Marcus A. Ford

A Forgotten Young Pioneer

By John T. Ford


            On a chilly November day in 1844 a lurid sun was glimmering over the sage-brush plains of lower Umatilla valley, and a tall, athletic looking youth could have been seen hurrying along of foot leading a pack-horse loaded with provisions, which he had purchased at Waiilatpu Station-a slow moving emigrant train, about a half-day’s travel ahead of him, was his destination. The youth’s movements were alert and intrepid, and his keen gray eyes were scanning the wild wastes for signs of possible danger, while ever and anon a grim smile would light up his fine student like countenance. In his recent college days he had dreamed fanciful dreams of beautiful green valleys along the booming shores of the mighty Pacific Ocean. The theme of this graduating oration had been-“Westward the Star of Empire Wends its Way.” Again he stood upon the rostrum in the little chapel hall of a historic Kentucky college-town addressing its gaily assembled “beauty and chivalry”; again  he heard the applause and saw the boquets falling around him as he pictured in glowing and eloquent periods the splendid birth, at no far distant day, of a glorious new Western civilization.

            “Ah, I may live,” mused he, “to see my college dream come true.”-then suddenly three Indians leaped from behind a clump of sage-brush and confronted him; one of them was armed with bow and a quiver of arrows, the armed Indian drew his weapon menacingly upon the youthful emigrant, while his two companions gave their attention to the pack-horse. Like a flash our college-bred youth knocked over the Indian in front of him with his big flintlock horse-pistol, and quickly turning covered the others with his gun. He was now master of the situation, and he compelled the Indians to march in front of him into the emigrant camp, which was reached late in the evening.

            This intrepid young emigrant was Mark A. Ford, an only son of Nathaniel and Lucinda Ford, who with their son and five daughters, Mary, Josephine, Caroline, Sarah, and Lucinda, were making the long treck across the plains to that wonderland of romance and song-

                        “Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,

                        Save his own dashings.”

            The subject of this sketch was born in Howard county, Missouri, April 18, 1823, and he graduated from Bacon college, Harrodsburg, Ky., in 1843, and in the meantime he had studied law and was admitted to the bar just before starting for the Oregon country. His education was rather superior for that day, as he was both a French and Latin scholar.

            The Ford family arrived at their destination in the early part of December, and passed part of the winter in Oregon City, but in February 1845, they moved up the valley and located on the Rickreall in Polk county, near the village now known by that name.  The short journey from Oregon City to the Rickreall valley was filled with buoyant hopes and cheered by romantic scenes. Upon reaching the summit of the eastern Polk county hills a lovely vista lay spread out before the eyes of the newcomers; in the distance, to the right of them, was the lovely Yamhill valley and its waving prairies; immediately in front of them were the green foothills and the blue Coast Range, and off to the left of them was the loveliest gem of all, the beautiful valley of the Rickreall. Young Ford was in advance, and as his party came up, with a wave of his hand and in a voice thrilled with emotion, he exclaimed: “Behold, God’s last and best work lies before you!”

            Our young pioneer soon took a leading part in the social and political affairs of the newly formed settlement. At the general election held on the 3d day of June, 1845, he was elected prosecuting attorney by almost unanimous vote of the people. He was a member of the provisional legislature of 1847 from Polk county, and was an active participant in the legislation of that important session. He was the author of the memorial to the congress of the United States in relation to the Whitman massacre and the Cayuse war, which document also set forth the necessities and financial difficulties of the provisional government as follows:

            In establishing a regular form of government-creating tribunals of individuals, and the prevention and punishment of crimes, a debt has accumulated which, though an insignificant amount, your memorialists can devise no means of liquidating. The revenue laws, from not being properly executed, while they are burdensome t classes of our citizens and sections of county, are wholly disregarded by others and whole counties, which fro numerical strength are equal to any in the territory, and fully participating in all the advantages of our compact, have never contributed any assistance in bearing the common burden.

            The experience of the provisional government in the collection of taxes was very similar to that of the American colonies under the Articles of Confederation.

            Mark A. Ford had the reputation of being a ready and fluent public speaker, keen at repartee and eloquent in appeal. His personal appearance was distinctly striking; fully six feet tall, broad shouldered and athletic in build, with keen gray eyes, impressive and mobile features, dignified and affable in manners-a typical young Southern gentleman.

            He and the late James N. Nesmith were intimate early-day associates, which relationship is indicated by the following letter:

Vale of the Rickreall, June 15, 1845.

Judge Nesmith,

            Dear Sir:

            I send you by my father, “Chitty on Contracts,” young can retain-if you wish-until next fall. I sent you “Mansfield’s Political Grammar,” some two months ago by Mr. Saxton.

            Gen’l Gilliam and myself purpose taking an elk hunt sometime in the last days of July, and I would be glad that you would join us.

            I neglected to write until my father was to start, and I am consequently compelled to forego the pleasure of writing you a lengthy letter.

            Very respectfully, your friend

M.A. Ford

            Colonel Ford was leaving for Oregon City, and Judge Nesmith was a resident of the city at that time.

            In the writer’s opinion, the above letter is of public interest because of its erly date, and also because it mentions names familiar to early pioneer history. Colonel Cornelius Gilliam’s  and untimely death, while campaigning against the Cayuse Indians in 1847, cast a pall over the little pioneer settlement of Polk county while is remembered by people still living. The subject of this sketch was a member of Gilliam’s company of volunteers.

