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An Oregon Farm

Pleasant Valley, Multnomah County, Oregon, March 24, 1878.

To the Editor of The Gazette:

A brief description of the farm where I make my temporary home may interest some of your rural readers. It is Stuart Richey’s farm, situated in Pleasant Valley, about ten miles southeast of Portland. It consists of 160 acres, a portion of which is in Clackamas county, the county line passing through it. Twenty-five years ago, in the spring of 1853, it was settled. Then, indeed, it was a wild place in the wilderness. A few white families settled this valley then, a quarter of a century ago, who had traveled together across the plains. They were sometimes visited by the nomad natives. Sometimes the gloomy solitude of these woods were broken by the howling of wolves or by the screams of the panther, then so numerous here. For many years those pioneers toiled in opening their farms and building houses.

In early times my brother Stuart Richey purchased some other land besides the 160 acres he owned by virtue of an act of congress. Then each man having a wife was entitled to 200 acres, but if a man was so unfortunate to lose his wife before starting or on the plains he was allowed but 160 acres. This seemed unjust and hard. The farm where I now reside is noted for its splendid varieties of fruits and annually grow in an orchard of 1,200 trees or more that are cultivated with the greatest care. The yield of apples, pears, etc., is astonishing to persons who have lived in countries where fruits are generally scarce and the crops uncertain. During all the past winter we have had an abundance of apples, pears, etc., besides wagon loads of them we’ve hauled to market. He—my brother—now has nearly or quite a wagon load of the large pound pears on hand, they having kept good and sound all winter. They grow to a great size. I weighed two of them, one weighing five pounds and the other seven pounds, being twelve pounds. But pears sometimes grow larger than these two. Apples, too, often attain an enormous size, larger than any I have seen yet. I saw one here that measured 14 inches in circumference; but some grow larger. Besides raising apples and pears, he raises peaches, prunes, plums, blackberries, etc., all that one could wish. Now his orchard is blooming out as if it were the middle of May; the peach trees now bloom in all their beauty; the spring is as warm and delightful as we could wish, and countless flowers adorn the earth and the birds sing sweetly.

None of the kings of trees that grow in Illinois and Iowa—except the cedar—are indigenous to Oregon. While I was teaching in Illinois I sent by express rootlets and seeds of various kind of trees and shrubs to Stuart Richey, who carefully planted them; he can now boast of a greater variety of trees and shrubbery growing on his farm than any one else that I know in Oregon. They are exotic trees to native Oregonians who regard them as curiosities. They remind pioneers of their native forests in states far east

"Plant with the plow and spade.

Plant with a lavish hand.

Plant both for fruit and shade,

Plant blessings o’er the land.

Adorn each glen with beauty,

Make every hill top green;

For lo! It is but duty

To let our light be seen.

Then future sons of toil

Will emulate the plan,

And as they till the soil,

Regard the coming man.

Go thou and plant a tree,

Then plant a hundred more;

Yea; plant from sea to sea

And plant on every shore."

I know of no other state where vegetables and flowers flourish so well as in Oregon, where they grow as luxuriantly with so little culture. Here vegetables, like the fruits, last the year round. On this farm we have plenty of vegetables some of which grew green all winter, such as cabbages, rutabagas, onions, parsnips, carrots, etc. Flowers of various kinds now bloom in the garden, exhaling their sweetness on the breath of spring. Truly, this is a land of flowers.

The house here is a two-story frame, containing six rooms. Besides the dwelling house there are two barns, one blacksmith shop, one house for fruits and vegetables and several other buildings, altogether making quite a collection of houses, all very useful during the rainy winters. Farmers often build long shed-looking buildings, open at the end, in which they keep their wagons, plows, etc., secure from the rains and some have shops in those long houses where they work during the wet weather. The proprietor of the farm which I have been trying to describe, being naturally apt in mechanism, does all of his mechanical work in wood and iron.

Adjoining Stuart Richey’s farm is the farm of 320 acres, lately belonging to my brother, Caleb Richey, deceased. Much that I have written about the former farm, applies to this homestead, so that I need not be tedious in my description of it. Besides a suitable dwelling house, there are two barns and other needed buildings. A good orchard, gardens and plenty of farming land, make it a valuable place. It was settled in pioneer times, namely in the spring of 1853 by Caleb Richey, where he lived nearly 22 years, dying November 28, 1875. He left his family in comfortable circumstances. The two boys—one a young man—being energetic and industrious have pushed the work of the farm right along, so that the deeply bereaved family are still prosperous. Two of the girls are now teachers and both popular as queens or sovereigns of the school room. A younger girl helps her ma to do the homework. One girl died on the plains in 1852, and since then two other girls have passed away. Their father has joined them in the spirit world. Many of the pioneers are gone. Their earthly pilgrimage is over. They sleep in the soil of this far distant clime. Their contemporaries who with them crossed the plains, are now growing old, their eyelids are heavy. Their eyes are dim, as they tread the vale of years. Their bedtime of life draweth nigh, when they too must sleep in that bed of earth in which nations slumber. I saw my brother, Caleb Richey, for the last time when I visited Oregon in 1873. Would that he had lived that I could have seen him again as I saw him in 1873, when with him I talked over the things of long ago, of the days of our boyhood and youth! Those days were too bright and joyous to last. Youthful pleasures pass away. We remember them as faded flowers. I first saw his grave on the 15th of last November, where he rests in peace by the grave of his little girl Clara, in the Powell Valley cemetery.

JAMES RICHEY

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