The Ewing Young Trail (1981)

Horner Museum Tour Guide Series

The Ewing Young Trail

By Kenneth Munford & Charlotte L. Wirfs

(Originally published in the Horner Museum Tour Guide Series, 1981)

Ewing Young, a six-foot two-inch Tennessean, left tracks in various parts of the west. As a trapper and trader, he traveled the Santa Fe Trail, roamed southern California and the Sacramento Valley, and finally came to Oregon. For an account of his adventurous life and the lasting effect of his death, one should read Ewing Young: Master Trapper by Kenneth L. Holmes, published by Binfords & Mort in Portland in 1967. In chapters 7 and 8, Holmes tells how Young and his drovers herded 154 horses and mules north from California in 1834 and 630 cattle in 1837. The route they followed on these drives is what we are calling the Ewing Young Trail for the purposes of this tour.

Once the herds reached the Willamette Valley, Holmes says, "they traveled on the western side ... skirting the coastal mountains," but does not go into further detail (p. 105). We know Young did not have to blaze a new trail. The way he came had served as a pack trail for trappers and traders for many years. It has had several names: the Hudson's Bay Company pack trail, the Old California Trail, and the Applegate Trail west of the Cascades.

As early as 1818 and 1820 trappers had explored southern Oregon. In 1827 Peter Skene Ogden, in charge of a fur brigade in the Rogue River Valley, gave Joseph Gervais, one of his French-Canadian employees, the task of opening a trail north to the Willamette Valley and Fort Vancouver. Gervais thereby became the first known white man to travel what we here call the Ewing Young Trail. Subsequently, Alexander McLeod, Michel LaFramboise, John Work, and other HBC brigade leaders used the trail on expeditions in search of pelts of the beaver and other fur-bearing animals.

From the Sacramento Valley, northern California, and southern Oregon, the pack trails followed - with many variations - the route used later by wagon roads, the Oregon & California Railroad, and highways U. S. 99 and I-5. Young's route we assume to have been through the Rogue River Valley passing future sites of Ashland, Medford, and Grants Pass and through the Umpqua Valley passing present Roseburg, Sutherlin, and Oakland.

From the Yoncalla-Drain-Anlauf area of northern Douglas County, Young's drovers in 1834 might have taken either of two routes into the Willamette Valley. That is, they could have followed the HBC pack trail that went north from Anlauf through present Lorane, Crow, Veneta, and Elmira. Or they could have taken the route northeast over the divide between the Umpqua and the Coast Fork of the Willamette that is now used by railroad and highways through Cottage Grove and Creswell to Eugene. Each of these routes had been used earlier that year by HBC brigades, the one from Anlauf to Eugene apparently for the first time.

Brigade leader John Work came south into the Umpqua in May 1834. He kept a diary (reprinted in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, Sept. 1923) which gives a good description of the pack trail used at that time. Work traveled by water from Fort Vancouver to Sauvie Island. Even though he had a small brigade, he required about fifty horses or mules. He obtained the pack animals he needed near present Scappoose. His caravan crossed the Tualatin Mountains and the Tualatin Plains and came south through the Willamette Valley along the western side and left the valley by way of Coyote Creek, Crow, and Lorane on his way to the Umpqua Valley.

On his return trip, Work took a new route, which apparently had not been used before but which immigrants on the Applegate Trail used twelve years later and which since that time has become the principal artery of transportation. Work learned from Indian Charles that prospects were good for trapping beaver on what we now call the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. He hired Charles to guide him on June 21, 1834, through Creswell, Saginaw, and Goshen area to the forks of the Willamette near present Springfield. Work wrote in his diary: "Road across the mountains rugged & lies through thick woods."

Another HBC brigade was in the area in the late summer of 1834, this one led by Michel LaFramboise, sometimes called "Captain of the California Trail." LaFramboise came upon Young's party in the Roseburg area. Finding one of Young's companions, Hall J. Kelley, very ill, LaFramboise nursed him a bit and took him back to Fort Vancouver. This brigade would have probably followed the established trail from Anlauf through Lorane and Crow into the Willamette Valley.

Young's drovers therefore had a choice of two routes. They may have followed Work's fainter trail made in June or LaFramboise's trail made a few days before. In any event, they would have stayed on the west side of the Willamette and reached the present site of Monroe in southern Benton County. The trail then took them northwest to Bellfountain, skirting the flat, poorly drained area, and reaching the Marys River as the next barrier to be crossed.

