckiamute, named for the Lakmiut, a subdivision of the Calapooya, who made their homes on its banks.
Another gristmill was built some three miles further up Beaver Creek, in 1854. A sawmill was built in that same location in 1852, and in 1884 was removed to Monroe.
Herbert crossed the Great Plains in 1845, and settled in Benton County in 1847. John Foster and John Baker also settled on their claims in 1847, and Isaac Winkle settled on his claim in 1848.
In 1847, the Old California Trail crossed Marys River near the Eldridge Hartless place. It passed near the home of J. M. Currier, following the foothills, and continued up Long Tom River, which was dreaded by winter travelers. The low banks invariably overflowed at flood times, which made it appear to be an almost interminable swamp.
The same—or the following—year, Joseph White built a sawmill on Long Tom River in the vicinity of the town of Monroe. This mill made a great deal of lumber for a few years, and was the main supplier of lumber for all the surrounding country. By the time the mill needed repairs, the timber was exhausted and it was allowed to elapse into decay.
Water-powered mills, with up-and-down malay [sic] saws, cut the boards for Oregon's earliest houses. The first steam-driven mill, with a circular saw, was built in Portland in 1850, while teams of oxen were busy hauling logs down skidroads which are now Portland streets.
By 1890, when the exhaustion of the forests of the Great Lakes region was in sight, Oregon began to be prominent as a lumber state. The lumberjacks followed the timber west. It is common to find loggers in Oregon today whose fathers helped cut the pine of Michigan, and whose grandfathers helped fell and saw the spruce of Maine.
Timber owners built mills in the Willamette Valley and pushed logging railroads into the foothills.
United Brethren 1853
A company of 96 persons in 16 wagons
at Council Bluffs and started for Oregon May 7, 1853 under the
of Connor, and arrived in the Willamette Valley the following
Three other ministers, J. B. Litchenthaler, M. N. Crow and R.
as assistants. One member of the party, Br. David Mason, died
near the Samuel K. Barlow estate on the summit of the Cascades.
of the party arrived safely at their destination after a journey
Most of them settled in Benton County, where they established churches, and rigidly observed many of the rules of religious life established by the puritans. Regular attendance at church and the strict observance of Sunday as the sabbath were among their requirements. Furthermore, dancing was frowned upon, while simplicity of dress and plainness of manner were regularly taught from the pulpit. They believed in the "kinship of cleanliness and godliness" so thoroughly that Monday was set apart for putting their homes in order. Hence there were no schools in session on that day, but instead Sunday was observed as a school day. Christian education of the young was an important canon of their faith; therefore they were diligent in organizing church schools. They erected fine homes, and they prospered in the land of their pilgrimage. Many of the leading citizens of Oregon are descendants of that missionary band.
Sublimity Institute 1857
The Sublimity Institute, a preparatory school, was founded in 1857, at Sublimity, Oregon, by Rev. Jeremiah Kennoyer, a member of the United Brethren missionary colony. It was established as the preparatory school of the north district of the United Brethren church in Oregon. The school was prosperous for a number of years, then closed its doors for want of sufficient patronage. Sublimity Institute is remembered by many because of its first president, Rev. Milton Wright, who later was chosen bishop, and who also is widely known as the father of the famous aeronauts, Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912) Wright. The Wright brothers were born in Dayton, Ohio and Millville, Indiana, respectively.
The most important of the pietistic
in America was the Renewed Church of the United Brethren. The
was an evangelical branch of the old Hussite movement which had
in Moravia and Bohemia in the 15th century. Virtually stamped
Counter-Reformation, it had maintained a tenuous clandestine
until the early 18th Century. By the time Christian David
a few of the "hidden seed" and led them to a promised refuge on
of Count Nicholaus Ludwig Zinzendorf (1700-1760) in Saxony, the
Fratrum had retained its succession of apostolic bishops but
Gradually the settlement at Herrnhut grew. In the meantime, the count became increasingly interested in the Moravians and gradually identified himself with them, though seeking at the same time to convert them to the unique form of Lutheran pietism which he had developed after being trained in his youth at Halle. Zinzendorf considered their semi-monastic, semi-communal brotherhood as an ecclesiola within the ecclesia Augustana (Lutheran church) even after he was consecrated their "bishop" in 1737. He also broke away from the almost scholastic legalism of August Hermann Francke's (1663-1727) latter-day pietism, with its negative moralism and its highly ritualized conception of the order of salvation. Zinzendorf's emphasis on God's love for man as revealed in Christ was recognizably Lutheran, but his intense concentration on the passion of Christ tended to alienate him from the stricter sort of Lutherans, as did his insistence that his type of community could be affiliated to virtually any Christian church. Evangelism was a major Moravian concern from the first, as it was for nearly all pietists, and it was this that brought them to America—to minister to the American Indians—very soon after they had been recognized in Saxony.
The first party of Moravians destined for America sailed for Georgia in 1735 under the leadership of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg (1704-1792). their plans were to occupy lands made available by that colony's philanthropic trustees, and to evangelize the Creek and Cherokee. Their second voyage to the same place is even more memorable, since it was then that Spangenberg met a brilliant English high churchman who was also bound for Georgia to minister to the colonists and to convert the Indians—John Wesley (1703-1791). The passages in Wesley’s Journal which describe the character of the Moravians are justly famous. By a succession of Moravian contacts Wesley would be brought to his notable "conversion." Spangenberg's party, meanwhile, was led from Georgia to Philadelphia by George Whitefield (1714-1770), in whose employ they settled at Nazareth, where the great revivalist hoped to found a school for Africans. The Moravians were to construct the buildings; but as their theology clashed with Whitefield's increasingly firm Calvinism, the friendship turned to enmity, and the Moravians moved on to the lovely site Zinzendorf himself—newly arrived in the colonies516—named Bethlehem on Christmas Eve 1741.
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
Ethnic diversity in Bethlehem began
the town's founding, and they had marched purposefully into the
of the Pennsylvania colony to clear farmlands at the stunningly
place where the Minsi, a sub-tribe of the Delaware, had a ford
River. There the Moravians satisfied the three requirements that
a century of missionary-explorers had failed to find elsewhere
Asia, and the Caribbean: isolation for their closed
to the Indians, who would be missionized; and a beautiful
last was critical. In Jan Hus' (c1372-1415) mystical pietism,
of nature served as the clearest window into the soul of God.
Overnight, the banks of the Lehigh and its Monocacy Creek tributary were transformed from sylvan hunting grounds to a pietist experiment in which all land and capital were the property of the church. European nobles and the university-educated mingled with artisans and rural peasants in one of many early American experiments in social harmony. Multistory buildings constructed of massive logs, then brick and stone, rose quickly. In a nearby valley the Moravians built a complex of industrial buildings that included a tannery (1743), iron forge (1750), and waterworks (1754).
By 1748 there were Moravian congregations in 31 localities; and about 50 Indian missions and itinerant preachers, with circuits ranging from Maine to the Carolinas, were being supported. At the heart of this whole American enterprise were the thriving semi-communistic settlements at Nazareth and Bethlehem, where over 30 industries and several farms were in operation. Between 1753 and 1763 a similar colony was begun at Salem, North Carolina, with southern responsibilities. These communities were by no means simply self-centered utopias. All of their surplus was contributed to the support of the Moravian work in Europe and to their large missionary program among the American Indians. The Moravian economy soon ran headlong into the reality of life on the expanding frontier. Ownership of land and the right to settle in Bethlehem was still retained by the church, but in 1792 a lease system allowed private ownership of family dwellings and workshops. An increasingly private economy evolved as the community's exclusive nature eroded on various fronts. Beginning in 1827, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Canal, built to transport anthracite to Philadelphia, was cut along the northern bank of the river.
By 1844, the church-village lease system was abolished and private land could be sold to non-Moravians. In 1855 the railroad arrived—eventually with direct links to Philadelphia and New York, critical to the success of new industries along the Lehigh's south bank. Then, iron ore was discovered just south of Bethlehem and by 1860 the Bethlehem Iron Company broke ground for the first blast furnace along the railroad tracks.
Bethlehem made the nation’s first steel rails and pioneered the mean to roll what became the company's highly desired structural steel, and by 1887 it was supplying the navy with ordnance and armor plating. All this from a once pacifist community that had refused to join the Revolutionary War!
The Moravians never succeeded in entering American life as an influential church movement, despite the unique way in which they blended churchly and sectarian traditions. They were hindered at the outset by Zinzendorf's grandiose ecumenical projects, and then for a century they were cramped by the supervision of authorities in Germany. The border wars in the West from the 1750s through the War of 1812, and still later, Andrew Jackson's (1767-1845) removal of the Cherokee, brought tragedy and disruptions to their Indian missions. They remained a relatively static movement, numbering about 3,000 in 1775, 8,275 in 1858, about 20,000 in 1895, and over 60,000 in 1965, scattered widely across the country, but still concentrated in Pennsylvania. Their largest influence in America probably came through the Wesleys, but more intrinsic to the Unitas Fratrum has been its characteristic form of pietism, its devotional literature, and a tradition of hymnody and church music that would make its mark on many churches in Europe and America.
Philomath College: 1865-1929
Located about five miles west of
on US Route 20, Philomath received its name from Philomath
in 1865 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ as a
institution devoted to the liberal arts and ministerial
in 1867, the college held an important place in the educational
of the state until 1929.
The Greek word Philomath means a "lover of learning," an "astrologer" or "prognosticator." About the time the college was started, post office was applied for, and named for the college. Philomath post office was established July 14, 1868, with George W. Henkle (1842-? IA) serving as first postmaster.
In 1849, George W. Bethers (1821-? OH), who lived on a donation land claim one and a half miles southwest of Corvallis, wrote a letter to the Religious Telescope, the official paper of the Unitas Fratrum published at Dayton, Ohio, asking for a preacher for the Marys River settlement in Benton County. The letter was published and the Indiana Conference meeting at Hartsville decided to send missionaries to Oregon. The two men chosen for this were Thomas J. Connor (1821-? OH) and Jeremiah Kennoyer. Rev. Connor was made head of the mission and was given $1,000 towards expenses. Kennoyer, a physician, received $150 towards his expenses.
Marys River Settlements 1849
In 1849, when Bethers wrote in his
the district, known as the Marys River Settlements, was roughly
of Benton County which is bounded on the east by the Willamette,
north by the Oak Creek Hills, and on the south by Marys River
west along the tributaries of this stream. Practically all of
land has been taken and the better lands in the hills were
claimed. The total pallid population of the state was probably
The Brethren lost no time in meeting to consider forming a congregation, under Connor's leadership. They first gathered at Mount Union School—named for Union Mountain—southeast of Philomath. The school building stood on top of the hill, just across from the gateway entrance to Mount Union Cemetery.
The land for Mount Union Cemetery near Philomath was either given of sold for a token amount by former slave, Reuben Shipley (1799-1873), with the provision that blacks could be buried there. Shipley died in 1873 of smallpox and is buried at the cemetery he helped create.
Shipley had been a slave in Missouri, according to Mark Phinney of Corvallis, who interviewed John B. Horner, professor of history. His master, Robert Shipley, trusted him to a large share in the training of his sons, whose Mother had died, and he was regarded as almost one of the family. When Shipley decided to come to Oregon, he promised Reuben his freedom if he would drive a team of oxen on the road. Reuben left a wife in Missouri who died before he could send money for her. After he purchased his freedom, he was employed by Eldridge Hartless (1816-? VA), who settled one mile south of Philomath in 1846. Hartless was quite well-to-do and had many cattle. In a few years Reuben had saved $1,500, and with a part of it he bought a farm where Mount Union Cemetery and Mount Union School are now located.
Now Col. Nathaniel Ford, who settled in Rickreall in Polk County in 1844, owned a young black woman named Mary Jane (c1830-c1930). Ford allowed Reuben to marry this woman and take her to his farm. Then, having learned that Shipley had money, he came without knowledge to his non-colored friends, and made him believe that he must purchase his fiance's freedom, which he did for $700.
Reuben and Mary Jane reared a large family— Wallace, Ella, Thomas, Martha, Nellie and Edward—on their 80 acre farm four miles west of Corvallis. Reuben was industrious and Mary Jane was a splendid housekeeper and the family entered into the life of the church and the community without too much consideration of the question of social equality.
When William Wyatt (1816-? England), another pioneer spoke of the hill on Reuben Shipley's farm as a likely place for a cemetery, Reuben agreed to give two acres for that purpose if he might be buried there. This two acres donated in 1861 was the beginning of Mount Union Cemetery where many of the pioneers of Benton County are buried. Reuben is there among them. According to Benton County Archives, page 18, he died in 1873 at the age of 74. His wife Mary Jane lived in Benton County until 1880. In after years she married Alfred Drake and lived well into the third decade of the 20th Century.
The African Iron Age
Like so many freedmen resettled in the Far West, Shipley many have been a blacksmith. This coincidence brings to mind the African Iron Age (1150-600 BC) and the sorcery of iron working. In the Mande cultures of West Africa, the technical skills and secret knowledge required to produce a medium carbon steel gave blacksmith unrivaled power. This was a world that had shifted almost overnight from the mobile camps and hamlets of the Stone Age to Iron Age cities rivaling in size any in the world. At sites such as Jenne-jeno, discrete communities of craftsmen, including smiths, could be recognized in the separate satellites clustered together. Clearly, landscapes of the past—be they of the Mande, the Delaware transformed by pietists, or 19th Century capitalists—were incredibly malleable.
The Union Class
The Brethren at the meeting called
the "Union Class."
It was in one of those schoolhouses that the plans for the building of Philomath College were formulated.
The minutes of that meeting read,
by mutual agreement a number of citizens of Benton County, Oregon met at Maple Grove schoolhouse on the 14th day of February 1865, to take into consideration the propriety of trying to build up a high school or an institution of learning of some kind in their midst.
A committee of three was appointed to
up a subscription for the purposes of purchasing land and
all of which was to be offered to the Oregon Conference of the
church. This subscription was to be made in five equal payments.
subscription was for $300, the smallest for $3. There are 31
The total amount raised or pledged was $12,000. Another $3,000 was pledged for the purpose of erecting a building. The total value offered to the church was placed at $17,500.
The land was purchased and a Board of Trustees organized. The board itself was composed of five committees: permanent organization, naming the institution, locating the college site and material for the college building and out-lots and terms of sale.
The committee on building site selected the place where the main building now stands. It was determined to build of brick, but the size and plans were left to the executive committee. An eight acre tract was reserved for the school, and the remainder was divided into lots varying in size to actual settlers only to safeguard the "moral surroundings" of the school. A special clause was placed in each deed forbidding grog shops, gambling saloons or theaters ever to be located or allowed upon the premises covered by such sales.
It was decided at a meeting held in the courthouse on November 22, 1865, to let a contract for 200,000 bricks to the lowest responsible bidder, no later than the first of the following February. On February 1, 1866, a contract for 50,000 bricks was awarded to Lewis Wilson (1836-? IL) at a rate of $6.95 per thousand. He was asked to put up a bond of $1,000 to guarantee completion of the job. The board had decided by this time to build only the center portion of the planned building for the present hence the small number of bricks contracted for.
The board had already discovered the difficulty of turning its land and subscription resources into ready cash.
The school opened its doors in October 1867. The enrollment the first day was about 100 students. Because there were not many students ready to begin college-level studies, all grades were taught in the school. The work offered the first few years was of a preparatory or secondary school nature until such time as pupils had advanced to their college standard. As rapidly as work was needed to meet the requirements of advanced pupils, new courses were added to the curriculum.
In 1884, the pressures of the new "moral school movement" could be felt. To meet this demand for special training for teachers, a three year normal course was put on the curriculum. The aim of this normal course was declared to be to meet the demand of well-drilled teachers in the public schools, and to fit students for principalships in high schools. An effort was made to cooperate with state and county superintendents in final examinations.
Sponsors of Philomath College
the establishment of factories, as it was feared that the "moral
of the community would be lowered by the influx of an industrial
The town grew up about the college and drew its support from the
and lumbering activities of the adjacent district. Attempts to
processing plants for fruits, vegetables and milk were not
the early half of the century.
The Benton County Review, the only newspaper in the county outside Corvallis, was established in 1904 (the same year Bethlehem Iron Company was rechartered as Bethlehem Steel Corporation), and is still published weekly.
When state supported colleges were developed, officials from the state came to Philomath to talk with the Philomath College administrators about making the college a state school. The college had been started as a Christian college and the people who were in control wanted to keep it that way. They also wanted to keep control of the school, so state officials could see that it just wouldn’t work to make Philomath College a state school. The close proximity of Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) in Corvallis, combined with the non-accreditation and higher tuition of Philomath College helped to eventually kill the school.
The split between the
and the "liberals" left the former without access to the
J. C. Keezel was among the prominent traditionalists. When the group decided to build their own edifice, it became known as Keezel Chapel. The house of worship was dedicated December 2, 1890. Unfortunately, fire destroyed it in February 1893, after slightly two years of use.
A new chapel was constructed. Again fire left it in ruins October 1905. Still another chapel was erected and dedicated in 1907, under the direction of the Rev. Walter Reynolds. This white frame structure stands much as it did in 1907 at East College and 14th streets. In the back of the church, a small parish hall has been added. Next door to the church, an attractive parsonage has been built.
On the college grounds were also a dorm built in 1877, and a gymnasium, built in 1902-1903. The gym was used by high school students when a separate high school was finally built. The gym was built in two sections. The front half was built first, and was used for a library and social science classes. After basketball became so popular with both men and women, the back portion was built to house a basketball court.
Old Gym Torn Down
Very soon after the college closed down in June 1929, the Erwin family of Philomath bought the old gym. He took it down very carefully, saving all the material. He then built a two story house from that material on the corner of 11th and Applegate streets. The house is still standing.
Dorm Building Torn Down
The Stanton family lived in the dorm
for quite a long time. Then the college officials sold it to the
family, which carefully took down the dorm and built three very
and two room rentals on the corner of 12th and Pioneer streets.
right by the railroad tracks and are completely gone now.
The selection of classes offered at the college was very diverse. Foreign languages, especially German, were taught in commemoration of the sect's Moravian roots. Greek and Latin, natural sciences, and botany were taught, as were special women's classes in history and literature. Many of the classes were designed to prepare students for theological seminary, since so many of them wished to carry on their traditional roles as missionaries and ministers. The college was never fully accredited, so credits were not transferable to state schools.
True to the Brethren's pietist beginnings, strict rules of decorum were enforced at Philomath College during the late 1800s. Study hours were carefully prescribed, leaves of absence were required, card playing, dancing, liquor and profanity were strictly forbidden. "Proper behavior" at all times was demanded, and students were required to attend at least one religious service each sabbath.
However, the influence of the school was not lessened by the positive character of its moral and religious instruction. Prof. Henry Sheak, who was connected with the college for most of its existence, was noted as the “Father of Local Option” in Oregon.
After the old college closed in 1929, the building and the property around it was deeded to the local congregation of the United Brethren church. In 1938, that became the Evangelical United Brethren through a merger. The land was actually deeded to the local members of the church, to get it out of the hands of those who didn't live around Philomath and who didn't really care about the old college building. Now that the church is officially United Methodist, it naturally has become officially United Methodist property.
Some of the people who were involved in getting the new building built were all set to have the old church razed.
But others had different ideas. They felt the building should be preserved if it was at all practical. That group collected $2,500 and engaged a firm of architects from Portland who specialized in this kind of work. They were "outsiders," so they had no vested interest in the building, and it was felt they would give an honest opinion.
Among other things, the architects said that if the present United Methodist church building was deserted as the old building had been, and left uncared for with no heat or lights, the old building would still be standing when the new building was gone.
The church members then began their efforts to preserve the building. There are still those who feel the old college building should be torn down, but they were outnumbered by those who were working to save it with funds from the State Bicentennial Commission and the contributions of local residents.
West of Philomath Junction the highway
parallels the Newport Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
was built in the early 1880s under the name of Oregon Pacific
and was originally intended to extend from deep water at Yaquina
across the Coast Range, the Cascade Range, and the high desert
with the Oregon Short Line on Snake River near Ontario. In 1859,
to Dennis H. Stovall, the author of numerous children's stories,
Henkle (1844-? IA) led a party to the coast near Newport and on
to the valley the Henkle party blazed the trail that later
traveled highway into the Yaquina Bay Country. In the early
granted lands to the “Corvallis and Acquinna Bay Military Wagon
incorporated in 1863 with a capital stock of $5,000. Eight years
the stock was increased to $300,000. It was operated as a toll
1872, Col. T. Egenton Hogg incorporated the Corvallis and
Company. The first train over the new road, rechristened the
was in March 1885; and connections with steamers from Yaquina
Francisco began on September 14 of that same year. The line now
only as a freight feeder for the Southern Pacific.
Post Office at Philomath
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
Wallis Nash, a friend of William
(1809-1898) and Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and other celebrated
of history, was a lawyer in England in 1887 where one of his
interested in checking up on a financial proposition in the US.
to do with the proposition of the Oregon Pacific Railroad and
sent to make an investigation. He was so impressed with the
of the country that when he returned to England he wrote a
Oregon, There and Back in 1877. The Gazette of that time was
old. His report to this client was so satisfactory and his
the country so remarkable that though he was reared in London
among the best social circles of that capital of the world, he
wife and children packed up their effects and joined the trek to
section of the New World.
"Nash's life is impressed on the Willamette Valley history especially that of Benton County (and Lincoln County) and in 1918 at Nashville, he wrote a book entitled, A Lawyer's Life on Two Continents. Because that book contains in one of its chapters a very vivid account of Corvallis as it appeared in 1877, we thought it of interest to reproduce it here. The following account, therefore, is Nash's own description of Corvallis and its environs as they existed in that early period:
On May 17, 1879, we arrived in
at the end of our months journey from England. We traveled up
from Portland on a stern wheel river boat, which carried a
of passengers, some horses, a cow or two, more than one hack or
some wagons and plows, and filled up with groceries and good
The season was unusually late, and the streets of the little town were ankle deep in mud, crossed by plants a foot wide. From the boat landing we crossed to the board hotel on the far side—the mud-filled gutter being cluttered up with the just cut off heads of a dozen hogs from the butcher's shop adjoining the hotel, thrown in there to get them out of the way. No one took account of the hogs' heads in those days, not of calves heads, nor of sweet breads, or other internal organs of the slaughtered animals. They were just thrown away regardless of where they might fall.
A house was being built for us on the slope above the town, but it was not quite ready. Meanwhile, we stayed at the Vincent Hotel, except out two selves who were taken to a friends’s house who had been advised of our coming. And in the face of all this my wife lost neither her poise nor her courage, and actually prospered on hardships and discomforts.
Ms. Vincent proved to be a very friendly soul, and soon made the whole crowd welcome. They all ate heartily and there were no complaints of the food. In those days Corvallis consisted of a wide street built up with one or two story houses, four saloons, and half a dozen churches; a courthouse, surrounded by oak and fir trees, and a two story schoolhouse for the public schools, and another schoolhouse and a church owned by the South Methodist church, the school being called the Oregon Agricultural College, and receiving the emoluments provided by the US. The majority of the storekeepers were of Jewish nationality, as was commonly the case in Oregon in those days. Oregon was a young state indeed, 1859 being the year of its state nativity; its population was small, and largely of recent immigration from the Southern states following the Civil War. To this day the people are wonderfully, reasonably, proud of their pioneers, a group of whom still survive. In the community were several lawyers and physicians, a couple of dentists, some school teachers, many store keepers, four or five saloon keepers, two flour millers, barbers, whose shops were, in winter and summer, the clubs of the community. There was a minister and his family for nearly every church, who eked out a living on the contributions of their church members. The Firemen's Club was an active organization and a Coffee Club Auxiliary supplied coffee to the men when there was not infrequent fire. Saturday was the busy day of the week, when the neighboring farmers came into town and tied long rows of wagons to the hitching posts near the courthouse. The most prosperous were the saloon keepers, for they took in the larger part of the farmer’s earnings—and there were card games in nearly all the saloons. There were two newspapers, and how they survived and managed to pay for paper, ink, and compositor’s wages was a standing mystery to me.
Most of the early squatters had taken out donation land claims. Under those laws a man could settle on the claim 320 acres. Surveys of the land were in progress but by no means complete, and the earlier maps showed the oddest jumble of lines and cross lines. Conflicts of claims were not rare; but the settlers were not, as a rule, contentious and disputes were generally peacefully settled. The 12 mile belt between Corvallis and Yaquina Bay had all been surveyed, the mile sections marked, and the alternate sections set apart for the Land Company. So my earliest duty was to examine these alternate sections and determine which should be prepared for immediate sale and settlement. Roads and byroads and wagon and horse trails must be opened up.
Of course each of the boys must have a horse, and then the working party must be fitted out. This being done we all started for the section of land, some 12 miles west of Corvallis where the work would probably be begun. There were seven in the party besides myself, eight horses—one a pack—and a tent. An ax for everybody, a "grub hoe" or two and a few shovels were the tools, and food for a week at least. Every boy had his rifle, except the known workers—for the English set believed, I think, that Indians or at least bears and cougars, were lurking in every foothill wood.
The Village Smithy
Along the road was a sign nailed to a tree, Blacksmith Shop. At a settler's house of fray old boards and mossy shingles I found the blacksmith, old Mark Savage, an ancient settler. He was not at all glad to see the men. I wondered why. He made it plain when he said, "You fellers goin' to settle this place up?" I told him, "Maybe, but it won't be now." He answered in soliloquy, "Well, it don't matter much, I can move on in further, I guess—the darn place is getting took thick for me anyhow—there's folks within a half a mile of me whichever way I turn." I comforted him and he stayed on till the gangs of the railroad construction came, and his old shop was much used, for he was a good workman.
Near our house, on lots which were
the site of the new Corvallis public school stood a two storied
structure in which a week day school was held for pupils who
for their teaching. The lots had been donated by an old resident
Bishop Benjamin Wistar Morris, for the benefit of the Episcopal
The ground floor room was used for the school, the upper room
for services of the Protestant Episcopal church. It was bare
for rough wooden benches, and an equally rough alter rail. There
organ or other instrument, and a scanty supply of prayer and
Services were held when a minister of the church came over from
in Albany, 12 miles off. There was a small and irregular
two or three families of dyed-in-the-wool Episcopalians, but the
of those families were devoted to the English church. Naturally
or attendants of the English church we found our way to that old
on the first Sunday after our arrival in Corvallis. Fortunately
minister had come over for the service so familiar to us. He
then made friends. Doubtless he advised bishop Morris of the
folks to his church, and soon after the bishop came to see us.
the first of very many visits, when, for 13 years he made our
headquarters on his frequent rounds of Episcopal visitations.
