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Extracts from Oregon Letters
Mr. Editor: It is known to my many friends and acquaintances that during the year 1873, I made a trip to Oregon, to visit my kindred, living near Portland, with whom I spent fifty days, in that far distant clime. I wrote a series of letters descriptive of Oregon and my journey there and return to Illinois, which were published in the Jersey County (Ill.) Democrat.
Pleasant Valley, Oregon, Nov. 27, 1875.
Uncle James: Pa has just requested me to write you a few lines to let you know that he is at the point of death and has been so for the last four weeks with no change for the better. He said write that you might not be surprised at the news of his death. He says it is the will of God, he is reconciled. He says tell you all has been, and is being done that can. Dr. Kinney of Portland, is tending him; he stands first as a doctor at Portland. Father was taken with severe pains in his lower bowels which prostrated him immediately and was closely followed by vomiting and purging which inflamed his bowels and terminated in bloody discharges, soon reducing him quite low. He is not able to turn in bed and often not able to speak. Your obt. nephew.
Again, he writes of Date Dec 3, 1875:
Dear Uncle: I wrote you a few lines on the 27th of November telling you of Pa’s sickness; but now I am called to make the sad announcement of his death, which occurred on the 28th of November at 10 o’clock P. M. He died in peace, saying to us to be reconciled, that he could not live always, that he was prepared to me[e]t his God. He spoke of you often during his sickness and listened to the reading of your letter (of date Oct. 22nd) which came to hand during his illness, with much interest. He was buried on the 30th at 12 o’clock by the side of my little sister, Clara Louisa, in the Powell Valley Cemetery, which is about four miles distant. I need not tell you it is hard to give him up, that we find ourselves listening for his cheerful voice, that we never, never more on earth shall hear—that we look to the future as long and lonely—that we shall ever feel the need of his paternal advice. And as for myself, I feel incompetent to perform the task now devolved on me, being the eldest of the children.
I am your obt. nephew.
My brother, Stuart Richey, writes of Date Dec. 6, 1875:
James: I should have written to you a month ago. Caleb took sick Nov. 1st, he died on the night of the 28th, exactly at 10 o’clock. He was taken with a sick stomach and diarrhoea. The best doctor said to be in Portland was called. He still got worse. He called able counsel but all to no purpose. He died in hope of a better world than this. He thought the trouble at first was his old complaint. He was the poorest object of anything I ever saw. I think he had all the attention that could be given by friends and relatives. Our relatives are all well as far as I know. James Richey wrote to you a few days ago. We are still dropping off, one by one. The time that now knows us will soon know us no more! Such is the live and such is death. . . . The box containing the rootlets you sent Caleb came in good condition. I took care of them for him. The little paper box you sent was in good keeping. I think the seeds will about all grow, inasmuch as they did not appear to be dry. I planted them as best I could. The weather. We had a snow four inches deep on the 12th of November. It soon melted off. There have been four or five frosts up to this time. Some of the fruit trees are quite green, and some are hanging full of apples and pears that are now good and sound. The rosebushes are green as they are in summer, some having roses on. Early-sown wheat waves beneath the breeze. I had about one thousand boxes of apples. The best are worth 50 cents per box, when hauled to Portland. There has been more rain during the last six weeks than I have seen in the same length of time since I have been here. The Willamette river is very full.