            In 1846-7 an intresting discussion arose among the representative members of the commonwealth, as to the necessity of conserving the timber area for the benefit of actual settlers. Young Mr. Ford entered into this discussion with his usual intellectual zeal, arguing the wisdom of such conservation. Following is a brief excerpt from a letter of his which appeared in the Oregon Spectator of April 30, 1846, over the nom de plume of “Unus Pepuli:”

            As that section now stands (he is discussing Section 4 of the Oreganic land law), there is danger of its being productive of consequences which would be fatal to the good of the country. For what would be the effect of allowing several persons to form themselves into private corporations for the purpose of holding land claims, but to allow them to monopolize all the important locations in the section of country where they might choose to settle? For example, a company of ten men would go to the Clamet (Klamath), one take a claim at the mouth of the river, another at the head of navigation, and the others select the best mill privileges, etc., and all reside at the same place, for there is nothing in the law to prohibit them from doing this. The proviso in the fourth section merely says, “no member of the partnership shall hold separate claims at the time of the existence of said partnership;” which will admit of no other fair and reasonable interpretation that that he shall not hold no other claim than the one which he holds in common with, the other partners, and it is immaterial whether the claims be contiguous or not-distance and location are quite out of the question………It will be giving a few an incalculable advantage over those who would follow, for they would find the hands of the monopoly upon almost every situation giving promise of value and importance-whereas, if not more than two were allowed to hold claims in partnership, there would be a more equitable division of chances, etc.

            This sound and logical argument was written by a young pioneer barely 23 years of age, but he had been educated to consider the common rights of the plain people.

            A much tooted episode of the early pioneer era was Judge Nesmith’s challenge to judge J. Quinn Thornton to fight a duel. The writer is able to give a little unwritten history of that dramatic fiasco. Mark Ford presented the challenge to Thornton, but the Judge indignantly declined the equivocal notoriety of meeting Nesmith upon the “field of honor,” and in doing so he used very offensive and vituperative language respecting his challenger. Young Ford was quite indignant at Thornton’s abusive epithets, and he impulsively inquired of him: “Judge, do you regard me as a gentleman and your equal?” “I do, sir;” replied the Judge. “I will take my much vilified friend’s place, sir.” “I can’t fight you, as I have no quarrel with you, sir;” was the Judge’s firm but unfaltering reply.

            Young Ford after returning home, in the privacy of the family circle, admitted his respect for Thornton’s moral courage in refusing to fight.

            Nesmith was not an admirer of the duello, but he was a resolute and high-spirited man. Thornton had vilipended him viciously in the public press.

            How true the saying of a wise old Saracen philosopher: “In the course of my long life I have often observed that man are more like the times they live in than they are like their fathers.”

            Judge Nesmith became one of Oregon’s most distinguished citizens, and his name is written large in the annals of his country.

            Mark A. Ford and Miss Amanda Thorp were married in Polk county, Oregon, January 14, 1847. One child only was born of this union. Mrs. Ford was the daughter of Major John Thorp, an early-day pioneer of Polk county.

            In the fall of 1848 Mrs. Ford’s health becoming quite delicate, her husband removed with her to California hoping that a change of climate might prove beneficial, but she survived only a few days after arriving at San Francisco.

            Mark Ford was an outstanding figure of the early pioneer days, but the writer feels that the numerously written histories of Oregon have done scant justice of the memory of this brilliant young man, who lost his life at Shoalwater Bay, January 1, 1850, prematurely cut off ere he had reached the fullness of his prime.

            On the 15th day of November, 1849, the subject of this sketch, in company with a number of other Oregonians returning from the gold mines, took passage at San Francisco on the brig Forest, a leaky old lumber schooner, for Portland, Oregon. The ship was nearly 50 days in making the voyage and encountered numerous storms which caused her to drift several hundred miles out of the usual course; provisions ran low, and the scurvy broke out amongst the passengers and crew; one passenger died en route from the effects of this scourge of the high-seas, and by the  time the ship stood off from the mouth of the Columbia River the situation had become intolerable and desperate. The storms had subsided and the weather was comparatively calm, and every one was anxiously expecting a pilot to come out from Astoria to take the vessel safely across the dangerous river bar. However, for some unaccountable reason the pilot was delayed, and Mark Ford, a young man by the name of Abner Stephens and two other men, decided to make the desperate attempts to reach the shore in an open boat. A heavy gale coming suddenly drifted them into Shoalwater Bay where the boat was wrecked and all of its ill-fated passengers lost. Three of the bodies were recovered, but the body of you Ford was never found.

            Subsequent evidence established the fact that one of the men had reached shore alive in a very exhausted condition, and had been murdered by the chief of a local Indian tribe for the money found upon his person. The Indian chief was arrested, but he leaped overboard from an open boat and was drowned.

            The Oregon Spectator of January 26, 1850, has this to say of the ill fated young pioneer:

            Mark Ford, Esqr., was a gentleman of much promise to the country. He enjoyed a good education and legal learning; and bid fair to stand high among the active and influential men of the Territory. He was during one session of the Provisional Legislature, an active member; and he is said to be the author of the able and interesting memorial to the Congress of the united States in relation to the Waiilatpu massacre and the Cayuse war. His loss I not only a great bereavement to his friends, but also to the Territory.

