Some family history… My great uncle, wife and two young sons came across the Oregon Trail (then called the Emigrant Road) in 1847. Another one of their seven sons was born along the trail somewhere in Nebraska. Their descendants are now spread all across Oregon and Washington.
(Baker City OR)
I visited the National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center east of town on what is now called Flagstaff Hill. They would have passed over that hill after crossing the Continental Divide and the Snake River.
At the time, it was known as the hill overlooking the Lone Pine; a singular, huge and ancient pine tree, in the valley below, which was a landmark for travelers. I went looking for the wagon ruts, but found what would have been a stagecoach road.
(La Grande OR)
Their next waypoint would have been, in the Grande Ronde Valley, in late August. It was common to rest there before crossing the Blue Mountains, and heading to The Dalles.
At The Dalles, was a major staging area for resupply and an important decision on which way to take from there. Some chose to float the dangerous Columbia River for the last stretch of their trek.
But, my ancestors decided to take the newly carved Barlow Road past Mount Hood for the last leg of their journey to Oregon City. I boondocked in the forest, very near their route, with a nice view of Oregon’s tallest peak at 11,239 ft covered in snow.
My uncle settled in the Willamette Valley on a land claim just outside of Santiam City (now Jefferson) near the Santiam River. He went to the gold mines in California in 1849, and returned with enough to build a new house, a barn, and buy equipment; and to purchase more land. He later had a general merchandise store in town.
Oregon Hwy-99E runs right through the middle of what was once his land. Just north of the original Santiam homestead, I stopped and visited with a farmer. His family too came across in the 1840s, and he was still on their land claim.
In later years, they moved to Salem and opened a general mercantile store. He became assistant county treasurer and assessor, and also justice of the peace. While in Salem, I had a nice visit with a cousin.
One of his sons bought a 1,000 acre farm just north of Scio, and became a partner in a mercantile store, and he was twice mayor of Scio. He later retired to Salem, and had a summer farm in Stayton.
A grandson had a livestock ranch near Corvallis raising cattle and sheep, and was also a banker. He became a city councilman, mayor of Corvallis, and a state senator. I didn’t get the chance to locate his ranch, but did drive through the area where it would have been located.
The son born on the Oregon Trail, was a blacksmith and rancher in Mitchell. When he was postmaster of the town, he named it for his friend state Senator Mitchell. I spoke with a local who showed me an excerpt in the town history confirming our family story.
The town of Mitchell has burned down twice and been flooded out numerous times. So, it doesn’t look much like it would have during his time. It’s still a little country town.
(John Day/Canyon City OR)
He then was a blacksmith for the Malheur Indian Agency, near John Day, during the natives uprising in 1878. In fact, four of the chiefs had a powwow in their kitchen, just prior to them heading off to their war dance. Chief Winnemucca was not able to talk the others out of going on the warpath. In the following years, they were right in the middle of the hostilities; sometimes taking refuge in an old mineshaft.
In 1882, they moved to Burns OR and built the first structure there, a hotel and saloon. It was replaced with a newer hotel, on the same lot, in the early 1900s. He was the first postmaster there, and became Deputy US Marshall for the county.
It was exciting to visit the places that my ancestors pioneered and to experience the land first hand. What a wonderful journey through time and place I’ve had, all made possible with Tardis.
Camps: Boondock – Mt.Hood NF, Malheur NF
Scene: Trails, farms, towns, mountains, river