America Waldo Bogle and the Question of her Ancestry

By Brian W. Johnson


America Waldo and her husband Richard Bogle were two early African American pioneers who lived and prospered in Oregon and Washington during the period when those territories transitioned to statehood.  Little was known about their origins until several generations later when their descendants began the difficult task of researching their life history.  The information uncovered helps shed an important light on the diversity of the individuals that settled the American Northwest prior to 1900.

 Brief Biographies of America Waldo and Richard Bogle (most of the following can be found on or the web sites listed below).

 America Waldo was born in Missouri and as a young girl came to Oregon on one of the early wagon trains.  No first-hand accounts have been found which document her birth, the names of her parents, or the exact year she came to Oregon.  America Waldo herself reported she was born in Missouri on June 2, 1844, but there are no accounts during her lifetime which identify the names of either of her parents.  It has been generally assumed her mother was a slave of one of the Waldo brothers that lived in Missouri, and her father was a white man from that family.  It is known that after she arrived in Oregon, she spent part of her growing up years living with the family of Daniel Waldo on his farm east of Salem.

 When still a teenager she met an enterprising young African American barber named Richard Arthur Bogle.  Richard Bogle was born in Jamaica in 1835.  At the age of twelve he moved to New York, then traveled west by wagon train in 1851, eventually ending up in California where he tried mining.  He also apprenticed as a barber, and a few years later set up his own barbershop in Roseburg, Oregon.

 America and Richard were married on January 1, 1863 in Salem, Oregon.  The wedding was very controversial at the time because it occurred in a predominately white church with both blacks and whites in attendance (Oregon Historical Quarterly, 92:1, 1991, pp. 15-17).  Daniel Waldo publically supported the wedding and gave the couple "several gifts of great value with which to start their home." (Portland Scanner, Feb 23, 2005)

 After they were married, America and Richard moved to Walla Walla in the Washington Territory.  At first things did not go well for the couple.  Richard tried his hand at mining but met with limited success, and, based on cemetery and US Census records, their oldest three children all died tragically during a two and a half year period from 1876 to 1878.   Fortunately, through hard work and perseverance, the couple's circumstances improved and they prospered and became respected members of the community.  Richard returned to his profession as barber, then made enough money ranching that he went into banking and became one of the founders of the Walla Walla Savings and Loan Association.   Their remaining five children all grew to adulthood and the three sons followed their father's profession and became barbers.

 America Waldo Bogle died on December 28, 1903 and her husband died almost a year later on November 22, 1904.

 There are numerous web sites and printed articles which provide more details on the lives of America Waldo, Richard Bogle, and their descendants, but the remainder of this article is directed at the controversy over recent statements claiming Daniel Waldo was America Waldo's biological father.  [More information on the lives of America Waldo and Richard Bogle can be found at:]

Controversy over America Waldo's Parentage

Statements that the early Oregon pioneer Daniel Waldo (1800-1880) was the father of America Waldo by one of his slaves, and that he brought her with him when he came to Oregon in 1843, are common on the internet -- but this does not mean they are true.  Based on US Census records and the dates on her tombstone, America Waldo was born June 2, 1844 in Missouri [see Footnote #1 below].  Since Daniel Waldo and his family left Missouri for Oregon by June, 1843, neither America Waldo nor her mother could have accompanied Daniel Waldo on the 1843 wagon train; and Daniel Waldo could not be her biological father.

 The commonly held belief that Daniel Waldo was the biological father of America Waldo is based solely on relatively recent statements made by the Bogle family (America Waldo married Richard Bogle in 1863), but the family's earliest statements about America's parentage do not specifically identify Daniel Waldo as her father.  The following quote is taken from a 1974 interview:

 "This wagon train was coming across the plains to the Walla Walla area. In this wagon train was a young woman, a slave. Her name was America Waldo. Her mother was a slave woman and her father was said to be  [pause]  her father was one of the two Waldo brothers' who left their home in Waldo Bend in Missouri to come and settle in the Oregon country."  [Taped interview with Kathelyn (Kathryn) Bogle, September 10, 1974; her husband, Richard Waldo Bogle Sr. was also present during the interview.  Black Oral History Interviews; Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections; Washington State University Libraries.  The taped interview can be found at: ]

 Even the widely held belief that Daniel Waldo brought slaves with him when he came to Oregon in 1843 is not supported by any evidence and contradicts numerous contemporary reports.

 Although Daniel Waldo did report owning slaves (all males) on the 1830 US Census of Missouri, he apparently had a change of heart, possibly influenced by his friend and neighbor, Jesse Applegate, who was strongly anti-slavery.  On the 1840 U.S. Census of Missouri, shortly before Daniel Waldo left for Oregon, three of his brothers reported they owned slaves, but Daniel Waldo reported he owned no slaves (1840 US Census, Wablean, Rivers, Missouri; Roll 229; Page: 366; Image: 741; Family History Library Film: 0014857).