An Alternate Route

John E. Smith, an Oregonian who had graduated from Oregon Agricultural College early in the century and who had been a professor of geology in other parts of the country, returned in retirement to Corvallis. He spent a good deal of time in the 1940s investigating the route of the old pack trail. At that time he referred to it as the "Applegate Trail" because he was a member of a committee getting ready for the centenia1 of the opening of the southern road into the Willamette Valley. To commemorate the arrival of the first immigrants on that route, monuments and arrow-shaped markers were set up with appropriate ceremonies in 1946 and 1947 at a number of "strategic points" by the Oregon Council, American Pioneer Trail Association. Some of the "Applegate Trail 1846" markers were erected along the old pack trail, others at places where immigrants coming into the valley from the south were known to have passed. Samples of these markers can still be seen at Monroe, Philomath, and Albany. Others have disappeared. At Lewisburg vandals took the marker but left the concrete post.

In one of the several publications Mr. Smith wrote, he says that where the pack trail crossed the Marys River depended on the season of the year. In periods of low water the crossing could be made between Corvallis and Philomath. The trail then passed "below the present Catholic cemetery" in Corvallis and went north to Lewisburg and Adair Village. Smith says, "The diagonal road of today from Airlie to Adair Village is little more than the old trail straightened up a bit."

Smith goes on to say, "An alternate route used during river flood time [was] by way of Philomath and beyond two miles or more where two or three smaller streams could be crossed easier than the larger one." This alternate route led north through Wren, Kings Valley, and Pedee to join the main trail along the Luckiamute.

After fording La Creole (Rickreall) Creek at present Dallas, the pack trail easily crossed rolling plains and flat prairies to the Yamhill River. The rocky ledge that made falls on the Yamhill also provided firm footing for horses and cattle crossing the river.

Skirting or crossing western spurs of the Red Hills of Dundee, the pack trail wound its way northward into the upper Chehalem Valley and along the eastern bank of a vast beaver-dammed swamp called Wapato Lake. It went on northeastward across the Tualatin Plains to go over the Tualatin Mountains on the Logie Trail or one of the other passes. The packers left their horses on the western (Multnomah) channel on the lower Willamette and took to canoes and batteaux for the return to Fort Vancouver.

A Heaven for Horses

After entering the Willamette Valley, Ewing Young's herd of horses and mules would in general have followed the old pack trail or the alternate route north from the Marys River and gone on across the Luckiamute, La Creole, and Yamhill streams. Eight miles north of the falls of the Yamhill, in the upper Chehalem Valley, they found what Holmes calls a "veritable horse heaven." Here on a lush prairie dotted with shady oaks he turned the trail weary horses and mules out to pasture. Here he decided to make his home.

Fifteen men had accompanied Young and the 154 horses and mules from California. Best known among them was Hall Jackson Kelley, a romantic, erratic would-be colonizer who spent much of his life in an evangelical attempt to interest the people of the United States in obtaining the Oregon Country and settling it as an American territory. Although Kelley claimed he had an "iron constitution," he became ill along the way and, as mentioned before, received succor from Michel LaFramboise, who took him through the Willamette Valley ahead of the horse herd. At Fort Vancouver, Dr. McLoughlin gave Kelley a cool reception but did provide some medical care and winter quarters - outside the fort. In the spring after Kelley had recovered from his malarial attack, the HBC chief factor arranged transportation for him to Hawaii. Kelley arrived back in Boston in the spring of 1836 and resumed his customary agitation for the settlement of Oregon by Americans.

Also among Young's drovers were

  • Lawrence Carmichael, who later became a partner in Young's thwarted attempt to erect a whiskey-making still.
  • Elisha Ezekiel, who signed the petition against the still.
  • Webley Hauxhurst, who also protested against the still. He built a grist mill and became one of the first trustees of Willamette University.
  • Joseph Gale, who settled on Gales Creek near Forest Grove.
  • John Howard and William McCarty, who served as officers in early attempts to form a local government.
  • George Winslow (Anderson), a black, who also joined the protest against the still.

