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WPA Historical Records
Benton Co., Oregon
Mark Phinney



Charles W. DAVIS

George W. DAVIS


Mrs. George (Mary J. LINEBARGER) DAVIS

Mrs. Pauline J. WOOD DIXON

James DUNN








July 1939


Mrs. DAVIDSON was interviewed at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Oliver FARMER, at the east end of College Street in Philomath. She is interested in preserving a record of the early times and her manner of recounting her early experiences inspires confidence in her statements. She said:

"My parents were Eden and Martha CRAMER. Mother's maiden name was HILL. Father was born in Virginia but met mother in Illinois. Mother was born in Indiana. Her father was a great mover and she had lived in several states."

"Father first crossed the plains in 1850, before he was married. He went to California and stayed for a short time but did not find his fortune. He learned about the way, however, which was a great help to him on his second trip. After their marriage my parents moved from Illinois to Iowa, and then to California in 1864. I was nine years old then and remember the trip well. We settled in Plumas County in Northern California."

"We had four wagons to make the crossing; two were drawn by horses and two by three yoke of oxen to each wagon. Besides his own family father had three helpers, to aid in driving and caring for the stock. Father did not want anyone with us who would not accept his leadership. He had been over the road and had ideas about how the trip should be made. Different people traveled with us for parts of the way, but no one came all the way with us."

"There was little sickness on the way. One of the helpers had mountain fever. Grandmother Hill was sick when we started but she wanted to come so badly a bed was fixed for her in one of the wagons. They expected certainly to bury her on the plains but she began to mend, got up from her bed, and lived several years in California. She went back to Iowa to die."

"The train commonly made about twenty miles a day. When grazing was poor we traveled more steadily. Where grass and water were plentiful we would often stop for two or three days or a week to graze the stock and keep them in condition. We left home early in March because feed was scarce in our part of Iowa that year but was more plentiful and cheaper in the western part of Iowa. We reached the Missouri River opposite Omaha and camped for two weeks to give the grass along the route time to grow. Father arranged with the ferryman to be warned so as to make the crossing before the rush should begin. On the day when he crossed there were three miles of wagons waiting to be put over the river. This was a steam ferry and took a line of wagons in a horse shoe line about the rim of the boat. In the center was a corral for the loose stock. Quite a number of wagons were carried at one time."

"On the Omaha side we waited for another week or two before starting west in earnest. We took the trail on the south side of the Platte River. The Indians did not molest us and there was no excitement until we got into Utah. There a crazy Mormon visited the camp one evening. I was scared by his strange actions. The men wondered if he might not be a spy acting crazy for a blind, and a close guard was maintained until Salt Lake City was passed. Before that time they had not kept a guard. Somewhere between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascades the train was cut in two by a herd of antelope. Most of the way we saw no game. It was said that the Indians had driven it back from the trail."

"Grandfather Hill had a daughter in California and wanted to go there. Somewhere after we crossed the Rocky Mountains the trail forked. Father finally decided to go to California and took the California trail, which crossed a corner of Nevada. There was desert to be crossed which took all night and part of the next day. We came to the edge of the desert about the mid-forenoon. We waited until night to avoid the great heat of the sun on dry sand. Whilewaiting the men cut wild hay and loaded it on the wagons for feed on the desert stage of the trip. About sundown we started. My brother and one of the helpers were driving the loose stock. About midnight my father missed the sound of the bells on the loose stock and said we had lost them. After a time we heard the bells again. Brother told us the stock had left the trail and found a waterhole. It was too dark for the men to see where they were going and all they could do was follow. They said the water was as good as any on the trip. After the stock had their drink they led the drivers back to the train."

"We did not reach the end of the desert at the Truckee River until ten o'clock the next day. Father had scouted ahead and came back to warn the drivers to use care to keep the teams from bolting when they smelled the water. I was riding in the front wagon. The drivers turned from the trail in a fan-shaped formation so that there would be no danger of locked wheels. Soon Old Buck raised his head and began to sniff the air. Then the others smelled the water. The drivers got out on the wagon tongues and clubbed the oxen in the face to slow them down, but all were running when they reached the river."

