Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
American Settlements - Personnel of Independent Residents of Oregon - First Expedition of Captain N.J. Wyeth - First School West of Rocky Mountains - Second Expedition of Captain Wyeth - Ewing Young and Hall J. Kelley - Immigrants of 1835.
PREVIOUS to the establishment of the Oregon Methodist Mission in the Willamette valley, exclusive of those whose presence might be attributed to the Hudson's Bay Company, there were not to exceed fifteen white inhabitants, west of the Rocky Mountains and between forty-two and fifty-four degrees, forty minutes north latitude. Those were persons who had remained from vessels which had entered the Columbia river, or had come from the Rocky Mountains or California They were mountain men, trappers or adventurers or sailors. As a general rule, they were married to native women.
(1832.) Of the overland party of Captain Nat. J. Wyeth of Massachusetts, ten remained after Wyeth's return in 1833, to Boston, of whom Solomon H. Smith, John Ball and Calvin Tibbetts settled in the Willamette valley. On the 1st of January, 1833, John Ball opened a school at Fort Vancouver, for Indian and half-breed children. He continued teaching until March, and then was succeeded by Solomon H. Smith. This was the first school taught west of the Rocky Mountains.
(1834.) Of Wyeth's party of 1834, there settled in the Willamette, James A. O'Neill, Thomas J. Hubbard and Courtney M. Walker. In November, came Ewing Young and Hall J. Kelly, with a party of eight others, among whom was Captain Joseph Gale, afterwards one of the executive committee or board of three governors of Oregon, under the first Provisional government.
Of American names connected with this period of Oregon settlement, none are more notable than those of Ewing Young and Hall J. Kelly.
Ewing Young was an adventurer of great force of character. Kelly was a visionary enthusiast. The latter, en route to Oregon via Mexico and California, met Young at Monterey, and induced him to come to Oregon. Young brought a herd of California mares and horses. He erected a dwelling on the Willamette river opposite Champoeg, the first house built upon the west side by an American. He entered Oregon under a cloud, attributed to the circumstance that in the party were reckless characters, who, after the California depredations had become known to Figueroa, Governor-General of California, and that the destination f Young and his party was Oregon, that official denounced them as horse thieves.
The Hudson's Bay Company's sloop Cadboro was then at Monterey, bound for Fort Vancouver. By this vessel, Governor Figueroa notified Governor McLoughlin of the coming to Oregon of this party, accusing them of having stolen horses. The sloop
had arrived at Fort Vancouver before Young and his party. The charge of horse stealing had preceded Young's arrival. Dr. McLoughlin says: "I refused to have communication with any of the party. Young maintained he had stolen no horses, but admitted that others had. I told him that might be the case; but, as the charge had been made, I could have no dealings with him till he cleared it up. but he maintained to his countrymen, and they believed that, as he was a leader among them, I acted as I did from a desire to oppose American interests."
Courtney M. Walker, in a paper
of the proceedings, 1881, of the Oregon Pioneers, characterizes Ewing Young
as "a very candid and scrupulously honest man, thoroughgoing, brave and
daring." He writes: "Mr. Young being in want of some supplies, ahd having
a few beaver skins, sent them to Fort Vancouver to exchange for his supplies.
But Dr. McLoughlin having been apprised by no less authority than the
Governor-General of California, that Young was at the head of banditti, refused to purchase the beaver, but sent Mr. Young the articles which he had wished to purchase, besides sending him several articles of refreshment for his table. But when the articles came, Young indignantly refused to receive the goods or refreshments, but went in person to Vancouver. The Doctor satisfied Mr. Young that he could not, being at the head of a company trading directly with California, have acted otherwise than to have given credence to the charge by the Governor of California. On the return of the Cadboro to California, Dr. McLoughlin wrote to the Governor of California, as also did Mr. Young. The ensuing fall the Governor wrote to Dr. McLoughlin and Mr. Young, withdrawing the charges against Young, and regretting the occurrence."
Mr. Walker refers to Hall J. Kelly and the hospitable attentions to him at Fort Vancouver, and the free passage to the Sandwich Islands. He then observes: "On Mr. Kelly's arrival at Boston, he published an account of his travels, and dwelt with a good deal of severity upon the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, and how he and Young had been treated. This pamphlet was sent to the United States' Consul at the Sandwich Islands, who was instructed to make the necessary inquiries about Young and other citizens on the Columbia. About this time, Lieutenant W.A. Slacum, United States navy, arrived at Oahu; and the United States' Consul chartered a little brig and got Lieutenant Slacum to come and see, etc." (This was in the winter of 1836.)
This article of Walker possesses value, as it doubtless gives Young's version of his interview with Dr. McLoughlin. It also exhibits the view entertained by early settlers, of the purposes of the mission of Purser William A. Slacum, United States Navy, special agent appointed by President Jackson.
Hon. M.P. Deady, foremost among
reliable and painstaking collectors of the historic data of early Oregon,
thus wrote in 1867 of Ewing Young: "He was a man of mark, fond of adventure,
and endowed with force of character. He was a native of Tennessee. At an
early age we learn of him in New Mexico, where he married a native woman,
by whom he had a son, Joaquin Young. For some reason, he left his Mexican
partner and progeny sans ceremonie. In the summer of 1834, at Monterey,
he was induced by Hall J. Kelly, of Boston, to accompany him to Oregon.