            The tragical fate of this popular  and gifted young pioneer fell upon the people of the newly organized settlement like a bolt from the blue-    

            An eagle sorely wounded, battling

with the sea

            Was swooped upon by a mousing        

                        owl and slain.



Colonel Nathaniel Ford
By John T. Ford


            Nathaniel Ford was one of the notable statebuilders of early Oregon, and the impress of his vigorous character is written large upon the civic and political history of the commonwealth-both natural temperament and acquired habit made him a recognized leader among his fellowmen. A kindly and hospitable man of the best Southern type, yet possessing a hot temper when his personal rights were infringed, he always held the respect and friendship of his neighbors and associates.

            Nathaniel Ford was a Virginian, and was born in the upper Shenandoah valley, January 22, 1795, of parents who boasted of their French descent, whose forebears emigrated to America at the time of the Huguenot exodus in 1665. James Ford, father of Nathaniel, was a soldier of the Revolutionary War, and served under Washington during the entire conflict for independence from Great Britain, having joined the Colonial forces at the age of 14 years.

            The subject of this sketch emigrated to Howard county, Missouri, in 1820 and on the 11th day of July, 1822, he and Miss Lucinda Embree were united in marriage, and from this union two sons and eight daughters were born, one son and three daughters died in Missouri. He and his wife became members of the Disciples or Christian church at an early period of their married life, but the husband afterwards united with the M.E. Church, South.

            When first coming to Missouri Nathaniel Ford taught school, practiced land surveying and “flatboated” from St. Louis to New Orleans; subsequently he was clerk and sheriff of Howard county, serving two terms in each office. He also participated in the demonstration against the Mormons at New Madrid, in which service he acquired the title of colonel.

            The fame of the salubrious climate, fertile soil and verdant valleys of the far-away Oregon country had ere now reached the Missouri region, and was echoing through its walnut groves. Colonel Ford was among the first to respond to the slogan call of “Westward-Ho!” Early in the spring of 1844 he and his family, consisting of his wife, one son and five daughters-Mark A., Mary, Josephine, Caroline, Sarah and Lucinda, started for the land of golden dreams-the then little known Oregon country. The starting point or rendezvous was at independence, Mo., and Colonel Ford was elected captain of the emigrant train. The long journey “across the plains” was accomplished in about six months, the Ford emigrant train arrived at The Dalles late in the month of November. The golden sunsets told these wearied but undaunted homeseekers that they were nearing the Eden of their hopes, and they realized that the beautiful and evergreen Willamette valley lay just beyond the snow-capped peaks of the lofty Cascade range.

            At that time the portage at the Cascades was a tedious and difficult undertaking; the men, women and children were crossed over to the north side of the Columbia river where an old Indian trail led to a landing point below the swirling rapids, and the live stock were driven over the mountains through a pass which afterwards became known as the Barlow Trail. The household effects and farming implements, etc., were loaded into a flatboat and navigated through the Cascade rapids by Colonel Ford himself, who had acquired skill in handling flatboats upon the Mississippi River. He would not permit any one to go with him. “One life is enough,” said he, “to imperil amid these mad and rushing waters.”

            It was then but a short and joyful journey up and across the valley to Oregon City, which the party reached on the 7th day of December. Their long trek over trackless wastes and across swollen rivers and rugged mountain passes, harassed by heat and cold, rain and storm, hunger and fatigue, proved that these dauntless men and women were true descendants of that restless, all-conquering old Nordic race, which had overspread Western Europe, crossed over the storm Atlantic, and peopled the inhospitable shores of Eastern North America.

            In the month of January, 1845, Colonel Ford, acting upon the suggestion of Dr. John McLoughlin, explored the region lying west of the Willamette river, and falling in with Jesse Applegate remained as his guest over night. The Applegate brothers, Jesse, Lindsey and Charles, had located in the Salt Creek region a year earlier, in what is now a part of Polk county. The next morning Mr. Applegate said to his guest, “I am going to show you the beautiful Rickreall valley,” this brilliant pioneer was always ornate in his language.

            A man by the name of “Billy” Doak had been taken a squatter’s claim on the Rickreall-a most lovely spot amid the fertile prairies. Mr. Ford paid the squatter $25 for his title. Land was cheap and plentiful, but money was dear and scarce in Oregon in those days. He then returned to Oregon City for his family, and they soon were enroute for their new home on the shady banks of the sparkling Rickreall. While locating his own claim, Mr. Ford also selected claims for his two brothers-in-law, one on the east of him for David Goff, and one on the west for Carey D. Embree.

            Colonel Ford, because of his varied experience in public life, soon became a prominent figure in the new pioneer settlement. His experience in land surveying was useful to the incoming settlers-his skill and tact unraveled many a neighborhood tangle over division lines. He also did a good deal of surveying for the government, such as laying out and subdividing townships in the Rogue River country. He was surveying on the Rogue River at the outbreak of Indian hostilities in that country in 1854, and was compelled to relinquish some of his work. He surveyed over in the Tillamook country and the lower Columbia River region in the fall of 1859. Indeed, his activities extended practically over the entire Willamette Valley, wherever cunning skill was required with compass and chain. His political activities were as notable as his civic, and his knowledge of statecraft was given without stint to the commonwealth.  