Once his friend always thereafter his friend, was the motto of the life of Bishop Morris, the second of the bishops of Oregon. In the old country, men of his rank in the church were rare birds to the common people, scarcely seen except in lawn sleeves and black cassock behind the communion rails, whether in cathedral or in the every day church of the common people. Here we had a bishop of a new type. Shall I tell how he impressed us, both at first and after, until the end of our long friendship came by his death in Harness? Well, he was, when we knew him, an elderly man of medium shape and build, a gentle face, blue gray eyes, uncut hair and beard. His hair was grizzled and rough, his manners very friendly and unassuming. Pretension was to him unthinkable, he was naturalness itself. His itinerary was laid out by him to reach the most distant homes of his people, across deserts, mountains, lumber camps, fishing stations, mines, and just one church family was attraction enough. He rode on railroads, stage coaches, mail routes, on horseback, in farmer's wagons. His equipment was his own bag, which held his Episcopal robes, neatly folded, and a black jacket by way of change from his every day long coat; this in addition to his night clothing filled it. He wore a soft black hat, and always carried a thick gray Scottish plaid. He was his own apparitor, and many times, he told me, put on his robes in a fence corner when he arrived at the crossroads schoolhouse where he was to preach. Even when his original diocese had been halved by the setting apart of Washington, his jurisdiction covered the whole 96,000 square miles of Oregon, and his mind was ever on enlisting and providing for fresh soldiers in the very little army of ministers spread over the immense domain. He bore with him the "care of all churches," for he was the universal referee in all troubles of church and people, and what he could do for Oregon at large he did. In the truest sense he now "rests from his labor and his works do follow him." If today we look out in Portland on the great Good Samaritan Hospital, and ask who founded and first built and established it, the answer is Bishop Morris. If we see the efficient and well attended Saint Helen's Hall in that city, with its scores of girls from all parts of Oregon, the same question meets the same reply. As in the great, so in the little; the town and village churches sprinkled over Oregon where the Protestant Episcopal prayer book is used, and an Episcopal Sunday school is collected, most of them had Bishop Morris not only for their founder, but for their frequent visitor. An extra attention to me was that the bishop was a first rate and established fly-fisher.
Nash Visits Corvallis
With my wife I paid a visit to
last January. We walked out westward from the town over smooth
roads. The big house we lived in had disappeared, its place
by Waldo Hall, which held 150 students of the college. The
on the 30 acre farm and outbuildings, crops, fences, and rushy
where our boys used to wait for wild ducks in the in the winter
Now we saw in front of us a great green campus, bounded and
with handsome trees and shrubs, with a large, brick building in
of the view, with flagstaff and the stars and stripes above it
the breeze. Other large and costly buildings showed at intervals
the campus, till we counted them to a total of 13, housing the
of the great college. That was not all, for on the lower ground
left was the rounded roof of the great drill hall and armory,
long, and wide to match, where 1,500 men could maneuver in
winter rains swept the outside parade ground.
The rise of all was in the old Corvallis College of 1868 to which the legislature of that day attached the magic name of OAC that the state might thereby make good claim to gifts and endowments that Congress had set aside for each state in the union. The Corvallis College of the South Methodist church was a good school in its day, with many young pupils and about ten or 12 students in agricultural college classes. The three professors were abundantly able to handle the number of pupils and students attending.
But one of the conditions of the national gift was that each state accepting it should provide adequate buildings and equipment. This the South Methodist church was quite unable to do. During those 15 or 16 years it dawned on the people of Oregon that in their state agricultural college they had an inheritance of untold value, but that no adequate growth was possible while the then existing conditions endured. So by the year 1884 the legislature let it be known that if the citizens of Corvallis and their friends desired the continuance of OAC in their city, and would be subscribing about $30,000 for new buildings and equipment it would be found that the South Methodist church would surrender their control and that the state could thereafter own and operate its own agricultural college.
It took a hard pull to raise that $30,000. To it Col. T. Egerton Hogg (1828-1898) and his friends contributed freely. But it was accomplished, and then we joined to frame the new constitution of the college and to get the legislature to pass it into a law. We had good help. Judge Reuben S. Strahan of Albany, afterwards one of the supreme court justices, and Judge Martin Luther Pipes, a circuit judge, still and for years past a well known member of the Portland bar, were associated with me in that work. The legislature duly passed it; the South Methodist church ultimately, and not very graciously accepted it, and the governor nominated and the Senate accepted the first board of reagents, of whom I was one, holding office for a maximum of nine years, the governor, secretary of state, and superintendent of public instruction being ex-officio members.
So we had a title, 30 acres of land near Corvallis, and $30,000 in the bank, on which to construct the OAC.
The congressional acts defined the scope of these colleges—their charter being known generally as the Morrill Land Grant College Act (1862), after Senator Justin Smith Morrill (1810-1898) of Vermont, and the father of them all.
These colleges were "to give instruction in agriculture and the mechanic arts, not forgetting subjects necessary for a liberal education." But the most important provision was added to the curriculum, "including military tactics."
Letters were written to every agriculture college in the US, asking for their latest reports, for details of their faculties, their duties and pay, their income and legislative appropriations, and any notes of their experience that might be of use to us. Nothing could exceed the fullness and the kindness of the replies that poured in.
The fact that members of the present faculty, who came then to Oregon at our invitation, or followed positions, testified to my statement that we have held through the years a wise, loyal, and contented faculty.
So, in 1887, the doors of the college were opened and about 76 students responded. The growth has been steady and remarkable. This especially since the election of the present president, Dr. William Jasper Kerr, who came to us from Utah ten years ago. The advance from the original 76 in 1887 to upwards of 400 in 1907 was more than proportionate to the growth of population and resources of Oregon. But what shall we say to the figures given to the board of reagents by Dr. Kerr in October of 1917? The enrollment of students in that year so far was 1,802 as against 1,848 on the corresponding date in the previous year. The slight decrease was due to the enlistment of several hundred OAC boys as officers in the service of the nation, of whom 204, cadet officers responded to the first call.
Nash Visits Newport
A few weeks ago we were once again on the Pacific Coast. We had passed through Newport to the little inn, standing on the brink of the rough rocks overhanging the beating waves many feet below. Cape Foulweather and its lighthouse stood ten miles to the south of us, and we had passed it on our drive along the sands. But our inn was on the edge of the forest of giant spruce that stretched north, south, and east to the limits of Lincoln County. We ran across camp after camp of the timber men in khaki that were spread here, there, and everywhere, over that forest treasure land. Centuries had served to stop up the US' service in the great war whose reserves now at last available. At last the Yaquina harbor and bar were being improved by the joint provision of the nation and our Oregon ports. As two new railroads were being rushed across the tide flats to carry the airplane spruce to the great mills just ready to be set to work, more than 2,000 government workers had already been sent there. There steamboats on the Bay and every scow, barge, and launch were taken into use. The trains on our railroad were drowned. The resources of the Bay region were at last unlocked and in the service of the nation. What mattered it that I spent and wished that the colonel had been spared to see the fruits of his wasted energy, for I am all but the sole survivor of those who believed in and worked for the Oregon Pacific Railroad.
Oregon State College
The history of Oregon State College
and of the Corvallis Gazette-Times is almost contemporaneous.
for the establishment of the land-grant colleges, in fact, was
fixed in the very year the Gazette-Times started, through the
the Morrill Act in 1862 by President Lincoln.
As early as 1851 the territorial legislature of Oregon had taken action founding the territorial university of Marysville, and within the next three years material was assembled to erect the first building of the university on the approximate site of Doctor Margaret Snell Hall. Removal of the state capital from Salem to Corvallis by action of the legislature of 1855, however, was accompanied by parallel action relocating the territorial university of Jacksonville. Though nothing seems to have been done toward establishing the university in that community, the property of the incipient institution at Corvallis was ordered sold at auction, land the state capitol was soon restored to Salem.
But educational initiative at Corvallis did not wane. The community started a new academy in 1856; the state legislature issued it a charter in 1858 under the name of Corvallis College (CC) and ten years later designated it the land-grant institution of Oregon. At the time it was controlled by the Methodist Episcopal church, south, and occupied the site at 5th and Madison streets now beautified by the modern building of that church. The present state college site, a donation from the citizens of Benton County, with its first building, "Old Administration," was not made ready for occupancy until the year 1887.
While degrees had been granted as early as 1870, and regularly thereafter except for the year 1877, the development of the state college took on a new impetus with the beginning of exclusive control by the state in 1885 and the establishment of the new campus immediately following.
In his address at the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of Harvard, Pres. James Bryant Conant (1893-1978) emphasized the fact that the real greatness of that oldest of American universities had been achieved within the past 50 years, and referred to the date 1885, when the original seal of the university, bearing the motto "veritas," was finally readopted as the official emblem, as "just when Harvard was developing into a great modern university." In other words, the great services of higher educational institutions to society have been the product of the period of scientific research back only about half a century. Hence OSC, in respect to its start, has had an even break with the best of them.
Seven presidents have directed the development of OSC since its establishment in the 1860s. Their term of office have varied from a single year to more than a quarter of a century. Rev. William A. Finley, AM, first president, a pioneer of large faith, served from 1865-1871. B. L. Arnold, AM, PhD, a notable classical scholar, had control from 1871-1892. John M. Bloss, AM, MD, presided from 1892-1896. H. B. Miller, a member of the board of reagents, took charge for one year, 1896-1897. He was followed by Thomas M. Gatch, AM, PhD, a widely known college president, who had already served in a similar capacity at the University of Washington and Willamette University. He continued in control until his retirement in the spring of 1907, a ten year period of notable advancement for the college in income, property, faculty personnel, research, and curricular development.
Then came the long and extinguished administration of William Jasper Kerr, SSC, LLD, who served as president from 1907-1908 to 1933-1934. (From 1932, when he became chancellor of the unified Oregon State System of Higher Education, until January 1934, when presidents were selected for the state school and the university, he performed the function of president as well as chancellor.) During his administration and that of his successor, George W. Peavy, MSF, ScD, LLD, who had already served on his faculty for 24 years, the state college made remarkable advances in all phases of educational and scientific activity in which it was engaged. So evident and so distinctive during this period, in fact, that no less an authority than Dr. Edward C. Elliott, president of Purdue University, in a public address, expressed himself as happy "to bear sincere testimony of that laborship, and of that leadership, by which OSC has become to be known the world over."
At this stage of the institution's development under Peavy, it would, it would be almost an act of dismemberment to separate the three and a half years of his administration from the preceding 27 years of Kerr's administration. For more than a quarter of a century, Peavy had directed the division of forestry at OSC. In addition to that principal function, he was for many years head of the president's most important faculty committee dealing with student life, the Student Affairs Committee. He was thus not only familiar with Kerr's standards and ideals for enriching student living on the campus, he was also the most immediate and potent factor in determining and applying administrative politics concerning students. When the office of dean of men was established, Peavy naturally retired from active leadership in student affairs on an all-campus basis; but the college-wide scope of his vision was definitely fixed by that significant experience. Because of it, too, the students in Forestry, from the standpoint of good fellowship, application of the main business of a college career, and a clear-cut sense of honor, have always reflected the temper of their dynamic dean, who helped so vitally to develop the traditions and objectives of the "Beaver Spirit." From the point of view of length of service, moreover, Peavy at the time of his election to the presidency was the senior dean, and as such became chairman of the Administrative Council when Kerr became chancellor. For these and other potent reasons, the administrative politics of OSC for the past 30 years have been essentially a unit. Let us glance at the results.
In 1907 when William Kerr came to the presidency of the state college there was only a narrow fringe of buildings along the front campus, extending north and south of "Old Administration," with Waldo Hall just completed on the south campus and Cauthorn Hall (now Kidder Hall) standing all alone among the fields back of 26th Street. Today, George Peavy administers activities in 40 substantial buildings, grouped for the most part in imposing quadrangles arranged according to fundamental plans evolved in 1908 and 1924 by landscape architects of national distinction.
The property of the institution in 1907 was valued at less than half a million dollars; today the inventory is conservatively totaled at more than seven and a half million. College lands comprised an aggregate of 224 acres in 1907; today the block of land included in the campus and experiment station plot at Corvallis totals 566 acres; while 134 acres of farm lands in Benton County are also owned by the institution and throughout the state, including forest properties, the Peavy Arboretum, and the various branch station farms, the college owns and utilizes a total of 6,159 acres. Leased lands used for various purposes, chiefly research, include 3,958 additional acres.
Student enrollment in 1907, exclusive of sub-freshmen and short-course students numbering about 300, totaled less than 600; the enrollment of the past year, all high school and college graduates, of course, numbered 4,150.
Courses of study offered in 1907 differed little from the usual classical college of the periods, though for many years a somewhat experimental superstructure of agricultural science and home economics—the first to be developed in the Pacific Northwest—and a similar initial program of engineering—the first in the Northwest—has been bravely struggling for parity with the more accepted types of higher education. Today OSC, as the scientific and technical institution of the State System of Higher Education, offers a standard collegiate program leading to baccalaureate and superior degrees in science, including the biological and physical sciences and mathematics; in agriculture, in education, in engineering and industrial arts, in forestry, in home economics and in pharmacy, and a four-year curriculum leading to the bachelor's degree in secretarial science, a technical division of business administration. At the state college also, in addition to curriculum in science on a lower division, upper division and graduate level, all essential phases of the liberal arts and sciences are offered on the lower division level, freshmen and sophomore years, with a view to insure to all students the foundations of a general education. This conforms to the principle, adopted as one of the foundation stones of the Unified State System of Higher Education, that unspecialized lower division work in all the arts and sciences should be available to all students in the system.
In addition to these facilities for instruction, agencies for research include the General Research Council, the Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Engineering Experiment Station, and agencies for extension include the General Extension Division and Cooperative Extension in agriculture and home economics, conducted jointly by the US Department of Agriculture, OSC, and the State of Oregon and its several counties.
The academic training and productive scholarship of members of the faculty has greatly increased from year to year. This has been especially marked during the past decade. When the survey report was compiled, the commission reported that the faculty of OSC included 38 members whose highest academic degree was the doctorate, while 115 had earned master's or professional degrees of equal rank. The catalog of 1937-1938 lists 86 members of the faculty with doctorate degrees and 115 with master's and equivalent professional degrees. The productive output of the faculty in scholarly publication has shown corresponding development, with an impressive list of books, bulletins, scientific, technical and general articles in periodicals and professional journals.
Evidence of results of the leadership of the college are many and convincing, such as the notable results in research, the sweeping effects of the county agent and home demonstration leadership, with every county in the state supporting and receiving the benefits of this service; the remarkable progress of the 4-H Club movement, with its membership of more than 20,000, its summer sessions enrolling more than 1500 club winners, and its unprecedented record of leaders in national contests, including four winners of the Moses trophy since 1927. In other fields of leadership, including forensics, technical writing, and designing, students of the state college have won regional and country-wide honors.
All these evidences of progress imply a solidarity founded on mutual confidence and loyalty between the faculty and the administration, on the one hand, and between the students and the faculty, on the other. This is a bond that has prevailed at OSC for 30 years. It grew in strength and tenacity each decade. It is still growing. And out of it springs the spirit that has distinguished the institution quite as notably in its atmosphere as in its contribution to the wealth of the state. For primarily the institution is dedicated to serve its constituency—the state and nation. This involves good citizenship. It involves, too, the audacity to put the emphasis on responsibility first and rights afterwards; but never lose sight of the main objective, service. Whether or not OSC has profited from this policy is another matter; at least it has been its conviction and its glory.
Education in Oregon 1882
A common notion prevails that
Oregon is compulsory. It is compulsory in the sense that
way of schoolhouses and trained teachers, and superintendents by
and clerks, are provided by the state, and paid for by the
the county tax. It is not compulsory in the sense that so many
school attendance can be enforced against parents or children by
authority. Much is done; a strong and general interest is shown;
is not spared, even when expenditure is severely felt; but still
both in town and in the country escape the educational net.
There is a
state superintendent of education; there are county
are many schools and teachers; and there are universities and
with good staffs of professors, and a very high and wide course
in all. But very much remains to be done.
There is far too much effort at variety rather than thoroughness in study. However hard both professors and students may labor, it can not be possible in a four years course to fill a lad, who has previously had but common school education, with a satisfactory knowledge of Latin, high mathematics, Euclid, English grammar and composition, geology, mechanics, electricity, polarization of light, and various other studies usually required for the Master of Arts honors examination in a British university. But this is attempted here.
And moreover, this extensive course is carried on in the state agricultural college as well as in the universities of the state. It can hardly be said that the name of "agricultural" is earned, since there is nothing in the studies here engaged in to distinguish this from any other high class college in the state.
The course followed in the common school is open to much the same criticism—too much of the ornamental, too little of the thorough and solid, being instilled. This is hardly to be wondered at when it is considered that the teachers in the common schools are taken principally from the students of the colleges or universities, whose learning is of the class above described. There is a great need of a normal school, where teachers can be specifically trained for that work; as it is now, a young fellow is ready to "teach school" for a year or two for want of, or on his way to, his intended niche in life.
The scale of payments at the schools is moderate enough, but a large item of expense is in the schoolbooks; they are dear, their use is compulsory, they have to be purchased by the scholars, and they are frequently changed by the Board of Education.
One great means by which it is sought at once to instruct, amuse, and infuse the school teachers with common ideas and sympathies is by "teacher institutes." In each county a time is fixed by the state superintendent of education, and for two or three days in all, or as many as can be got together of the teachers in the county, are gathered in some central town and for two or three days have constant meetings. This occurs annually.
The most experienced teachers give illustration of their favorite methods of instruction in the various subjects and free discussion on these matters follows.
State Teachers' Convention 1896
In the summer of 1896, the four-day State Teachers' Convention was held in Newport. Meetings were held in the opera house on the Bayfront and "all in attendance were enthusiastic in their praise of Newport as a place for meeting." The members of the institute decided to meet in Newport the following year and "to hold a term of some three or four weeks." There was also "talk of erecting a large auditorium with a seating capacity of several thousand, to accommodate such assemblies." In 1897 the Summer Educational Association (SEA) was formed with members from the local community and from the wide array of summer residents who were associated with various colleges in the state. They built their auditorium in the spring and summer of 1897 in Nye Creek and summer school was held in it in 1897, 1898, 1901, and 1902. A propaganda booklet published in 1898 sheds light on the summer school and on the character of Newport and Nye Beach at that time:
Newport is preeminently a literary center for summer tourists; this was brought about on account of its many and superior advantages for the study of the sciences, especially geology, biology and botany. The permanence of this delightful feature is assumed from the fact that the class of people who own the cottages constitute the permanent educators of the state, as well as judges, lawyers, doctors, ministers, bankers and permanent businessmen.
The summer school continued in 1902 and then in 1903 the state legislature passed a bill authorizing the establishment of a regular Summer Normal School... in Newport. Gov. George E. Chamberlain (1903-1909) vetoed the bill and, while the House of Representatives overrode the veto, the Senate failed to do so by one vote, bringing an end to Newport's summer school that, apparently, could no longer support itself. The auditorium building was later used for public gatherings but was eventually torn down and the lumber used to build summer cottages.
Town Life in Corvallis 1919
In those days Corvallis consisted of a
street built up with one or two story houses, four saloons, and
dozen churches; a courthouse, surrounded by oak and fir trees,
story schoolhouse, for the public schools, and another
called the Oregon Agricultural College, and receiving emoluments
by the US. The majority of the store keepers were of Jewish
as was commonly the case in Oregon in those days. Oregon was a
indeed, 1859 being the year of its state university; its
small, and largely of recent immigration from the Southern
the Civil War. To this day the people are wonderfully, and
proud of their pioneers, a group of whom still survive. In the
were several lawyers and physicians, a couple of dentists, some
keepers, two or three blacksmiths—and let me not forget clubs of
There was a minister and his family for nearly every church, who
a living on the contributions of their church members. The
was an active organization and a Coffee Club auxiliary supplied
firemen when there was not infrequent fire. Saturday was the
the week, when the neighboring farmers came into town and tied
of wagons to the hitching posts near the courthouse. The most
were the saloon keepers, for they took in the larger part of the
earnings—and there were card games in nearly all saloons. There
newspapers, and how they survived and managed to pay for paper,
compositors' wages was a standing mystery to me.
Everyone welcomed us, for we brought not only liquid money into the community, but new faces, new styles of clothes, institutions, new ways of living, and, it was told me in advance, prospects of progress with the much-talked-of railroad.
We soon got settled in our house on the hill which Colonel Hogg had enlarged for us by my request. There was room for all—a productive and pretty garden outside, with a row of well grown Acacias, a good stable or barn—and worth much to us, a magnificent view from the stairs' verandah, eastward to the Cascades—Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, The Three Sisters, all snow peaks were gleaming by turns in the western sun. The course of the Willamette was marked by dark lines of trees as far as eye could reach. The Coast Range of mountains overlooked the back of the house, with Marys Peak wearing its bonnet of snow until July of each year. Both sunrise and sunset were glorious, and covered a multitude of short comings.
Life in these country towns possesses
features strange to a newcomer. Every family, almost without
is allied with some church organization. The association of such
in religious matters gives the connecting bond they need. Not
with worshiping together on Sundays, they often meet at church
and in school entertainments and concerts, for which purposes
building is very commonly used.
To get up a "sociable" is a pleasant task for the matrons of the church. Having settled on the day, they meet and agree for how many it is likely they must provide. Then each woman undertakes her share, funding so much tea, coffee, and sugar, and so many sandwiches and cakes. It is a delicate compliment for outsiders also to contribute a cake to the common fund. Then, the evening having come, the company begins to meet, generally about 7pm, and are received by the women of the congregation. Every one is made welcome. The object of the "sociable" so far as money getting is concerned, is met either by a small charge for refreshments as supplied, or by a charge for admission, making the visitor free of the room.
When the tea or supper is finished, there is a fine flow of talk, as all tongues are loosened. Then follows music, either as solos by such as venture to make public an appearance, or in duets, glees, or choruses provided by the church choir. Interspersed with the music are recitations, readings, or lectures. The recitations are so commonly given by young women as by the other sex; and the most "awful" and "tragic" pieces are decidedly the favorites. A good deal of gesture and action is approved.
Generally, a few words from the minister of the church close the entertainment, and the audience separates about 10am, all the better for the sociable.
The comparatively trifling differences serve to keep one sect separate from another, result in a number of small congregations and weak "interests"—and also, I think, react injuriously on the education and condition of the various ministers. And I do not see any progress toward obligating differences, and combining scattered forces against the common foes of indifference, irreligion, and vice; rather I notice in the delegates from the various congregations of a special sect, and held annually in some central place, a disposition of each special set of distinctive doctrines on the young.
Outside of the Episcopal church, which, of course, possesses and uses its own liturgy, the services of the other Christian sects are almost exactly similar; I expect also the Roman Catholics, who are present in the state of Oregon in considerable numbers, and whose organizations of archbishops, priests, and nuns is as perfect as usual. But I have reference to Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, North and South Baptists, Evangelicals—the chance you were present on some occasion for enforcing the special doctrines of the sect, you would not determine to which belonged the particular church in which you might be worshiping.
The institution of the sabbath school is not similar to that pursued in England, at any rate. The church is opened at a special hour for sabbath school and the children attend in numbers: the minister of the church holds a service for the special benefit of the young, but adults are also present. There is not the division of classes, and the enlisting of the efforts of teachers for those classes, which we have seen elsewhere.
Christmas is chiefly marked by the Christmas tree which are so commonly provided; the religious significance of the day is hardly enforced at all. But the Christmas tree arranged by a congregation, lighted up in the church or schoolroom, and hung with presents contributed by each family for its own individual members, and only brought to the common tree that the joy of the donor and receiver might be alike shared in by friends, are a pretty sight.
And this is by no means confined to the towns. The various precincts of the county have each their headquarters at the common schoolhouse, and in many of these Christmas trees are provided; and if the gifts are less in money cost than those hung around the city Christmas trees, they are nonetheless worth it, got by so many hours of country work, and brought over many a weary mile of muddy road, and treasured in the old trunk among the Sunday garments till the happy day came around, and the Christmas frost hung the fir trees with their sparkling load, and glazed the old black logs and gray snake fences with their glittering covering of ice.
Chapter 13: Northern Dixie
Unlike the Indians who were driven
Africans and Asians had no prior claim to the land. Racism,
and a host of vague fears explain the discrimination they
not white land hunger.
Probably the first African to reach the Pacific Northwest was one of Robert Gray's seamen, Markus Lopius, killed by Indians near present-day Tillamook in 1788.
Africans were among the pioneers who emigrated to Oregon in the 1840s. Some came as free persons and some as slaves.
George Washington (1817-1905)
One notable African pioneer in the
Northwest was George Washington (1817-1905), who in the years
Civil War was forced to leave Illinois because he could not post
guarantee his good behavior in the state. Washington was African
posting of a bond was only one of many laws restricting Africans
full enjoyment of their rights. In this respect the western
territories before the Civil War were no better than the eastern
and sometimes a little worse.
In western states the leading issue at their constitutional conventions had nothing to do with government, rights, or taxes. The issue was whether to admit Africans or how to restrict them. The African George Washingtons of America had to expend more energy, possess more courage, and endure more man-made hardships than other pioneers.
It mattered not one bit whether white westerners favored or hated slavery; they all opposed Africans settling in their lands. Horace Greely (1811-1872), the famous editor who urged Americans to "go West, young man," made clear the new lands "shall be reserved for the benefit of the white Caucasian race." Facing the question of African immigration to Indiana, a delegate to the state's 1850 constitutional convention simply said, "It would be better to kill them off at once, if there is no other way to get rid of them."
The law that drove Washington from Illinois was only one of many against Africans in the West. Indiana enacted the first, a law in 1803 prohibiting an African to testify at any trial involving non-colored people. A few years later it forbade Africans from voting, and some years later it placed a special tax of $3 a year on all Africans. Ohio law required Africans to submit a $500 bond to insure their good behavior in the state. This law was not enforced. However, in 1829 when non-colored people in Cincinnati felt they faced too much African labor competition, they demanded its enforcement. Even before the law could be invoked, a non-colored mob surged through the African community, looting, burning homes, and driving the residents before them.