"The folks settled in a valley at the source of the middle fork of the Feather River. The valley was about fourteen miles wide by 22 miles long. We were about forty miles from Reno, Nevada, forty miles from Truckee, and forty miles from the Eureka Mine. Father raised cattle and horses and some grain. We could cut all the wild grass that we needed for hay, and it was a first quality hay, too."

"My parents had eleven children but only six lived to grow up. They were Julia Ann, Elizabeth, George, Frank, Kate and myself. I got my schooling in Plumas County. The school term was only three months at first, but was increased to six and then to eight months. We studied the usual "three R's" and geography and history. Physiology was added justbefore I stopped attending, but we did not have any text-book in that subject. The school only went as far as the eighth grade."

"I married Harrison DAVIDSON in 1872. My husband was a teamster. He owned his own outfit and took work where he could find it. A great deal of the time he was freighting to Virginia City or to the Eureka Mines. In 1885 we came to Benton County, Oregon, and settled at the northwest foot of Mary's Peak, where we lived for over thirty years. Our placewas drained by Bark Creek which reaches Marys River by way of Shot Pouch Creek. There was some good farm land on the place, but we depended mostly on the timber. There was much cedar there and our income was from the shakes, hand-shaved shingles, and fence posts. I started the Peak Post Office on our place and was postmaster for over twenty years. The route was from Philomath to Harlan in Lincoln County by way of Peak. It was twenty miles of hill
route over ungravelled roads and in winter it was a long hard grind for two mules and a light buckboard. The mail came in one day and back the next, and the driver commonly had two teams and drove them turn about. In the winter the driver was frequently obliged to cut through fallen trees that blocked the road."

"Our children were Robert Eden, Martha (Mrs. JANUARY), Gertrude (Mrs. HAMM), George, Mary, Noah and Violet (Mrs. FARMER). I am living here with Violet and taking a rest. The world is not so bad and it will be all right when we old folks get our pension."






Charles W. DAVIS

Mr. DAVIS, an attorney, was interviewed in his office in the Walters Building at Philomath, Oregon. Mr. DAVIS has for years been the legal adviser of the people of the community in all matters outside court practice.

"My parents came from Iowa to Sacramento, California, and in 1868 to Benton County, Oregon. My father's farm was about four miles south of Philomath in the Beaver Creek community. My father was Samuel DAVIS, and my mother was May HINKLE, a second cousin to Jerry HINKLE. There were three of us boys in the family, Ed, myself and Victor. My brother Ed's boys are now living in the Blodgett community."

"My first attendance at school was at the Independent schoolhouse. My first teacher was Florence PORTER. The second was Mr. NESKLER, and old white-headed man who seemed to me to be unreasonable cranky. For whispering and other miner infractions of discipline he would put the smaller pupils on the front bench facing the school. Along the top of the wainscoting was a narrow ledge that caught us about the middle of the back and made sitting on the front seat for any length of time an extremely uncomfortable experience. Another teacher was Nathaniel THOMPSON. If I am not mistaken he afterwards had a drug store in Philomath. Miss Cettie ARMSTRONG was both day school teacher and Sunday School teacher. The last teacher I had at Independence was Will HOWARD, a fine teacher and a splendid man. I thought so much of him that when he transferred to the Beaver Creek school I went there too. The two schools were about equally distant from our home."

"When Billy REYNOLDS taught at Beaver Creek he changed the teacher's from front to the back of the room so that the pupils could not so easily tell when the teacher's eye was upon them. George BETHERS taught at Beaver Creek, also James BRYAN who was afterwards County Superintendent. "

"A great deal of attention was given by some of the teachers to penmanship and mental arithmetic. In mental arithmetic the teacher would read a problem from the book and the pupil was expected to repeat the problem and give the analysis and the correct solution. Some of the problems were quite long and complicated. Frequently there was a class in algebra for the older boys. I got my first taste of algebra at the Beaver Creek school. Then I went to Philomath College for three winters, about six months each winter. I did not finish the course but read law in the office of W. S. McFADEN, and of E. L. BRYAN. For many years I have had an office here in Philomath."

"I married Addie JOHNSON whose mother was one of the NEWTON family. We had one son, Maurice, who is now in Portland. Although I was raised on a farm I have never farmed on my own account."