Troubled Times

When Young arrived in Oregon he found himself and his party under a cloud of suspicion. Governor Figueroa of California had written Dr. McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver that the horses driven north by Young had been stolen. By the time Young arrived in the Chehalem Valley, McLoughlin had banned all trade with him both by HBC posts and by the French Prairie settlers. Branded as a horse thief and denied the customary hospitality of Fort Vancouver, Young became angry. He confronted the famous chief factor (Holmes, p. 108). Each of these self-willed giants was adamant. Young insisted that the horses he had purchased in California had not been stolen. McLoughlin denied Young the privilege of obtaining supplies. Young went back to the Chehalem and prepared with American ingenuity and long experience on the frontier to develop his own, self-sustaining ranch.

Having lived in the Mexican territory that is now southwest United States, Young was familiar with the Mexican system of huge land grants to army veterans and other favored individuals, including foreigners. The grants in California frequently amounted to 40,000 acres or more. In absence of any government to make him a similar land grant, Young took it upon himself to announce that he had taken responsibility for a 50-square-mile, 32,000 acre rancho in the Chehalem Valley. He built his cabin and ranch headquarters in the upper valley and began to develop the water power on lower Chehalem
Creek - south of present Newberg - for a grist mill and sawmill - and for a proposed whiskey distillery.

Incidentally, a foreigner who later obtained one of the best known Mexican land grants paid Ewing Young a visit. According to Holmes (p. 141), "In the fall of 1838, John Augustus Sutter, 'a Swiss gentleman,' visited the Willamette community. He planned to go to California, return with a herd of cattle, and settle near Young. His long-range plan was to encourage settlers to come to Oregon from Switzerland." Sutter went on to California but did not return. He obtained a Mexican land grant of 48,839 acres on the American River and started Sacramento. One of his employees, John Marshall, found gold at one of Sutter's sawmills in 1848 and forever changed the course of western history.

Twice, in 1832 and 1834, a New England merchant, Nathaniel Wyeth, had attempted unsuccessfully to establish an American trading post on the Columbia in competition with HBC. When he returned to Massachusetts, he left Courtney Walker to dispose of the goods and equipment left at his ill-fated trading post on Sauvie Island. Among the equipment abandoned was a large iron caldron. Young obtained this kettle from Walker and packed it over the Tualatin Mountains to the lower Chehalem Valley. As a youth growing up in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, Young had become acquainted with methods of distilling alcohol from sour mash. With the help of Lawrence Carmichael, he started building a distillery to make whiskey to sell to the local residents and Indians.

This action threatening the sobriety of the Oregon community raised a furor. The five missionaries who had come west with Wyeth had organized a temperance
society. Some of Young's men and a number of settlers, including Joseph Gervais, Solomon Smith, and Etienne Lucier, had joined. They wrote a protest to Young and Carmichael. HBC also protested. Fur traders in the west had at times used alcohol as a medium of exchange but by this time HBC has found whiskey in Indians counter-productive and had banned its use in trade. One of Young's purposes, however, in setting up a still was to disrupt the serenity of the HBC monopoly. He paid no attention to protests from Fort Vancouver.

This was in a period when the U. S. government showed very little interest in Oregon. Senator Benton of Missouri, always a staunch supporter of westward expansion, described the attitude of the country toward Oregon as "tranquil." President Jackson, however, became mildly interested in the far west. He knew that a young Navy lieutenant, William A. Slacum, would be on the west coast of Mexico on other business and had Secretary of State John Forsyth send Slacum to the Columbia to have a look at the area. Slacum arrived in the midst of the excitement over Ewing Young's still. He noted "laudable efforts in arresting this destructive element, the white man's poison, the Indian's certain death."

The laudable effort which Slacum supported was an alternative for Young's energy and enterprise: a cattle drive from California that would bring much-needed draft animals, milk, and beef to the settlements. This was a project in which all factions could participate. The missionaries, the French-Canadian settlers, HBC officers, and Slacum himself all contributed to a fund to be used for buying cattle. Slacum took the drovers - Young, Carmichael, P. L. Edwards, Hauxhurst, Calvin Tibbits, George Gay, William J. Bailey, and others, eleven in all - to San Francisco bay on his chartered vessel. They arrived back in the Willamette Valley in October 1837 with 630 lean Spanish cattle, mostly heifers. They presumably followed much the same route used by the horse drive three years before.