            Colonel Ford was a strong partisan, but the civic upbuilding of the new Oregon country was far more important to him than the success of any political party-the one was to endure for all time, the other was only ephemeral. He represented Polk county in four different sessions of the territorial legislature-from 1849 to 1859. His legislative experience in Oregon, as indicated, began in 1849, and Jesse Applegate was his colleague from Polk county. It may be of public interest to note that Applegate represented Polk county in the session of 1844, at which time the county was given the name of Polk. This sturdy and brilliant pioneer’s forceful personality has left an inexpugnable record upon the early history of Oregon, which is creditable to the wisdom of his judgment and intuitive insight of his vision.          

            The session of 1849 was the first regular session of the territorial legislature (all previous sessions were under the provisional government), and much time was taken up in changing the name of counties-Champoeg was changed to Marion, Tualatin to Washington, and Vancouver to Clarke. Patriotism was coming to the fore. The Legislative sessions from 1849 to 1859 were busily engaged in forming new counties and establishing roads into new settlements, besides enacting laws to meet the civic needs of the pioneer communities. The ubiquitous itch for law making was a recognized disease even in those primitive days, and each individual member always had a hat full of “pet bills” carefully marked and assorted. The habit is still with us, and it grows. Measurers of real importance, however, were not difficult to enact into laws, for those old pioneer Solons really did possess a sentiment of patriotic duty. Colonel Ford’s influence with his colleagues was effected by a shrewd knowledge of human nature, and an affable tact in presenting his cause-not by eloquent appeal and sledgehammer logic.

            An amusing incident in Colonel Ford’s political career fairly illustrates some of the methods of local politics in those early days. The old fashioned political convention was then in vogue, and Mr. Ford was a candidate for legislative honors before one of these conventions, and H.N.V. Holmes was his prominent opponent. Holmes won out before the convention, but his pugnacious opponent didn’t like the petty-wire-pulling which he had observed, and he publicly announced that he would be an independent candidate against Squire Holmes. At the general election the final tally showed that Ford had won by a majority of one vote only. The people voted viva voce at that time, and it was easy to tell for whom each elector voted. Holmes contested the election on the grounds that one elector had voted who was not quite 21 years of age,-he had voted for Ford. The contested election was bitterly fought, but Colonel Ford was a skillful surveyor and he managed to have enough Holmes’ voters surveyed out of the county to defeat his opponent.

            Well, there was a political feud between these two “old war-horses” for a while, but after a few years they buried the political tomahawk and were good friends again. In passing, I wish to say that Squire Holmes, as everybody called him, was one of Polk county’s finest citizens.

            Colonel Ford lived an active and useful life; he was virile and energetic, and possessed a vigorous mentality. I think it was some old Athenian philosopher who said, that “he who would be saved must have good friends or violent enemies; and that he is best off who possess both.” This “best” condition, I have reasons to believe, was Nathaniel Ford’s enviable lot in life. His warm sympathies and rare open-mindness made him many devoted friends, but his mental vigor and dominant personality also made him a few enemies.

            As a husband  and father he was one of the most devoted and kindly of men, and his open-handed hospitality was exceptional even among  a pioneering people. He left many descendants whose filial regard will always keep green the memory of his splendid achievements, and this affectionate regard even extends to the second generation.

            At his loved Rickreall home on the 9th day of January, 1870, after a brief illness, Nathaniel Ford passed away from “this bank and shoal of time” like one who falls into a gentle sleep.

            His loved and faithful companion survived him four years, and on the 14th day of January, 1874, her gentle spirit fell into that peaceful slumber we call death. Side by side their mortal remains quietly rest in the old Burch cemetery near the rippling waters of the beautiful Rickreall.


Dr. James W. Boyle

By William I. Boyle


            James Whitten Boyle was born in Tazewell county, Virginia, April 15, 1815, of Scotch-Irish extraction. The father died when James was in his 13th year. Soon after his father’s death the Boyle family moved to Indiana and settled in the vicinity where the great city of Indianapolis now located.

            At the age of 14 years young Boyle secured employment as a druggist’s clerk and from then on his dominant thought was a medical college diploma. As the druggist was also a practicing physician he allowed the lad free and welcome admittance to his medical library, giving him sound and straight-forward advice and encouraging him in his hopes and aspirations in every was possible.   

            Young Boyle began the practice of medicine in Indiana in co-partnership with Dr. Mason, his kindly old preceptor, when only 18 years old. He practiced conjointly with his preceptor for about three years and then moved to Fairfield, Iowa, in 1836. At that time Fairfield was a mere struggling village. The young doctor was soon engaged in a very extensive practice-long rides and slow payments. In those days money was a scarce commodity, people had to pay in what was denominated “truck and turnover.” As the financial condition was not conducive to the well-worn expression “respecter of persons,” the young practitioner had to take his pay in produce along with the butcher and the baker.

            He practiced long enough to accumulate quite a store of bacon and lard. “Now,” he said, “this is sufficient to cover the first expense of my medical education.” He shipped his accumulated produce by boat to New Orleans. He also took passage himself on the same boat to look after his shipment, as it was a common occurrence for Mississippi river steamboats to race on the down trips, and when the race became close and exciting and if the leading boat ran short of cordwood, the winning gamblers about would yell to the captain to “shove in the bacon” and they would be responsible for it. But even in those days the race was not always to the swift and if the bacon tossing captain lost out in the home stretch the consignor often had difficulties in collection on his burnt bacon. Therefore it was incumbent upon the doctor to go with the cargo in order to ‘save his bacon.’