By the 1840s, the white hand of discrimination stretched from the Atlantic Coast inland to the expanding western territories. Abolitionist Gerrit Smith (1797-1874) of New York described conditions in states of the Old Northwest as well as his own when he said that even the noblest African
is denied that which is free to the vilest white. The omnibus, the car, the ballot box, the jury box, the halls of legislation, the army, the public lands, the school, the church, the lecture room, the social circle, the table, are all either absolutely or virtually denied to him.
In light of these conditions, the career and
of George Washington form a remarkable chapter in American
Born in Virginia as was his more famous namesake, George Washington, had a non-colored mother and a slave father. For reasons that are not known, his mother gave him in adoption to a non-colored couple heading westward. After a brief stay in Ohio, the Washington family moved to Missouri. Without formal schooling young George learned reading, writing, and arithmetic.
He needed far more than this for survival on the frontier. He became an expert marksman with rifle or revolver, and picked up skills as a miller, distiller, tanner, cook, weaver, and spinner. Operating a sawmill in Saint Joseph, he found that his abilities mattered little when a non-colored person was determined to cheat an African. One customer refused to pay him for a load of lumber. When Washington tried to sue him in court, his case was thrown out because he was African and had no rights to sue.
Washington became well-known in Missouri for his skills and strength. Over six feet tall land almost 200 pounds, he was respected as a muscular youth determined to succeed.
Missouri was not the place for him, and so he moved on to Illinois. When the state demanded a bond he could not afford, he continued into the West. With his foster parents, Washington left in a wagontrain from Iowa in 1850. It took four months to reach the Oregon Territory. There the Washingtons built a crude home and their son took a lumberjack job.
In his thirties now and doing nicely, Washington staked out a claim on a 460-acre plot. Because Oregon law banned settlement to Africans, his father placed the land in his own name. Washington grew cereal and vegetable crops, and together with his father raised cattle and operated an inn and ferry. When the Oregon law was changed, the land was put in the name of George Washington. His land was located at the junction of two rivers, the exact point where Centralia, Washington, would later stand.
In the years after the Civil War, his good fortune continued. He was able to repay his parents for the land they had purchased for him. After their death he married an attractive widow named Mary Jane. Together they prospered. In 1872, when the Northern Pacific Railroad was built across their land, Mary Jane and George established a town called Centerville, halfway between the Columbia and Puget Sound. It eventually became Centralia, Washington.
To aid the town, Washington sold lots for $5 to anyone who would agree to build on the land they purchased. This prevented the land from falling into the hands of speculators who only bought it to resell at a higher rate. To buy a lot from the Washingtons, a man had to agree to build a house worth at least $100. With some of his profits, Washington later donated land for parks, a cemetery, and churches. He also achieved a reputation for aiding the town’s less fortunate squatters.
When Mary Jane died, the founder of Centralia remarried. In his mid-70s he had a son with his second wife.
The panic of 1893 brought hard times to almost every door in Centralia. Residents had little food and less money to pay their mortgages. Washington became a one-man relief agency. His wagons brought rice, flour, sugar, meat, and lard from as far away as Portland. He loaned funds to people in debt to banks and creditors. Whenever he could, he hired local people to work for him. During this crisis, a recent authority on Centralia has written, "he saved the town."
At 88, Washington went out for a buggy ride and was thrown into the road. In August 1905 he died as a result of the injuries. Centralia citizens gave their African friend the biggest funeral in the town's history. The mayor proclaimed a day of mourning. Washington's body was carried to a church he had donated, on land he had donated, and then buried in a cemetery he had donated—entirely fitting for the founder of the town.
The city’s park still bears the name of this dedicated man. He had braved the dangers of the frontier and the hatred of non-colored people to make his striking contribution to the West. Many who knew him personally, and many who never did, benefited from his skills, resourceful mind, and compassionate heart.
George Washington Bush (1819-1863)
In 1844, presidential candidate James
Polk was steaming mad about the British occupation of the Oregon
His slogan became "54° 40' or Fight," referring to the line
wished to draw demarcating for itself the entire Oregon
the British permanently from it. In a close election, Polk’s
The Oregon Territory question was settled without a shot being fired. Although the US did not get the land it desired, it did receive a very large portion of this territory. The successful claim of the US was based on a settlement in the Puget Sound region in by an Irish immigrant, Michael Simmons, and his African companion, George Washington Bush (1819-1863). These men were very different but both had good reasons for settling there. Simmons, who as an Irishman had no love for the British, resented British officials telling him to keep clear of their Columbia River Valley. He had no interest in protecting their lucrative fur business in the Puget Sound region if it meant he could not settle where he chose.
Simmons’s friend, George Bush, had a different problem. The government had prohibited Africans from settling on the part of the Oregon Territory already controlled by the Americans. To avoid this law Simmons, Bush and his party pushed northward into the British-claimed part of Oregon. It is ironic that Bush's escape from America's discrimination led to the successful US claim to the land where He did finally settle. It is even more ironic that American control of this new northerly land again brought Bush under the "Black Laws" passed by the Oregon legislature. It took Simmons, once elected to the Oregon legislature, to exempt this African pioneer from the laws in 1851.
Bush was a daring if quiet man, and one not easily discouraged. His early life is hard to piece together. Some authorities say he fought to defeat the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 with Andrew Jackson (1767-1845). Others say he was a Quaker and was opposed to violence. Some reports say he came from Missouri where he owned many cattle and had been a successful rancher. It is certain that in 1844 Bush financed a racially integrated party of overlanders to Oregon that included his non-indian wife and five children.
John Minto, a pioneer, met Bush and his family during this trip. Bush was very concerned about how his family would be treated anywhere in America. Minto also discovered that Bush was aiding two other families in the caravan. This may well account for the group's solidarity in pledging themselves to protect Bush against discrimination. Furthermore, Bush seems to have played a leading role in the expedition.
The party led by Simmons and Bush pushed into the British-held part of Oregon and found jobs in forestry. Soon the Bush family gained a reputation for aiding newcomers to the area. A few miles south of Tumwater [near Olympia], laid out by Simmons, the Bush family settled on what today is called Bush Prairie.
During the winter of 1852, Bush's generosity was put to a severe test. The grain supply on Puget Sound was low, and speculators were paying high prices for the wheat crop. Farmers began selling their crops without regard to their neighbors' future needs. When speculators rode out to Bush Prairie and offered Bush a high price for his wheat, he turned them down.
Until his death in 1863, George Bush maintained good relations with all he met in the Pacific Northwest—non-indian, Indian, and African men and women. He was considered an amiable and friendly man.
After the death of their father, the Bush sons carried on in his tradition of farming skill and public service. One son raised a prize wheat crop that was later places on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
In 1889, William Owen Bush was elected to the Washington State House, where he served two terms. This chilly reception for African pioneers in the Pacific Northwest stemmed from the fact that Oregon's pallid pioneers of the 1840s brought with them the fears and prejudices common in the border states from which many originated. Despite their distance from the South, Oregonians participated in an acrimonious public debate over slavery and related issues for two decades.
During Oregon’s Provisional Government, African slavery was common in the Southern states, and there was a tendency to extend the system of slavery to the Oregon Country. So the emigrants from the North and those from the South began to ask one another whether or not there should be African slavery in Oregon. The colonists, therefore, decided to place themselves on record regarding the issue. A measure was accordingly passed by the legislative committee in June, 1844, whereby residence was forbidden to any African slave in Oregon. It was made a law that slavery or involuntary service should not exist. Any African slave brought into the country should in three years become free. Any African or mulatto coming into the country should leave within two years. If he or she failed to leave the country after notices, he or she should be whipped on the bare back not less than 20 nor more than 39 stripes, and flogged likewise every six months until he or she did leave.
The immediate cause of the punitive measure was not a growing number of Africans in Oregon, because the 1850 census records only 207 in the entire Oregon country. Many non-colored people disliked Africans and simply wanted to create a new society free of the racial tensions they had experienced back in the border states. Whites also became alarmed when an African man who had married an Indian threatened to incite his wife's people to war.
The law was repealed in the following season. Yet the African question continued for many years to be a source of much contention. Officially, African slavery never existed in Oregon. In actuality a small number of Africans brought to the Pacific Northwest between 1840 and 1860 were slaves in fact and not in name during an extended period covering the time that the people were waiting for a final decision on the subject.
Amanda Johnson, Louis A. Southworth and Reuben Shipley Held as Slaves
Several surviving accounts expose the
of slavery in Oregon, including those of Amanda Johnson and
who in 1855 purchased his freedom from his master in Polk County
and Reuben Shipley of Benton County. Johnson, born in Clay
in 1833, was brought to Oregon in 1853 by her owner, Nancy
remembered crossing the Great Plains that year in a wagontrain
two other bond servants, Louis Southworth and Benjamin Johnson,
brief narratives of their bondage in Oregon. The most pervasive
of human bondage in Oregon came in 1857, one month after the
voters had overwhelmingly approved a ban on slavery. William
from Yamhill County, listed slaves in Benton, Lane, Polk and
in his unsuccessful attempt to obtain legislation to protect
Some Africans in Oregon resisted slavery either through the legal process or by flight. Their actions undermined slavery in the Pacific Northwest.
Holmes v. Ford
The major legal challenge to slavery
was Holmes v. Ford. In 1844 Nathaniel Ford, a Missouri farmer,
a slave couple, Robin and Polly Holmes, to Oregon. Before
Ford promised freedom to the Holmes family upon arrival.
Willamette Valley, Ford built a small cabin for the Holmses.
them limited travel and the right to sell some of the
he still denied the family its promised freedom.
In 1849 Ford manumitted Robin and Polly and their newborn son but refused to free their four other children, three of whom had been born in Oregon Territory. Robin and Polly moved to Salem and opened a nursery. Harriet, one of the children still held by Ford, died on a visit to her parents in 1851. Realizing that Ford would not voluntarily free the surviving children and blaming him for Harriet's death, Holmes brought suit in the Polk County district court the following year to gain custody of his children.
The Homes v. Ford case languished in various courts for 11 months. Finally, in July 1853, George H. Williams, recently arrived chief justice of the territorial supreme court, placed it at the head of his docket. Williams, a free-soil Democrat from Iowa, ruled against Ford, declaring that slavery could not exist in Oregon without special legislation to protect it. He said: "[I]n as much as these colored children are in Oregon, where slavery does not legally exist, they are free." The Holmes case was the last attempt by Oregon's pro-slavery settlers to protect slave property through the judicial process.
This June 4, 1906 letter from Judge Reuben P. Boise to Judge T. W. Davenport details Holmes v. Ford:
My Dear Sir:
Yours of the second instrument is just
Colonel Nathaniel Ford came to Oregon from Missouri in 1844 and
with him three slaves—two men and one woman. The woman was
of the men and had some small children. Ford claimed these
slaves and continued to claim them until 1853. One of these
girl—had prior to that time been given by Ford to... Dr. Boyle,
of Ford. Prior to 1853 the parents of these children [Robin and
had claimed their freedom and left Ford, and in 1852 were living
Mills, but Ford had kept the children. In 1853 Robin, the father
children, brought suit by habeas corpus to get possession of the
This case was heard by Judge [George H.] Williams in the summer
and he held that these children, being then (by the voluntary
in Oregon, where slavery could not legally exist, were free from
of slavery, and awarded their custody to their father.
Reuben P. Boise
Reuben Shipley (1799-1873) had been a
in Missouri, according to Mark Phinney of Corvallis, who
B. Horner, professor of history. His master, Robert Shipley,
to a large share in the training of his sons, whose mother had
he was regarded as almost one of the family. When Shipley
to Oregon, he promised Reuben his freedom if he would drive a
on the road. Reuben left a wife in Missouri who died before he
money for her. After he purchased his freedom, he was employed
Hartless, who settled one mile south of Philomath in 1846.
quite well-to-do and had many cattle. In a few years Reuben had
and with a part of it he bought a farm where Mount Union
Union School are now located.
Now Col. Nathaniel Ford, who settled in Rickreall in Polk County in 1844, owned a young black woman named Mary Jane (c1830-c1930). Ford allowed Reuben to marry this woman and take her to his farm. Then, having learned that Shipley had money, he came without knowledge to his non-colored friends, and made him believe that he must purchase his fiance’s freedom, which he did for $700.
Reuben and Mary Jane reared a large family— Wallace, Ella, Thomas, Martha, Nellie and Edward—on their 80 acre farm four miles west of Corvallis. Reuben was industrious and Mary Jane was a splendid housekeeper and the family entered into the life of the church and the community without too much consideration of the question of social equality.
When William Wyatt, another pioneer spoke of the hill on Reuben Shipley's farm as a likely place for a cemetery, Reuben agreed to give two acres for that purpose if he might be buried there. This two acres donated in 1861 was the beginning of Mount Union Cemetery where many of the pioneers of Benton County are buried. Reuben is there among them. According to Benton County Archives, page 18, he died in 1873 at the age of 74. His wife Mary Jane lived in Benton County until 1880. In after years she married Alfred Drake and lived well into the third decade of the 20th Century.
Spector Wrangles with Abolition 1846
The Oregon Spector, first newspaper
west of the Rocky Mountains, made its initial appearance on
1846, at Oregon City; it was issued by the Oregon Printing
With a swagger typical of that period, it flaunted on its
the Star of Empire Takes its Way, Col. William G. T’Vault,
early Oregon newspaper history, was the first editor of the
but his aggressive nature balked at the association's rule
discussions. T’Vault resigned after a few weeks and went to
He edited the Umpqua Gazette at Scottsburg after several years,
moved the paper to Jacksonville under the name of the Table Rock
Charged by his enemies at Jacksonville with harboring
a heinous accusation in Oregon in those days, the doughty
"If I thought these one drop of abolition blood in my veins, I
it out." That statement silenced his critics.
The Oregon Statesman and the Weekly Oregonian battled over Oregon's admission to the Union, with the slavery question, thinly disguised at times, the real issue in the controversy. The former urged statehood, and the latter, under Thomas J. Dryer's editorship, opposed it, fearing that slavery would be imposed on the territory by the federal government. None times in seven years the issue appeared in one form or another, and on four occasions it went to a vote of the people. The Portland Oregonian, however, withdrew its opposition in the fourth election on the ground that under statehood the slavery issue would rest with the people and not with Congress. This proved to be a decisive factor in the dispute, as the electorate finally voted for admission to the Union.
While the Weekly Oregonian and the Statesman were fighting over statehood, the Spector expired. But out of the wreck arose the Oregon City Argus. W. L. Adams, the founder, was an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, and he made the Argus the first distinctively Republican newspaper in Oregon if not on the Pacific Coast. The editorial columns under Adams, the Sentinel under T'Vault, and the Weekly Oregonian under Dryer, reflected the tense condition of Oregon public opinion on the stormy issues of statehood and slavery. So bitter did the diatribes become that Oregon editorial expression of the period was referred to as "The Oregon Style." This reached a climax during the Civil War, when the federal government suppressed five newspapers, two in Eugene, the others in Albany, Corvallis and Jacksonville, for their attacks upon Lincoln's prosecution of the war. The Eugene Democratic Register, one of the papers suspended, was at the time edited by Joaquín Miller. He revived it as the Democrat Review in 1863.
Constitutional Convention 1857
The constitutional convention met in
on August 17, 1857. On September 18, 1857 the convention
adopted the proposed constitution for the state of Oregon. At a
election held November 9, 1857, the document was adopted by the
At the same election, two questions were submitted separately to the people: one as to whether the new state should adopt slavery, and the other declaring that free Africans should not be permitted to reside in Oregon. The vote for slavery was 2,645, against slavery, 7,727. The vote against free Africans as residents was 8,640, and for free Africans residents, 1,081. The new constitution thus declared against free Africans living in Oregon, but this provision was never enforced.
In The Centennial History of Oregon 1811-1912, Joseph Gaston discusses the issue of slavery:
“On the slavery and temperance
men divided without regard to party lines up to the date of the
between Lincoln and Douglas in Illinois in 1858. There were so
in Oregon who were personal friends and acquaintances of those
leaders that they took an intelligent interest in the contest
to align themselves politically for or against "Settler
quickly led them to consider the slavery question in its demand
into new territories. And this was the school that paved the way
organization of the Republican party in Oregon; and into which
the leaders of the Whig party went when Abraham Lincoln
Stephen Douglas (1813-1861) became rival candidates for the
in 1859. And now the long suffering Whigs, as newborn children
organization, get their revenge upon their old-time tormentors.
party splits in twain. Bush, James W. Nesmith, Benjamin Harding
wing of the democracy espouse the cause of Douglas, while the
who favored slavery go with Gen. Joseph Lane to the pro-slavery
and to defeat and utter destruction as a party. The slavery
the ambitions of more than one great man in Oregon. G. H.
P. Deady, J. W. Nesmith, J. Lane, O. C. Pratt, P. H. Burnett,
and R. P.
Boise were all leading men of fine talents; and all were greatly
by the questions of slavery. Bush was not friendly to Williams
to be looking to the future for a position in the US Senate; and
induced Williams to write a public letter on the slavery
wrote the letter (July 28, 1857), an able document in which he
slavery on questions of political economy, and said nothing
side of the question. And for this position he was opposed by
Democrats on one side, and the anti-slavery men on the other
low moral tone of his litter; and in the first two elections of
Williams got no support worth mentioning. Burnett went to
became the first elective American governor, running as the
Deady got an appointment as US district judge, was president of
convention, sought no preferment than the bench and became the
of the state, prepared its second code of laws, and was the
of its most important statutes. And notwithstanding slavery was
issue in Oregon politics for years, and in the constitutional
it never was a question of practical politics for the reasons
Judge Williams. The institution of slavery was so wholly
people and circumstances of Oregon that it would have died out
weakness if it had not been recognized by law.
“There were pro-slavery men in Oregon prior to the adoption of the state constitution, but their support of that institution was a sympathetic feeling inherited from former associations, and not a devotion to a real interest. For this reason, Judge Williams' "Free State Letter," as it was called at that time, was effective to defeat slavery in the constitution, although it aroused the hostility of the pro-slavery men and laid the judge on the political shelf for seven years. That celebrated letter was useful for another reason, and that was that as it could not be answered by the pro-slavery men, the subject was shoved into the background, the great mass of the voters uniting in selecting able men for members of the convention, and the people got the best constitution that the popular sentiment of that era could produce. But notwithstanding the strength of William's letter as a political document of that time, and his ability as a public man, it painfully exhibits his want of courage on moral questions and his fear of unreasoning prejudices. Two extracts from the letter will show the difference between such men as Abraham Lincoln, William H. Seward (1801-1872) and Charles Sumner (1811-1874) and the writer of this historical letter. Towards the close of the letter Judge Williams says:
I contend that we have a "perfect right" to have slavery or not, as we please, but we know what the sentiment of the North is upon this question, and we must take things as they are, and not as they should be... Whatever may be inferred from my arguments against slavery in Oregon, I disclaim all sympathy with the abolition agitators of the North and deprecate and denounce all sectional organizations upon that subject. The general government has no right to interfere with slavery except to carry out the fugitive slave law, and maintain the opinion that each state and territory has the "absolute right" to establish, modify or prohibit slavery within its borders."
The Provisional Government limited
to free white males who could vote. The Donation Land Law
from its largesse. The laws of Oregon Territory and later the
included similar anti-African provisions. The 14th Amendment to
Constitution, which conferred the privileges of citizenship on
freed African slaves, was ratified by the legislature which
the beginning of Gov. George L. Wood September 12, 1866. Much
was manifested regarding this question, as well as toward others
were presented for settlement. Although federal constitutional
after the Civil War overturned those provisions, the State of
not formally remove the anti-African clause from its
1926; it did not ratify the Fifteenth Amendment to the US
until 1959, 89 years after that measure had granted Africans the
vote. Even in the early days, Oregon seldom enforced its
The African population of Oregon numbered 128 in 1860. It included farmers, miners, barbers, cooks, blacksmiths, and common laborers. Some Africans worked as domestics for non-colored families, and a few were slaves. Africans preferred to form subcommunities in urban areas rather than endure the greater hostility common in rural districts. But the city of Portland assigned African and mulatto children to a segregated school that opened in 1867. In the Northwest, the African population increased only gradually. Of Oregon’s 2,234 Africans in 1930, more than half lived in Portland, in a "colony," for the most part, on the east bank of the Willamette. The men were chiefly employed as railroad porters. They accounted for just three percent of the total population, yet Africans in Oregon became targets of the state's powerful Ku Klux Klan movement during the 1920s.
The wartime industries of the 1940s brought an increased influx of Africans; an estimate placed the peak in 1944, at about 13,000 state residents, most of them in Portland. At the war's end many returned to eastern home states.
Nevertheless, the count in 1949 stood near the 8,000 mark. They have churches of their own, as well as lodges and other organizations.
Historian Milton Fox wrote of an African mill worker in Sandy who worked for Mount Hood Lumber Company from 1937 to 1953 when it
operated a steam sawmill just west of Dovey
where the "Welcome to Hoodland" sign stands. Seven or eight
housed some of the crew.
...there was Nigger Sam Robinson (that's how he introduced himself)—sometimes pondmonkey, sometimes fireman, but mostly shoeshine man at Al's Barber Shop in Sandy. Sam lived in a three-roomer with his wife and little son. He was a gentle, intelligent, humorous man.
Sam’s sticky-fingered brother-in-law came for a visit, and right away gas was missing at the company pump. The mill owner put us a sign "Keep Out. Pump Booby-Trapped." The owner told Sam about it, and Sam took off laughing like a maniac. Catching up to him, the owner asked what was so funny about his brother-in-law stealing gas. "That's not funny," Sam howled. "What's funny is he can't read!"
The rainbow trail to California rarely
to a pot of gold. Yet thousands upon thousands of Indians,
Mexicans, Europeans, New Englanders, and Southerners—in short,
all races and nationalities—flocked to seek their fortune in the
By 1850, freedmen who had come to California numbered 962 and in two years that figure almost doubled. At the end of the decade the African population had doubled again.
In 1857, the supreme court announced its Dred Scott (c1795-1858) decision declaring that Africans were not citizens and denying them their civil rights under the Constitution. Under this law, Congress had no power to exclude slavery from the territories. The non-Asian faction, frightened at the rising Chinese population in California, were hounding the Asians in their midst with restrictions and violence. In 1858 the state legislature again unsuccessfully tried to ban African migration to the Golden State. It still refused to repeal the bitterly resented 1852 Testimony Law that prohibited Africans from making testimony in courts, warrants, to swear out or any legal complaints or suits, so unjustly enacted against the African community.
An African exodus out of California resulted from these adverse pressures. Many traveled to Fraser Valley, Canada, where a gold strike had taken place. Mifflin W. Gibbs, a leader in the African community in San Francisco, joined the gold seekers. In British Columbia he opened a store and soon entered politics.
Some Africans apparently settled in Oregon to ply their trades and moil for gold along with their Chinese counterparts.
For many years Negro Ben Mountain, a 4,500 foot peak in the Siskiyous, a little to the southwest of the Jackson County town of Ruch and the Applegate, was called Nigger Ben Mountain. The name was very old, and appears to have been derived from an African named Ben who operated a small blacksmith shop near the river and accommodated miners by sharpening picks and other tools. In fact it is entirely possible that Ben worked with Casper Ruch, who bought a small tract of land in 1896 where the community is now situated and built a blacksmith shop, a store and a house. In his spare time, Ben worked a tunnel on a small prospect he had developed.
African Fur Traders
By the 1850s, the fur trade had become
major American industry. The American Fur Company, started by
John Jacob Astor, won a monopoly of the Great Lakes trade. This
the largest business in America before 1850. Its method left
much to be
desired. Gen. Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), a future president,
its agents as "the greatest scoundrels the world ever knew."
Histories of the fur trade have usually pictured an occupation dominated by French and Scotch-Irish immigrants, but Africans played a hitherto unheralded part since the early days of the new nation. They were among the entrepreneurs, voyageurs, and hunters. Col. James Stevenson, who spent 30 years living among and studying native tribes, in 1888 spoke of the importance of Africans:
The old fur traders always got a negro if possible to negotiate for them with the Indians, because of their "pacifying effect." They could manage them better than the white men, with less friction.
Scholars have confirmed this judgment by
In the 18th Century a British officer brought an African couple named Bonga to Minnesota, where he used them in various jobs on the frontier. The couple's son Pierre, still a slave, became part of the North West Fur Company, serving a Canadian fur trapper in the region. His master trusted Pierre with important matters, placing him and a non-colored man in charge of the company when he had to leave on business.
Pierre Bonga began to develop his own skills in Minnesota. His facility with the Chippewa language became very useful to the fur-trapping company. For many years he was their interpreter with the tribe, negotiating several agreements. In one village he met and married a Chippewa woman.
The couple settled down near Duluth, and in 1802 a son, George, was born. The parents managed to send their son to Montreal, where he attended school. This may have involved no small sacrifice, for every able-bodied hand was needed to help support the family on the frontier. It also indicates that by this time the Bonga family may have won its freedom.
When George Bonga returned to the Chippawa, he also married into the tribe. By then he spoke English, French, Chippewa, and several other Indian languages.
His talents were in great demand, for a man who possessed frontier skills and spoke English, French, and Indian languages was most useful to the expanding nation. Gov. Lewis Cass (1782-1866), later a presidential candidate, hired George Bonga to negotiate with tribes in the Lake Superior region. Cass was then governor of Michigan. The Chippewa treaty of 1837, and perhaps several other treaties, owed much to Bonga's efforts as interpreter and negotiator. At the formal signing at Fort Snelling outside of Saint Paul, Bonga stood among the signatories to see that all went smoothly.
In the heart of the fur-trapping region of the nation, George Bonga continued to support himself by working in the trade. He was a voyageur for the American Fur Company, maintaining posts at Lac Platte, Otter Trail Lake, and Leech Lake. At Leech Lake he built a home to live out his later days, and became a successful independent fur trapper.
General Tubman's Canadian Railroad 1849
Amid rumors that Harriet Tubman
was about to be sold, she escaped to Philadelphia. She worked in
throughout 1849 and saved her money; the next year she daringly
her freedom by returning to Baltimore to lead out her sister's
The following year, General Tubman made two more trips into
her brother and his family and another group of 11. For the rest
1850s, she went back again and again, making approximately 19
trips into slave territory and rescuing as many as 300 Africans
Tubman escorted many of those that she liberated all the way to her home in Saint Catherine's, Ontario, for after the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made it easier for slave traders to kidnap and sell them, many free Africans moved out of the US. Indeed, one of Tubman's great exploits took place in 1860 in Troy, New York, when she led a group that successfully assaulted officers who were guarding a fugitive slave, enabling him to escape to Canada.