This act on Young's part brought him into the good graces of all concerned. He settled down to develop his rancho, said to be the farthest west farmstead owned by an American at that time. Instead of a still he built a sawmill and grist mill on the lower Chehalem. In a few years he became the most prosperous settler in the area with his herds, farm lands and mills.

An End and a Beginning

In his final illness in the winter of 1840-41, Young was attended by Sidney Smith, a 31-year-old New Yorker who had come west with the Peoria Party. Smith had some training in medicine and carried with him a small chest of medicines. William "Doc" Bailey, who had been on the cattle drive, had some medical knowledge. Prescriptions of neither could save the ailing Young. He died in early February 1841, aged about 47. To forestall rumors that foul play might have been involved, Smith and Bailey performed an autopsy and reported that they had found a "sack of water ... in his brain" and "that his stomach was destroyed by acid he had been accustomed to take for his indigestion."

Young left no known heirs and no last will and testament. At his funeral, members of the community agreed that they needed a system of justice to administer his estate. Instead of rushing in and plundering his property, the settlers believed in law and order. In absence of any established legal system governing the region they began to develop their own government. At subsequent meetings a probate judge, a clerk, and three constables were chosen. From this first step in self-government they moved onward and two years later formed the Provisional Government to administer all of the Oregon Country not within the jurisdiction of the Hudson's Bay Company. Ewing Young's death, therefore, had a greater impact on the future than did his many activities during his lifetime.

Sidney Smith was allowed to buy much of Young's property and stock. Other parts were sold at what were deemed reasonable prices. The funds from the probate were used to build the first jail at Oregon City - but it burned down a few days after its construction! A young man from Taos calling himself Joaquin Young showed up later and in 1854 convinced the Supreme Court of the Oregon Territory that he was a son and heir of Ewing Young. The Court awarded him $4,994.64 as a judgment. In the meantime, Sidney Smith had gone off to the gold fields and returned with $3,000. He operated a store at Lafayette from 1852 to 1862 and died in 1880 at age 71.

Artifacts on the Ewing Young Trail Today

The Hudson's Bay Company's Old California Trail coming north from the Umpqua passed through three drainage systems: The Umpqua that has its outlet to the ocean at Reedsport, the Siuslaw that runs into the ocean at Florence, and the Willamette Valley. After the trail was designated as a Territorial Road, mail was carried over it between Corvallis and Oakland, Oregon. A stage coach service was established to southern Oregon. When the first telegraph line with transcontinental connection came north from the Sacramento Valley, it used this route. On March 8, 1864, the mayors of Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, exchanged greetings to publicize coast-to-coast service. Thirteen months later the singing wires brought news of President Lincoln's assassination.

Lorane on the upper Siuslaw dates from the 1880s and preserves a church built in that era. Much earlier, in 1853, Darius B. Cartwright, a native of New York state, built a hotel three miles south of Lorane as a stopping place for the stage line. It had a telegraph station and post office. Cartwright's daughter Katie and her husband William Russell operated what they called the Mountain House for years. The fine old two-story building with walls of hand-split cedar was considered one of Lane County's most historic houses. It remained standing until destroyed in recent years. The Eugene chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a marker at the site.

Andy Crow, a relative of the William L. Crow who started Lorane, has a community on upper Coyote Creek named for him. To reflect its location on the historic trail the school there is called the Crow-Applegate.

Coyote Creek now empties into Fern Ridge Reservoir. If the pack trail followed Coyote Creek it would have crossed the area now flooded by the Fern Ridge Dam. Nearby Veneta, founded in 1913 by E. E. Hunter and named for his daughter, now has a population of about 2,500. Elmira, originally called Duckworth, is a bit older. It started as a smith operated by Byron Ellmaker.

At Franklin-Smithfield the DAR have also installed a marker for this 1853 settlement on the Territorial Highway. One of the roads between Franklin and Cheshire is still called the Applegate Trail. From Cheshire to Monroe - much straighter than in pack-trail days - the old route is still called Territorial Road.

An early wagon road from Skinner's Eugene City, paralleling present 99W, crossed the Long Tom River and joined the pack trail at Monroe. The settlement here started with a sawmill about 1850 and a store and post office at nearby Starrs Point in 1852. The name was changed to Monroe in 1874. Reminders of the railroad that once connected Corvallis with Eugene are still visible in the Monroe vicinity. In pioneer times, the Long Tom was a meandering swamp. Half a century ago a deep, straight channel was dug. The Fern Ridge Dam built forty years ago now regulates the flow of water, thereby bringing under control this once flood-prone river. Solidly emplaced in masonry, one of the arrow-shaped "Applegate Trail 1846" markers stands in the Monroe school yard.