 Of the numerous contemporary accounts written by individuals that traveled with Daniel Waldo on the 1843 wagon train, as well as the remembrances and biographies written by individuals that knew him well, I know of none that mention he brought any blacks or "slaves" with him in 1843.

 The belief that Daniel Waldo brought America and/or her mother with him in 1843 is not supported by the research of Sarah Hunt Steeves.  In 1927, based on extensive interviews with pioneer families in Marion County, she published "Book of Remembrance of Marion County, Oregon Pioneers 1840-1860", in which she concluded that Rachel Belden, who accompanied Daniel Delany on the 1843 wagon train, was "the first known slave woman who came to Oregon."  "Can the reader imagine some of the heartaches this poor black girl must have had at parting with all her own people to go to an unknown land, as the only woman of her color?"  (Daniel Waldo came on the same wagon train as Daniel Delany and the two settled near each other in what is now Marion County.)

 The clearest statement that Daniel Waldo did not bring any slaves with him in 1843 comes from R.J. Hendricks (1863-1943), editor of the Oregon Statesman newspaper from 1884 to 1928 and a person very familiar with the history of the Waldos in Oregon. In 1930 he addressed the issue in his "Bits for Breakfast" column (Oregon Statesman, Dec 26, 1930): "Daniel Waldo came in 1843, in the Applegate train, and took his donation land claim east of what became Salem.... He brought no slaves."  Hendricks goes on say: "His brother, Joseph Waldo, came [to Oregon] with the immigration of 1846, and brought his slaves. ... Joseph Waldo never married."  [see Footnote #2 for additional references supporting Hendricks' statement and Daniel Waldo's views about slavery]

 Considering the family tradition described by Kathryn Bogle in 1974; America's birth date of June, 1844 in Missouri one year after Daniel's departure; and the fact that Daniel's younger, unmarried brother Joseph Waldo remained in Missouri until 1846 before moving to Oregon; -- Joseph would seem the more likely candidate to be America's biological father.

 America Waldo did eventually move to Oregon as a child (possibly accompanying Daniel's younger brother, Joseph, on the 1846 wagon train) where Daniel Waldo, as head of the family, took responsibility for raising her and thus acted as a father figure.

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 FOOTNOTE #1: America Waldo's Birth Date

America Waldo was raised with the Daniel Waldo family and must have known he left Missouri for Oregon by June of 1843, yet throughout her life she repeatedly reported she was born in early June, 1844 in Missouri, a time and place where Daniel Waldo could not possibly have been her biological father.  This is the best evidence that America Waldo herself did not believe Daniel Waldo was her biological father, although she may have considered him her "father" in the same way adopted children consider the man who raised them their father.

 Data provided directly by America Waldo and her husband reporting she was born in early June, 1844 in Missouri include the following:

 Cemetery Records
Mountain View Cemetery
Walla Walla County, Washington

[America Waldo Bogle; "b. Jun 02, 1844, d. 1904 Jan 01" (burial date not death date; her husband died about 11 months later and was buried on Nov 24, 1904)]

Tombstone [which also indicates she was born June 2, 1844]:

 Washington Death Records 
Washington Deaths, 1883-1960; county death registers; Microfilm, Washington State Archives, Olympia, WA 
[America listed as dying on Dec 28, 1903, age 59 & born in Missouri, i.e. consistent with a birth date of June 2, 1844.  The county death register also usually includes the names of the deceased's parents, but the names of both America's father and mother were left blank.]

1870 United States Federal Census
Data collected: June 27, 1870
Census Place: Walla Walla City, Walla Walla, Washington Territory
Roll M593_1683; Page: 313A; Image: 630; Family History Library Film: 553182
[America listed as 26 years old, born in Missouri; i.e. consistent with a birth date of June 2, 1844]

1880 United States Federal Census
Data collected: June 11, 1880
Census Place: Walla Walla City, Walla Walla, Washington
Enumeration District: 47
Roll 1398; Family History Film: 1255398; Page: 188C
[America listed as 36 years old, born in Missouri; i.e. consistent with a birth date of June 2, 1844]

1885 Washington Territorial Census
Data collected: February, 1885
Washington Territorial Census Rolls, 1857-1892
Olympia, Washington
Washington State Archives. M1, 20 rolls.
[America listed as 40 years old, born in Missouri; i.e. consistent with a birth date of June 2, 1844]

1900 United States Federal Census
Data collected: June 11, 1900
Census Place: Walla Walla Ward 1, Walla Walla, Washington
Enumeration District: 87
Roll T623_1752; Page: 10B
[America listed as 56 years old, and reported as born June, 1844 in Missouri]

