Samuel F. Blythe
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SAMUEL F. BLYTHE

In the Oregon Daily Journal of February 22, 1927, the experiences and activities of an honored Union veteran and old-time newspaper man of the state are described as follows by Fred Lockley:

"Samuel F. Blythe is one of the pioneer residents of Hood River. When I interviewed Mr. Blythe recently, he said: 'Next August I will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of my arrival at Hood River. When I came here in 1877 the only house built in what is now Hood River was that of Dr. W. L. Adams, whose home was used as a sanitarium and health resort. I bought twenty-two acres of land a mile west of Hood River, paying eight dollars an acre for it. Later I bought a tract of twenty-one acres adjoining it. My first piece of land was purchased from William Penn Watson, who sold it to me for eight dollars an acre, and after considerable delay I received the deed. I found out later that he had not bought the land when he sold it to me. After selling the tract to me he purchased it from the state for a dollar and a quarter an acre. At that time he owned, or had under option, most of the land along the water front at Hood River. I came here for my health, and the fact that I am still hale and hearty at the age of eighty-five goes to prove that Hood River has a healthy climate.

"'I was born in Fairfield, Adams county, Pennsylvania, on St. Valentines day, 1842, and was named for Dr. Samuel Finley, who was a pioneer president of Princeton College. Our place was seven miles from Gettysburg. My father, David Blythe, was a tanner. My grandfather, whose name was also David, came from Scotland to America not long before the Revolutionary war and served with Washington at Valley Forge, Trenton and in other engagements of the war. My mother, whose maiden name was Julia Ann Hoover, was of Holland Dutch ancestry. I am the fourth of their seven children and the only one now living.

"'In 1836, when I was fourteen years old, I went to work as a printers devil on the Franklin Repository at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The Messenger, a religious publication, had a power press and I used to take the forms over to the Messenger to be printed on their press. I will never forget my introduction to what was to prove my life work. On June 3, 1856, I took the stage for Chambersburg. My father died in 1849, when I was seven years old. Washington Crooks, the publisher of the Franklin Repository, was a politician of considerable influence. He and my father were friends. My mother, knowing this, asked Mr. Crooks to give me a position on the paper. The stage stopped in front of the Repository office and the driver took my trunk and carried it into the printing office. Mr. Crooks was away, so the editor took me upstairs to the job office and introduced me to the foreman. The latter greeted me kindly and said, "You can start learning the printers trade by taking that pitcher and going down to the town pump and bringing up a pitcher of fresh water." I ran down stairs, crossed the square to the courthouse, filled the pitcher and was back in no time. After he had taken a satisfying drink from the pitcher the foreman took me over to the case, told me where each letter was, showed me the P box and the Q box, and said, "A printer must learn to mind his Ps and Qs." He told me I must apply myself, work hard and try to earn the twenty dollars a year I was to receive. The second year I was paid thirty dollars. In those days the printers devil also served as carrier boy. Each New Years they issued a carriers' address. When this address was given to the patrons of the paper they usually gave the carrier a dime, a quarter or even half a dollar. I can remember the thrill I had when I collected thirty dollars when I delivered the New Years address to my customers.

"'At the close of the second year I went to Ohio to visit my mother. The proprietor of the Eaton Democrat offered me three dollars a week. By this time I had become fairly proficient and could set each day two galleys of brevier and throw in my case. The columns were very wide, being sixteen-em measure. If they were expert workmen the compositors were paid six dollars a week. In the spring of 1859 the Eaton Democrat was sold to a man at Madison, Indiana. He moved the plant there and I went with him. There I worked on a morning daily and was paid twenty-five cents a thousand, the type being long primer. I wont out on a strike, with the rest of the force, for higher wages. We didn't get our jobs back, so I went to Cincinnati to see if I could get work. I decided to travel throughout the country and learn the methods used in other offices. At Covington I met a tramp printer who was an expert. Next day I fell in with this same man, who asked me where I was going. I told him I was bound for Lexington, Kentucky, and he said, "I am headed the same way." He told me his name was Dave Hubbard and that he was a Mexican war veteran. After some further talk he urged me to go home. He said, "I hate to see a bright young chap become a tramp printer. How much money have you?" I told him that I had seventy-five cents. He said, "I have been working more or less steadily ever since I was discharged from the army after the Mexican war. How much money do you suppose I have?" I replied, "I dont know. How much have you?" He dug down in his jeans and produced his entire wealth, which was two copper pennies. He said, "I sold my necktie to a n****r for five cents and it cost me three cents to pay the toll across the Ohio river. Dont you think, in view of what I have told you, that you should go home?" I said, "No, I am going to see something of the world." He then said, "Very well; if you must tramp, we will go along together; I can show you the ropes. I am just winding up a big drunk. I cant travel without whiskey. Go to a grocery store and buy me a quart of whiskey. It will cost you a dime." A better grade of whiskey cost twelve and a half cents a quart, but he liked the more fiery liquor that retailed at ten cents a quart. I bought him a quart of whiskey and we started down the pike. This was in August and the weather was extremely warm. After walking two or three miles we stopped under a shade tree. Hubbard took out his big red bandanna, wiped the sweat off his face and opened his carpet bag to get a drink of whiskey. He let out a yell and began jumping up and down, swearing horribly, meanwhile tearing his hair. I thought he had gone crazy. "The cork has come out," he said 'and all the whiskey is gone. I cant go on without another drink." We had to walk a mile and a half before we came to a crossroads store where I could invest another dime in a quart of whiskey for him. During the next week we lived on blackberries, which we found climbing over the rail fences beside the road, and on an occasional handout of cornbread from some farmers wife.