Through Bellfountain (originally called Dusty), John Smith says the trail ran between the present church and store and from there somewhat followed the Bellfountain Road to the Marys River. The house now used as headquarters for the Finley Wildlife Reservation was on this route.

Marysville (Corvallis) got its start when Joseph C. Avery staked a Provisional land claim at the mouth of the Marys River in October 1845. With William Dixon on an adjacent claim, Avery laid out the town. Avery became the first merchant and postmaster and helped start Corvallis College in 1858. With state assistance, this college has developed into Oregon State University. A river port in steamboat days, Corvallis was also a minor railroad center at the crossing of one rail line between Portland and Eugene and another from Yaquina Bay to the Cascade Mountains.

The old pack trail ran close to the site of Philomath, but travel on it had long ceased before the town was founded. Avery's ferry and later a bridge over the Marys River eliminated fords in the Philomath vicinity. Philomath is a classic example of one way towns got started in the Willamette Valley. In 1865, members of the United Brethren Church living west of Corvallis decided that they should have a college. They named it Philomath from the Greek roots meaning a love of learning. They bought a half section of land. Eight acres of it were reserved for the campus; the rest was divided into city lots and acreages to be sold to raise money to build the college.

Proceeds from selling lots and mortgaging the property made possible the erection of the center section of the Philomath College building, which opened its doors to students in October 1867. It served for a time as the local public school as well as a college. East and west wings were added early in this century. The college continued as a private liberal arts college until closed in 1929. The town, which took the name of the college, has developed as a center for the wood-products industry. The college building, now on the National Register of Historic Places, has become the Benton County Historical Museum.

Along the Alternate Route

Wren developed on the Donation Land Claim of George P. Wrenn at the junction of two roads and the Oregon Pacific railroad.

Kings Valley was settled by the King family twelve years after Young's 1834 horse drive. Nahum King from Massachusetts and his wife Serepta from New York state had had sixteen children. They had lived in Ohio and Missouri before coming to Oregon by covered wagon in 1845. Three of their children died in childhood. Two elder daughters had married and did not join their parents on the westward trek. The other eleven offspring, some with families of their own, came west with Nahum and Serepta. Daughter Sarah died in eastern Oregon leaving a widower and two small children. Eldest son John and all of his family except 5-year-old Luther drowned coming through the Columbia Gorge. The rest moved into uninhabited Kings Valley in the spring of 1846 and staked out land claims.

Sarah's widower, Rowland Chambers, soon married Lovisa, 18, the eldest of the unmarried King daughters. They eventually had 14 children of their own. Chambers was given a choice of land claims along the Luckiamute River because he was building a grist mill. He put it into operation in 1853 and opened a post office two years later.

One of the King sons, Amos Nahum moved to Portland, where he operated a tannery along the creek now covered by the Civic Stadium, developed Kings Heights, and sold 40 acres of his property for the beginning of Washington Park. The youngest King son, Solomon, operated a livery stable in Corvallis and five times was elected sheriff of Benton County.

In 1856, the U. S. Army brought new life to Kings Valley by establishing Fort Hoskins on its western edge. The fort closed in 1865. For a time early in this century, Kings Valley was fairly prosperous with a large sawmill and with the maintenance shops for the Valley and Siletz Railroad, but now Publishers Paper Company (owned by the Los Angeles Times) owns the abandoned mill site and forest lands. The road is being torn up. A few of the hundreds of King descendents still live in the valley. The one store is operated by descendents of early pioneer Larkin Price.