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FOOTNOTE #2:  Additional Comments about Daniel Waldo and Slavery

 R.J. Hendricks' statement that Daniel Waldo did not bring slaves with him in 1843 is further supported by Judge Stephen James Chadwich (1863-1931) in an address he made to the Oregon Historical Society in 1930 (The Recollections of Stephen James Chadwick; The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 1964).  His family had been neighbors of the Waldos and Applegates in Missouri, and "a firm friendship was established between these families, which has been maintained through the succeeding generations."  Growing up in Oregon, Judge Chadwich often visited the Waldo farm.  "I can remember the books in the library of Daniel Waldo. He had most of the classics in translation. I had more than one occasion to consult the text to ease me over the hard places in Caesar, Cicero, etc."  In his address, Judge Chadwich mentions the issue of blacks in Oregon.  "Several Negroes were brought to Oregon, either as servants or in anticipation that Oregon might become a slave State. Some of them were known as the Waldo Negroes; they were brought by John Waldo, a brother of Daniel Waldo."

Judge Chadwich confirms that Daniel Waldo's brother, not Daniel Waldo, brought the "Waldo Negros" to Oregon, but it is unclear whether his reference to "John" was a mistake and he actually meant Joseph Waldo, or whether he was referring to another of Daniel's brothers, John B. Waldo.  John was a slave owner in Missouri who died on a trip to California in 1849.  His widow, Avarilla, moved to Oregon in 1854 and is reported by several sources to have brought at least three blacks with her [see Footnote #3 for Waldo name clarifications].  These sources include the August 8, 1854 diary entry of Sarah Suton, (in Covered Wagon Women 1854-1860 by Kenneth Holmes), "Mr Tipners 4 wagons are campt with us to night, and the widow Waldo with 7 negroes;" and the obituary for one of those "negros" published in the December 15, 1930 Oregonian, "Death Claims Ex-Slave Thomas Davis.... In 1853 [actually 1854] Davis, then 15 years old, crossed the plains, a 'chattel' of the John Waldo family, with his grandmother, who died on the trip, and a sister."

 It is clear that numerous Oregon blacks did spend varying amounts of time at the farm of Daniel Waldo, but there is no indication they were treated as slaves.  Rachel Belton is a good example.  She was brought to Oregon in 1843 as a slave of Daniel Delany.  Two decades later she got her freedom and in 1864 married Nathan Brooks.  In 1865 Nathan and Rachel brought a suit against the Delany's and "during this time, the Brooks' lived on the nearby farm of Daniel Waldo."  This seems more consistent with a place blacks considered a refuge from ill treatment rather than a place associated with slavery.

 In his article "Slavery Question in Oregon" (Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society; Sept, 1908; Vol VIII, No. 3) Daniel Waldo's contemporary, T.W. Davenport, links Daniel Waldo with his friend and neighbor in Missouri, Jesse Applegate, as two of the early Oregon pioneers that were outspoken against slavery.  "The anti-slavery crusade east of the Rocky Mountains was more noticeable than any within the purview of our [Oregon's] history."  "Still, there were men here who, if not so highly endowed, were as courageous and devoted and acted as wisely according to their peculiar conditions as their brethren of the East."  "Jesse Applegate, a man of scholarly tastes and habits, and by common consent called 'the Sage of Yoncalla,' was not gifted for public speech and left such exhibition to others less diffident or more fluent of tongue, but his influence was more potent than that of the orators. Daniel Waldo was another fire-side orator, full to overflowing of trenchant wisdom, and who, by the strength of ideas and the spell of conviction, swayed a large circle of acquaintances. Every locality had such men; quiet, foresighted, persistent characters whose 'daily walk and conversation' was an education and an inspiration to those who lingered behind in the path of progress."

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FOOTNOTE #3:  Waldo Family Names

 Published materials about the Waldo family often confuse some of their names.

 -- Daniel Waldo had eight brothers including an older brother named John B. Waldo (1796-1849) and younger brothers David (1802-1878) and William (1812-1881).  Daniel named his first three sons after those brothers; David (1827-1853), William (1832-1911), and John B. (1844-1907).  Daniel's sons, William and John (both Republicans, the party of Lincoln), were prominent figures in early Oregon politics, but Daniel's brother William also spent time in the West.  He ran for governor of California, and the small town of Waldo in southern Oregon was named after him.

 -- One of Daniel's daughters was named Avarilla (1834-1885), apparently after Daniel's sister-in-law, Avarilla (Turpin) Waldo (1814-1891), John's wife.  After John died in 1849 on a trip to California, Avarilla (Turpin) Waldo moved to Oregon in 1854, and in 1863 married Rev. Jesse Moreland.  Daniel's daughter, Avarilla, married Richard C. Hayne in 1855, then, after his death, Samuel Bass in 1862.