            Receiving a good price for his produce upon arrival at New Orleans he had $1800.00 clear of all expenses to start his college course. But the best laid plans of most all men have often gone astray, and the young doctor, not being an exception, was destined to find his buoyant hopes most cruelly shattered.

            Upon embarking for his homeward journey, he had his baggage brought to his stateroom and the money being rather heavy and bulky to carry upon his person, he placed it in his trunk where he thought it would be safe, as the trunk carried a strong lock. Wishing to mingle with the passengers out on deck he closed and locked his stateroom door and was absent for only a short time.

            Upon re-entering the stateroom he found the door unlocked, the trunk broken open and his money stolen. Discouraging? Yes indeed! But as the young man was somewhat of a philosopher, and realized that the most difficult patient to treat was one who had lost hope and had given up to die, he immediately wrote his own prescription. It was to enter into more long rides over Iowa’s bleak prairies, braving her summer’s heat and her winter’s nerve-wracking blizzards.

            As financial conditions improved, in the course of time Dr. Boyle was enabled to enter Kimper College at St. Louis, Missouri, receiving his diploma in the spring of 1844. Wishing, however, to specialize in a certain branch of the profession, he attended a post-graduate course of lectures at a medical college in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the winter of 1844-45.

            Returning to his Fairfield, Iowa, home he immediately proceeded to outfit for the long journey across the plains to “The Oregon Country.” He arrived near Dayton, Yamhill county, early in the fall of 1845. He turned his complete outfit over to his sister and brother-in-law Mr. and Mrs. James Watt, and came on up to Salem, looking for a permanent location. Possessing a journey-fatigued saddle horse, a medical library, a case of surgical instruments and a large bum of “old Virginia” determination, he engaged rooms in a pioneer lodging house in Salem.  He was found there a few days later by “Uncle Jimmy” Howard, who was located near where the Ramsey bridge spans the Rickreall. In conversation with the doctor, Mr. Howard told him about the Rickreall valley in the meantime invited him to come and stay over night at his home.

            Dr. Boyle readily consented to this invitation. On their way over they stopped at the home of the Fords and Mr. Howard called Mark Ford out and following civilities, informed him that the doctor was a recent arrival, that he was looking for a permanent location and asked if Mr. Ford could go with him the next morning and show him a good claim. Mr. Ford readily agreed to this saying that he would be delighted to show him some beautiful locations south of Rickreall.

            Dr. Boyle arrived early next day at the home of the Fords and they started immediately to look for a claim. They had gone only a few miles when Dr. Boyle selected a claim which is now known as the old Whitaker farm. He selected a site for his cabin in a beautiful oak park near the spot where a company recently bored for oil. After discussing the details of the future home Dr. Boyle and Mr. Ford rode to the summit of a beautiful knoll situated a short distance southwest of the Monmouth normal school building and which is known to Old Christian College students as “Cupid’s Knoll.”

            Upon reaching the top of the hill, they dismounted, and while their horses were nibbling the succulent grass, the two you pioneers stood in silent admiration of the beautiful panoramic view. Suddenly young Ford broke the silence by exclaiming, “Here, Dr. Boyle, upon the top of this beautiful knoll, we may live to see erected a great literary institution, and from this time forward it shall be called College Hill.” How near the prediction came to being fulfilled is clearly evidenced by the State Normal school buildings at Monmouth.

            That afternoon after carefully exploring the immediate vicinity of his cabin site, Dr. Boyle and companion returned to the home of the Fords on the bank of the Rickreall. It was then that he first met his future wire, Miss Josephine Ford, daughter of Colonel Nathaniel Ford. They were married May 12, 1846, by Rev. John D. Boone.

            Although Miss Ford was only in her 16th year when married, her husband soon found that he had a helpmate in fact. Gifted with a keen intellect and a retentive memory, she fell readily into her husband’s line of thought, reading his medical books and journals and discussing the case in point with clear discernment.       

            It was not long before the doctor saw that his wife could prescribe for many of his patients in his absence. This ability on the part of the wife lead one of their old friends to remark that our “Doc Biles has the name of being the best practicing physician in this country, but I believe that his wife is far better.”

            After living a few years in their cabin in the Oak park, Dr. Boyle and wife sold their squatter’s right to Benjamin Whitaker and moved upon a permanent donation land claim north of Rickreall. There they lived in a log cabin for several years, using it both as a residence and office. In 1855 they built a large frame house which stands today practically as good as when new.

            Dr. Boyle was noted for his energy and perseverance. He rode day and night, far and near, rain or shine, through dust and mud, over hill, mountain or plain. He was often compelled to swim his horse across flooded streams to reach the bedsides of his patients.

            His field of practice embraced Polk, Benton, Marion and Yamhill counties. Endowed with wonderful perceptive powers, he could discern readily, diagnose his cases and render a correct prognosis, which was at once amazing to his professional brothers and the source of marvel and comment by his old-time friends. Being an all-round practitioner he could pull a tooth, amputate a limb, trephine a skull or perform any other surgical operation.