North of Kings Valley a tributary of the Luckiamute was named Pedee Creek by Cornelius Gilliam, in memory of the Pedee River in his native North Carolina. Gilliam played a short but dramatic part in Oregon history. A "robust, impulsive, sympathetic, willful, courageous leader," he fought Indians in the Black Hawk War and in Florida. As a county sheriff, he had helped chase the Mormons out of Independence, Missouri. He and his family and other relatives came west in 1844 under his leadership. They became the first settlers south of La Creole Creek. As an ordained minister, he organized and preached to a Free Will Baptist congregation. He sternly believed that Great Britain had no right to the Oregon Country. Because of his religious and patriotic zeal he was sometimes called the Oliver Cromwell of the frontier. Twice in 1846 he joined explorers trying unsuccessfully to find a pass over the Cascade Range. After the Whitman Massacre, he volunteered to lead Oregon volunteers in the Cayuse War. In eastern Oregon during the campaign, he accidentally shot himself to death. Gilliam County is named for him. His widow and several relatives obtained Donation Land Claims in southwest Polk County, but he died before the law was passed. A place near Fern Corner is still called Gilliams.

The main HBC pack trail and the alternate we have been following joined somewhere near the Little Luckiamute. The main trail, after fording the Marys River, crossed what is northwest Corvallis and went north through Lewisburg. The winding strip of old highway that passes the entrance to Peavy Arboretum in on the old pack trail. It became the Portland and Umpqua Valley Wagon Road and eventually U. S. 99W.

Opposite the main entrance to Adair Village, the old pack trail and wagon road veered off to the northwest. That bit of road is blocked now, but a half mile north the Sulphur Springs Road leads back to the pack trail route. Continuing northwestward it goes through the ghost town of Tampico and in about five miles reaches Airlie.

Airlie was named for Scottish Earl of Airlie, head of the company that financed building the narrow-gauge Oregonian Railway that for nearly fifty years ran from this terminus in southern Polk County to Dundee (named for Airlie's home town) in Yamhill County. Stations along the Oregonian included Monmouth, Dallas, Smithfield, Perrydale, Whiteson, Lafayette, and West Dayton. Early in this century, Airlie had two trains each day from Monmouth and connection with two round trip trains daily from Portland and Corvallis. The town had a post office, two stores, a blacksmith, barber, grain warehouse, sawmill, and lumber yard. Southern Pacific acquired the line, tore up the three-foot-wide tracks, abandoned some sections, rebuilt others to standard gauge, and continues to use some parts today.

The present county road north from Airlie crosses the Valley & Siletz Railroad at Tartar, the Luckiamute River at Maple Grove, and the Little Luckiamute near Fern Corner. A mile north of Fern Corner is Guthrie School, established in 1886-87. It played an important part in the social and educational life of this community. Dallas owes its development in part to the stream called both La Creole and Rickreall that runs through the town. According to legend the French-Canadian packers recalled that a native of the country, a Creole, had drowned at their customary fording place of this stream and dubbed it La Creole Creek. Early pioneers claimed that the Indian name for it was Rickreall and that the stream's name was not merely a corruption of La Creole. The argument goes on, even today.

The power of this stream was put to use as early as 1845, when James O'Neal built a grist mill four miles up stream at a place called Ellendale. James Nesmith (later a U. S. Senator) operated the mill for a time.

A young bachelor from Tennessee named John E. Lyle came west in 1845 driving a wagon for Amos Harvey, who later donated land for Bethel College. Along the way west, according to legend, Lyle met and fell in love with Ellen, daughter of Felix and Ellen Scott, but alas, the Scotts decided to go to California rather than to continue on the Oregon Trail. The lovers vowed to meet again some day, and their hopes were answered the following spring when the Scotts, Eugene Skinner, and Elijah Bristow came north on the pack trail to become the first settlers in Lane County. While the men were searching for home sites, the Scott family stayed with settlers on the La Creole and John and Ellen were reunited. They were married in November 1846 and eventually had seven children.

Lyle at first taught school at the newly created Jefferson Institute a mile west of Nathaniel Ford's claim at present Rickreall. He also became the first Clerk of
Polk County and the Lyles moved upstream to Cynthia Ann, the county seat. Their home was sometimes used for court before a court house was built. Cynthia Ann on the north side of La Creole Creek proved a poor location. Lyle and two others donated land south of the creek to build La Creole Academy and to sell to raise money to build the school. Around this nucleus developed the county seat, which changed its name to Dallas for Polk's Vice-President George M. Dallas. Lyle was the first postmaster in Dallas in 1852.