Those, of course, were the escapees, themselves, who were often sheltered by prosperous Africans in their homes or at their businesses. Outside of a few like General Tubman, Africans remained unheralded heroes and heroines. Certainly many non-colored people did help from their own spiritual conviction that slavery was not god’s will, but they did not risk their own liberty, the right of non-colored citizenship, nor face such outrageous punishments the runaway or free Africans would face.
The 1870 US Census lists an African family living at Lackemute. W. H. Glasgow, a 38-year-old farmer born in 1832, was from Delaware. His wife, Mary, 36, was born in New Jersey in 1834. The couple had four children. Alfred, 11 (1859-?) and Harriet, 8 (1862-?), were born in British Columbia. W. H. II, 4 (1866-?) and Robert, 3 (1867-?) were both born in Oregon.
Why did the Glasgows, who were probably slaves, leave the East Coast and emigrate to Canada, and how did they likely support themselves the five or so years they were there before settling in the new state of Oregon?
It is possible the Glasgows were led out of bondage by General Tubman to her home in Ontario. Safe from the Fugitive Slave Law, that severely punished anyone aiding escaped slaves, Glasgow was free to travel west to British Columbia to work in the gold fields like Mifflin W. Gibbs or as a voyageur for the fur trade like George Bonga. Drawn by "free land" in the Oregon Territory and the urge to settle down, the family ultimately traveled south and settled in Polk County were they cultivated their donation land claim.
Most slaves labored on plantations. This fact has given rise to a myth that slaves could or did do little more than field labor. As a result of this thinking, it has been difficult for people to conceive of Africans except as a mass of nameless people laboring in cotton, rice, or tobacco fields. In the South during the pre-Civil War era, however, slaves were also skilled as craftsmen and artisans, and they served a variety of functions for the Southern economy.
In the North and West, slaves performed a vast array of jobs. Some worked as printers or in factories, and one served as an engineer aboard an early railroad train. Many northern masters knew from personal experience that their slaves could handle responsibility and complicated tasks.
Although Glasgow was listed as a farmer in the 1870 Census, he might also have been an artisan like Louis A. Southworth, a 36-year-old blacksmith who was born in Tennessee in 1834, and was living in Buena Vista at the same time the Glasgow family was living in Lackemute.
The July 28, and December 8, 1999 issues of the News-Times reported that Darkey Creek Road, which is located near milepost 4 on Highway 34, and its namesake, Darkey Creek, a two-mile stream in Lincoln County that branches off the Alsea River, are at the center of a name change controversy. A recent vote by the Oregon Geographic Names Board could change the name of the stream to Southworth Creek, for an early African American homesteader, Louis A. Southworth, who settled the remote area.
Southworth, a blacksmith and early advocate of education in Waldport, was an ex-slave who bought his freedom in 1858 at the age of 28. His history was rich with stories of the Rogue Indian Wars and fiddling sessions at gold mining camps. He died in 1917 at the age of 87.
The Oregon Geographic Names Board will take a second look at the renaming of Darkey Creek... and decide whether the name is a necessary part of Oregon history or a blemish to be erased from the state.
The name of the creek, which was intended to honor Southworth, was brought before the Oregon Geographic Names Board at a June 26 meeting. Jessica Dole, a landscape architect for the US Forest Service, filed a petition to have the name changed because the word "darkey" is "an injustice perpetuated," and was and is used as a racial slur against African Americans.
The name board, a Portland-based body charged with overseeing the names of places in Oregon, voted 12-7 to let the name stand, and stated that the group did not want to "tamper lightly with names that reflect something of our history." But afterward, members said they would reconsider the matter at their next meeting, tentatively set for December 4. At that meeting, the board voted to change the name to Southworth Creek in lieu of recent findings about Southworth's life and after hearing testimony from citizens in favor of the name change. However, the final decision for the creek's proposed name change lies with the US Board of Geographic Names.
Less than a dozen homes are along Darkey Creek Road. A handful of residents recently shared their views on the proposed creek and, possibly, road name changes.
"We're against changing the name," said Lloyd Serkowney, who lives on Darkey Creek Road. "I don't see any reason for it... I think a lot of people are too sensitive."
Serkowney's neighbor, Joy Koskela, disagrees. "I feel that it is offensive... in fact, that’s one of the reasons that I have a P. O. Box.," said Koskela, who remembers ordering a package from Florida and having the woman on the other end of the conversation audibly gasp. "She said she had a lot of friends who were black, who would be offended if they saw that name, so she addressed it to Darken Creek Road and I still got it!"
Koskela's husband, Jerry, does not share his wife's views. "It seems like the only people who don't have a problem with the name are the people who live on the road," he said. Jerry Koskela believes the name serves as a reminder to a lot of people in the Waldport area.
"It is a part of our history and we were responsible for our actions," he said.
The 1870 US Census, showing the number of free and enslaved Africans in each state, shows Oregon with 128 freedmen. As a blacksmith, Southworth had the greatest versatility and highest markets in the community, involving farmers, mechanics, and artisans depending on him for tools; also other related tasks, gunsmith, carriage ironer, plow making, tool sharpening, creating ship anchors and lightening rods also for homes, etc.
Hester Hill Coovert Rogers, the granddaughter of an abolitionist wrote:
Grandma was an abolitionist. She begged her husband to free their slaves, and told them to get out of slave territory, as she saw trouble was coming. One of the slaves became a good blacksmith. He earned enough money to purchase his wife and son and fled to Cincinnati, Ohio. The family moved to Illinois to escape slavery in the South.
Other Africans arrived in Oregon with
non-colored masters and continued to provide domestic service to
According to the 1870 US Census, there were at least two other freedmen and two freedwomen in Benton County who probably fit this scenario. They were 19-year-old Caesar Taylor, born in Mississippi in 1851, who was the domestic servant of Corvallis butcher B. T. Taylor (1821-? England); 65-year-old Effie Callaway, born in Virginia is 1805, who was the domestic servant of Corvallis farmer W. R. Callaway (although she maintained a separate address); and 11-year-old Alice J. Cooper, born in Missouri in 1859, who was the domestic servant of Corvallis farmers Kitturah Grant (1821-? KY) and Joseph Huston (1804-? KY). (The census data does not list Cooper as an African American, but written accounts about the Hustons reveal that they were slave owners).
The Oregon Census Index 1840-1849 lists several slaves who crossed the Great Plains with their masters in the overland immigration of 1844. Among them were Eliza and Hannah whose surname may have been Abbott; and two men (or Women) whose surnames were Scott and Robbin. Proxy historian H. H. Bancroft exhibited in the census of Africans in bondage made this information completely inadequate. Its impreciseness not only prevented adequate identification and enumeration, but comparison, computation, or comprehensive analysis or satisfactory resolution or findings on demographic bases.
Early African Settlers in Oregon
After gold was discovered in
tales spread of an Oregon stream pebbled with gold nuggets.
legend, children traveling with a wagontrain in 1845 filled a
with stones, then later tossed them aside. In October 1861,
searching for the mythical Blue Bucket Mine discovered gold in
Gulch, a few miles south of present-day Baker. Within a few
rush began, as gold became the prime force in settling Eastern
Mining towns including Auburn, Sumpter, Bourne, Malheur City,
Granite mushroomed near claims.
Julia Otto remembers an African homesteader living in Granite around 1890:
Neighboring homesteader was negro named Rogers. Wife was full-blooded Cherokee. Had ten children. Could do any sort of odd job, but never stopped talking. He was just the worst old blow. No prejudice on part of community.
Emily Butler Blockwell of Jacksonville
another one of Oregon's early African residents.
Although the data on the biographical sketches have already been verified, the actual scenarios are based on the historical context of the period, which suppositions of events may be verified through original sources such as birth certificates, register of deeds, obituaries, and newspaper accounts.
Chapter 14: Religious Jerks
But we must knock out one of them—the lecherous old rascal kissing the girl at the camp meeting... Let’s not make any pictures of the camp meeting. The subject won't bear illustrating. It is a disgusting thing, and pictures are sure to tell the truth about it too plainly. --Mark Twain 1884
Those Incredible Religious Jerks
Nineteenth century evangelists, fired
the quenchless zeal of the reformer, performed mighty feats of
suffered poverty, sickness and revilement, and were tough and
meet trick and physical opposition in kind.
The national religious climate smelled of brimstone; emotional releases for those on or near the frontiers were infrequent. The large harvests of the solitary-riding preachers were gathered at the camp meetings—those unique, indescribable outlets for religion and delirium. They were staged in the solemn woods, lighted by flickering pine torches, tents and wagons and horses off on the edges, rude benches for the many hundreds attending, up front the space for the converts; and all hands given Hark-From-The Tomb for days and nights by a succession of gymnastic, thundering preachers. "The Jerks," marking the process to conversion, where a characteristic product.
Religious Jerks 1804
Lorenzo Dow (1772-1843) was a Methodist minister who did most of his circuit riding between 1794 and 1820. In his book, The Dealings of God, Man and the Devil Dow describes the religious excesses of the early 19th Century:
I had heard about a singularity called
Jerks... August last, to the great alarm of the people which
first I considered as vague and false; but at length, like the
Sheba, I set out to go and see for myself; and sent over these
into this country accordingly.
When I arrived in sight of this town, I saw hundreds of people collected in little bodies; and observing no place appointed for meeting, before I spoke to any, I got on a log and gave out a hymn; which caused them to assemble round, in solemn attentive silence. I observed several involuntary motions in the course of the meeting, which I considered as a specimen of the Jerks.
Hence to Marysville, where I spoke to about 1,500; and many appeared to feel the word, but about 50 felt the Jerks; at night I lodged with one of the Nicholites, a kind of Quaker who do not feel free to wear colored clothes; I spoke to a number of people at his house that night. Whilst at tea I observed his daughter... to have the Jerks; and dropped the teacup from her hand in the violent agitation: I said to her, "young woman, what is the matter?" She replied, "I have got the Jerks." I asked her how long she had it? She observed "a few days," and that it had been the means of the awakening and conversions of her soul, by stirring her up to serious consideration about her careless state, etc.
Sunday, February 19, 1804: I spoke in Knoxville to hundreds more than could get into the courthouse, the governor being present: About 150 appeared to have jerking exercise, among whom was a circuit preacher... who had opposed them a little before, but he now had them powerfully; and I believe he would have fallen over three times had not the auditory been so crowded that he could not, unless he fell perpendicularly.
After meeting I rode 18 miles to hold meeting at night: the people of this settlement were mostly Quakers; and they had said (as I was informed) that Methodists and Presbyterians have the Jerks because they sing and pray so much, but we are still peaceable people, wherefore we do not have them; however, about 20 of them came to meeting, to hear one, as was said, somewhat in a Quaker line: but their usual stillness and silence was interrupted; for about a dozen of them had the Jerks as keen and as powerful as any I had seen, so as to have occasioned a kind of grunt or groan when they would jerk. It appears that many have under-valued the great revival, and attempted to account for it altogether on natural principles; therefore it seems to me... that God hath seen proper to take this method, to convince people, that he will work in a way to show his power; and sent the Jerks as a sign of the times, partly in judgment for the people's unbelief, and yet as a mercy to convict people of divine realities.
I have seen Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, Baptists, Church of England, and Independents, exercised with the Jerks; gentleman and lady, black and non-colored, the aged and the youth, rich and poor, without exception, from which I infer, as it cannot be accounted for on natural principles, and carries such marks of involuntary motion, that it is no trifling matter: I believe that those who are most pious and given up to god, are rarely touched with it; and also those naturalists, who wish and try to get it to philosophize upon it are excepted: but the lukewarm, lazy, halfhearted, indolent professor, is subject to it, and many of them I have seen, who when it came upon them, would be alarmed and stirred up to redouble their diligence with God, and after they would get happy, were thankful it ever came upon them. Again, the wicked are frequently more afraid of it than the smallpox or yellow fever; these are subject to it; but the persecutors are more subject to it than any, and they sometimes have cursed, and swore, and damned it whilst jerking: there is no pain attending the Jerks except they resist it, which if they do, it will weary them more in an hour, than a day's labor; which shows that it requires the consent of the will to avoid suffering.
Monday, February 20, 1804: I passed by a meeting house where I observed the undergrowth had been cut up for a camp meeting, and from 50 to 100 saplings, left breast high; which to me appeared so slovenish that I could not but ask my guide the cause, who observed they were topped so high, and left for the people to jerk by: this so excited my attention that I went over the ground, to view it; and found where the people had laid hold of them and jerked so powerfully, that they had kicked up the earth as a horse stamping flies: I observed some emotion, both this day and night among the people; a Presbyterian minister... observed, "yesterday whilst I was preaching some had the Jerks, and a young man from North Carolina mimicked them out of derision and soon was seized with them himself... he grew ashamed, and on attempting to mount his horse to go off, his foot jerked about so, that he could not put it into the stirrup; some youngsters seeing this, assisted him on, but he jerked so that he could not sit alone, and one got up to hold him on; which was done with difficulty: I observing this, went to him and asked him what he thought of it?" Said he, "I believe God sent it on me for my wickedness, and making so light of it in others;" and he requested me to pray for him.
I observed his wife had it; she said she was first attacked with it in bed. Dr. Nelson said, he had frequently strove to get it... but could not, and observed they could not account for it on natural principles. ...
...the last jerks that I saw was on a young woman, who was severely exercised during meeting. She followed me into the house, I observed to her the indecency and folly of such public gestures and grunts; and requested... if she had any regard for her character, to leave it off. She replied, "I will if I can." I took her by the hand, looking her in the face and said, "Do not tell lies." I perceived... that she exerted every nerve to restrain it, but instantly she jerked as if it would have jerked her out of her skin if it were possible; I did this to have an answer to others on the subject, which I told her, that my abruptness might leave no bad impression on her mind.
Aunt Charlotte's Book of Methodist Missionaries
Charlotte Matheny Kirkwood (1838-1926) Came out West with her family on the 1843 wagontrain. She is the pioneer relaltive of Walt Davies, Cooper Hollow Farm, Monmouth, Oregon. In November 2003, Davies shared these stories from Aunt Charlotte's book, Methodist Missionaries.
Eleanor Beer's Pink Shawl
Brother Joe and Sister Mary had quite
"turn out", a cart made of the front wheels of a wagon. Bill
a cabinet maker and he had built a bed for it that was just as
one could ask for. He polished it and stained it to what he
red. The dye stuff came from a clay bank up the river and was
color of a new brick.
Brother Joe drove a yoke of Spanish oxen, perfectly matched and as black as crows. They had huge horns that interfered unless they kept them interlocked or their heads tilted. They were trotting oxen and the big cart swinging across the prairie behind them, left a fine cloud of dust in its wake. I was pretty proud when I drove to church with them. They usually stopped for me as they passed our house. Eleanor Beers was my especial friend. The Beers lived next door to Brother Joe's and Eleanor most always went to church with them. Eleanor and I always sat on the back seat and held on tightly lest we be josted out.
Eleanor was fine company and under cover of the rumble of the big cart, we could laugh just as loudly as we pleased, even though Mother happened to be along.
One Sunday we were both terribly excited, Eleanor wore her new pink shawl, it was the most beautiful shawl that I ever saw, a delicate shell pink silk, with deep, deep knotted fringe and raised figures thrown up in wonderful patterns, thick and solid next to the edge and less so toward the center. Eleanor was very fair and I thought her the loveliest thing I had ever seen.I got into the back seat beside Eleanor carefully, lest I sit on the edge of her shawl and crush it. She drew the ends well away from me and tucked them around her on the other side. We were on our way when something seemed happening to Eleanor and Eleanor's shawl, it was almost gone from her. She clung to the vanishing corner of it and screamed. A final violent wrench and
it was gone. Brother Joe stopped the oxen and went back to look in the grass and low bushes, he looked everywhere. Eleanor's pink shawl had just completely vanished. finally Joe, wise in the ways of carts, thought to look at the hub. Sure enough, there was the shawl, wound around and around, but you would never have known that it had once been pink, but seeing it, one could readily tell that it would never be pink again. Though Mother worked and worked at it, the axle grease was ground into every fiber of it. It was such a mess, completely ruined and on the first day that she had been allowed to wear it. Our Sunday was spoiled. Brother Joe turned back and spent the day at our house.
If Eleanor Beers were alive now and you were to ask her about the greatest tragedy of her life, I am sure she would tell you about the pink silk shawl with the brocade figures and the deep, knotted fringe around it.
Camp Meeting On Yamhill River
I remember attending a Meeting held on
banks of the Yamhill river. Off to one side of the grounds was a
camps, they were quite apart from the rest and nobody went
were told not to go near that part of the camp grounds. We were
why, but we saw the older ones glance that way furtively and
shaken and mouths drawn down. Even the names of the family
was spoken with lowered voices. There was something terrible at
we children were all sure of that. We feared that it might be
and we talked about it among ourselves and wondered and peeked
we had the chance. One night just as preaching had begun we
heard a big
commotion in the Clark's camp.
"Glory to God." we heard, Then "Jesus is with us tonight, halleluiah." (Only they called it Hulli-u-jay.) .Little heads all along our row were picked up. We forgot that we were ladies and opened our mouths and stared. The "shouting" old ladies jumped up from the congregation and started toward the Clark's camp. "Mothers in Israel" they were called. some of them, I remember were very fat and each one seemed trying to reach the Clark's camp first. They were all excited and were hollering "Glory to God" and pounding each other. Someone had "gotten religion." a poor unfortunate, who had been shunned by everyone that was there and despised, had found her way to God, apparently without guidance. Good people can be so cruel sometimes. My Mother was deeply religious, but her religion was of a different kind. She was very dignified and quiet and she was always easy for anyone in trouble to go to. Joab Powell was at that Camp Meeting. He thought himself quite a singer, maybe he was. I thought so anyway. He had a big, big voice that fairly made the woods echo. One of his favorite songs was "I yield, I yield, I can hold out no more to the pleadings of Mercy etc." He sang through his nose and I thought he said: "ienal, ienal," etc. and I could not find out what it meant. He sang another that went something like this: "Escape for life, with horror then my vitals froze." I thought he said: "Scrape for life, with horror then my victuap forze." I sang it with him as loudly as I could till Mother heard me and made me stop. I remember going to one Camp Meeting. Uncle Abram Garrison was the preacher. In those days, preachers were nearly always very poor, few of them had even a home, though land was to be had for the staking of it, and
material for a cabin grew on the land, itself. Everybody was willing and glad to come to a "house raising" and there would be a home quite as good as anyone else had. But most of the preachers traveled about from settlement to settlement and stayed wherever night overtook them. That was not true of Uncle Abram, he was a farmer and an unusually thrifty one. When he presided at the Camp Meeting, everybody knew that there would be plenty to eat, plenty for everyone and to spare. Aunt Peggy was a famous cook and could make the most of everything that she had. Like everyone else, they had nothing except what they grew themselves, but before Camp Meeting they would kill a beef and cook it in a big pit. Aunt Peggy would have head cheese and baked hams, and homemade cheese round and plump and yellow. They would spread the dinner out under
the trees and Uncle Abram would hop upon a stump and call: "come, come, everyone and fill up the table." The Meeting would sometimes last for a week and Uncle Abram and Aunt Peggy saw to it that everyone had all that he could eat. Of course, those who had plenty, took their own, but nobody stayed away from Camp Meeting because their cupboards were bare. In fact, I would not be at all surprised, if that was not the reason that Uncle Abram's Camp Meetings were always so well attended. There were many bare cupboards in Oregon then.
Ushering in the New Millennium with the Jerks
Peters Cartwright (1785-1872) was a Methodist minister who did most of his circuit riding between 1803 and 1824. In his book, The Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, The Backwoods Preacher, editor W. P. Strickland wrote:
Just in the midst of our controversies
the subject of the powerful exercises among the people under
a new exercise broke out among the people called the Jerks,
in its effects whether they were saints or sinners, they would
under a warm song or sermon, and seized with a convulsive
which they could not by any possibility avoid, and the more they
the more they jerked! If they would not strive against it and
earnest, the jerking would usually abate. I have seen more than
jerking at one time in my large congregations. Most usually
with the Jerks, to obtain relief, as they said, would rise up
Some would run, but could not get away. Some would resist; on
Jerks were generally very severe.
To see those proud young gentlemen and young ladies, dressed in their silks, jewelry, and prunella, from top to toe, take the Jerks, would often excite my risibilities. The first jerk or so, you would see their fine bonnets, caps, and combs fly; and so sudden would be the jerking of the head that their long loose hair would crack almost as loud as a wagoner's whip.
While I am on this subject I will relate a very serious circumstance what I knew to take place with a man who had the Jerks at a camp meeting, on what was called the Ridge, in William Magee's congregation. There was a great work of religion in the encampment. The Jerks were very prevalent. There was a company of drunken rowdies who came to interrupt the meeting. These rowdies were headed by a very large drinking man. They came with their bottles of whiskey in their pockets. This large man cursed the Jerks, and all religion. Shortly afterward he took the Jerks, and he started to run, but he jerked so powerfully he could not get away. He halted among some saplings, and, although he was violently agitated, he took out his bottle of whiskey, and swore he would drink the damned jerks to death; but he jerked at such a rate he could not get the bottle to his mouth, though he tried hard. At length he fetched a sudden jerk, and the bottle struck a sapling and was broken to pieces, and spilled his whiskey on the ground. There was a great crowd gathered round him, and when he lost his whiskey he became very much enraged, and cursed and swore very profanely, his jerks still increasing. At length he fetched a very violent jerk, snapped his neck, fell, and soon expired, with his mouth full of cursing and bitterness.
I have always looked upon the Jerks as a judgment sent from God, first, to bring sinners to repentance; and, secondly, to show professors that God could work with or without means, and that he could work over and above means, and so whatsoever seemeth him good, to the glory of his grace and the salvation of the world.
There is no doubt in my mind that, with weak-minded, ignorant, and superstitious persons, there was a great deal of sympathetic feeling with many that claimed to be under the influence of this jerking exercise; and yet, with many, it was perfectly involuntary. It was, on all occasions, my practice to recommend fervent prayer as a remedy, and it almost universally proved an effectual antidote.
There were many other strange and wild exercises into which the subjects of this revival fell; such, for instance, as what was called the running, jumping, barking exercise. The Methodist preachers generally preached against this extravagant wildness. I did it uniformly in my little ministrations, and sometimes gave great offense; but I feared no consequences when I felt my awful responsibilities to God. From these wild exercises another great evil arose from the heated and wild imaginations of some. They professed to fall into trances and see visions; they would fall at meetings and sometimes at home, and lay apparently powerless and motionless for days, sometimes for a week at a time, without food or drink; and when they came to, they professed to have seen heaven and hell, to have seen God, angels, and devil and the damned; they would prophesy, and under the pretense of divine inspiration, predict the time of the end of the world, and the ushering in of the great millennium.
This was the most troublesome delusion of all, it made such an appeal to the ignorance, superstition, and credulity of the people, even saint as well as sinner.
The Melodrama of a Camp Meeting 1830
In her book, Domestic Manners of the Americans, Frances Trollope (1780-1863) describes her repulsion for camp meetings:
We reached the ground about an hour
midnight, and the approach to it was highly picturesque. The
was the verge of an unbroken forest, where a space of about 20
to have been partially cleared for the purpose. Tents of
were pitched very near together in a circle round the cleared
them were ranged an exterior circle of carriages of every
and at the back of each were fastened the horses which had drawn
Through this triple circle of defense we distinguished numerous
flickering from the trees that were left in the enclosure. The
in meridian splendor above our heads.
We left the carriage to the care of a servant, who was to prepare a bed in it for Ms. B. and me, and entered the inner circle. The first glance reminded me of Vauxhall Gardens, from the effect of the lights among the trees, and the moving crowd below them; but the second showed a scene totally unlike anything I had ever witnessed. Four high frames, constructed in the form of altars, were placed at the four corners of the enclosure; on these were supported layers of earth and sod, on which burned immense fires of blazing pine wood. On one side a rude platform was erected to accommodate the preachers, 15 of whom attended this meeting, and with very short intervals for necessary refreshment and private devotion, preached in rotation, day and night, from Tuesday to Sunday. When we arrived, the preachers were silent; but we heard issuing from nearly every tent mingled sounds of praying, preaching, singing, and lamentation.
Great numbers of persons were walking about the ground, who appeared like ourselves to be present only as spectators; some of these very unceremoniously contrived to raise the drapery of this tent, at one corner, so as to afford us a perfect view of the interior.
The floor was covered with straw, which round the sides was heaped in masses, that might serve as seats, but which at that moment were used to support the heads and the arms of the close packed circle of men and women who kneeled on the floor.
Out of 30 persons thus placed, perhaps a dozen were men. One of these, a handsome-looking youth of 18 or 20, kneeled just below the opening through which I looked. His arm was encircling the neck of a very young woman who knelt beside him, with her hair hanging disheveled upon her shoulders, and her features working with the most violent agitation; soon after they both fell forward on the straw, as if unable to endure in any other attitude the burning eloquence of a tall grim figure in black, who, standing erect in the center, was uttering with incredible vehemence an oration that seemed to hover between praying and preaching; his arms hung stiff and immovable by his side, and he looked like an ill-constructed machine, set in action by a movement so violent, as to threaten its own destruction, so jerkingly, painfully, yet rapidly, did his words tumble out; the kneeling circle ceased not to call, in every variety of tone, on the name of Jesus; accompanied with sobs, groans, and a sort of low howling impressibly painful to listen to.
At midnight a horn sounded through the camp, which, we were told, was to call the people from private to public worship; and we presently saw them flocking from all sides to the front of the preachers' stand. Ms. B and I contrived to place ourselves with our backs supported against the lower part of this structure, and we were thus enabled to witness the scene which followed, without personal danger. There were about 2,000 persons assembled.
One of the preachers began in a low nasal tone, and, like all other Methodist preachers, assured us of the enormous depravity of man as he comes from the hands of his maker, and of his perfect sanctification after He had wrestled sufficiently with the lord to get hold of him, etc. The admiration of the crowd was evinced by almost constant cries of "Amen! Amen!" "Jesus! Jesus!" "Glory! Glory!" and the like. But this comparative tranquility did not last long: the preacher told them that "this night was the time fixed upon for anxious sinners to wrestle with the Lord"; that he and his brethren "were at hand to help them" and that such as needed their help were to come forward into "The Pen."
The Pen was the space immediately below the preacher's stand; we were therefore placed on the edge of it, and were enabled to see and hear all that took place in the very center of this extraordinary exhibition.