In 1858 Dr. Boyle opened in Dallas the first drug store in Polk county. The building stood on the corner now occupied by the Uglow property. Dr. Boyle was very progressive, diligent in application to his profession and constant in every effort to accomplish whatever was undertaken. In order to be abreast of the times in his profession, he withdrew from his large field of practice to attend a course of lectures in the Cooper-Lane college at San Francisco in 1863-64.

            Wishing to give his children the advantages of an education, he bought property in Salem and moved there in the early 60’s. He died July 6, 1864, and was laid in the Odd Fellows cemetery south of Salem.

            In closing this sketch of the career of Dr. Boyle the writer wishes to quote the words of the Rev. William Roberts, who was a kind and true friend. Mark Antony pausing at the bier of Caesar “till his heart came back again” grieved no more than did Mr. Roberts over the passing of his old friend and neighbor. He spoke as follows:

            “There is perhaps no relation sustained between fellow citizens which so uniformly produces and fosters warm and devoted friendship as that which exists between him who administers relief to persons in pain and sickness and the person so relieved. The office of the preacher and of the teacher may be more important, it being a greater necessity to our well-being that the soul be enlightened than the body be in health. Yet so long as we are in the flesh, where sickness and pain will visit us, so long will the instrument who is the means of giving us ease and health always have our warmest gratitude and friendship.

            “Our Saviour, who spake as never man spake was not followed by the multitude so much for this as because he healed all manner of sickness and disease.

            Our lamented citizen, Dr. James W. Boyle, who has been suddenly called away from us, was an example of the most beautiful unselfishness, exhibiting in all his conduct the tenderest and most lively interest in all suffering humanity. His profession doubtless has a tendency to strengthen by constantly calling into exercise the benevolent affections of the heart, yet those who have known Dr. Boyle, especially those to whom he has ministered medical advice, cannot but think that naturally he was one of natures noblemen, a kindly man whose large heart needed not to be cultivated and stimulated to make it respond readily to the cry of distress. But a few weeks ago, while he was engaged day and night in attending the sick, after he had ridden all day in the rain it was suggested to him that he was certainly  overworking himself and did not look well. ‘I am not well,’ he said, ‘and nothing keeps me from being taken down, but that I have no time to be sick and my anxiety about so many people keeps me up.’ This proved to be sadly true. He never took time to be sick but worked for others till the last moment it was possible to do so, till the agonies of death were almost upon him.

            “His ruling passion seemed strong in death-‘Don’t let the old Doctor be routed up now.’ He said. His kind voice is hushed, his living heart stilled; but the Father of the fatherless will not forget his promises to those who show mercy to the poor and distressed.”


Josephine Ford Boyle

            Josephine Boyle, wife of Dr. Boyle, was born in Howard county, Missouri, December 5, 1830. She came to Oregon with her parents, Col. Nathaniel Ford and wife, Lucinda Duncan Ford, in 1844. Surviving her husband 52 years, she passed away June 21, 1916, in the 86th year of her age.

            We who know her the best of all know that she was a kind and indulgent mother, ministering with loving kindness to the happiness and wellbeing of her children in every way possible. Bravely, silently, she bore her part, faithful still as a bridge of stars. She rests by the side of her husband in the Oddfellows cemetery at Salem.

            Well may we, the descendants of those old pathfinders and homebuilders of the early forties, recite their many inconveniences, extol their virtues, proclaim their lives strenuous, and, while their annals bells are yet ringing, turn with filial veneration for their memories and gaze upon “the westward sun, a sunset sun, the sun of their hopes fulfilled.”



Colonel Cornelius Gilliam

By Merlie Gilliam


            Colonel Cornelius Gilliam was born in the State of North Carolina, in the year of 1799; but when quite young he and his parents moved to the State of Missouri, where he lived for a number of years.

            In 1820, he was married to Miss Mary Crawford and ten years later he was elected Sheriff of Clay county, for a term of two years. After the expiration of his term of office, he joined the Black Hawk war and served as Captain of the Company during the Seminole war of 1837. Later he returned home. When trouble arose with the Mormons, it was decided to expel them from the State. Volunteers were called for, and Capt. Gilliam came to the front, raised an army and was chosen its Captain, soon being promoted to Colonel.

            In 1843 he represented Andrew county in the Legislature. Religiously he was a Free Baptist, and was ordained in the Ministry in 1843, and a year later started for Oregon, arriving in the fall. He first settled in Polk county, on the La Creole, later moving father south to Pedee creek.

            He lived there until after the Whitman Massacre, in November 1847. The Governor had a company organized and ladies of Oregon City made the first flag to be used in defense of Oregon. The Legislature decided to wage an aggressive war against the Indians at once. They organized a regiment of five hundred men and elected Cornelius Gilliam, Colonel; James Water, Lieu. Col. and H.A.G. Lee, Major. The Company consisted of boys and young men, their ages ranging from sixteen to twenty-four. They had unbounded confidence in their Colonel; and their motto was: “If our Colonel can stand it, we can.” and his motto was, “to live just as the boys did.”

            If he had an extra blanket, one of the boys got it, and if the boys were without extra foods, he either shared his, or did without. This is the way he obtained their confidence.