"One of the clearest recollections of my youth is the corduroy roads that were common then. To keep vehicles out of the bottomless mud of winter, poles were cut about six or eight inches in diameter, and placed transversely across the road. The little dirt that was thrown upon these was soon washed out and passage over such a road meant a continuous and vigorous jolting."

"One of the occasions of the winter would be the protracted religious services held in the school house. I remember an incident that happened at one of these that fixed itself on my mind. Old Uncle J--- was testifying in his slow deliberate manner. He testified to entire sanctification and said, 'I don't think I have ever sinned." When we boys reported this to our parents who had known Uncle J--- in Iowa they were quite sure he had forgotten some things."



George W. DAVIS

May 29,1939

Mr. DAVIS was interviewed at his farm home about five miles south of Corvallis, near Muddy Creek. Mr. DAVIS was born in 1863 and has lived since 1870 in Benton County. His testimony seems thoroughly reliable. He said:

"My father, Caleb DAVIS, first came to this state in 1852. For four years he ran a pack train from Oregon City to the mines of northern California. His partners in this business were James WASHBURN, who later lived near Brownsville, and John VANCE who settled at Albany. They ran a train of forty or fifty pack mules and carried flour, bacon, and other things needed by the miners."

"After about four years father sold out his interest to his partners and went back to Iowa. There he was married and settled down to farming. His wife was Eliza Jane HENKLE, a niece of the Jacob HENKLE who led the HENKLE party that came to the Philomath section in 1853. However, the lure of the West was upon my father, and in 1864 he settled on a farm near Ashland in Jackson County. In 1866 he went to California where he had a farm about twelvemiles from Napa City. In 1870 he came to Benton County, and settled in this community. In addition to farming he worked at the carpenter's trade."

"Besides two who died in infancy, my father's children were Zebediah, Ella (WASHBURN), Thomas, myself, Frank, Gertrude (STRANGE), Bertha, Fred, Oliver, and Caleb. Father was elected county commissioner in 1880 and again in 1882. My oldest brother, Zebediah, served as mayor of Corvallis, and was treasurer of Benton County at the time of his death in 1886."

"I was born in 1863 in Iowa, but I have been in Benton County since 1870. When father came here in 1870 he bought some cattle which he drove to Crook County and left there in charge of his brother. For a time he was interested in this cattle venture but he never lived in Eastern Oregon himself. When he came back from that trip he was a partner with Joseph C. AVERY in the building of a warehouse at Corvallis. This was the upper of the two grain warehouses that stood on the bank of the Willamette not far from the old ferry landing in the 'seventies. The warehouse had no cleaning machinery and the elevator was run by horses going round at the end of a circular sweep. All the grain was handled in bags. Some of the earliest of my boyhood memories are of playing about this warehouse."

"In my life in Benton County I have seen great developments in the methods of harvest. The cradle was not used here in my time, except when someone had a piece of grain among the stumps where it was not convenient for a reaper. The first reapers required a man to stand on the platform and rake the grain off in piles suitable for a single sheaf. Then the self-rake reapers were invented, in which the sweeps at regular intervals raked the harvested grain from the platform. Next were the binders, then headers, and now the combined harvesters."

"Father was in the warehouse for about three years and then he sold his share and bought the ALLEN donation land claim on Marys River, about four miles west of Corvallis. He bought the holdings of different heirs in succession until he finally owned about 400 acres."

"My first schooling was in Philomath, where we lived for a short time. I attended the primary department at Philomath College where a man named HENDERSON taught. Then I attended school in what is now the Plymouth district. Among my teachers here I remember Madge and Alwilda DUNN, WESTLAKE, RAYBURN, HAYES, PRUITT, and Elwyn GLASS. Professors McELROY, EMERY, ARNOLD, and Bill YATES were the teachers in the college then. I studied bookkeeping because that was a very popular ubject then. I have indeed found it profitable in farming, which I have followed all my life."