The crowd fell back at the mention of The Pen, and for some minutes there was a vacant space before us. The preachers came down from their stand and placed themselves in the midst of it, beginning to sing a hymn, calling upon the penitents to come forth. As they sang they kept turning themselves round to every part of the crowd, and, by degrees, the voices of the whole multitude joined in chorus. ...
The exhortation nearly resembled that which I had heard at "The Revival," but the result was very different; for, instead of the few hysterical women who had distinguished themselves on that occasion, above 100 persons, nearly all women, came forward, uttering howlings and groans, so terrible that I shall never cease to shudder when I recall them. They appeared to drag each other forward, and on the word being given, "let us pray," they all fell on their knees; but this posture was soon changed for others that permitted greater scope for the convulsive movement of their limbs; and they were soon all lying on the ground in an indescribable confusion of heads and legs. They threw about their limbs with such incessant and violent motion, that I was very instant expecting some serious accident to occur.
But how am I to describe the sounds that proceeded from this strange mass of human beings? I know no words which can convey an idea of it. Hysterical sobbings, convulsive groans, shrieks and screams the most appalling, burst forth on all sides. I felt sick with horror. As if their hoarse and over strained voices failed to make noise enough, they soon began to clap their hands violently.
Many of these wretched creatures were beautiful young women. The preachers moved about among them, at once exciting and soothing their agonies. I heard the muttered "Sister! Dear sister!" I saw the insidious lips approach the cheeks of the unhappy girls; I heard the murmured confessions of the poor victims, and I watched their tormentors, breathing into their ears consolations that tinged the pale cheek with red...
After the wild burst that followed their prostration, the moanings, in many instances, became loudly articulate; and I then experienced a strange vibration between tragic and comic feeling.
A very pretty young woman, who was kneeling in the attitude of Antonio Canova's (1757-1822) Magdalene immediately before us, amongst an immense quantity of jargon, broke out thus: "Woe! Woe to the backsliders! Hear it, hear it Jesus! When I was 15 my mother died, and I backslided, oh Jesus, I backslided! Take me home to my mother, Jesus! Take me home to her, for I am weary! Oh John Mitchell! John Mitchell!" And after sobbing piteously behind her raised hands, she lifted her sweet face again, which was as pale as death, and said, "Shall I sit on the sunny bank of salvation with my mother? My own dear mother? Oh Jesus, take me home, take me home!"
The stunning noise was sometimes varied by the preachers beginning to sing; but the convulsive movements of the poor maniacs only became more violent. At length the atrocious wickedness of this horrible scene increased to a degree of grossness, that drove us from our station: we returned to the carriage at about 3am in the morning, and passed the remainder of the night in listening to the ever increasing tumult at The Pen. To sleep was impossible. At daybreak the horn again sounded, to send them to private devotion; and in about an hour afterwards I saw the whole camp as joyously and eagerly employed in preparing and devouring their most substantial breakfasts as if the night had been passed in dancing; and I marked many a fair pale face, that I recognized as a demonic of the night, simpering beside a swain, to whom she carefully administered hot coffee and eggs. The preaching saint and the howling sinner seemed alike to relish this mode of recruiting their strength.
Quest for Utopia
The Pacific Northwest has long been a
destination for political and religious utopian colonists.
(1812-1877) viewed the region as a potential utopia when he led
of Christian communists from Missouri to Willapa Bay on the
Coast and then to the Willamette Valley in 1855, where they
the Aurora Colony.
A Jewish utopia, New Odessa, appeared briefly in Oregon during the 1880s. In more recent times, "hoppies" formed several rural and urban communes during the 1960s. The movement no doubt inspired Ernest Callenbach's 1875 novel Ectopia, the story of an environmental utopia located in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
But no utopian experiment has attracted more attention in recent years than Rajneeshpuram, a 64,000-acre communal settlement established in rural Wasco County, in 1891. At its height the Eastern-oriented religious cult attracted a population of 7,000 people, many of them affluent and highly educated professionals. When adherents took over the nearby village of Antelope—which they rechristened Rajneesh City—and bussed in hundreds of potential voters from the slums of eastern cities in 1984 in an attempt to outvote longtime Wasco County residents, Oregonians became apprehensive. The $100 million experiment collapsed in 1885 following the arrest and deportation of Shree Rajneesh, who had entered the US illegally from India. At one time the Bhagwan possessed 95 Rolls-Royce automobiles as tokens of affection given to him by his orange-clad disciples.
Religious cultism raised its ugly head
Benton and Lincoln Counties at the turn of the 20th Century, and
touched the lives of local people.
George A. Hodges I, a man whose life was spent largely in the wilds of the West, crossed the Great Plains to Oregon in 1864 and settled Salado in the Big Elk Valley, where he established the area's first post office in 1891. The encounter he had with the followers of the prophet Joshua must have come as somewhat of a shock.
Before he descended upon Corvallis,
in 1903, Joshua II (a former member of the Salvation Army) went
name of Franz
Edmund Creffield, a smooth
wanderer with a German accent and large liquid eyes. After
role of prophet, he wore a luxuriant red beard, his hair
shoulders, and he spoke in a voice of thunder.
He proclaimed himself the sole prophet of the Church of the Bride of Christ. He bade the people of the small, unsuspecting community of Benton County to follow him or be damned.
Joshua Moves to Kiger Island
Soon the Church of the Bride of Christ
more room to roll in. Accordingly the girls, some of them quite
pretty, pitched in and helped the prophet erect a large wigwam
Island in the Willamette. Among the more willing workers was
17 and beautiful.
Smaller wigwams and tents were set up, but with the coming of chilly weather that autumn the sect shifted its headquarters to the home of O. P. Hurt in Corvallis. Hurt and his wife had a pretty daughter named Maude who was 19. She and Ms. Mitchell figure prominently in this saga.
Matters now reached a pass where, certain men of the community having been aroused, Creffield found himself accused of being, of all things, "crazy." The citizens were further angered when we was ruled sane, but they were mollified that he had been ordered to stay out of Corvallis.
At about the same time, some of the men of the town glimpsed surreptitious photographs taken of the sect’s exercises of Kiger Island.
On the evening of January 4, 1904, a group of unsympathetic spouses and fathers seized Franz Edmund and hustled him to the town line. There they stripped him, doused him with tar and feathers, and sent him on his way with a swift kick.
Ms. Hurt and her pretty daughter found the prophet shivering in the woods and took him to her home. A few days later he married Maude under his correct, non-biblical name.
The vestiges of that had hardly disappeared from his anatomy when the bridegroom soloed up to Portland and took up with a comely Kiger Island roller he'd long had his eye on. The interlude ended when her spouse swore out a warrant charging him with misconduct. So Creffield found it advisable to go away.
Indeed, he was seen no more for three months. O. P. Hurt offered a reward for his arrest, and inducted daughter Maude to get a divorce. Then, on day in June, young Roy Hurt went looking for worms...
He crawled under the Hurt home carrying a can, when he suddenly encountered the blazing eyes of an unclad monstrosity, all covered with debris. The boy retreated screaming, and within minutes a police officer was questioning the nude.
"Franz Creffield, aren't you?," the officer asked. "No," the unkempt fellow replied, "I am Joshua."
He had, it developed, occupied the nook for more than two months, during which time Ms. Hurt, Maude and various other women had brought him food.
From Portland to Waldport
In Portland he pled guilty to
but he predicted he would be heard from again. He forgave
they knew not what they did, and when the judge said, "two
"God bless you." He entered the prison at Salem on September 16,
emerged 15 months later, minus his beard but not his mission.
Soon he was writing Esther Mitchell from San Francisco to inform her that she had been selected to become the Spiritual Mother of his sect. He also wrote to O. P. Hurt: "God has resurrected me. I have now got my foot on your neck. I will return to Oregon and gather all my followers. Place no obstruction in my way or God will smite you."
Next he wrote to Maude, his divorced wife, then living in Seattle with her brother, Frank, and his wife. He asked Maude if she would remarry him; she replied that she would, provided he come to Seattle. He returned, and they were married by an orthodox minister. Creffield then plunged into plans for the reestablishment of a colony for the faithful. He persuaded the Seattle Hurts to sell their property to buy a site on a stretch of wooded waterfront south of Waldport. Soon, having settled the Hurts and Maude, he announced by mail his resurrection to his followers in Corvallis, only a few miles away by way of the Corvallis & Eastern Railroad. The response was most gratifying... Among them was Esther Mitchell, lovelier than ever.
Joshua now ordered his followers, numbering about 50, to burn their clothing and don a sort of "holy" wrapping, which resembled a heavy cotton bathrobe. A large fire was built, and all the faithful flung their clothing into the flames.
Meanwhile, back in Corvallis, many indignant men entrained for the scene, cleaning their shooting irons en route. Joshua had sensed their coming and wasn't on hand when they arrived.
The fugitive prophet and Maude returned to Seattle. The next morning, while taking a stroll, George Mitchell (brother of Esther) stepped up, placed a gun against the prophet's ear and fired.
Franz Edmund Creffield ascended to his reward instantly; he didn't even say "God bless you."
Despite Maude's insistence that her spouse would rise and walk in three days, he was duly buried in Seattle.
The Faithful Wait in Waldport
Down in Waldport, the faithful awaited
return. Since his departure their food supplies had been
the weather turned raw. On May 15, George A. Hodges, a timber
Salado, encountered five wrapped women near Waldport. They told
were the followers of Joshua, the prophet who had just destroyed
by quake and flame.
The women refused to believe that the prophet was dead, and so...
Hodges left them with their illusion and hastened on to Waldport. Presently spouses, fathers and brothers again journeyed to the coast to bring their "starry-eyed womenfolk" home.
George Mitchell was speedily acquitted on July 10. Two days later he and his brother went to the King Street Station in Seattle to board the 4pm train for home.
As the train was about to depart, sister Esther produced a revolver and fired it into George's left ear.
"He had to die," Esther explained. "He did a terrible thing killing a prophet."
It developed that she and Maude had planned the killing together.
Esther was found guilty by reason of "insanity." Maude didn't want to be tried, and she took strychnine. Three years later Esther was paroled from the Washington State Asylum, and a few weeks later she died in the home of friends living near Waldport.
Aurora Mills 1855
Aurora was the center of a Methodist
colony, and is now on the main line of the Southern Pacific
also on the Pacific Highway East about 28 miles from Portland,
eight miles northeast of Woodburn. Named for the daughter of the
fanatical leader, Wilhelm Keil, arrived there with a group of
in 1855. It was a thriving community for years during the early
when it was a center of the huge hop growing industry of the
Keil's death in 1877, all property in the community was
Aurora post office was established December 30, 1894, with
first postmaster. The town was incorporated in 1893, and it had
one newspaper, the weekly Aurora Borealis, starting in 1900 and
eight years. Now the Portland-Salem freeway had bypassed the
retains many reminders of more flourishing times. The community
plus or minus is beginning to realize the importance of its
is making an effort to preserve its old buildings and visible
of its past.
Born in Bleicherod, District of Erfurt, Prussia on March 6, 1812, young Keil emigrated to the New World in 1836. Tailor by trade, he worked in a New York clothing factory and being diligent he would have done well but for his constant exhortations on religion among his fellow workers. They protested and Keil was discharged. German Methodism now took over his whole being and moving to Pittsburgh, he was ordained a Methodist preacher.
For a time dispensing gospel in the conventional manner satisfied his zeal but soon his radical tendencies set him in open revolt and he cut himself off from his church and moved to Shelby County, Missouri, where in 1845 he formed a colony of sympathetic believers. Some 6,000 acres were acquired, the center of it to be called Bethel, House of God. For a time the colony prospered but then came trouble—antagonism on the part of neighbors, several seasons of bad weather for crops and general disagreement.
By 1855, Keil had acquired the title "doctor" and many ideas. The real New Jerusalem, he said, must be in the much talked about Oregon Territory and that was where the colony was going. The faithful gathered up their belongings, said farewell to loved ones and prepared to leave.
Also by this time the doctor had five sons, the eldest named for his father and called Willie. He was 19 and enthused about the trip West but was suddenly beset by malaria. Before he died he begged his father not to leave him in Missouri but take his body on the caravan and bury it in the new land. Following his promise, Keil placed the boy's body in the sealed casket with the alcohol and placed it on the lead wagon.
After four months of travel the party arrived at Willapa, Washington Territory, the originally planned destination, and Willie was buried there. After a short stay, however, Keil became dissatisfied with the place as a permanent site for his colony and again pulled up stakes.
The original village of Aurora Mills was not located at the site of the modern town. Arriving in the Willamette Valley, the doctor selected a location on the west bank of Mill Creek, just above its junction with the Pudding River and near the Willamette which received the waters of both. The new community in Oregon was named Aurora Mills, in honor of Keil's favorite daughter. The post office was established Deccember 30, 1857, with Keil serving as postmaster.
It was share and share alike for everybody except Keil and many of the names of the colony founders might have come straight out of the Prussian army—Rapp, Steinbock, Wolff, Koch and Koenig. All members were to live by these tenets:
From every man according to his capacity to every man according to his needs, is the rule that runs through the law of love. Every man or woman must be a brother or sister to every man and woman in our family under the law of God.
The autocratic leader set standards of
for the homes of colony members, and the first houses were of
it was not long before these were either weatherboarded or
frame structures. Yet his own, one of the first to be erected,
stories tall. It had four very large rooms, two on each floor.
no central heating system, large fireplaces at each end sufficed
and cooking. Two large balconies with railings of turned
the front of the imposing mansion.
A store, bachelor hall, and a church, were erected, and family homes began to appear here and there over the countryside.
One of the earliest buildings to rise in Aurora was its famed hotel. Here meals were served to the general public and to stage passengers before the coming of the railroad and to train passengers afterwards.
Communal activities were varied and included working in the fine orchards and selling the fruit to neighboring settlers. A large furniture factory was set up, and skilled cabinetmakers and allied craftsmen at the Aurora colony produced numerous pieces of able workmanship—clothes, basketry, spool beds, oak chests, woven bottom chairs and tables. Metal workers fashioned architectural iron work of great beauty. These and other products were sold up and down the valley, and were sought eagerly by collectors and discriminating householders, who prized highly these simple and artistic pieces of the German craftsman.
From its first plantation the colony prospered, due largely to strict economy of living and unflagging industry. Thousands of acres were brought under cultivation, vineyards were planted, and orchards were set out. One who visited the colony remarked: "All this valley was like a province in Germany. Farming was carried out in the thrifty German way, and everywhere was heard the German tongue."
Outsiders, even complete strangers, were welcome at all celebrations and came in droves. It was good business, spreading the good word of Aurora's products. When the railroad came through it stopped for meals at Aurora rather than at Portland which was much larger and only a few miles farther on.
The Aurora band was organized, playing concerts from the balcony of one large building and for celebrations in neighboring towns. Dr. Keil was quite willing it should be so—for $50, of course. The band was in demand for fairs, picnics, and political meetings. In April 1869, Ben Holladay (1819-1887) paid the commune $500 for the services of the band on the voyage of the Portland party to Puget Sound. Harvey W. Scott called it “the best musical organization of its time.” Proceeds of all projects were divided for the benefit of all—or so it was believed by devout members. Some detractors outside the colony claimed the funds went into a stout trunk which reposed under Keil's four-poster.
However no one in the colony seems to have suffered from want, especially of food. This item seems to have been all important in the progress of Aurora in true old country folk tradition. At all summer celebrations long tables were set up in the open and lavishly spread with German sausages, roasts, pies and pastries—all the rich indigestibles of peasant land. The band played loudly while everyone ate, the record says, and it is assumed the musicians had already eaten.
At Christmas huge baskets of cakes, fruits and candies were distributed to the colonists. Two large fir trees were trussed up in the 40 by 80 foot church, where the alter was built in the shape of a star. Preaching and band concerts went on almost constantly, gifts accumulated under the trees until New Year's when they were passed out to the children.
Schools operated the year around, allowing no such nonsense as summer vacations. Nor were any educations frivolities tolerated. Reading and writing and arithmetic were the only studies with the exception of music, and Aurora became the musical center of the state.
Dr. Keil's despotic rule prevailed for 25 years, then an undercurrent of change was felt. Many of the original colonists were aging, as was the leader himself. A younger generation was exposed to the outside world and this influence was working its way in. As long as Keil's word was undisputed, the colony held together as a unit but he was failing, his word weakening, his grip loosening.
There was a reorganization, a deviation from the credo "Equal service, equal obligation, equal reward," yet still tempered to the older order while Keil lived. Upon his death in 1877, the colony was dissolved, all communally held property divided between members according to length of service. And as the years passed evidence of the original colony began to disappear, old buildings and houses falling victim to fire and slow decay.
South of Aurora are numerous hop fields or yards. A hop field is easily recognized because of its spider web of wire, strung on posts 10 to 12 feet high, to support the vines which form a canopy of green over weedless earth. The luxurious vines form impenetrable walls from one end of the field to another, with laterals about ten feet apart. Many of the hop farms have vines that are 50 years old. In the early autumn, when the hops are ready for the harvest, the trellis of vines is lowered to the earth, and armies of men, women and children gather the blooms. Between 25,000 and 35,000 pickers are required to harvest the crop, and at picking time, a tent city springs up about every hop yard of any size.
New Era 1869
Era is located on the east bank
near the mouth of Parrot Creek, about three miles north of
sources suggest that the community was named because it was
the Oregon & California Railway, completed December 24,
introduce a new era in transportation here, as it would be
Willamette River boats to stop there and deliver produce. This
as a new era in river transportation as boats then would not
have to go
to the falls below at Oregon City. To celebrate this event, an
party crowded passenger cars on December 30 for a special trip
town beside the Willamette.
New Era post office was established seven years later, on January 5, 1876, with Joseph Castro first postmaster. The office closed to Oregon City January 31, 1940, no doubt due to a decline in postal customers.
This story of a new era of transportation has the earmarks of truth, but on the other hand it should be said that a local family were spiritualists and devoted to a visionary publication called the New Era, and named the place on that account.
New Era. The name of promise, hope. Maybe, thought Joseph Parrott, that would be just the name of the community springing up around his store and grist mill on Parrott Creek flowing into the Willamette about the falls. It was already the name of the religious colony on the hill overlooking the farm he settled on in 1855—The New Era Spiritualist Society—which printed the little tract. Maybe with the railroad coming, the settlement would be inspired with that name.
In 1892, five-year-old Laura Ellen Parrott saw this new land with big, wondering eyes. Now, she looks into the past when her father turned his back on the world and wicked mining country around Dillon, Montana, and brought his family to the mild climate and rich soil of Oregon.
By this time Parrott's little store was inadequate and outdated. Laura's father saw his opportunity and built a larger one beside the road paralleling the river and railroad tracks. He was appointed postmaster and at one side of the store the Wells Fargo Company had its office. In 1964, this little false-fronted gem was still standing. His daughter says: "There was a great deal going on all the time. Father would be selling groceries, weighing postal parcels and relieving the Wells Fargo man all at the same time."
The valley soil was every bit as rich as newcomers expected—black, loamy stuff that grew great quantities of top quality potatoes. The farmers soon were growing more of them than could be consumed locally and shipped them to Portland. Because of the falls at Oregon City, the crop was hauled in wagons to that point, transferred to boats below the falls. After a system of locks was built, boats could load at New Era and when the railroad came through, produce was shipped by train.
A year after Laura's arrival at New Era she started school in the little one room schoolhouse which taught all grades. Another pupil was a boy her age, John Thompson. They grew up with an “understanding” and when John got a job on the river steamer, Iralda, which plied the Columbia with terminal dock at Rainier, John moved there.
They were both 18 on one of these trips and were married. John went to work for the railroad and the couple moved to Portland, a distance of 20 miles away. He was with the railroad the rest of his working years, eventually retiring with Laura at home on the banks of the Willamette near Milwaukie, not far from their old New Era haunts.
Mid-century, New Era consisted of two or three buildings, one of which is an abandoned grist mill on Parrot Creek. In 1964, the Herman Anthony farm was still on the hill above the railroad and across from the grounds of the New Era Spiritualist Church and campgrounds, about one-half mile from the site of the Catholic church and cemetery. When the Catholic church was built, the parish priest planted two tiny poplar cuttings, one at each side of the front door. The church is now long gone, but the poplars are enormous. Anthony, an immigrant from Germany, was familiar with litchgate construction, and decided one could well serve as a portal to his farm. This type of gate had a somber origin in Europe, as it served as the covered entrance to burial grounds where preliminary services were held at bier. Cupolas and other old world touches adorn the old outbuildings dating from about 1880. Anthony was an enthusiastic beekeeper, and had his own ideas about care, such as a large bee house to shelter hives in winter, which proved not to be successful in the mild Oregon climate. The bee house was still intact as were other structures, such as the livery stable, which was serving as a garage. And New Era was still the scene of the annual summer camp meetings of the Spiritualist Society of the Pacific Northwest. The commodious and pleasant campgrounds were a short distance up the creek.
The small boat moved swiftly across
of Yaquina Bay. Peering out over the top of what few family
there were, sat little Anne Jane Brooks. With excitement in her
watched the broad expanse of the Bay and the tall firs that
hills when she and her family, along with others, would make
home at the colony.
That was the year 1886 and Anne Jane Brooks was then only two years old. Yet today, Brooks is the only person left to recall their arrival to this land, and one of the few people to know anything at all about the mysterious and now unknown religious colony they sought to establish.
Who were these people? Where did they come from? And what were they going to do in this "untamed wilderness" of (then) Benton County? It is perhaps the greatest unsolved mystery in Lincoln County! The Brooks family: Louis Kossuth Brooks, his wife, Mary Miller Brooks, and daughters Anne Jane and Ada (or Addie) left their home near Foster and came with a small band of people to the Yaquina Bay country to start a new and better life.
Looking back up the river that eventful day, Anne could see the mountains to the east that they had left just a short time before.
Soon it would become only a hazy memory, but right now the pictures of the old life were still vivid: Their home at the grist mill in the mountains and their beloved horses, Dick and Mike, which had been sold along with their home and land to raise money for their new adventure. These she would recall all of her life.
She could remember, too, the tall bearded man with the thick glasses who spoke to her father for long hours. Only later would she realize the changes in her life that his influence made.
The trip across the Bay was coupled with the excitement of bargemen carrying families, wagons and very modern, crated farm machinery. Anne recalled years later, that they swam a fine team of horses up the river and slough.
Within a two year period, they carved a clearing into the heavy timber in a quiet peaceful valley on the south side of the Bay, where Wright Creek goes into Poole Slough.
The families built a large two story colony house, started a school for their children and probably established a post office, possibly under the name Ona.
Times were difficult. Many of the men were unused to this type of labor. The land was unsuited to the type of machinery they had brought; and the type of farming they had planned to do.
Suddenly, the money was gone, food reduced to bran bread and fish, dissension developed and the group floundered.
The Brooks family was the first to leave, but others soon followed.
Their home, land and mill sold, their money lost in the colony, and that adventure a failure, the Brooks family moved to Toledo where Brooks became Prof. Brooks, principal of the school and teacher of many Toledoites. There the family lived for nearly ten years, from about 1888 to September of 1889.
The Lincoln County Leader of that time are full of news items about the family.
In 1896, the Brooks family, along with their relatives the B. F. Jones family, went camping in Newport. A year later, Ms. B. F. Jones and Ms. L. K. Brooks published a card of thanks in the paper, thanking friends and neighbors for sympathy at the death of their father.
Prof. Brooks started a Sabbath School in the old house in Toledo in 1897, and attended teachers' institutes with Ira Wade (1875-1940), Charles B. Crosno, Effie Crosno, D. J. Chitwood, Ms. Unicy Aiken and others.
He was also the examiner who gave prospective educators their qualifying tests. Among some of these were Ms. Gibbs of Storrs, Ms. Reynolds of Waldport, Ms. Eva Ewing, J. J. Turnidge of Toledo, George McCluskey and his sister, Mamie McCluskey Litchfield and Brooks' daughter, Ada.
Finally in 1898, the Brooks family moved to Yakima, Washington, where his brother-in-law had a small academy. He taught there until the relative received an offer to teach at Puget Sound College and the academy closed. Brooks also purchased some land in the Yakima Valley and became an orchardman. He died in 1927, apparently leaving no written record of his unfortunate days on Poole Slough.
The idea of the colony was not Brooks'. Two men are credited with its origin, but it is not known for sure which one actually planned the venture.
Wilson White, also referred to only as the Rev. White, was credited by some as being head of the mysterious colony.
Little is known about his part in the colony, but after it broke up, they were one of the families who remained on the slough, at least until the year 1896.
Most probably, they originator of the colony was a man called Prof. Lambert, whose story is even more interesting than that of L. K. Brooks.
Charles Edward Lambert was born in Ireland in Lambert Castle, Connemarra, Galloway. He came to the US by way of the Virgin Islands and once in this country he joined the Union Army in Kansas. After the Civil War he graduated from Northwestern University and the Methodist Garrett Biblical Institute, later preaching around Evanston, Illinois. He came West in 1879, accepting the presidency of Willamette University in Salem, and then in 1882 joining the staff of the University of Oregon, in Eugene.
According to Lambert's daughter, he was an innovator and a missionary spirit, spending some seven years in Lincoln County at Yaquina City. She recalled that he was first a teacher of boys at a school seven miles east of Yaquina City called the Big House.
Later, they apparently moved closer to Yaquina where they conducted school in a railroad boxcar.
His daughter added that he flung away his life in the charming and cloistered city of Eugene,
took a little band of followers to the wilds of Oregon, started schools, churches, homesteads, cooperative a wild, free, out-of-doors life... for seven years. This was up a narrow slough back of Yaquina, Oregon. In this he was as always, far before his time.
Later, Lambert became president of a small town academy in a rural section backed by forest land, where, his daughter wrote that he
attempted to teach reforestation, animal husbandry and agricultural classes.
Lambert left Lincoln County sometime about the turn of the century and moved to Seattle City. Records there give addresses for Lambert as early as 1904 until his death in a veteran’s hospital in 1932 at the age of 89. Apparently, he too, left no written record of life in the colony.
May 1, 1998: Longtime Oregonians may
"The Two," who showed up in Waldport in 1975 to deliver a UFO
and left with 30 people in their tow. Believers had sold their
and left family, friends, and jobs to relocate with [lecturers]
and Nettles and wait for their evacuation by flying saucers to
"evolutionary level," recounts University of Oregon folklorist
author of The End of the World as We Know It (New York
Bonnie Lu Nettles died in 1985. Marshall Herff Applewhite met his fate later, around March 23, 1997. With him died 38 others, expecting to be transported aboard a giant spacecraft trailing the Hale-Bopp comet. The group by then was known as Heaven's Gate; it was the largest mass suicide in US history.