In memoriam of Caleb Richey, who was taken sick November 1, and died Sunday evening, November 28, at his home in Pleasant Valley, Oregon. How sad is the task to write of the departure of kindred, of those who seem as near and dear as life itself! The ties of nature, how strong and how sacred! Their names to memory, how dear! How fast we are passing away! Vita est crevis (life is short)! The subject of this brief memoir, was the second son of James and Susannah Richey, and was born August 2, 1815, in Pendleton County, Kentucky, where he spent the most of the years of his boyhood, and where he went to school during a few months, learning to spell and read. When about 7 years of age, he lost his mother dear, one of the best of women! Subsequently, his father married again, and continued to live on the old homestead in Kentucky till the spring of 1831, when he moved, with his family, to near Perry, Pike county, Illinois, then a wild country. Here Caleb lived until November, 1835; when he and my brother, Stuart Richey, emigrated in company with our brother-in-law, James Akin, and our uncle, William I. Richey, and their families, and settled near where now is Salem, Henry County, Iowa, where the Indians were more numerous than white people, who then endured many hardships and privations, incident to the settling of all new countries. In the spring of 1836, our father and the rest of the family moved to Iowa, settling near Salem. Here Caleb and some of the rest of the family went to school during a few months, learning spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic. Good schools then were few and far between. He was naturally fond of sport and wild adventure, and seemed to love a pioneer life and to brave its dangers. He was quite an expert hunter and woodsman. Social and jovial in his disposition, he was quite communicative, and fond of congenial company. When quite young, ere he was married, he evinced very ready speaking talents, and was brilliant and original in his thoughts, and successful as a debater in his first efforts in debating societies. As a democrat, he took an active part in politics; favored the war for putting down the great rebellion; was an ardent patriot, devoted to the constitution and the Union. Had he been liberally educated in early life, he might have attained to eminence as an orator and a politician. His views were liberal, acute and comprehensive, enabling him readily to comprehend the obtrusive and knotty problems connected with our national politics or the science of government. Though not an office seeker, he was elected as one of the county commissioners of Multnomah County, Oregon, in 1841. He professed religion at a camp meeting, and joined the M. E. Church, and was baptized by immersion; was an active member, being a class leader for several years. September 28th, 1843, he was married to Miss Alice Booth, a native of England; she then living near Lowell, Iowa. They settled near Salem, on a beautiful prairie, where they lived until the spring of 1852, when they, with others of our kindred, started (April 16th) on the long and perilous journey to Oregon; with their teams and wagons slowly wending their way to the far, far west. The emigration that year endured much sickness and hardships, and many fell by the way, victims of cholera, mountain fever, and other diseases. My brother Caleb lost his little girl, Miranda Jane, on the 23d of July. She perished like a flower in the wilderness. He came near dying of mountain fever. Six of my kindred died! It was a disastrous move being a tedious journey of six months and twelve days. My brother Caleb lived about 23 years in his pleasant home in Oregon, enjoying much of life, as he was of a cheerful, joyous disposition, and could bear up under misfortunes and troubles better than most people. Some years ago he received a hurt from a fall, hurting one of his kidneys, causing him to have several severe spells of sickness; but he had about recovered of this, his "old complaint." he wrote me of date October 24th and spoke of lately spending four days, with three other persons, on a hunting excursion in the Cascade Mountains, having a "pleasant trip." and said: "My health, I think, is improving." this was about six days before he was taken down with his fatal sickness, that like a slow and deadly poison, baffled all the physicians’ skill. His wife and five children survive him; three of his family having died. Ere autumn’s last days had expired, ere its last leaves had fallen, he, too, like them, passed away. I feel so very lonely now.
"When I remember all
The friends so linked together
I’ve seen around me fall,
Like leaves in wintry weather.
I fell like one who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed."
It is hard for me to become reconciled to give him up, him with whom I have spent so many happy years of life in the home of our boyhood! Only little more than two years ago, I saw him and felt the warm grasp of his hand, after a cruel separation of more than 21 years. I heard his cheerful familiar voice that I can hear no more! Oh! ’tis too hard for me to give him up. Still and pulseless now is his heart, and serveless are his hands,—cold in death!
"When hearts whose truth was proven,
Like thine, are laid in earth;
Then should a wreath be woven,
To tell the world their worth."
Of a family of 13, but three now are living, namely, my brother, Stuart Richey, Mrs. Martha Ellen Sluyter, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and myself. Remorseless Time, that treads nations under foot, will soon sweep us all away!
Douglas School-House, near Kane, Green County, Ill., December 28th, 1875.