A mill race from the creek powered the first grist mill in the town, the Machine & Locomotive Works that became nationally known as Towmotor, and the first electric power generator. A woolen mill operated at Ellendale by Nesmith burned in 1871. One later came to Dallas. The tannery now on the National Register of Historic Places got its start in 1863. The building burned in 1903 but was replaced on the same site and continues to operate as the unique Muir & McDonald Tannery, making fine leathers by the 19th century methods. Dallas has had at least one newspaper since 1868, the present one being the well-known Itemizer-Observer. "Terror Engine No. 1" in 1885 replaced the hand-operated fire engine used previously.

John Lyle died in 1862. Ellen, his widow, later sold the city their "Old Campground" for $350 to start the present city park. A town hall and opera house built 1887 was torn down in 1912 to make room for the Carnegie Public Library still in use. The present courthouse of native sandstone dates from 1900.

The city of Independence with direct rail connection with Portland and Corvallis after 1880 made a strong bid to wrest the county seat from isolated Dallas. Frightened by this threatened take-over, Dallas raised $17,000 to persuade the Oregonian Railway to run its narrow-gauge line from Airlie and Monmouth through Dallas and held onto the county seat. Lumberman Louis Gerlinger built a road from West Salem in 1903 to support his logging sawmill operations. His Dallas operation eventually grew to become Willamette Industries, one of the nation's major wood-products corporations.

In 1900 La Creole Academy united with Lafayette Seminary to become Dallas College. Rev. C. C. Poling moved to Lafayette to become the first president. His son, Daniel A. Poling, class of 1905, became the College's most famous graduate as international head of Christian Endeavor and editor of the Christian Herald, and author of many books. The college closed in 1915.

By 1901 the city had developed to such an extent that an ordinance was passed banning livestock from running at large. In 1906 the speed limit within the city was established at 6 mph. Hard surface paving was laid on parts of three streets in 1913.

The home of John and Ellen Lyle built in 1858 on the corner of Ellendale and Levens streets remained standing until 1949, when it made way for construction of the John E. Lyle Elementary School.

Along Salt Creek, the next little valley north of the La Creole, the Applegate brothers, Charles, Lindsay, and Jesse and their families first made their homes after coming to Oregon by covered wagon in 1843. After Lindsay and Jesse had scouted out what became known as the Applegate Trail in 1846 all three brothers decided to move to Yoncalla.

At Perrydale the old railway depot is still standing. Near where the drovers crossed Ash Swale, a settlement called Amity got its start in 1847-48. Two rival factions vying for the location of a school came to an amicable agreement and called the log structure Amity School. The Watt brothers had a part in this. Joseph went back to Missouri and persuaded brother Ahio to help him herd 330 sheep to Oregon in 1848. Ahio planned to join the gold rush to California but instead decided to stay and become the first teacher of Amity School. Joseph brought not only sheep in 1848 but also machinery for spinning wool. He helped organize the first woolen mill on the west coast on Mill Creek in Salem and shipped the first wool from Oregon to a foreign port in 1868.

Members of the Disciples of Christ (Christian) church formed a congregation in Amity in 1853. Today it is said to be the oldest congregation of that denomination in the far west. At Bethel, now a ghost town a few miles to the southeast, this denomination also started Bethel College, which in a few years consolidated with Monmouth University to form Christian College, the forerunner of Western Oregon College at Monmouth.

Around the ford of the Yamhill River on the pack trail arose a community that Joel Perkins laid out as the town of Lafayette in 1847. It became the principal outfitting center for would-be miners leaving for California and the main commercial town for western Oregon. The Provisional Legislature named it the seat of government for the Yam Hill District, one of the four original administrative units of the Oregon Country. Its jurisdiction ran west to the Pacific Ocean and south to Mexican California and early trials and debates were held in this "Athens of Oregon."

Ben Holladay's railroad in 1872 bypassed Lafayette. Nearby McMinnville was linked with the railroad a few years later and prospered. McMinnville took the county seat away from Lafayette in 1889. Lafayette Academy was opened in the old county buildings the next year, but after a decade it was moved to Dallas to be consolidated with La Creole Academy to form Dallas College. Lafayette languished and has failed to live up to its promising start.