 -- Joseph Waldo (1805-1871) was another of Daniel's brothers.  Daniel and Joseph were the only Waldo brothers that moved to Oregon; Daniel in 1843 and Joseph in 1846.  After living a few years with his brother in the Waldo Hills east of Salem, Joseph established his own Donation Land Claim south of Salem and took up farming.  He was a strong supporter of Willamette University and other Methodist institutions.  He died in 1871 while on a visit to West Virginia.  He never married.

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FOOTNOTE #4:  Bogle "Family Tradition"

 There are two distinct Bogle family traditions concerning America Waldo's origins which can be roughly distinguished as pre-1980 and post-1980.

 Pre-1980 Bogle Family Tradition:

 The pre-1980 Bogle family tradition is that America was born in Missouri on June 2, 1844 and came to Oregon later as a child or young woman.  Her exact parentage is unknown but this tradition holds her mother was an unknown slave woman and her father was believed to be one of the Waldo brothers that lived in Missouri during the early 1840's 

 Evidence for this pre-1980 tradition can be found from America and Richard Bogle themselves.  On at least four different US and Washington Censuses, between 1870 and 1900, America and Richard reported her age as one consistent with a birthdate of early June 1844, and on the 1900 Census, the only one to specifically ask for a birth month and year, they reported America was born in June, 1844.  These censuses also consistently report she was born in Missouri and that both her parents were born in Missouri.  When America died, the information provided by her family to the County Death Register included both her age (consistent with a birthdate of June, 1844) and her place of birth (Missouri), and it left blank the fields for the names of her parents.  Her tombstone also lists her birthdate as June 2, 1844.  (There is some question about the source of the tombstone information, but whether it came from the family at the time of her death, or was provided by America's descendant's Richard and Kathryn Bogle at a later date, it is still consistent with the pre-1980 Bogle family tradition.)

 The pre-1980 Bogle family tradition concerning America's parents and her arrival in Oregon is also found in the 1974 interview conducted with Richard and Kathryn Bogle quoted above.  It reports that America was a "young woman" when she came to Oregon, and that her mother was a slave woman and her father was believed to be one of two Waldo brothers that moved from Missouri to Oregon.

 Note this pre-1980 Bogle family tradition never specifically names Daniel Waldo as the biological father of America Waldo.  Also note it was well known to anyone who knew Daniel Waldo that he was born in Virginia (not Missouri) and left Missouri to come to Oregon in May, 1843, a full year before the pre-1980 Bogle family tradition reports America was born.

 Post-1980 Bogle Family Tradition:

 The post-1980 Bogle family tradition begins with the belief that Daniel Waldo was America's father.  Since it is well known that Daniel Waldo left Missouri for Oregon in May of 1843, this tradition holds that the pre-1980 Bogle family tradition concerning America's birthdate and/or place of birth must be wrong.  Despite what America and her husband themselves reported, the post-1980 Bogle family tradition holds that America must have been born at least a year earlier in Missouri and came to Oregon with the Waldo's in 1843 as an infant, or possibly her mother came with the Waldo's in 1843, and, despite America's repeated assertion that she was born in Missouri, she was actually born in Oregon.   The numerous inconsistencies between the pre-1980 and post-1980 Bogle family traditions are attributed to errors in the earlier tradition.

 The change from the pre-1980 Bogle family tradition to the post-1980 Bogle family tradition can be traced to around the time of the publication of the book "A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940" by Elizabeth McLagan, published in June, 1980.  In the book, McLagan states that Daniel Waldo came to Oregon "with his family and a number of black people, including a daughter, America Waldo, whose mother was a slave."  Although most of the information in McLagan's book is well referenced, she gives no reference for this particular statement, and a review of her research notes for the book, located at the Oregon Historical Society, turned up no source as well.  She did extensively interview Kathryn Bogle, and it is likely that sometime during those interviews the story got simplified from Kathryn's 1974 vague "one of two Waldo brothers" to simply settle on Daniel Waldo as the father.  Daniel Waldo was by far the better known of the Waldo brothers that came to Oregon, his house was still standing (McLagan included a picture), and it was known that at the time of her marriage, America Waldo was living with the Daniel Waldo family.

 With the publication of McLagan's book, the Bogle family could point to a published source for America's parentage, and thereafter a new family tradition was born.  This post-1980 Bogle family tradition is reflected in several statements made by Richard and Kathryn Bogle's son, Dick Bogle (e.g. the "Portland Scanner", 2/23/2005), and by Dick Bogle's daughter, Renita Bogle-Byrd (e.g. in "Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory" by R. Gregory Nokes; 2013; p.105).


Brian W. Johnson
Associate Research Fellow
Teaching Research Institute
Western Oregon University


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