"AS THINGS WERE IN 1845--John Minto Tells of Pioneer Settlers by River--Salem, Or., Jan 30--(To the Editor)--Being a visitor near the scene of the earliest settlement of Clatsop county, I note two points of interest in arriving here fifty-nine years after a first visit. First, the interest manifested by citizens in the locations of Fort George and even Fort Astor. Men pursuing the profession of the law seem eager to learn the exact locality of these first trade stations, whether they were separate or identical, and if the latter, the exact locations and condition.
To arrive at an answer to the questions many inquiries are made in regard to others, seemingly either to get exact information as to historical points, or to secure added value to them. In order to give all information now remembered of places and things in the Lower Columbia valley west of Oregon City, in January 1845, I will say that a German named Pfeifer held a claim on the east bank of the Willamette below the city about three miles, as the site of the future metropolis. William Overton held that which became Portland as a shingle and barrel stave-making camp; and James B. Stephens, who had started a cooper shop at Oregon City, got his stock from Overton, but refused the latter's offer of his claim for 300 new salmon barrels; as he was contemplating bidding for the Carter claim, which he secured and made East Portland.
Linnton, six miles north of Portland, was then the residence of __ Cooper (a blacksmith), who had a shop, and there was a village of tents of immigrants stopping till the heads of families could make their home locations. James John's claim was north of Linnton on the same bank. At St. Helens was the next American claim by __ White, who subsequently started the ferry at Salem. Hunt's mill, about three miles east of the present Clifton station, was the next and most important point of American life, where fourteen to eighteen men were starting the first commercial lumber mill--Hunt, Wood & Co, builders and owners. Next was the blockhouse of A.E. Wilson, who located Upper Astoria subsequently. A mile or two west stood old "Fort George," which gave the name of the place till after the boundary question was settled. The fort stood on a bench of land sloping northward--300 yards perhaps. South of the then tide wash and about the same distance slightly northwest of Fort George stood the claim- holding residenceof Colonel John McClure, J.M. Shiveley's claim-holding shanty was south and east of the fort. (If the survey notes of J.V. Gilbert, first clerk of Marion County, could be found, they would perhaps settle the question of the exact location of Fort George.) [My notes indicate that Isaac Newton Gilbert was actually first clerk of Marion County].
West of McClure's claim began that of Tickey Smith, who named Smith's Point. In January, 1845, he had a log cabin there and in it the writer met J. Teller, who located Skipanon, calling it Lexington, and two brothers named O'Brien, or Bryant, who had located claims from Tansy Point, east and west. It covered, of course, two miles of river beach, including what is now Flavel.
The Clatsop settlement was west of Young's Bay and nearly one mile up the Skipanon. Indian Cooper had made his claim and had the walls and roof of a prententious blockhouse started. To reach the Methodist Episcopal Mission site and the house of Solomon S. Smith, the pioneer homebuilder, nearly half a miles of swamp land had to be crossed by carrying goods over on men's or women's backs. At the Mission and at Smith's, dairies of about a dozen cows were started, and Captain R.W. Morrison had leased the Smith cows and farm, the Mission cows being tended by __ Trask, subsequently pioneer of Tillamook. William Hobson had located his home north of the Mission claim. Calvin Tibbitts was south of both the Mission and Smith claims. That of George Summers, south of Tibbits, became the Mission home. Mr. Wirt was next south, then the Perry place, soon the home of the late John Hobson; next the Trask claim, which became the home of Colonel James Taylor; next the Thomas Owens claim, and still south William McDaniel, Ben Wood and Major Hall.
These were the settled places here in January, 1845.
Mrs. Sarah Owens was the only one south of Tibbitts making dairy products then. By July 4, 1847, W.H. Gray, Colonel Taylor, B. Kindred, Alva Conditt, Captain John Robinson, Obadiah Mottley, and __ Thompson, all clean handed people, had settled and started dairies, Mr. Conditt devoting himself to cheese making. The National day was celebrated and a very happy community spent the day together in good neighborhood style. There were eighteen homes represented, and at least half as many bachelors' halls. Later there was some increase, till the Rev. Lewis Thompson had more than three times the audiences at the Morrison private school house than now gather to hear his successor at the Morrison church.
Now there are but eight of those places run to dairy products, two to dairy and sheep, one to sheep only, one for pasturing seine-hauling horses and one without tenant or resident owner. The cause of the decline of dairying is labor requirements and the difficulty of keeping steady trained help on account of more attractive logging camps, lumber milles, salmon fishing and even clam digging. From some of these natural dairy farms money has been spent by the Morrisons, Taylors and Carnahans, to open a channel from tide flow on the Skipanon into Eulaby lake of depth to float out logs taken from the east end of several of the places.
This lake is the remains of a much larger area of one lake, now marshland, to drain which, even for cranberry culture, would require the deepening of the drain channel at least two feet, but which so lowered would form sites for 1000 three-acre cranberry farms, where now is more than 3000 acres of sedge grass, cat-tail, flag rushes and scrub alders. It is, in my opinion, a very inviting field for associated capital and labor. Drained and planted to the best New Jersey cranberries, this body of marsh would have a value of $100 to $300 per acre.
Of thirteen owners or tenants, eight are of English birth, for which climate is the chief reason. There is not, perhaps, a limited district in the United States equal to the east side of the Clatsop plains for the production of rutabaga turnips--an A1 winter feed for mutton, wool, beef or milk making. Of course, it is equally good for carrots, parsnips, and other vegetables of all kinds grown in the temperate zone. The locality has now the best local markets in Oregon for small fruits and fresh vegetables, especially in the summer season, and every proprietor has a seaside resort of his own. John Minto" [Oregon Statesman Feb 4, 1904, reprint of an article that was originally printed in the Oregonian]
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