The pleasant valley along Chehalem Creek eight miles north of Lafayette has mementos of Ewing Young:

  • The Ewing Young School
  • A round-topped oak tree that is said to have grown from an acorn planted on his grave
  • A marker on Highway 240 indicates location of farm and grave
  • A park on lower Chehalem Creek, south of Newberg, where Young started his still and built his mills

Quakers settled Newberg in the 1880s. One of them, Dr. John Minthorn had been a teacher at the Forest Grove Indian School, but after the buildings burned twice the Indian Service moved the school to Chemawa north of Salem. Minthorn moved to Newberg and helped start the academy that has become George Fox College. His sister Huldah and her husband, Jesse Hoover, the blacksmith in West Branch, Iowa, both died leaving a nine-year-old son. Relatives shipped young Herbert off to his uncle John in Oregon. Being an orphan passed around among relatives seems to have had a lasting effect on Herbert Hoover. In his later years he took many opportunities as head of the American Relief Administration after World War I, as Secretary of Commerce, and as President of the United States to relieve anxiety and suffering among children. "Bertie" Hoover's swimming pool was near where Ewing Young built his mills.

The Legacy of Ewing Young

Twenty-five years before the famous cattle drives in Texas and on the Great Plains, Ewing Young showed the feasibility of driving large herds of cattle over hundreds of miles of plains, swamps, mountains, and forests. Others followed his example. Four years after Young's cattle drive, Solomon H. Smith, who had worked for Young, and Rev. J. H. Frost successfully herded fifty head of cattle from Salem over the Coast Range and along the untracked coast to the Clatsop Plains. In 1842, Calvin Tibbetts, who had been on Young's cattle drive, took a herd over the Smith/Frost trail to Clatsop Plains. In 1843, as recounted in Jesse Applegate's A Day with the Cow Column, covered wagon immigrants began bringing large herds on their way west.

By bringing first the horse herd and then the cattle herd, Young added immeasurably to the prosperity of the settlers. He knew enough of practical animal husbandry to demonstrate that well tended herds increase rapidly. In less than a decade he became the most prosperous rancher in the Willamette Valley.

He imported not only livestock but also men who helped develop the territory. Hauxhurst took up a land claim on Mill Creek in Salem; in the freight business he brought the first circus to Salem; he later pioneered at Bay Ocean on the Oregon Coast. Gale became a shipbuilder, cattle driver, and member of the first Executive Committee for the Provisional Government. Hauxhurst, Gale, Howard, McCarty, and John Edmunds voted in favor of forming a Provisional Government at the famous Champoeg meeting in May 1843.

The clamor that arose over Young and Carmichael's threat to build a whiskey distillery and their eventual acquiescence to the will of the public was the beginning of Oregon's long history of public support of liquor control.

Young's death and the settlement of his estate brought about a unique chain of events leading to the establishment of a self-imposed government to handle civil and criminal problems in the tradition of Anglo-American law and order. This citizen involvement in self-government led to what has been called the Oregon System: the Initiative, Referendum, Recall, humane labor laws, secret ballot, woman suffrage, and environmental concerns.

Young demonstrated for those who came later that courage, resourcefulness, energy, and enterprise were elements in building a prosperous commonwealth in a far western wilderness. He also illustrated that one cannot take acid for indigestion and expect to live to a ripe old age.

Related Readings

Kenneth L. Holmes, Ewing Young: Master Trapper. Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1967.

"John Work's Journey from Fort Vancouver to Umpqua River, and Return, in 1834." Introduction and comments by Leslie M. Scott. Oregon Historical Quarterly XXIV, Sept. 1923, pp. 238-268.

Devere Helfrich and Helen Helfrich, Applegate Trail West of the Cascades. Klamath Falls: Klamath County Historical Society (n. d.)

William A. Slacum, Memorial to the Congress of the United States, December 18, 1837. Reprinted Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1972.

John E. Smith, The Applegate Trail in Benton County and Early State Colleges of Oregon. Published by the author, 1941.

Kenneth Munford, The Old Oregon-California Pack Trail. Tour Guide Series. Corvallis: Horner Museum, Oregon State University, 1979.

Caroline C. Dobbs, Men of Champoeg. Portland: Metropolitan Press, 1932. pp. 9, 17, 23, 24, 25, 185.

Charlotte L. Wirfs, "Dayton, Sheridan and Grand Ronde Railroad Company." In Historically Speaking IV, Polk County Historical Society, 1980.

Ruth Stoller, ed., Old Yamhill. Lafayette: Yamhill County Historical Society, 1976.

Oregon Historical Landmarks: Willamette Valley. Oregon Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1963, pp. 12, 26, 28, 32, 44.