"In addition to farming I ran a thrashing outfit in the valley for twenty-seven years. I first bought into an outfit run by CALLOWAY and HUNTER, who lived north of Corvallis, and WHITESIDE and McBEE. When we met the first season to choose a boss, I suggested HUNTER who was an older man and had had experience in such business. He pleaded that he was too old for the give and take necessary to the boss of a gang of men, and said I was the man for the place. I was the youngest of the partners, but I finally agreed to accept. The first year I took turns feeding the machine by hand, but after that it was voted by the partners that I be paid salary as boss and have nothing to do except see that every one else did his work in as good a manner as possible. I soon came to know the country and the men. If any man fitted well in any position I kept him on year after year. If any man proved to be incompetent or a trouble maker in any way I avoided him in the future. My run was from Corvallis south to the Willamette community and from Muddy Creek east to the River."

"My wife was Mary LINEBARGER and our two children were Leslie and Charles."



May 11, 1939

Mrs. DAVIS was interviewed at her home at the comer of South and "I" Streets. She said:

"My parents, Daniel and Elizabeth HOOVER, came to Oregon from Missouri in 1871, when I was fourteen years old. They came by rail to San Francisco, and to Portland by the old condemned steamer, Ajax. There was still a forty mile gap in the railroad from California to Oregon and father was in too much of a hurry to wait for a better boat."

"Portland was just a mud-streeted village in those days, set in among the fir trees. It was connected by a ferry with the railroad station on the east side of the river. Father was a cigar maker in Missouri but there was no opportunity to engage in that work here. He bought a farm near Salem, in the JORY neighborhood south of town. The JORY brothers, four Englishmen, had each a 640 acre claim, adjoining one another. They were all college men. Another family there was the MINTO family. My brother was with John MINTO in the first trip over the Minto Pass. There was a large family of the MINTOS and some of them have been on the police force of Salem, from that day to the present. I think one of them is now on the Portland police force."

"Farming was not carried on very intensively in that part of the valley when we came there. Most of the farms contained 640 acres, and the owners had cattle, raised a little feed and grain and vegetables and lived without too much hard work. There was always something to be sold when a little money was needed. Every farm had a good apple orchard by that time, but there were few pears. On some farms were thickets of blue and red Damson plums. I had three brothers, Benjamin, Robert, and Mathew. Robert and Matthew are living in Washington. When I was about twenty years old I married Joe DAVIS."

"My husbands parents crossed the plains in 1852. They were William Henry DAVIS, and Elizabeth DAVIS. The father died on the plains before my husband was born. There was in the train a man named J. J. THOMAS who seems to have had an aristocratic up-bringing. He did not like to engage in manual labor. When Elizabeth DAVIS was left a widow, the captain of the train made THOMAS drive one of her wagons."

"When the party reached Provost, Utah, they were stopped by the Mormons, and were not allowed to proceed to California, where they were headed. In order to escape the increasing pressure to marry a Mormon Elder, Mrs. DAVIS finally married this man THOMAS, although she seems not to have regarded him very highly. It seemed to her a better fate than to become a plural wife."

"The trail to California was closed to the immigrants, but the northern trail to Montana was not so closely watched as it was thought the immigrants would not dare the dangers of Indian attack. After fourteen years in Utah they slipped away and came to Montana, and on to Oregon in 1869."

"After we were married my husband engaged first in the sheep business on Rock Creek near
Arlington, in eastern Oregon. In 1886, we went to Montana, but returned to Oregon in 1912, and to Benton County. My husband died several years ago. Our children are Lena (Matthews), Stanley, Charles, Frank, Josie (NAIX), and Iona Arrants. - My husband had two brothers who lived to manhood, David and Henry, and one sister, Elizabeth (PIERCE)."



Mrs. George (Mary J. LINEBARGER) DAVIS

May 29,1939

Mrs. DAVIS was interviewed at the DAVIS farm about four miles south of Corvallis, near Muddy Creek. Her recollection was not especially good, but it seemed to the interviewer that the things she did remember were reliable. She said:

"My father was Andrew LINEBARGER, who settled near Tangent in Linn County in an early day. He died when I was about a year old and I do not remember him or know much about him."

"My mother was Elizabeth McBEE. Her father, William McBEE, settled in Benton County in 1852 or 1853. The McBee donation land claim is in the Peoria Ferry region, about nine or ten miles from Corvallis. William McBee'S children were John, George, William Henry, Joseph, James, Nancy, and my mother. Aunt Nancy married Terry Smith, brother of Green Berry Smith who was one of the big landholders of this region in the early days. One of Nancy's children is Judd Smith, who still lives in the old neighborhood about five miles from here. All the children got a part of grandfather's farm."