While Wojcik doesn't consider Heaven's Gate a typical UFO group, it does provide an extreme case of "emergent" eschatology. The UFO phenomenon is more—much more—than flying saucers, alien abductions, and government conspiracies. It's a folk religion in development, and it bears watching.
"Although beliefs about UFOs often have been ridiculed by academics," writes Wojcik, "the lore that has arisen concerning contact with extraterrestrials has many of the attributes of a popular religious phenomenon: its own mythology, legends, and systems of belief, constructed from previous traditions about the supernatural, and affirmed and elaborated upon through personal encounters, visions, trance states, marvelous journeys, and other numinous experiences."
First Flying Saucers in Pacific Northwest Reported Near Mount Rainier in 1947
Although Roswell, New Mexico, gets the
the first flying saucers were reported near Washington's Mount
in 1947; personal contact was claimed a few years later.
tradition, the aliens are either good, bad, or transcendent:
to rescue us from our nuclear folly, invade the planet, or "help
transform the world and usher in a New Age of peace and
Old wine in new bottles, observes Wojcik: "Similar to other catastrophic millennarian scenarios, the apocalypse anticipated within the UFO movement is often conceptualized as a cleansing of the world, to be followed by a terrestrial paradise of peace, fulfillment, and harmony."
Believers Depict Jesus Returning in a Space Ship
The comparison is not just
groups depict Jesus returning in a fleet of spaceships. Some
how he arrived the first time. "The UFO faith actively seeks and
Christian ideas and those from other belief systems as well as
culture," Wojcik writes.
Despite the similarities, however, the UFO beliefs generally lacks the fire and brimstone of traditional apocalypse. The world may not need to be destroyed in order to save it—as long as we do the right thing. As it happens, that was the social gospel approach to the 19th Century: salvation through good works.
February 15, 1987: Someone who had
been there might never find the place—the road markers have all
But Rajneeshpuram is still there. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh jumped onto an airplane headed for North Carolina in an attempt to flee from federal immigration authorities. But it was September 13, 1985. Two months later the once-bustling commune was deserted, except for a handful of followers who stayed on to keep the buildings from deteriorating until the commune could be sold.
The long drive on gravel and dirt roads from Antelope to Rajneeshpuram is still just as long. But the once-formidable feeling that "something awful is going to happen if I get much closer" quickly disintegrates once you pass the first of several tiny lookout stations where Sannyasins once monitored your progress with walkie-talkies.
City Hall? Must be three or four Jeeps, modern and shiny, parked out front. Yes, these much be the caretakers. Now that you think of it, you have already passed a couple of them on the road. Their occupants were not dressed in red, orange or pink, though.
You kind of slide east past City Hall and arrive on Main Street.
Yes, it’s just the way you remembered it—only not a soul in sight. An occasional tumble weed blows by, and you take a picture of it just for fun.
The buildings, though empty, are carpeted and well-kept. Yes, there's the bookstore—where Ma Anad Sheela announced to the world that she was not going to take over Wasco County by bringing in transients to vote. We all just misunderstood her sense of humor—remember?
A red-clad man appears as if out of nowhere and yells that the shops and sidewalks are private property—you are to stay on the county road.
Except for some cracks in the windows, the lookout stations stand like tiny capsules, mere suggestions of what once was.
Most of the signs of welcome have been dismantled, but parts of the marble structures remain. The ever-imposing symbol of the bird of peace is riddled with bullet holes—ruined forever.
You pass the man-made hours of work (the Sannyasins called work "worship") it took to dredge it. It sparkles in the sun.
Then you are there—in the once-promised land.
That is when you run into your first obstacle—the information center, with its huge parking lot, is closed off with a big wire fence. A herd of cattle grazes outside the fence: the information center sets isolated, yet another time capsule.
Then there is the air strip. My, must have been huge airplanes taking off from there once. It seems to never end. Yet it sits quietly nestled between two walls of mountains. And fenced off.
As you enter the city center you pass the once-bustling bus station. Buses were the main transportation across the massive commune, where buildings seemed so far and few in between. The terminal is still there, although the group of telephones that once lined one end of the parking lot are gone. ...
They still own the place and have the right to protect the buildings until they're purchased.
Back on the county road, you venture into areas that you were afraid to enter before—residential areas where hundreds of red-clad Sannyasins made their homes in mobile units. You cross over a bridge that leads to a vacant lot. A pattern of stones pressed into the ground hint that a garden must have existed once.
But no more.
The tour’s over. There is nothing more to see. Only the county road remains open, since all the private roads have been blocked off. You retrace your steps as you return the same way you came. And for some reason as you pass the welcome sign "Thank you—come again" your pulse slows down to normal.
You can't resist stopping in Antelope, 13 miles away, and taking a peek into The Antelope Cafe. Remember "Zorba the Buddha?" The red visitor caps with pictures of antelopes on them let you know you are no longer eating at "Zorba the Buddha."
Nor will you ever. Because you're safe now. Antelope's safe.
But you can't help but wonder for a moment if the whole four-year epic of the Rajneesh in Wasco County ever really happened.
It did. And we will never forget it.
February 22, 1987: Selling real estate
not always the easiest thing in the world to do.
But when you've got 64,000 acres, and your asking price is $28.5 million, you don't just sell to the first party that comes along.
This is the problem faced by Joseph DeJager of Cushman and Wakefield of Oregon Incorporated Realtors.
DeJager has been dealing with a number of prospects, mostly private individuals, for the past seven months. He believes the property will be sold by mid-year, he said.
Although the property is considered to be one parcel of land which cannot be subdivided, it is possible to do minor partitions, he said. The ranch is made up of seven or eight parcels. "I would envision maybe two sales," he said.
DeJager said private parties have been interested in taking advantage of the existing structures on the property. They have proposed game ranches and "fat" farms, he said.
So far the state has not come forward with an offer. "I feel the ranch had a great deal of potential for state use, which would be beneficial to the local economy and to the state in general," he said. He said he would prefer to see the state purchase the property, for possible use as a facility for the elderly, a correctional facility, experimental agriculture or university programs, he said.
Rajneeshpuram contains the potential for "a full array of recreational activities," since it contains an airstrip, hotel accommodations, an office and a variety of residential buildings, he said. It has two lakes and the John Day River running through it, which could accommodate water sports including sailing, windsurfing and fishing. It has places for horseback riding and other western-style recreation, he said.
Meanwhile, a relatively small cadre of Rajneesh followers are acting as caretakers to maintain the ranch. According to Moses, president of Rajneesh Investment Corporation, the land is under 24-hour watch, and as a result vandalism has been minimal. He described the limited damage as "a bit of mischief," adding that the caretakers have "techniques and methods" of knowing when visitors are on the property day and night.
The county road which runs through Rajneeshpuram is not private property, and this sometimes causes problems from a security point of view, Moses said. Occasionally people take the county road to Mitchell, a small community, he said. The county road turns into Mitchell Road, which is a very rough road, Moses said.
Rajneeshpuram receives fewer and fewer visitors over time. "Apparently it is not quite so interesting a place to see now as in the past," Moses said.
The areas other than the county road are all private property, and are "not available to the public for traversing," Moses said. The exception to this are potential buyers and public officials in the course of business.
Moses said he recently returned from a trip to Poona, India, where he visited Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The guru talks to his followers twice a day, although his living quarters are too small for him to stage a drive-through as he did at Rajneeshpuram.
Moses said he did not know whether the Bhagwan intends to stay in India. "I expected He was in Oregon to stay." He added that he was “just glad to have a chance to see him while he was in one place.”
Rajneeshpuram: That Terrifying Utopian Experiment Now Part of Oregon History
May 1, 1998: From 1981 through 1985,
Rajneesh Bookstore at Rajneeshpuram's Devateerth Mall sold
publications in which Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh described his
new ways of living.
The communal city in Central Oregon, built on the Big Muddy Ranch near the village of Antelope, numbered 2,000 at its peak. Despite its small size and brief existence, Rajneeshpuram commanded national attention—and not only because of the Bhagwan's ninety-plus Rolls Royces.
Rajneeshpuram drew hundreds of high-achieving Baby Boomers, who gave up lucrative careers to follow their spiritual leader to the Northwest. The Rajneeshees also attempted to take over the Wasco County Board by a dubious election ploy: busing in hundreds of homeless guests to vote.
University of Oregon researchers from a number of disciplines (psychology, sociology, public policy, and law) followed the events and published their findings. When Rajneeshpuram collapsed at the end of 1985, several researchers kept in contact with the group—now known as the Friends of Osho, which maintains a worldwide network of active, small centers, as well as an ashram in Poona, India.
Many of the volumes from the Rajneesh Bookstore have found their way to the University of Oregon Knight Library's special collections department. Librarians are gathering a range of documentary materials, from letters to books to videos about Rajneeshpuram and its aftermath. And research continues, so that Oregonians can understand the amazing and terrifying utopian experiment that is now part of the state's history.
April 7, 1997: Jim Roberts, 58, is a
marine who leads one of the most secretive Old Testament cults
After spending two days with some of his followers, I became
I was witnessing a virtuoso form of mind control. His followers,
in eight to ten nomadic cells that are currently recruiting kids
towns across the nation, say they are ready to die for him. I
with one such cell at a rented cottage in Eugene. The group's
45, directed all conversation. Yes, he said, the end of the
"The world has reached an unbearable level of corruption," he
younger members nodded in agreement and stared at me mutely. Men
aren't allowed to talk to each other without Timothy's
like Marshall Applewhite's followers [Heaven's Gate], they are
abstain from sex and must spend the day in pairs. Dinner, served
decorum, consisted of garbage. The Brotherhood believes that
dirty. The members feed themselves by rummaging though
and carefully removing all traces of rot. They keep themselves
however, believing that one must meet one's maker in a cleanly
them, Roberts is Jesus, and they dress like his apostles,
and homemade tunics even in winter.
Like Applewhite, Roberts was leading a seemingly normal life when he lost his job and many of his friends and became convinced that society was not be trusted. In the mid-1970s he began teaching followers they had to abandon all ties to society and "purify" themselves. "The world will need martyrs," says Timothy. "We are ready."
The first task of a cult leader is to sever connections between initiates and their families. Roberts does this by telling recruits that true enlightenment can be achieved only when they are separated from loved ones. Passages from the Bible, in which Jesus asks his apostles to forsake their families, are placed on a novice’s bed. "My parents are dead to me," says Dale, 19. Does he regret abandoning his choice? "Sometimes I want my mother or a beautiful girl I see," he replies. "But then I remember what I’m here for."
Chapter 15: Early Oregon 1862
We moderns are inclined to sympathize
with the early squatters of any primitive state. But the facts
in spite of their hardships the people enjoyed themselves in
way as much as do the people of this day. Life was strenuous but
way. In some respects it is far more strenuous in 1937 than it
Neighbors a mile or two apart knew each other more intimately
in Corvallis living next door to each other. If one became ill
carted off to a hospital, the neighbors took care of him. If a
unable to put in his crop or harvest it was the neighbors who
him and there was no charge. When a farmer decided to put up a
entire community came, including the women, and enjoyed the
barn raising instead of hiring a carpenter as is now the case.
The houses were small and the families were large, but they got along some how and because the house was small its mistress had time to do the baking, sewing, knitting, tailoring and weaving which is now devoted to bridge and community gossip. There were no nurseries in those days in which to keep the babies but they slept quietly in a trundle bed which was rolled under the parents' bed out of the way during the day.
There were no headers to assist the farmer with his work of harvesting, no binders nor even reapers or mowing machines. Grain was cut with the old-fashioned grape vine cradle with its wooden fingers. I swung one of those things when a young man on the farm and realize the slow work entailed. Two or three acres cutting was a good day’s work. There was no 30 hours a week, or 40 hours a week, or eight hours days. A day's work was from sunrise to sunset and chores were done by lantern light—after lanterns were invented. Threshing was done with an old-fashioned flail or by means of a horse treading over the threshing straw.
There were no "herd laws"... and crops had to be protected with crude fences from marauding livestock.
Occasionally at the theaters today you will see pictures of men and women arrayed in the attire of the Gay '90s, their dress looks funny, but could the cinema show us the clothes of 1862, they would look still funnier. Coats buttoned up clear to the chin, for warmth and wear were more greatly to be desired then style or appearance. Could the pioneers see the modern wrist watch they would probably have the wearer out of the community. Our grandfather's watch was a massive affair with a lid on it called a "hunting case" and was attached to the wearer by a heavy silver chain.
Instead of bridge parties, Quilting Bees were the occasion for an exchange of neighborhood news, most of which consisted of statements regarding intimate happenings of the community such as births in the family or the barnyard. Quilting Bees made the occasion for community dinners which were "events" in the lives of the neighborhood, which had no telephones, no radios, no electric lights, no plumbing or other modern conveniences. The women did not relax themselves or rest their shattered nerves by smoking cigarettes, for such means of inhalation of the solacing weed had not yet been invented. Reading matter was scarce. The Benton Union was the first paper read by Corvallis people. It was established in 1860, but because of its pro-slavery attitude it did not long survive the Civil War, and its place was taken by the Gazette. The Oregonian was being published in Portland, but was so limited it did not reach here with any degree of regularity. Permanent reading material consisted of patent medicine almanacs and some of the old-fashioned lurid novels. The most “exciting” news published in the early Oregon press had to do with Indian massacres and the Civil War. The latter of which came to the local papers months after the events had happened.
When a young couple began keeping company, marriage was a known objective. Divorce was very rare and considered a disgrace. Transportation was mostly by horseback and when buggies came into use the owner of one was looked upon as "high hat," which was the equivalent in those days of Theodore Roosevelt's (1858-1919) "economic royalty." Women did not ride astride as they do now and instead of wearing trousers. She concealed her charms behind long riding habits. So afraid were our ancestors of the female sex that occasionally high board fences were used on school grounds to separate the female of the species from the male. When a wedding occurred, it was the custom for the parents of the couple to fit them out with a team and wagon, farming implements and a small bunch of livestock. It didn't require much capital in those days to become a capitalist. A wedding was also a signal for the barbarous "chivalry," those outlandish and ridiculous practices which have fallen by the wayside. But old-timers can still remember when wash boiler, dishpans, kettle drums and shotguns made life hideous for the bride and groom. The only way to stop the racket was to "set 'em up."
Transportation up and down the valley was by stagecoach and boat, Corvallis for a long time being the head of navigation and river transportation. Steamers made scheduled trips between Portland and Sacramento.
In the early days, especially during the Civil War, party politics were very bitter. Even school elections brought about some hard arguments. When Pres. Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-1885) made his tour to the Willamette Valley, farmers came from all over the country to shake his hand. The stars and stripes were despised by the Southern Democrats, many of whom settled in the Willamette Valley, and was just as seriously upheld by the Republicans who regarded it almost as a party emblem. When Grant was at Salem the flag floated above the speaker’s stand and many regarded it as a party emblem. So many Republicans came to shake hands with the president that he became fatigued and finally shouted to the crowd to hold up their right hands and he would hold up his and call it a hand shake. So well accepted was the idea that the American flag was the Republican party emblem that the Republican election ticket carried at its head a picture of a woman holding the stars and stripes, while the Democratic ticket was merely a white piece of paper. In those days each party had its own sheets of paper, and the voter was given one or the other just as he is now at the primaries. In that way it was easy to buy votes or see that the purchaser delivered the goods. It was also the custom for one having a fast horse to vote in his own precinct and then ride to another precinct and cast his vote again for there was no registration and, believe it or not, the pioneers were no more honest in election matters than we are today.
Industries did not come to Oregon very fast. When the Gazette was founded there were only about 100,000 people in the entire state. Farmers made their own shoes and clothing and with their own spinning wheels spun yarns with which their clothes were made and cured their own meats. Sewing machines were unknown, and when coal oil lamps made their appearance they were looked upon as a menace to health and an invitation to accidents. The sole means of lighting was the tallow candle which the farmers made in their own molds. Matches were scarce and high in price because of the tax placed upon them to help pay for the Civil War. The present idea that only the rich should pay for the expenses of government had not yet been invented. To be sure there were demagogy in those days but they were not that bad. Everybody was supposed to pay direct taxes and everybody did, including poll taxes. When a knitting machine came to Jefferson about 1870 it did a thriving business. Stockings were knit yards long and then cut in proper length by the housewife who could then add the foot whatever size was needed.
The records of Benton County for the year 1850 showed that no taxes were levied. In order to maintain the two school $130 was raised by private subscription. The year before the Gazette was established there were 26 common schools in Benton County with 1,036 pupils attending, the entire cost of operating being $1,600. The teachers were usually men, for one of the biggest problems in those days was discipline. The first qualification was not a degree but a good physique. There was also an advantage in being able to write copy book mottoes in the old Spencerian writing system. Higher education advantages could be had in the Northwest, and because the difficulty of making the trip back over the mountains to the eastern states was a greater undertaking than to transporting the young from San Francisco to Honolulu, a great number of the rising generation of that time were entrusted to the care of the ship's captain and sailed over to Hawaii to be further educated in the famous school. Spelling Bees were one of the principal diversions and interest was kept up in school by the fact that the school year lasted only four months as a rule. The teacher had to do his own janitor work, and slates and pencils were used instead of the present day tablets. The teacher took part of his wages out in board and went from house to house, the length of time he stayed depending on the number of pupils that farmer sent to school.
Woman Suffrage the Subject of Parlor Debate
In addition to the spelling bees the schools made meeting places in the long winter evenings, where important questions of state were settled by debate. Some of the important questions debated would seem very simple to the present day high school debating team, the one requiring the heaviest amount of "brain power" being the question of Woman Suffrage.
Mental recreation, however, was not
means of entertainment enjoyed by the pioneers. Probably there
they enjoyed more than the old-fashioned country dances. There
rumbas, bunny hops, or tangos, but quadrilles, polkas and
for precedence with the schottische and the Virginia reel.
were held at the various private houses where all the furniture
moved out and the fiddlers and dancers were moved in. Dances
all night, midnight lunches being served by the women of the
The fiddlers were paid by taking up a collection, and if anybody
in those times with a saxophone he would probably have been
the nearest tree.
The principal difficulty in the wintertime in getting to these different scenes of entertainment was the awful condition of the roads. Present day young people cannot imagine the awful mud of the winter which caused deep ruts to be made and the awful dust in the summer in those same ruts made driving dangerous at anything else than a slow speed. "Chinamen" were employed cutting the roads through the wilderness and everybody over the age of 21 paid a poll tax. In case of illness it made getting to the doctor from any distance a herculean task. So as a rule unless the illness was of a contagious nature patients were taken care of by the neighbors. Surgery was very little practiced. Because of the scarcity of drug stores and the difficulty of getting to one a doctor carried his drugstore with him. The problem of dentistry was ever more crude. No attempt at sanitation was deemed necessary and anesthetics were unknown. In addition to his other duties a physician carried crude forceps with him and did much of the tooth extracting of the day. Sometimes the neighbors, who had brought with them across the Great Plains forceps to be used for their own emergencies extracted teeth, usually without any charge.
Hunting and Fishing
There was plenty of hunting and
Benton County in the early days and it was not necessary to have
for it. Pioneers depended upon fish and game for part of the
and unless the present day sportsmen have shot old muzzle
they have no way of describing the strength and the kick of any
Because ammunition was scarce a great deal of trapping was resorted to, even pheasant and quail being caught that way. In addition to the wild birds and other animals, wild fruit was abundant and wild strawberries were found on the Corvallis market early in the summer at about $1.50 a gallon. Boys earned their spending money in this way.
Thus and in such a manner was the Oregon Country developed. We in this day think we are misused if we have to park our car two or three blocks from the building in which we work. The children are now hauled to school in a motor bus over paved highways where two generations ago they walked several miles through the mud. Instead of gathering at the schoolhouse in the winter evenings for an exchange of the neighborhood gossip, all the woman has to do now is to take down the party line telephone and listen in. Mail in the early days came once a week. Farmers had to come to town to get it. It took 30 days for a letter to get from New York to Corvallis and now a letter makes the same trip in a day and the farmer has his mail delivered to him every day free of charge.
The first copy of the Gazette was hand set and five columns wide. It had four pages and it took a week to get it out. It is now three Linotypes, is eight columns wide and from eight to 16 pages and is issued every day, while the telegraph news from all over the world comes directly into the office by wire and is broadcast to the entire state three times a day. If the pioneers of the 1850s had been told that some day they could listen to a man in London make a speech in which he abdicated the throne, who would turn a switch and flood his room with light and step to his desk and talk around the world, or go to a theater and see and hear scenes enacted 1,000 miles away, or take the trip in a few hours from Kansas City to Portland, which cost him four months of heavy, arduous and dangerous work, he would have thought the prophet was "crazy" and ought to be locked up! If inventions and discoveries change the world as much as they have in the next 75 as they have in the past 75 years, no human being today is bold enough to predict what the future may have in store.
Chapter 16: Oregon Suffrage
At the time of the Civil War, the
of the Pacific Northwest, like that of most frontier regions,
male. In Washington Territory males outnumbered females nine to
ratio that prompted Gov. William Pickering to have 300 single
from Boston to provide wives for his male constituents. Asa
Mercer followed in Pickering's
brought another boatload of women to Seattle.
Despite the attention they received as prospective brides, Northwest women experienced various forms of discrimination, none more hotly contested than their ineligibility to vote. The region's suffrage crusade dates from 1871, when the prominent national activist Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) toured the Pacific Northwest in the company of Portland's Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915). The indefatigable Duniway continued the crusade for several more decades and justly deserves to be remembered as the Mother of Woman Suffrage in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to caring for a semi-invalid spouse, raising six children, and publishing one of the region’s leading reform papers, the New Northwest (1871-1887), she crisscrossed the region numerous times to lecture on women's rights.
Duniway and her allies enjoyed some successes, as in 1878 when the Oregon legislature passed a law giving married Women the right to own, sell, or will property and to keep their wages, and in 1881 when Washington passed a similar law. Two years later the territorial legislature extended the vote to women. One Washington pioneer, Phoebe Goodell Judson, recalled, "I took my turn on petit and grand jury, served on election boards, walked in perfect harmony to the polls by the side of my staunch Democratic husband, and voted the Republican ticket—not feeling any more out of of my sphere than when assisting my husband to develop the resources of our country."
But Judson, Duniway and their sisters were doomed to disappointment and years of frustration when Washington’s territorial supreme court voided Woman Suffrage in 1887 on a technicality. The legislature restored it a few months later, but in the bizarre Nevada Bloomer case of 1888, named for a saloonkeeper’s wife who was the principal figure in a challenge mounted by liquor interests, the territorial supreme court again overturned the measure. During the next decade, Washington voters twice defeated Woman Suffrage measures. Still the crusaders persisted, firm in their conviction that once women had the vote, economic and other rights could be obtained.
A breakthrough came in 1896 when, after a quiet and inexpensive campaign managed mostly by local women, Idaho overwhelmingly approve a constitutional amendment making it the first Pacific Northwest state to enfranchise women. All but Custer County voted for the amendment. Ironically, the lone dissenter was the county Abigail Duniway had called home for several years. Her mocking and ridicule apparently had a tendency to alienate people of both genders. Three women won seats in the Idaho House of Representatives in 1898 and a token number of other offices. As they soon discovered, the right to vote did not mean that women gained real political power.
Fourteen years passed before Washington followed Idaho's lead: Emma Smith DeVoe, a friend of Duniway’s headed a campaign that won women the franchise in 1910 by a 2-1 margin. Duniway herself lived long enough to see Oregon’s all-male electorate narrowly approve Woman Suffrage in 1912.
A combination of several fears explains why voting rights for women involved such a long struggle. Liquor interests were afraid that women would vote as a bloc to outlaw saloons and alcoholic beverages. In fact, some Suffragists claimed credit for laws that made gambling illegal and closed saloons on Sunday. Democrats feared that women tended to vote Republican. Some over chivalrous males thought it best to protect women from the rough-and-tumble crowds that hung around polls on election day. Finally, some women feared that engaging in the practice of voting would reduce their feminine charms. In Duniway's case, she also faced a formidable foe in her own brother, Harvey W. Scott, the influential publisher of the Portland Oregonian from 1877 to 1910.
Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915)
In the spring of 1852, when the great furor for going West was at its height, in the long trails of miners, merchants and farmers wending their way in ox carts and canvas-covered wagons over the vast Plains, mountains and river, two remarkable women, then in the flush of youth, might have been seen; one, Abigail Scott Duniway, destined to leave an indelible mark on the civilization of Oregon, and the other, Mary Olney Brown, on that of Washington Territory. What ideas were revolving in these young minds in that long journey of 3,000 miles, six months in duration, it would be difficult to imagine, but the love of liberty had been infused in their dreams somewhere, either in their eastern homes from the tragic scenes of the anti-slavery conflict, or on that perilous march amidst those eternal solitudes by day and the solemn stillness of the far-off stars in the gathering darkness. That this long communion with great nature left its impress on their young hearts and sanctified their lives to the best interests of humanity at large, is clearly seen in the deeply interesting accounts they give of their endeavors to mold the governments of their respective territories on Republican principles. Writing of herself and her labors, Duniway says:
I was born in Pleasant Grove, Tazewell County, Illinois, October 22, 1834, of the traditional "poor but respectable parentage" which has honored the advent of many a more illustrious worker than myself. Brought up on a farm and familiar from my earliest years with the avocations of rural life, spending the early springtimes in the maple sugar camp, the later weeks in gardening and gathering stove wood, the summers in picking and spinning wool, and the autumns in drying apples, I found little opportunity, and that only in winter, for books or play. My father was a generous-hearted, impulsive, talented, but uneducated man; my mother was a conscientious, self-sacrificing, intelligent, but uneducated woman. Both were devotedly religious, and both believed implicitly that self-abnegation was the crowing glory of womanhood. Before I was 17, I was employed as a district schoolteacher, received a first class certificate and taught with success, though how I became possessed of the necessary qualifications I to this day know not. I never did, could, or would study when at school.