            The greatest eulogy that can be pronounced of either the dead or the living can be said of Colonel Cornelius Gilliam when it is declared that he gave his life for the lives of the early settlers of Oregon and Washington and was one of the few men who saved this grand country from falling into the hands of the English Government.

            The Company took up their line of march from Portland, and reached The Dalles on the fifth day, their food following them up the river in boats, and supplied them at their encampment each evening.

            They went into camp at The Dalles to rest up for a few days and await the rest of their supplies, which had not reached that place. The few Indians there were very unfriendly, and on the morning of the third day, two of the guards from around the horses were killed by the Indians. Col. Gilliam decided at once to chastise them and bring them to terms before leaving for Walla Walla as he didn’t want enemies behind as well as in front of him.

            He learned that their camp was located in a deep cut on the East side of Deschutes opposite what is now known as Warm Spring Reservation. He crossed at the mouth of the Deschutes and went into camp late in the evening. Next morning he sent Major Lee with a small detachment to ascertain the exact location of the Indians. He returned that evening and reported Indians a few hours ride. He and his men had a short skirmish with them, with no loss of life. Next morning Col. Gilliam advanced toward the place occupied by the Indians, climbing the steep bluffs, and advancing along the bank of the river. They camped at some mud springs that night and early next morning advanced a short ways, when they came upon the Indians on top of a steep bluff and on the opposite side of where they were. The Indians thinking themselves safe, kept making taunting remarks about the command and telling them to come on up.

            Col. Gilliam ordered his men to fall in line, and after a few words or advice, ordered his men to dismount and climb up on foot, leaving a few men to guard the horses. The Indians in their wild excitement over shot, and didn’t hit a man, while they were climbing the cliff. When the Colonel’s men reached the top, the Indians were quickly put to flight and retreated out of reach of the guns. There was nothing more to be done there, so they went down the cliff to their horses and followed the Indians, who fled in all directions.

            The Colonel discovered the Indians village was to the East, so they started at once, and within two miles, they found where the camp had been, but everything showed a hasty leaving, there were just a few old people left, not able to travel. Col. Gilliam wound not allow the old Indians to be molested; so they went on their way.

            The Company went in camp not far away, while Col. Gilliam sent to The Dalles for supplies; and after the proper arrangements, they continued on their way to Walla Walla. Nothing of interest transpired until the morning after leaving the encampment at Well Springs. They were now in the land of the hostile Indians and expecting trouble at every turn.         

            Within a short time one of the scouts came running up to advice the Colonel, that the Indians were close. He ordered his men together and gave all a piece of advice, telling them they must win, in order to save their homes. “Above all boys, obey your officers.” The Indians approached slowly, but determined, their great medicine man advancing as the Indians thought he could not die. With careful aim Lieut. Charles McKay, killed the medicine man first, then the real battle started, next came some of their main chiefs. The loss of their leaders threw the Indians into confusion. The Indians retreating several times and coming back with a different attack, but all these tricks Col. Gilliam understood, so he was ready for them. The skirmish lasted until four o’clock in the evening, when the Indians left. Col. Gilliam camped there that night and looked after his wounded men, the seriously wounded ones being taken to Walla Walla at once. The camp was without food or water, and things were in a sad plight.

            Next morning the Indians came with a white flag for peace, and the Commissioners appointed by the Governor favored the proposition. Col. Gilliam did not, but could not help himself. But later on it was found out to be only a stratagem on their part to remove their effects to places of safety. Col. Gilliam was very much irritated, at what the Commissioners had done, and he felt that his whole plans had been defeated. But there was nothing more to do, but to start out again, although the true murderers of Dr. Whitman were allowed to escape through this error of the Commissioners.

            On the morning after the delay, Col. Gilliam proceeded on his way to Walla Walla, upon descending to the higher table lands, they could see the Indians swiftly moving east along the foot of the Blue mountains. So it was useless to proceed further in that direction so he turned across the country to the Walla Walla rivers and camped below old Fort Wallula.

            The command was short of ammunition, so Col. Gilliam wrote a short note to McBean, asking for the same. The officers returned saying, that the request had been refused. The Colonel declared “I will go myself.” which he did and brought back the necessary amount.

            While they camped there, Sticcus, a noted Cayuse Indian and friend of Dr. Whitman, came to camp. He was representing his tribe and wanted to ascertain upon what conditions peace could be established. A council was held, consisting of Col. Gilliam and the three Commissioners, appointed by the Governor; to wit; Gen. Joel Palmer, Dr. Newell, and Major Lee. Sticcus represented to them, that his people were very sorry that Dr. Whitman were killed; that a large number of his people had been sick with the measles, and that many had died; that Joe Lewis, a half breed among them, had induced the belief that Dr. Whitman had poisoned them, and that if he was not killed or drove out of the country, he would kill all of them and take all their land and possessions. Also that McBean, who had charge of the Fort had tried to get Whitman out of the country without success and told the Indians the only way to get him was to kill him. His people were very sorry, but they had been deceived and lied to, until they had killed the best friend they had among the whites.

            The Commissioners told him if he would deliver all the murderers of Dr. Whitman, they could go in peace, otherwise no peace. Sticcus promised to deliver the message to his people. Thus ended the first and only conference which the Commissioners held with the Cayuse Indians.