"I went to school first at the Buchanan school, in what is now the Greenberry district. The Buchanan and Foster children went there. I do not remember the teachers. One was a man named Moreland. Part of the time the various families of the McBee children and the Friedley children had private teachers. One of these was a Mr. GALBREATH (or CALBREATH). Then I was two years at Philomath College, when Ezra Wyatt and Mr. & Mrs. Biddle taught there. Philomath College was a big school and a good school then, and everybody had a good time. "

"I had one sister, Virginia, who married Charles DANNICK. James McBEE, a nephew of mine, lives by Philomath."

"I married George W. DAVIS. Our children are Leslie and Charles DAVIS. One of them is at home with us and the other is farming just west of here not far from the Independent School."

Mrs. Pauline J. WOOD DIXON

Mrs. DIXON was interviewed at her home, 1969 W. "A" Street, Corvallis, Oregon. Her mind is still active, but she professes to know but little about the early experiences of her parents. She said:

"My parents were Hiram WOOD and Martha NORRIS WOOD who crossed the plains from Missouri in 1852. They did not suffer any harm from the Indians but were obliged to be constantly on the alert. "

"Father settled in Blodgett Valley and engaged in general farming. His children were Amos, James, Franklin, Sam, Henry, Eugene, George, Sarah and myself. My brother Sam was an Evangelical preacher. I was born in 1857. I went to school at Blodgett in a building not far from the present schoolhouse. Among my teachers I remember John WOOD who was not retaled to me, and Mrs. CUSTER."

"There were church services at Summit and at Blodgett school house. My brothers and I often rode horse back the ten miles to Kings Valley to attend church. Sometimes there was singing school at Summit. Sometimes there were neighborhood dances. These were always quiet and orderly, and although the church people did not approve of dancing their children were not forbidden to attend."

"I married George DIXON in 1876. So far as we could find out, my husband was not related to William F. DIXON who was one of the founders of Marysville (Corvallis). My husband farmed all of his life. Our children were Rosanna, Arthur and Hester. They were fine children and have done nothing to make their mother ashamed."

"I think this has been a good world but it is getting pretty wild. It is too bad they have made liquor so easy for young people to get."


James DUNN

June 1938

James DUNN was interviewed during the noon hour at the Christensen Planing Mill at Kings Valley, where Mr. DUNN is employed as fireman and engineer. He could give little information of the early days, being of the third generation, but was interviewed because no other member of the family could be found. The chief contribution of the DUNN family seems to have been the work of the two sisters, Madge and Alwilda, who taught school for years and are remembered by many of the older people in all parts of the county.

"My grandfather, my father and myself all bear the name James W. DUNN. Grandfather came from Illinois in an early day, but I do not remember the date. His children were Madge, Alwilda, Ida, my father, Henry, Richard, and Molly. Molly was the wife of the Rev. Mr. PRATT, an Evangelical minister. "

"My mother was Mary E. DuBREUILLE (spelling uncertain). She was French, but she died when I was only six, and I never knew much about her family history. She has a sister in Portland."

"When I was a boy we lived on an island in the Willamette River above Kiger Island. We had a hard time to get on, and we would have starved if Julian McFADDEN had not gotten my father a job as marshal in Corvallis. When I was seventeen my father was killed by a drunk in Corvallis. A young man about eighteen was drunk and disorderly. He was waving a gun around and when the night marshal tried to quiet him, he shot and seriously wounded the marshal. Sheriff Burnett was called and summoned my father to help him. The drunk shot and killed father and Burnett killed the drunk. The whole thing caused a great deal of feeling and is said to have had much to do with driving the saloons from Corvallis."

"Most of my schooling was from my aunt Alwilda. I attended school some in a little school about three and one half miles south of Corvallis. I also went to Bandbox (Oak Ridge) school where the young woman taught who afterwards became Roy RICKARD'S wife."

"My father's brothers were all farmers. There are some of the cousins left but they are all scattered and are of the younger generation."

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