Duniway Migrates West 1852
In the spring of 1852 my father decided to emigrate to Oregon. My invalid mother expostulated in vain; she and nine of us children were stowed away in ox wagons, where for six months we made our home, cooking food and washing dishes around campfires, sleeping at night in the wagons, and crossing many streams upon wagon beds, rigged as ferry boats. When our weary line of march had reached the Black Hills of Wyoming my mother became a victim of the dreadful epidemic, cholera, that devastated the emigrant trains in that never-to-be-forgotten year, and after a few hours' illness her weary spirit was called to the skies. We made her a grave in the solitudes of the eternal hills, and again took up our line of march, "too sad to talk, too dumb to pray." But ten weeks after, our Willie, the baby, was buried in the sands of the Burnt River Mountains. Reaching Oregon in the fall with our broken household, consisting of my father and eight motherless children, I engaged in school teaching till the following August, when I allowed the name of "Scott" to become "Duniway." Then for 20 years I devoted myself, soul and body, to the cares, toils, loves and hopes of a conscientious wife and mother. Five sons and one daughter have been born to us, all of whom are living and at home, engaged with their parents in harmonious efforts for the enfranchisement of women.
First Woman Suffrage Society in Oregon 1870
The first Woman Suffrage Society ever formed in Oregon, was organized in Salem, the capital of the state, in the autumn of 1870, and consisted of about a dozen members. Col. Cyrus A. Reed was chosen president and G. W. Lawson, secretary. This little society which maintained a quiescent existence for a year or more and then disbanded without ceremony, was, in part, the basis of all subsequent work of its character in Oregon. In the winter of 1871 this society honored me with credentials to a seat in the Woman Suffrage Convention which was to meet in San Francisco the following May. My business called me to the Golden City before the time for the Convention, and a telegraphic summons compelled me to return to Oregon without meeting with the California Association in an official way, as I had hoped. But my credentials introduced me to the San Francisco leaders, among whom Emily Pitts Stevens occupied a prominent position as editor and publisher of The Pioneer, the first Woman Suffrage paper that appeared on the Pacific Coast. Before returning to Oregon I resolved to purchase an outfit and begin the publication of a newspaper myself, as I felt that the time had come for vigorous work in my state, and we had no journal in which the demands of women for added rights were treated with respectful consideration.
New Northwest's First Edition May 5, 1871
Soon after reaching my home in Albany I sold my millinery store and removed to Portland, where, on May 5, 1871, the New Northwest made its appearance, and a siege of the citadels of a one-sexed government began, which at this writing is going on with unabated persistency. The first issue of this journal was greeted by storms of ridicule. Everybody prophesied its early death, and my personal friends regarded the enterprise with sincere pity, believing it would speedily end in financial disaster. But the paper, in spite of opposition and burlesque, had grown and prospered.
Susan B. Anthony Visits Oregon August 1871
In August 1871, Susan B. Anthony favored Oregon and Washington Territory with a visit. The fame of this veteran leader had preceded her, and she commanded a wide hearing. We traveled together over the country, visiting inland villages as well as larger towns, holding Woman Suffrage meetings and getting many subscribers for the New Northwest. During these journeying I became quite thoroughly initiated into the movement and made my first efforts at public speaking. After a six weeks' campaign in Oregon, we went to Olympia, the capital of Washington Territory, where the legislature was in session, and where, through motion of judge Elwood Evans, we were invited to address the assembly in advocacy of equal rights for all the people. From Olympia we proceeded to Victoria, a border city belonging to a woman's government, where we found that the idea of the ballot for woman was even more unpopular than in the US, though all, by strange inconsistency, were intensely loyal to their queen! After an interesting and profitable experience in the British possessions we returned to Puget Sound, stopping over on our route at the different milling towns that teem with busy life upon the evergreen shores of this Mediterranean of the Pacific. At Seattle we organized an association in which many of the leading ladies and gentlemen took a prominent part; after which we returned to Olympia, where a territorial organization was effected.
Oregon State Woman Suffrage Association Formed 1871
Returning to Portland, we called a convention, and organized the Oregon State Woman Suffrage Association, with Harriet W. Williams, a venerated octogenarian, president. This estimable woman had been one of the earliest leaders of the woman Suffrage movement in the state of New York, and her presence at the head of our meetings in Oregon was a source of genuine satisfaction to the friends of the cause in the new state of her adoption. Subsequently, Williams was compelled to resign on account of increasing infirmities, but her wise counsels are still cherished by her successors, when she regards with motherly solicitude as she serenely awaits the final summons of the unseen messenger. Many of those who early distinguished themselves in this connection deserve special mention because of their long-continued zeal in the work. If others failed us, these were always ready to work the hardest when the fight was hottest. And whatever might be our differences of opinion personally, we have always presented an unbroken phalanx to the foe. The original bill at Salem having disbanded, its members joined the new state association organized at Portland, which has ever since been regarded as the nucleus of all our activities.
Oregon Donation Land Act First US Law to
the Individual Personality of Married Women 1850
In September of 1872, I visited the
legislature, where I went clothed by our association with
power to do what I could to secure special legislation for the
the state, who, with few exceptions, were at that time entirely
domination of the old common law. The exceptions were those
who, having come to Oregon as early as 1850 and 1852, had, by
a US law, known as the Donation Land Act, became possessed of
as they were called, on equal shares with their spouses, their
halves, of the original ground being set apart as their separate
in realty and fee simple. This Donation Land Act deserves
it being the first law enacted in the US which recognized the
personality of a married woman. It became a temporary law of
1850, mainly through the efforts of Samuel R. Thurston, delegate
Territory (which at that time included the whole of Washington
aided by the eminent Lewis F. Linn of Missouri, from whom one of
counties of the state of Oregon derives sits name.
My first experience in the capitol was particularly trying. I spent two days among my acquaintances in Salem in a vain attempt to find a woman who was ready or willing to accompany me to the State House. All were anxious that I should go, but each was afraid to offend her spouse, or make herself conspicuous, by going herself. Finally, when I had despaired of securing company, and had nerved myself to go alone, Mary P. Sawtell, who afterwards became a physician, and now resides in San Francisco where she has a lucrative practice, volunteered to stand by me, and together we entered the dominion hitherto considered sacred to the "aristocracy of sex," and took seats in the lobby, our hearts beating audibly. Judge Joseph Engle, perceiving the innovation and knowing me personally, at once arose, and, after a complimentary speech in which he was pleased to recognize my position as a journalist, moved that I be invited to a seat within the bar and provided with table and stationery as were other members of my profession. The motion carried, with only two or three dissenting votes; and the way was open from that time forward for women to compete with men on equal terms for all minor positions in both branches of the legislature—a privilege they have not been slow to avail themselves of, scores of them thronging to the capitol in these later years, and holding valuable clerkships, many of them sneering the while at the efforts of those who opened the way for them to be there at all.
Rocking the Cradle
Judge Samuel Corwin introduced a Woman
Bill in the House of Representatives early in the session and
was pending, I was invited to make an appeal in its behalf, of
remember very little, so frightened and astonished was I, except
I inadvertently alluded to a gentleman by his name instead of
whereupon, being called to order, I blushed and begged pardon,
myself at ease by informing the gentlemen that in all the bygone
while they had been studying parliamentary rules, I had been
One member who had made a vehement speech against the bill, in which he had declared that no respectable woman in his county desired the elective franchise, became particularly incensed, as was natural, upon my exhibiting a Woman Suffrage petition signed by the women he had misrepresented, and headed, mirabile dictu, by the name of his own wife! The so-called representative of women lost his temper, and gave vent to some inelegant expletives, for which he was promptly reprimanded by the chair. This offender has since been many times a candidate for office, but the ladies of his district have always secured his defeat. The Woman Suffrage Bill received an unexpectedly large vote at this session, and was favored in 1874, by a still larger one, when it was ably championed by Judge C. A. Reed, the before named ex-president of the first Woman Suffrage Society in the state.
Married Woman's Sole Trader Bill 1872
In 1872 the Senate, the House
passed a Married Woman's Sole Trader Bill, under the able
Judge Joseph N. Dolph, who has since distinguished himself as
in the US Senate. This bill has ever since enabled any woman
business on her own account to register the fact in the office
clerk, and thereby secure her tools, furniture, or stock in
the liability of seizure by her spouse's creditors.
Perhaps I cannot better illustrate the general feeling of opposition to women having a place in public affairs at that time, than by describing the scenes in the State Temperance Alliance in February of that year, when somebody placed my name in nomination as chairwoman of an important committee. The presiding officer was seized with a sudden deafness when the nomination was made, and the Alliance was convulsed with merriment. Women on all sides buzzed about me, and urged me to resent the insult in the name of womanhood. And, as none of them were at the time public speakers, I felt obliged to rise and speak for myself.
"Mr. President," I explained, "by what right do you refuse to recognize women when their names are called? Are men the only lawful members of this Alliance? And if so, is it not better for the women delegates to go home?"
"Mr. President: The committees are now full!" shouted an excited voter. Somebody, doubtless in ridicule, then nominated me as vice-president-at-large, which was carried amid uproarious merriment. I took my seat, half frightened and wholly indignant; and the deliberations of the sovereign voters were undisturbed for several hours thereafter by words or sign from women. At last they got to discussing a bill for a prohibitory liquor law, and the heat of debate ran high. During the excitement somebody carried a note to the presiding officer, who read it, smiled, colored, and rising, said: "We are hearing nothing from the ladies, and yet they constitute a large majority of this alliance. Mrs. Duniway, will you not favor us with a speech?"
I was taken wholly by surprise, but sprang to my feet and said: "Mr. President: I have always wondered what it was that consumed so much time in men's conventions. I hope gentlemen will pardon the criticism, but you talk too much, and too many of you try to talk at once. My head is aching from the roar and din of your noisy orators. Gentlemen, what does it all amount to? You are talking about Prohibition, but you overestimate your political strength. Disastrous failures attend upon all your endeavors to conquer existing evils by the votes of men alone. Give women the legal power to combat intemperance, and they will soon be able to prove that they do not like drunken husbands any better than men like drunken wives. Make women free. Give them the power the ballot gives to you, and the control of their own earnings which rightfully belong to them, and every woman will be able to settle this Prohibition business in her own home and on her own account. Men will not tolerate drunkenness in their wives; and women will not tolerate it in their husbands unless compelled to."
In Defense of "Fallen Angels"
A prominent clergyman arose, and said:
President: I charge the sins of the world upon the mothers of
are 20,000 fallen women in New York—two millions of them in
cannot afford to let this element vote." Before I was aware of
doing I was on my feet again. Shaking my finger at the
"How dare you make such charges against the mothers of men? You
of two millions of fallen women who, you say, would vote for
but what say you, sir, to the 20 millions of fallen men—all
patronage alone enables fallen women to live? Would you
them, sir? I pronounce your charge a libel upon womanhood, and I
if we were voters you would not dare to utter it."
A gentleman from Michigan—Mr. Curtis—called me to order, saying my remarks were personal. "You, sir, sat still and didn’t call this man to order while he stood up and insulted all womanhood!" I exclaimed, vehemently. "Prohibition is the question before the House," said the gentleman, "and the lady should confine herself to the resolution." "That is what I am doing, sir. I am talking about Prohibition, and the only way possible to make it succeed."
The chair sustained me amid cries of "good!" "good!" but I had become too thoroughly self-conscious by this time to be able to say anything further, and, with a bow to the chairman whom I had before forgotten to address, I tremblingly took my seat.
A resolution was passed, after a long and stormy debate, declaring it the duty of the legislature to empower women to vote on all questions connected with the liquor traffic; and I, as its author, was chosen a committee to present the same for consideration at the coming legislative session. Woman Suffrage gained a new impetus all over the Northwest through this victory. Everybody congratulated its advocates, and the good minister who had unwittingly caused the commotion seized the first opportunity to explain that he had always been an advocate of the cause. I was by this time so thoroughly advertised by the abuse of the press that I had no difficulty in securing large audiences in all parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Duniway Chosen Delegate to National Association 1872
I was chosen in April 1872, as delegate to the annual meeting of the National Association, held in New York the following month. Horace Greeley (1811-1872) received the nomination for the presidency at the Cincinnati Liberal Republican Convention while I was on the way; and when I reached New York I at first threw what influence I had in the association in favor of the great editor. But Anthony, who knew Greeley better than I did, caused me to be appointed chairwoman of a committee to interview the reputed statesman and officially report the result at the evening session. Susan B. Anthony and Jane Graham Jones of Chicago were the other members of this committee. We obtained the desired interview, of which it only needs to be said that it became my humiliating duty to ask pardon in the evening for the speech in advocacy of the illustrious candidate which in my ignorance I had made in the morning. That Greeley owned his defeat in part to the opposition of Women in that memorable campaign, I have never doubted. But he built better than he knew in earlier years, for he planted many a tree of liberty that shall live through the ages to come, overshadowing in a measure his failure to recognize the divine right of political equality for women in his later days.
"Setting Hens" and "Belligerent Females"
First Annual Convention of Oregon State Association 1873
The first Annual Convention of the Oregon State Association met in Portland, February 9, 1873. Many ladies and several gentlemen of more or less local prominence assisted at this Convention, but we were able to prevail upon but one gentleman, Col. C. A. Reed of Salem, to occupy the platform with us. This Convention received favorable notice from the respectable press of the state, and was largely attended by the best elements of the city and country. Delegates were chosen to attend the forthcoming State Temperance Alliance which held its second Annual Meeting February 20, and to which a dozen of us went bearing credentials. It was evident from the first that trouble was brewing. The "enemy" had had a whole year to prepare an ambuscade of which our party had no suspicion. A Committee on Credentials was appointed with instructions to rule the Woman Suffrage Delegation out of the Alliance as a "disturbing element." Judge J. Quin Thornton was chairman of that committee. In his report he declared all delegations to be satisfactory (including those from the penitentiary) except the women whom he styled "setting hens," "belligerent females," etc., after which he subsided with pompous gravity. All eyes were turned upon me, and I felt as I fancy a general must when the success or failure of any army in battle depends upon his word. "Mr. President," I exclaimed, as soon as I could get the floor, "I move to so amend the report of the committee as to admit the Suffrage Delegation." The motion was seconded by a half-dozen voices. Then followed a scene which beggars description. It was pandemonium broken loose. When I rose again to address the chair that worthy ordered my arrest by the sergeant-at-arms, saying: "Take the crazy woman out of the House and take care of her." The officer came forward in discharge of his duty, but he quailed before my uplifted pencil, and several gentlemen stepped into the aisle and began drawing off their coats to defend me, among them a veteran minister of the Gospel. I smiled and bowed my thanks, and as nobody could hear a word amid the uproar I complacently took my seat while the officer skulked away, crestfallen. All that day and evening, and until 1pm the next afternoon, a noisy rabble of self-styled temperance men sought to prevent bringing the question to a square and honorable vote. Maj. George H. Williams, a brave man who had lost a limb in fighting for his country, at last succeeded in wearying the chairman into a semblance of duty. The result was a triumph for the advocates of Suffrage. A recess was then taken, during which my hand was so often and enthusiastically shaken that my shoulder was severely lamed. The first thing in order after resuming business was my report as legislative Committee. I advanced to the platform amid deafening cheers and, as soon as I could make myself heard, said, in substance, that the legislature had decided that it was an insult to womanhood to grant women the right to vote on intemperance and debar them from voting on all honorable questions. I then offered a fair and unequivocal Woman Suffrage Resolution, which was triumphantly carried. The disappointed minority seceded from the Alliance and set up a "Union" for themselves; but their Confederacy did not live long, and its few followers finally returned to their alma mater and gave us no further trouble.
Suffrage Associations Formed in Several Oregon Counties 1874
Woman Suffrage Associations were formed in several counties during the year 1874. Our strength was now much more increased by the able assistance of Ms. H. A. Loughary, who suddenly took her place in the front rank as a platform speaker. The editorial work of the New Northwest received a valuable auxiliary in June of this year in the person of Catherine A. Coburn, a woman of rare journalistic ability, who held her position five years, when my sons, W. S., H. R. and W. C. Duniway, having completed their school duties and attained their majority, were admitted to partnership in the business. Coburn now holds a situation on the editorial staff of the Daily Oregonian.
Centennial Exposition 1876
In the autumn of 1876 I was absent at the Centennial Exposition, whither I had gone in the summer in response to an invitation from the National Woman Suffrage Association to "Come over into Macedonia and help." The work for equal rights made favorable headway in the legislature of Oregon that year through the influence of a Convention held at Salem under the able leadership of Ms. H. A. Loughary and Dr. Mary A. Thompson.
Suffrage Convention in Walla Walla 1878
In June 1878, a convention met in Walla Walla, Washington Territory, for the purpose of forming a constitution for the proposed new state of Washington, and in compliance with the invitation of many prominent women of the territory I visited the convention and was permitted to present a memorial in person praying that the word "male" be omitted from the fundamental law of the incubating state. But my plea (like that of Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818) a century before) failed of success, through a close vote however—it stood 8 to 7—and men went on as before, saying, as they did in the beginning: "Women do not wish to vote. If they desire the ballot let them ask for it." In September of that year I was again at my post in the Oregon legislature circulating the New Northwest among the law-makers, and doing what else I could to keep the cause before them in a manner to enlist their confidence and command their respect. An opportunity was given me at this session to make an extended argument upon constitutional liberty before a joint convention of the two houses, which occupied an hour in delivery and was accorded profound attention. I was much opposed to the growing desire of the legislature to shirk its responsibility upon the voters at large by submitting a proposed constitutional amendment to them when the constitution nowhere prohibits women from voting, and I labored to show that all we need is a declaratory act extending to us the franchise under the existing fundamental law. Dr. Mary A. Thompson followed in a brief speech and was courteously received. The Married Woman's Property Bill, passed in 1874, received some necessary amendments at this session, and an act entitling women to vote upon school questions and making them eligible to school offices, was passed by a triumphant majority.
Egged at Jacksonville 1879
I went to Southern Oregon in 1879, and while sojourning in Jacksonville was assailed with a show of eggs (since known in that section as "Jacksonville arguments") and was also burned in effigy on a principal street after the sun went down. Jacksonville is an old mining town, beautifully situated in the heart of the Southern Oregon mountains, and has no connection with the outside world except through the daily stagecoaches. Its would-be leading men are old miners or refugees from the bushwhacking district whence they were driven by the Civil War. The taint of slavery is yet upon them and the methods of border-ruffians are their heart's delight. It is true that there are many good people among them, but they are often over-awed by the lawless crowd whose very instincts lead them to oppose a Republican form of government. But that raid of outlaws proved a good thing for the Woman Suffrage movement. It aroused the better classes, and finally shamed the border ruffians by its own reaction. When I returned to Portland a perfect ovation awaited me. Hundreds of men and women who had not before allied themselves with the movement made haste to do so. The newspapers were filled with severe denunciations of the mob, and "Jacksonville-villains," as the perpetrators of the outrage were styled, grew heartily disgusted over their questionable glory.
Suffragists Attempt to Amend State Constitution 1880
When the legislature met in the autumn of 1880 it was decided by the Woman Suffrage Association that we could "raise the blockade" and encourage agitation in the work by consenting to an attempt to amend the state constitution. Pursuant to this decision a resolution was offered in the Senate by Judge W. C. Fullerton of Clatsop, and the House of Representatives by Judge Lee Laughlin, which, after considerable discussion pro and con in which I was graciously invited to participate on the floor of both houses, was passed by the requisite two-thirds majority. The result was considered a triumph for the cause. A grand Ratification Jubilee was held in the opera house in honor of the event, and resolutions of thanks to the lawmakers were passed, accompanied by many expressions of faith in the legislation of the future.
Washington Legislature Considers Suffrage 1881
In the meantime the work was going steadily on in Washington Territory, my own labors being distributed about equally between the two sections of the Pacific Northwest that had formerly been united under one territorial government. In the autumn of 1881 the legislature of Washington met one afternoon in joint convention to listen to arguments from Judge William H. White and myself, on which occasion I held the floor for nearly three hours, in the midst of an auditory that was itself an inspiration. Mr. White, a Democrat of the old school, and now (1885) holding the office of US marshal in the territory, under commission from Pres. Cleveland, based his plea for Woman Suffrage upon the enfranchisement of the colored men, urging it strongly as a means of Democratic retaliation. The Suffrage Bill passed in the House of Representatives on the following day by a majority of two, but was defeated in the council by a majority of two, showing that the vote would have been a tie if taken under the joint-ballot rule.
Oregon Campaign Begins in Earnest 1882
Returning to Oregon I renewed the contest, and in the autumn of 1882 we were all gratified by the passage of the pending constitutional amendment by a very nearly unanimous vote of each House. Then the Oregon campaign began in earnest. The question had assumed formidable proportions and was no longer an ignored issue. The work went on with accelerated speed, and as far as could be ascertained there was little or no opposition to it. The meetings were largely attended and affirmative speakers were ready to assist at all times, the help of this kind representing all grades of the professions, led by the best and most influential men of the state everywhere.
Washington Suffrage Bill Passes 1883
Another year went by, and the time for assembling the Washington Territory legislature was again at hand. Immediately upon arriving at Olympia I learned that a coterie of politicians, finding open hostility no longer effectual, had combined to crush the Woman Suffrage Bill, which had passed the House of Representatives triumphantly, by lobbying a "substitute" through the council. In pursuance of this seemingly plausible idea they talked with the women of Olympia and succeeded in convincing a few of them that all women, and especially all leaders of the movement, must be kept away from the capitol or The bill would certainly be defeated. Several women who ought to have known better were deceived by those specious pleaders, and but for some years of experience in legislative assemblies that had brought me to comprehend the "ways that are dark and tricks that are vain," for which the average politician is "peculiar," the ruse would have succeeded. I remained at headquarters, enduring alike the open attacks of the venal press and the more covert opposition of the saloons and brothels, and, as vigilantly as I could, watched all legislative movements, taking much pains to keep the public mind excited through the columns of the Daily Oregonian and the weekly issue of the New Northwest. The bill, which had been prepared by Prof. William H. Roberts, passed the House of Representatives early in the session; but it tarried long in the council, and those most interested were well-nigh worn out with work and watching before the measure reached a vote. It came up for final passage November 15, 1883, when only three or four women were present. The council had been thoroughly canvassed beforehand and no member offered to make a speech for or against it. The deathly stillness of the chamber was broken only by the clerk's call of the names and the firm responses of the "ayes" and "noes." I kept the tally with a nervous hand, and my heart fairly stood still as the fateful moment came that gave us the majority.
New Northwest First Paper in Nation to Herald Washington Suffrage Victory
Then I rose and without exchanging
with any one left the State House and rushed toward the
half a mile distant, my feet seeming to tread the air. Judge J.
of Cheney, president of a local Woman Suffrage Society, overtook
the way, bound on the same errand. He spoke, and I felt as if
to earth with a painful reminder that I was yet mortal. A few
and my message was on the way to the New Northwest. It was
day and the paper had gone to press, but my jubilant and
opened the forms and inserted the news, and in less than half an
newsboys were crying the fact through the streets of Portland,
New Northwest, which had fought the fight and led the work to
where legislation could give a victory, the very first paper in
to herald the news to the world. The rejoicing in Oregon, as
well as in
Washington Territory, was most inspiring. A bloodless battle had
and won, and the enemy, asleep in carnal security, had been
unawares. The women of Oregon thanked God and took courage.
After passing the council the bill passed leisurely, and some of us feared perilously, through the various stages of clerical progress till November 22, when it received the signature of Gov. William A. Newell, who used a gold pen presented him for the purpose by women whom his act made free. And when at a given signal the church bells rang in glad acclaim, and the loud boom of minute guns reverberated from the forest-clothed hills that border Puget Sound and lost itself at last in the faint echoes of the far off heights, the scroll of the dead century unrolled before my inner vision and I beheld in spirit another scene on the further verge of the continent, when men in designing to ring the bell at Independence Hall in professed honor of the triumph of liberty, although not a woman in the land was free, had sought in vain to force the loyal metal into glad responses; for the old bell quivered in every nerve and broke its heart rather than tell a lie!
Ratification Jubilee Held in Olympia
An immense ratification jubilee was held in the evening of the same day at the city hall in Olympia, with many distinguished speakers. Similar meetings were subsequently held in the principal towns of the Pacific Northwest. The freed women of Washington thankfully accepted their new prerogatives. They were appointed as jurors in many localities, and have ever since performed their duties with eminent satisfaction to judges, lawyers and all clients who are seeking to obey the laws. But their jurisdiction soon became decidedly uncomfortable for the lawbreaking elements, which speedily escaped to Oregon, where, as the sequel proved, they began a secret and effective war upon the pending constitutional amendment.
Money, Vice Bigotry and Tyranny
We all knew we had a formidable foe to
at the ballot box. Our own hands were tied and sour guns spiked
foe was armed to the teeth with ballots, backed by money and
by vice, bigotry and tyranny. But the leading men of the state
been known to favor the amendment; the respectable opposition
raised at any of our public meetings, and we felt measurably
sure of a
victory until near election time, when we discovered to our
most of the leading politicians upon whom we had relied for aid
been seized with an alarming reticence. They ceased to attend
meetings and in every possible way ignored the amendment, lest
allying themselves with it they might lose votes; and as all of
posing in some way for office, for themselves or friends, and
no votes with which to repay their allegiance, it was not
they should thus desert us.
Our Republican senator in Congress, Judge J. N. Dolph, favored the Woman Suffrage Association with an able and comprehensive letter, which was widely circulated, urging the adoption of the amendment as a measure of justice and right, and appealing to the voters to make Oregon the banner state of the great reform. Leading clergymen, especially of Portland, preached in favor of Woman Suffrage, prominent among them being Rev. T. Eliot, pastor of the Unitarian church; chaplain R. S. Stubbs of the Church of Sea and Land, and Rev. Frederick R. Marvin of the First Congregational Society. Appeals to voters were widely circulated from the pens and speeches of many able gentlemen. Not one influential man made audible objection anywhere.
Railroad Gangs and Refugees Stuff Oregon Ballot Boxes
We had carefully districted and
the state, sparing neither labor nor money in proving "yes"
all parties and all candidates and putting them everywhere in
of friends for use at the polls. But the polls were no sooner
it began to appear that the battle was one of great odds. Masked
were opened in almost every precinct, and multitudes of legal
are rarely seen in daylight except at a general election, many
were refugees from Washington Territory, crowded forth from
places to strike the manacled women down. They accused the
who had dared to ask for simple justice of every crime in the
Railroad gangs were driven to the polls like sheep and voted
in battalions. But, in spite of all this, nearly one-third of
was thrown in our favor, requiring a change of only about
the opposing vote to have given us a victory, and proving to the
of our enemies that the strength of our cause was already
were repulsed but not conquered. Before the smoke of the battle
away we had called immense meetings and passed vigorous
the lovers of liberty who had favored us with their suffrages,
ourselves anew to the conflict.