            The next morning after Sticcus left camp. Col. Gilliam ordered camp moved, and they proceeded to Whitman Station. Here they behold nothing but desolation and ruin. They comfortable quarters provided by Dr. Whitman, for himself and the worn immigrants and helpless orphans had all been destroyed by the savages. The Dr. and all who perished with him were buried in one grave, a trench about seven feet square and deep enough to hold all the bodies.

            When the command reached there, the wolves had dug large holes into the graves and dragged out portions of the bodies and devoured them. The bones were replaced and the entire space covered over so as to not be disturbed again.

            Col. Gilliam resolved to make the station his headquarters. He rearranged things the best way he could so as to ward off any attack made by the enemy. After in camp three days, they were visited by NezPerce Indians. Their leader was a very sensible man and had prevented their people from joining the Cayuses, and that they were ready to help find the Whitman murderers. They returned to their own country after a few days, and about the same time the Commissioners left, as they felt their work was finished. The entire command was glad when they left, as they felt that their mission had been a complete failure. The authority of peace should have been left to the commanding officer. If he was able to command in war, he certainly understood the terms of peace better then any commissioner ever could. 

            Col. Gilliam learned that the murderers of Dr. Whitman were still camped with the Palouse Indians at the mouth of the Takanon; he resolved to surprise and capture them. He selected about 200 of his best mounted men and proceeded without delay. Upon reaching the divide, he halted about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. He remained until after dark and then continued on his way expecting to reach Indian camp before daylight. His scouts were sent on ahead for all possible information. Contrary to orders a soldier went on ahead and shot into a clump of willows, thinking it was a wigwam. The Indians heard the report and again the murderers escaped across Snake River.

            The Colonel then divided his men, sending a portion on down the Takanon river and up Snake river to the main Indian trail, while he and the rest went direct to trail. Upon reaching the elevation they found the Indians already across and nothing more to be done.

            The Colonel then ordered his men back to Fort Waters, and to take with them the 500 horses then grazing near by. They had not gone far when the Indians recrossed the river, and gathered all their forces and attacked the soldiers. The attack was made about 12 o’clock and continued firing was kept up until dark, when the troops reached a large ravine, where they were able to protect themselves and horses. The horses belonging to the Indians were ordered turned loose, as the Colonel didn’t want to run a chance of losing his men. The fight was kept up at intervals throughout the night until noon the next day. When the Indians suddenly stopped firing and disappeared, abut were soon noticed advancing toward the Touchet. The Colonel’s scouts informed him the stream lay in a horseshoe shape, and the Indians were making for that point. Part of the command was ordered there, while the rest made for the other point of the horseshoe. The troops reached the point first, and had to drive the Indians back before crossing the stream. After 24 hours of constant engagement the Indians ceased firing and left the command. The troops had now been 48 hours without food or sleep. None had been killed, but a number had been wounded, some seriously, that they had to be carried on litters.

            The soldiers rested a short time and then proceeded on their march for Fort waters. After covering a few miles, Col. Gilliam ordered camp on account of the fatigued and wounded men. They then rested and refreshed themselves with horsemeat, the only thing left to eat.

            Upon reaching Fort Waters the Colonel found they were out of ammunition and his men were weak and exhausted. He called for 200 more new troops and decided he had better see the Governor in person, so with his troops started for The Dalle to get food and ammunition supplies.

            On their way down, they were going into camp at Well Springs, when the Colonel was accidentally killed. He was getting his lariat out of the wagon to stake his horse (for he always looked after his own horse) for the night, when a teamster stepped up to help him to extricate it. In doing so, a loaded gun, with the ramrod in it, put there contrary to orders, was discharged; the rod struck the Colonel in the middle of the forehead, penetrated his head to the skull on the opposite side, breaking off about six inches from his head. Death was instantaneous, and without the contraction of a muscle. Death came in the noon of his manhood, with a bright future before him. Generous to a fault, quick to arrive at conclusions, and as quick to execute them, he was a born leader.

            His impulsive nature savored largely of humanity; and he could not bear to see man or beast cruelly treated, if it were in his power to prevent it.

            Captain Maxon, at once took command, and proceeded to The Dalles, to report to the Governor and prepare to send the body of Col. Gilliam to his family. On their way they met Indian chief, Kamiakin. He expressed much sorrow at the Colonel’s death, and stated that he and his people were friends of the Americans; that he would not harbor the murderers of Dr. Whitman. He was a very sensible chief and asked for plows for cultivating the land, which they gave him.

            The Governor appointed Waters to take Command, which he did. They scouted all through the Palouse and Snake river countries, and there learned that the murders were out of the country. So he returned to The Dalles and reported to the Governor. The Governor ordered the regiment in and to disband.

            This ended a war fought with difficulties and dangers on every hand. Headed by Col. Gilliam in the field and Gen. Paler at home as Commissary and quartermaster, it was fought to a successful issue, the great Indian War of this coast. There were no men killed on the battlefield; but some wounded, which numbered thirty or forty, who died of their wounds afterward.

            Colonel Gilliam’s body was sent to his family in Polk county for burial, taking twelve days for the body to arrive at Dallas. He was then buried without the Masonic ceremony, as there was no lodge in that part of the country. But along during that summer, his Masonic brethren, gathered from all over the Northwest, at this grave and paid him the last honors of brotherhood, by casting into his reopened grave the prophetic green.



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