The party arrived at Vancouver in October, 1834. Mr. Kelly's health failed
him, and he soon returned home by the way of the Sandwich Islands. Young
settled in Yamhill county, where he died in the winter of 1840-1. He left
no relations in the country, nor in the world, so far as was then known.
He died intestate and left what was considered a large estate. This circumstance,
and the necessity of providing for the disposition of this property, led
to the first attempt to form a Provisional government in Oregon. A committee, chosen at Young's funeral, called a mass meeting of the inhabitants of Oregon south of the Columbia river to be held at the Methodist Mission in the Willamette valley, on the 17th and 18th of February, 1841, to take steps for the government of the community, and to provide for the disposition of the estate of Ewing Young.
"The meeting was held pursuant to call, and comprised nearly all of the male adults south of the Columbia. It was fitly called 'The Primary Meeting of the People of Oregon.' The Rev. David Leslie acted as chairman. The meeting, after electing officers, adjourned to meet on Thursday, June 11, 1841.
"The Provisional authorities took possession of the Young estate. In the message of the Executive Committee to the Legislative Committee, dated Willamette Falls, December 15, 1844, and signed Osborne Russel and P.G. Stewart, it is stated that the estate had been settled; and the net proceeds amounted to the sum of $3,734.26, which sum had been loaned to various individuals.
"December 24, 1844, the Legislative Committee passed an act directing the funds of the estate to be collected and paid into the treasury of the Provisional government, pledging the faith of the government that the same should be refunded whenever claimed by the heirs or creditors of Young. By the same act, $1,500 of the funds of the estate were appropriated for the building of a jail at Oregon City. The jail was duly erected, but after some years was destroyed by fire. This was probably the first jail west of the Missouri. So it may be said that the early Provisional government in Oregon grew out of the death of Ewing Young, and that its treasure was first filled from funds of his estate."
For Hall J. Kelly, merit has been claimed for inviting attention to the American colonization of Oregon. He was born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, in 1789. In 1827, then teacher of a public school in Boston, he had become zealously interested in the territory west of the Rocky Mountains. He addressed a memorial to Congress, urging "the founding of a new republic of civil and religious freedom on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and extending the blessing of Christianity to the Indian tribes."
Until 1828-9, his colonizing efforts were restricted to lecturing, memorializing State Legislature and Congress, and through public journals. He made several abortive efforts to organize a colony to proceed overland to the territory. From 1820 to 1831, he devoted his time to procuring a charter from the Massachusetts Legislature. At the session of 1830-31, he secured the incorporation of "The Society for Encouraging the Settlement of Oregon Territory." A large number enrolled to go to Oregon; two only, John Ball and Calvin Tibbetts, who accompanied Captain Wyeth on his first expedition, ever reached Oregon.
Kelly then made an ineffectual effort to send a party by sea to Puget Sound. With a small party, he went to the City of Mexico via Vera Cruz, and thence to California. His party having abandoned him in Mexico, with a single companion he overtook a part of the trapping party of the Hudson's Bay Company, about 200 miles from San Francisco, returning to Fort Vancouver. Joining them, in a few days the remainder of the party were overtaken, with whom was Ewing Young.
The treatment which Ewing Young
received at Fort Vancouver has been related. Dr. McLoughlin says: "I treated
all of the party in the same manner as Young, except Kelly, who was very
sick. Out of humanity I placed him in a house, and attended on him till
he left in 1836, when I gave him a passage to Oahu in one of the company's
On his return to the States, he published a narrative of his voyages, in which, instead of being grateful for the kindness shown him, he abused me and falsely stated that I was so alarmed with the dread that he would destroy the company's trade that I had kept a constant watch over him. This was published in a report made by him to the United States Congress."
Kelly, having returned to Massachusetts, devoted much time to publishing matter relating to the climate, soil and advantages of Oregon. Session after session, he labored to secure a congressional grant of Land in Oregon in remuneration for his services in behalf of the colony, but failed. Some charitable friend, noticing his death, which occurred on the 20th of December, 1873, thus refers to his latter life: "Doomed and disappointed, poor and needy, unable to stem the adverse tide, he became so irritable as to drive his wife and family from him. Having a small house and a little land, heavily morgaged, he has lived for more than twenty years a hermit's life, brooding over his troubles. His mind partially gave way; and for years, in every little trial even down to his last hours, he traced, through every unfriendly act or annoyance, the persecutions of the Hudson's Bay Company, through their emissaries, who, he believed, still followed him with relentless hostility, because of his early efforts in colonizing Oregon. No efforts of friends or relatives could induce him to leave his hermitage on the side of the hill facing the common at Three Rivers, though they offered him a good home and the comforts of life."
For 1835, a single expressive quotation from the memoranda of Dr. McLOughlin exhibits the character and progress of settlement: "Five English and American deserted sailors, having lost two of their number murdered by Indians, made their way from California to Willamette."