We at once decided that we would never again permit the legislature to remand us to the rabble in a vain appeal for justice. We had demonstrated the impossibility of receiving a fair, impartial vote at the hands of the ignorant, lawless and unthinking multitude whose ballots outweigh all reason and overpower all sense. In pursuance of this purpose I went to the legislature of 1885 and found no difficulty in securing the aid of friendly members of both houses who kindly championed the following bill:
Be it enacted by the legislative assembly of
That the elective franchise shall not hereafter be denied to any
in this state on account of sex. This act to be in force and
approval by the governor.
Charles Arthur Sprague (on the right) invited his predecessors for a luncheon to his home on August 3, 1940. The former governors from the left to the right are: Oswald West, Ben W. Olcott, Albin W. Norblad and Charles H. Martin. Mr. Sprague was elected in 1939 (Rep). He served one term. Oswald West was governor from 1911-15, Mr. Olcott from 1919-23, Mr. Norblad from 1929-31 and Mr. Martin (Dem) from 1935-39.
After much parliamentary filibustering the vote of both houses was recorded upon this bill and stood conjointly 34 to 54. This vote, coming so soon after our defeat at the polls, is regarded as the greatest victory we have yet won. The ablest lawyers of the state and of Washington Territory are preparing elaborate opinions showing the constitutionality of our present plan, and these are to be published in the form of a standard work, with appropriate references for convenient use. The movement exhibits a healthy, steady and encouraging growth, and is much accelerated by its success in Washington Territory.
Disenfranchised Oregonians Resolve Not to Celebrate Men's Independence Day
On the Fourth of July of this year a grand celebration was held at Vancouver, on Washington soil, the women of Oregon having resolved in large numbers that they would never again unite in celebrating men's independence day in a state where they are denied their liberty. The celebration was a success from first to last. Boys and girls in equal numbers rode in the liberty car and represented the age of the government. The military post at Vancouver joined heartily in the festivities, headed by the gallant soldier, Gen. Nelson A. Miles (1839-1925), commander-in-chief of the Department of the Columbia. The fine 14th Infantry band furnished the instrumental music, and a local choir rendered spirited choruses. The New Declaration of Independence was read by Josie DeVoe Johnson, the oration was delivered by Mattie A. Bridge, and Louise Lester, the famous Prima Donna, electrified the delighted crowd by her triumphant rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner." The exercises closed with the announcement by the writer, who had officiated as president of the day, that the executive committee of the Oregon Woman Suffrage Association had, during the noon recess, adopted the following resolutions:
Resolved: That our thanks are due to
Nelson A. Miles of the Department of the Columbia for his
in the exercises and entertainments of his historic day.
Resolved: That we thank the citizens of Clarke County, and especially of Vancouver, for their hospitality and kindness, so graciously bestowed upon their less fortunate Oregon neighbors, who have not yet achieved their full independence, and we shall ever cherish their fraternal recognition in grateful remembrance.
Resolved: That while we deplore the injustice that still deprives the women of Oregon of the liberty to exercise their right to the elective franchise, we rejoice in the record the women of Washington are making as citizens, as voters, and as jurors. We congratulate them upon their newly-acquired liberties, and especially upon the intelligent and conscientious manner in which they are discharging the important public duties that in no wise interfere with their home affairs. And we are further
Resolved: That if our own fathers, husbands, sons and brothers do not at the next session of the Oregon legislature bestow upon us the same electoral privileges which the women of Washington already enjoy, we will prepare to cross the Columbia River and take up our permanent abode in this "land of the free and home of the brave."
The resolution evoked cheers that waked the echoes, and the celebration, reported by the Oregon press, contributed largely to the growth of the equal-rights sentiment among the people of the state.
Chapter 17: Oregon Coast 1788-1933
No region could be in greater contrast
the high country of the interior than the Oregon Coast. Though
region to be visited by non-indianss, it was the last to be
in part because of its isolation. The waters off the Oregon
the roughest in the world. Furthermore, There are few harbors,
few are obstructed by dangerous bars. Inland, on the other hand,
mountains, which until the era of good roads, a very recent era,
to cross except in the summer. The remainder of the year the
deep in snow and mud. There was, too, the fact that in the
areas of the interior good agricultural land abounded, whereas
there was little. Finally, during those years when so much
was taking place in the interior, all the Central Oregon Coast
since it had been set aside as an Indian reservation.
In the beginning, and for many years thereafter, what development occurred tended to take place at the northern and southern ends of the coast. Following the removal of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver in 1825, Astoria languished until the late 1840s when emigrants began to settle there. In 1864 the first salmon-canning factory was established and from then on Astoria served as the center of the industry. Not long after, Ben Holladay, the railroad entrepreneur, built the luxurious Seaside House in present-day Seaside, and the north coast began its years as a popular resort.
Joseph Champion First Tillamook Settler 1851
Tillamook was settled early as well. It was the site of the first American landing on the Oregon Coast—by Capt. Robert Gray (1755-1806) on his initial voyage in 1788. He, however, called it Murderer's Bay, since it was here that his African cabin boy was killed by local Indians. The first actual squatter was Joseph Champion, who arrived in 1851 and made his home in a tree, which he referred to as his "castle" Tillamook's growth was slow. Not until 1871 was There a road of sorts to The valley and not until 1884 did a stage begin to run. Scandinavians, drawn in part by the fishing, now began to predominate on the coast—large numbers of Finns, for example, at Astoria—but at Tillamook and at a few other places, Swiss settled and developed a cheese-making industry.
Siletz Reservation Established South of Tillamook
South of Tillamook the Siletz Indian
began, established by Joel Palmer in the 1850s as a
for the several thousand displaced Indians of Southern Oregon
Valley. It extended 125 miles down the coast and from the sea to
roughly 1.3 million acres. Forty years later it had been reduced
land grabbers to 47,000 acres, and of the Indians, there were
hundred left. Disease, famine and white greed and genocide had
General Joel Palmer was a pioneer of 1845, and a noted character in Oregon History. He was born of American parents in Canada in 1810. He came to Oregon from Indiana, and helped Samuel K. Barlow locate the Barlow Road. He made an attempt to climb Mount Hood on October 12, 1945, and while he did not reach the top, his diary indicated that he climbed well up on the mountain, and assured himself that the summit could be reached. Palmer was one of the founders of Dayton, Yamhill County. He became superintendent of Indian affairs for Oregon in 1853, and later was president of the Columbia River Road Company that opened a toll road from Sandy River to the Cascades in 1863. He was once a candidate for governor. He died at Dayton June 9, 1881. Palmer Glacier on Mount Hood west of White River Glacier, Palmer Peak in Multnomah County and Palmer Creek in Yamhill County were named for Joel Palmer.
Newport Created Out of Indian Land Grab 1865
The first bite out of these Indian lands was taken in 1865 at what is now Newport. The year before, oysters, for which there was a ravenous market in the grill rooms and saloons of San Francisco, had been found in great numbers in Yaquina Bay. Two years later, in 1866, a regular stage began to operate on the new military road from Corvallis and the Ocean House, a resort hotel, was built by early settlers, Mary Craigie and Samuel Case. Newport was on its way.
Indian Agent Benjamin Wright Eaten by Indians at Gold Beach
Certain areas of the southern coast, like the northern coast, were early populated—the former because of "soft gold," pelts, the latter because of hard gold, the real stuff. Both Port Orford and Gold Beach began in the early 1850s as mining communities, the latter aptly named since grains of gold and grains of sand were literally intermixed there at the mouth of the Rogue River. These communities also drew population because of the Rogue River Indian Wars of the 1850s—and lost population too. It was at Gold Beach that one of the worst incidents of the war took place, the Rogue River Indians murdering 23 non-indians, among them the controversial Indian Agent, Ben Wright, whom they killed and whose heart they then cooked and ate.
Coos Bay World's Largest Lumber Shipping Port
However, the south coast community which was
know the greatest growth, did not trace its origins to wars and
to settlement and the good use of its port and timbered
was Coos Bay, for years the largest lumber shipping port in the
There was, as well, R. D. Hume's salmon fisheries at Rogue
According to Oregon, End of the Trail:
Coos Bay is almost continuous with
Bend; together the towns form the fifth largest city in the
largest lumber shipping port in the world. Formerly called
Coos Bay is near the top of the crooked arm of Coos Bay, which
crowded with schooners being loaded with lumber cut in the
slopes of the Coast Range. Of particular importance is the Port
cedar, whose straight grain, lightness, and tensile strength
demand in world markets.
The first cabin in this district was built by a trapper named Tolman in 1853. In the following year he left and a retired seaman, Captain George Hamilton, moved in. Hamilton, following the wilderness custom, took an Indian woman for a wife and managed to subsist without neighbors until the arrival of John and George Pershbaker a few years later. George Pershbaker provided stock for a trading post to meet the needs of men arriving to work in the shipyards John Pershbaker had established. Pershbaker's first boat was a tug, the Escort; later his plant built the schooners Staghound, Louise Morrison, Ivanhoe, and Annie Stauffer, and the barkentine Amelia. But the population still grew very slowly; in 1884 it still had only about 800 people. In addition to its isolation, one factor that hindered the growth was the type of ground on which the town had been founded and from which it had taken its name. In 1908, lumber interests were erecting a mill and started dredging operations to deepen the channel through the crooked bay and to use the silt removed from the channel to raise the town land. Still growth was slow. Then came WWI with its enormous demands for spruce to be used in construction of the new fighting craft—the airplanes. The Southern Pacific Railroad tracks were hastily extended southward to the Coos Bay towns and on up into the forests. During the war years Marshfield mushroomed into a city whose streets on Saturday were filled with hard-drinking, exuberant lumberjacks and roistering ship-loaders. After the war, activity lessened but did not die, and the town settled down to a more solid kind of development. A fire of 1922 swept away three blocks of old business buildings and many jerrybuilt affairs constructed during the boom; though this was considered a disaster at the time, it was probably a blessing because the buildings that replaced those that had burned were more modern and of better construction.
Chapter 18: North Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast's surviving
serve as visible, accessible links to the past—monuments to
Although unoccupied since the arrival of modern technology, some of the unique, classic lighthouse structures remain as much a part of Oregon's rugged coastal landscape as any land form or offshore monolith. Built on prominent headlands or near major estuaries supporting maritime activity, most of these stations were established by the former US Lighthouse Board between 1870 and 1896, with design and construction aid provide by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Ultimately, the US Coast Guard became the caretaker of the properties and keeper of the lights.
After installing automated beacons in the 1960s, the coast guard began transferring their lighthouses to other government agencies. The transfers prompted vigorous restoration efforts preserving the predominantly brick towers and frame dwellings that once sheltered the lightkeepers. All nine lighthouses have been named to the National Register of Historic Places, and seven are now open for public inspection and regularly scheduled summer tours.
One of the most demanding lighthouses of the West, both to build and for duty required, lies some 20 miles to the southwest of the Columbia River, along Oregon's rugged coastline.
The Columbia River is important to maritime commerce. Unfortunately for mariners, the northern and southern approaches to the river are fraught with the dangerous jutting, rocky headlands of the Washington and Oregon coastline. This was doubly so in the 19th Century, when seafarers tended to navigate by coasting. That is, skippers hugged the coastline, picking out their navigational fixes from prominent landmarks. The danger in this type of piloting is that sudden shifts of wind or miscalculations can cause a skipper to have his ship driven onto the beach. While today's tourists flock to enjoy the sea stacks and steep, rocky headlands of Oregon's seashore, the 19th Century coasting sea captain faced the chance for a very unpleasant end during stormy approaches to the Columbia.
On June 20, 1878, in response to the loss of life from shipwrecks on the southern approach to the Columbia River, Congress appropriated $40,000 for the construction of a first-order light at Tillamook Head, Oregon. The initial planning recognized that $50,000 would "not complete the work..." An accurate estimate proved impossible at the time, so the board asked for an additional estimated $50,000. The US Lighthouse Board could not realize the portent of things to come when, in 1879, they reported to the location of the light. The original plan called for the structure to sit atop the thousand-foot high Tillamook Head, but the heavy fog would make a light perched high on a cliff almost useless. A lighthouse located at sea level was the suggestion of Lighthouse District engineer Maj. G. I. Gillespie. Gillespie also suggested Tillamook Rock. This uninhabited crag, officially described as an
isolated basaltic rock divided, above low water, into two unequal parts, by a wide fissure with vertical sides running east and west, stands 100 feet above the sea, and has a crest which can be so far reduced as to accommodate a structure not greater than 50 feet square. A comparatively quiet landing can be made on the east side when the sea is smooth. The water on all sides is deep.
The report went on to note that the
of the building of a light station at Tillamook Rock would be "a
labor and difficulty," and would cost a great deal of money. The
proved to be prophetic.
Gillespie's suggestion at first met with disfavor. The continued shipwrecks on the approaches to the Columbia, coupled with the logic of not building on the headland, however, gave the US Lighthouse Board no alternative but to proceed with the plan to establish the southern light on Tillamook Rock.
In charge of the project was H. S. Wheeler, district superintendent of construction. By June 1879, the weather cooperated, and Wheeler sailed in the US Revenue Cutter Service cutter Corbin to the area of the rock. The sea was relatively calm, and the superintendent was placed in the cutter's pulling boat and rowed to near the massive rock. Wheeler has the dubious honor to be the first to learn that a "comparatively quiet landing... when the sea is calm" sounded nice in an official report, but at this station the catch would be to find tranquil water. As the superintendent's boat approached the rock, he noticed the seas were calm in all directions, except around Tillamook Rock. Breakers lashed the crag, with whirlpools and eddies in the immediate sea. The boat crew and Wheeler decided it was not safe to land and, after making a visual survey from the boat, the cuttermen returned the superintendent to the Corbin.
Wheeler found himself order to set up a watch at Astoria, for the first calm day at the rock and not to return to headquarters until he managed to finish his mission. After long weeks of inactivity, a calm day appeared, and the superintendent was again in a small boat making his way to the rock. Again, only at Tillamook Rock was the sea angry. Wheeler decided to risk a landing rather than return to Astoria and spend more time waiting. The only side of the crag without high perpendicular rock walls was along the eastern approach. Wheeler ordered two cuttermen to attach lifelines to themselves and get from the boat to the rock anyway they could. The boat pulled closer and closer. The craft pitched upward in ten-foot swells and then dropped with express-elevator speed. One can imagine the thoughts of the two "volumteer" sailors as they crouched in the bow of the pulling boat. When the sailors hesitated to make the leap, Wheeler ordered them to get aboard the rock. The men then made the stomach-wrenching hurdle and somehow managed to make it. Now the next obstacle was landing the surveying instruments. The seas, however, began to rise and, fearing a crushed bat, the coxswain backed away from the rock. The two sailors on the rocks so feared a stranding that they flung themselves into the cold waters of the sea, and their shipmates pulled them into the boat by their lifelines. Wheeler again retreated to Astoria.
Four days later, the superintendent was again in a boat being pulled out to the eastern approach to the rock. Again, the boat pitched as it neared Tillamook Rock, but this time Wheeler crouched in the bow, waiting for the right moment to hurl himself onto the rock. He was successful. The superintendent then tried to rig lines from the boat to the rock to land his instruments, but failed as the seas, almost as if on cue, began to rise. Wheeler was left with only a hand tape, but set about measuring the rock. With seas building, the small boat was maneuvered close to the rock, and Wheeler leaped into the craft safely, albeit bruised.
Supt. Wheeler felt that someone with construction experience should make another survey of the rock before construction began. He hired John R. Trewaves, a master mason with experience in building lighthouses off England, to make the survey. On September 18, 1879, Trewaves leaped to the rock, lost his footing, and went into the sea. His body was never recovered. The accident shocked the local seaside community enough that some began to doubt the wisdom of a light on the rock. Nevertheless, Wheeler "immediately" hired A. Ballantyne, a foreman, and eight quarrymen "in order to prevent further delays and to forestall the evil tendencies of public discussions of my plans. ..."
In the fall of 1879, Ballantyne and his eight men were ready to do battle with Tillamook Rock. As would be the case throughout the history of the light, the party waited for the weather. Twenty-six days later, the group found itself aboard the cutter Corwin and near the rock. The construction team clambered aboard a small boat, and the battle to gain a foothold on the rock began. Six hours later, only four men had managed to reach their goal, while the boat had its gunwale stove in and had sprung a leak. The four men rigged block, tackle, and line to haul equipment aboard the rock, plus a small stove and canvas. Provisions were floated to the quarrymen. The pulling boat was forced to leave as the seas began to rise.
The four laborers began to set up a shelter made of canvas and await the arrival of the other half of the work force. Five days later, the remaining men came aboard, bringing with them blasting powder. The powder was for leveling a foundation in the rock crest, some 120 feet above the sea.
The only shelter the party had for the first ten days was under a canvas lashed to ring bolts attached to the rock. Then the workers made a shallow niche in the north and east side of the rock, built a wooden shack, covered it with canvas, and lashed everything to ring bolts. In the words of the official report, this "gave safety,... but little comfort."
When work started, the plan was to first made a level bench for a derrick at the lower level of the rock then work upward to the crest to blast out the foundation of the light structure. The summit had to be dropped from 120 to 91 feet for the station. The work of blasting on such a surface proved extremely difficult. First off, there often was no place to gain a footing when drilling powder holes, nor any room to hide when the charges were set off. The workers set iron ring bolts into the walls of the rock for handholds and footholds. The quarrymen ran ropes between the rings and erected a crude wooden staging on which to work, sometimes working hundreds of feet above the churning water with the whole contraption swaying in the wind, the spray occasionally even reaching the staging.
One obstacle came from an unexpected quarter. The lower reaches of the rock had been the domain of sea lions, with some hardy ones reaching the upper level. The mammals did not take kindly to the human intruders. Some bolder sea lions attacked the workers, but three men managed to control the upper reaches and drove off their flippered attackers. Eventually, the sea lions deserted the rock.
A transfer successfully used at another difficult station, Saint George Reef, California, began at Tillamook and solved the continual problem of landing supplies by boat—a heavy hawser stretched from the mast of the lighthouse tender, anchored just far enough off the rock to keep it away from the action of the waves, to the highest point of the rock. This provided a strong rope bridge between the two points. A breeches buoy transferred people over the hawser. A breeches buoy looks like a pair of canvas trousers on a life ring and the ring is attached by rope to a single sheave. The sheave is placed on the hawser, and a line pulls the breeches buoy along the hawser. In effect, the hawser becomes a track. The breeches buoy made the trip to and from the rock a much safer method of bringing workers to the site. The passage from the tender to the construction site and return, however, was not without its difficult moments. As the ship rose and fell with the swells, so did the hawser upon which the breeches buoy traveled. One minute a worker would be moving through the air and the next plunged into the cold waters of the Pacific, only to spring back into the air. "The landings were frequently the basis of wagers as to how many times those in transit would be immersed. ..."
The materials for the completion of a derrick became one of the first major supply efforts. With lines, blocks and tackle, and wires, plus a great deal of human muscles, parts came aboard the rock and workers assembled the derrick. The derrick would have a long boom. The boom and the derrick would be the principal means of bringing keepers and equipment aboard the light.
To say that life for the workers was arduous is to understate on a grand scale. For example, when the work first began, the men did not have a comfortable place to get away from the elements. Instead, they had a rude canvas shelter in the form of an A-tent. Ballantyne said,
It was rather disagreeable in our tent, it being six by 16 feet with a horizontal ridge pole about four feet six inches from the ground. The tent, which is our only shelter, hold the ten of us. We always do our cooking on the lee side and shift with the wind direction.
A wooden shack wrapped in canvas eventually
Most of the time the wind and seas were so strong that the workers found it easier to crawl around on the rock instead of walking. The canvas would flat loudly in the wind, causing sleepless nights, and sea spray often swept over the shelter, threatening to wash it into the Pacific. The cook stove frequently filled with salt water, and salt water drenched the supplies.
Then came winter.
Early in January 1880, the tender could not hold station and retreated in the face of rising seas. The infamous winter rains of the Oregon Coast began, along with a southwest gale. Drenched to the skin, the men continued to work, hardly able to keep their footing in the face of the tempest. Ballantyne finally gave the order to stop work and retreat to the wooden shack. The foreman ordered more ring bolts hammered into the rock and additional ropes lashed around the shed.
The storm drove salt water under the door jam and the roof leaked. The roar of the seas was so loud that the men shouted to be heard. The rock shook as the waves hammered the crag. At two in the morning there came a crash much larger than all the other noises combined. Ballantyne ordered the men to remain within the wooden shack, while he took a storm lantern and set out to investigate. He made only one step outside the dwelling before the combined wind and seas literally hurled him back into the shack. The foreman waited for two hours and then crawled out. This time he remained two minutes, but still received a beating. For all his efforts, Ballantyne could see nothing in the storm-tossed night. All hands returned to their bunks to await the morning. Now fragments from the rock began to land on the roof. The number of rocks flung by the sea began to mount. Then the stones began to puncture the roof. The foreman ordered more canvas unfurled and stretched over the top of the wooden structure. With dawn, the workers saw the reason for the large crash: the sea had carried away the storehouse, along with the fresh water tank and most of the food.
On January 18, a revenue cutter finally braved the seas to see whether anyone was alive on Tillamook Rock. A volunteer boat crew came dangerously close to the rock to find that everyone was alive, but living on hardtack, coffee, and bacon. The cutter remained in the area hoping to get some supplies to the workers. Four days later, the weather moderated, but the sea remained too high for small boat operations. The skipper of the cutter turned his attention to working a line to the rock. He ordered a light messenger line attached to a cask and floated to the waiting workers. This method proved futile, when the cask broke up in the seas halfway to its destination. The captain thought for a while and hit upon a different approach. Gathering up barrel staves, along with some bed sheets, someone fashioned a kite. Next, a crewman flew the kite toward the rock. Strangely enough, this proved the device needed to pass a line to Tillamook Rock. Once the bedraggled workers had a light line, they then used that to pull a heavier hawser across the storm-tossed seas and then the much needed supplies arrived. A lighthouse tender hove to later and landed more provisions. As more workers arrived on the rock, an improved shelter went up. A few days of mild weather helped speed progress.
After leveling the derrick site, workers then hacked a stairway through the rock to the upper elevation, and the foundation of the light was leveled. The time to land the heavy stones used in the building of the light structure was approaching. The stone used was "a fine-grained and compact basalt" and was quarried at Mount Tabor, six miles east of Portland. The completed derrick, now equipped with a steam engine and its long boom, lifted the heavy blocks. Laborers laid the cornerstone of the light on June 24 1880. The dwelling area is 48 feet by 45 feet, with an adjoining 32 feet by 28 feet structure to hold the fog signal equipment. A 16 foot square tower rose from the middle of the dwelling to 48 feet in the air, making the beam of light 136 feet above mean sea level. Life on the rock was never easy for the workmen, but the project progressed steadily. A dramatic incident on the night of January 3, 1881 illustrated the need for the light.
Crew of the Lupatia Drown January 3, 1881
The usual weather had set in around
when the construction boss entered the dwelling and stated he
lights of a ship coming towards the rock. The dim glow of red
running lights loomed in the night. So close did the ship pass
workers heard the shouted command "Hard apart!" The laborers
a large fire and lanterns were placed about to help outline the
ship, which later proved to be the British bark Lupatia, missed
but her skipper made the wrong turn and slammed into the shore
causing the loss of the entire crew.
Three weeks later, on January 21, 1881, the first-order light on Tillamook Rock officially went into operation. The light station took 575 working days to complete at an expense of one death and $123,493. The workers anxiously awaited departure, very happy to turn the site over to the lighthouse keepers.
Who coined the name "Terrible Tilly"
the Tillamook Light Station is unknown, but it proved apt.
gale in January 1883, rocks were torn loose, thrown into the
onto the fog signal building with such force that the rocks
holes in its iron roof. This was a forecast of things to come.
In December 1886, a mass of concrete filling, estimated to weigh at least half a ton, ripped loose and flung 100 feet above the ocean and landed near the station. Over the years, the sea seemed to try to outdo itself. In a severe storm in December 1887, the keepers reported that the sea broke continuously over the entire station, including the tower, some 133 feet above the water. On December 9, 1894, seas again breached the entire station, this time destroying 13 lantern panes, chipping the lens, and tearing off large rocks, which ere flung upon the roofs of the dwelling and foghorn and opened the buildings to large quantities of sea water. Three years later, the new telephone cable was broken. Other damage sustained through the years made the station "known [around the seacoasts of the world] as the most treacherous of warning posts." The US Lighthouse Board felt that the installation of a new roof of steel I-beams and concrete in 1898 would prevent further damage to the roof from rocks hurled by the seas. This would seem to be enough to stop any water from entering the station, but then came the storm of October 1934.
Tillamook Light Station "Terrible Tilly"
The Storm of October 1934
In October 1934, Terrible Tilly felt
fury of an unusually strong southwest gale. At one point the
what must have been amazement and an awful moment of impending
everything on the rock, including the tower rising 133 feet
sea level, was completely under water. The lens room filled with
and the station came close to being destroyed. As a result of
storm, Tillamook Light Station received an electric third-order
the Great Lakes and an iron mesh curtain to place around the
in the lantern room to help prevent further damage from flying
The appropriate lead into the final chapter in the story of the Tillamook Rock Light Station is a notice of a public hearing on March 1, 1956, at Astoria. Seventy-seven years after superintendent H. S. Wheeler set out from Astoria to survey the rock, the US Coast Guard, citing the changing nature of ocean navigation, the ability to place better aids to navigation for small boats near the rock, and the cost to maintain the facility, notified mariners of the closing of "Terrible Tilly." On September 16, 1957, Oswald Allik, the last civilian head keeper of Tillamook Rock Light, entered his feeling in his log:
Farewell Tillamook Rock Light Station. An era has ended. With this final entry and not without sentiment, I return thee to the elements. You, one of the most notorious and yet most fascinating of the sea swept sentinels in the world... Through howling gale, thick fog and driving rain your beacon has been a star of hope and your foghorn a voice of encouragement. May the elements of nature be kind to you... Keepers have come and gone; men have lived and died, but you were faithful to the end. ...Your purpose is now only a symbol but the lives you have saved and the services you have rendered is worthy of the highest respect. A protector of life and property to all, many old-timers, newcomers and travelers along the way pause from the shore in memory of your humanitarian role.
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