"'Finally we decided to strike out for the Ohio river, get a boat and go down the stream to New Orleans. When we reached the banks of the river we found a man who had a skiff which didn't look any too good, but it had two good oars. As we had no money to buy it, I traded my silver watch for the skiff. The river was low and there was no current. We paddled down the river for three days. I took off my shoes, and between the water and the leaking skiff and the hot sun my feet became so badly swollen and blistered that I couldn't get my shoes on.

"'After going for three or four days on rations which consisted largely of river water and cornbread, we drew up at dusk one evening at Vevay, Indiana. My partner hailed a group of men near the river bank and asked them if they wanted to buy a skiff. One of the men sized up the boat and said he wouldn't give a cent for it, but added that he would give four hits for the oars if we would throw the skiff in.

We were starved out, so we accepted his offer. I stayed on the river bank while my partner went up town to buy some crackers and cheese. We slept on the bank of the river that night and the next morning Dave went up town and landed a job that would last three days at one dollar a day. Dave was a good scout. He said, "I don't want you to be a tramp printer. I am going to turn this job over to you and I'll drift on. Maybe you can land a regular job here."

"'I couldn't get my shoes on, so, carrying my shoes and socks in my hand, I walked up to the printing office and reported for duty. The force consisted of the editor and a compositor who was eighty-five years old and very frail. The old man told me that when he had learned his trade seventy-five years before, and that took him back to 1785, he had inked the forms for the old hand press with a ball covered with buckskin. I set up the paper during the next three days and editor and proprietor was so delighted that he offered me a permanent job at four dollars an(l a half a week and board. The eighty-five-year-old tramp printer decided to drift on to Cincinnati, 50 I stayed there all of that fall and winter. That was during 1859-60.

"'The next spring I went to Wabash, Indiana, to visit relatives and landed a job on the Wabash Plain Dealer, working ten hours a day at a salary of four and a half dollars per week. I was working at the case on the Plain Dealer when Abraham Lincoln was nominated in Chicago. The Plain Dealer was a democratic paper. The editor was in a quandary as to whether he should support Douglas, the candidate of the northern democrats, or Breckenridge and Lane, who had been put up by the southern wing of the party. After taking a few drinks, he finally decided that Breckenridge and Lane had the best of it, so he wrote a redhot editorial indorsing their candidacy, handing it to me to set up. He went out to take a few more drinks and when he came back wrote an editorial urging the election of Douglas, which he put on the hook for me to set up. 1 set up both editorials and I wondered how it was going to come out. An hour or so later he came back once more two sheets in the wind and wrote an eloquent tribute to Abraham Lincoln, urging his election. He showed that the safety of the country depended upon the election of Lincoln and Hamlin. This editorial I also set up. I knew that if the paper appeared with editorials indorsing all three of the presidential candidates the public would never survive the shock, so I ran the Lincoln and Hamlin editorial and killed the other two, and from that day to this--for the paper is still running--the Plain Dealer has been a strong republican sheet, and is now a great daily newspaper.

"'That October 1 went home and while there I landed a job on the Eaton Register at five dollars a week. I worked for the paper until the early summer of 1861, when I enlisted in an independent company. We were to serve as cavalry under Fremont; at least, that was the promise made to us. I was nineteen years old at the time. When we arrived in St. Louis we were assigned to the Thirteenth Missouri Infantry, which consisted of six companies from Ohio, one from Illinois and three from Missouri. In 1862 our regiment was rechristened, becoming known as the Twenty-second Ohio Volunteer Infantry, though we continued to carry the flag of the Thirteenth Missouri clear through the war. Our colonel, at one time the editor and owner of the Cincinnati Gazette, was a West Pointer and a very capable officer, though rather old. I was a member of Company E. I served as a private in this company for three years and then reenlisted, joining Hancock's veteran corps, which comprised twenty thousand men, all of whom had served for three years in the Civil war. The first battle I was in was at Fort Donelson. Then came Pittsburg Landing, the siege of Corinth, the battle of Corinth and various skirmishes. In the spring of 1863 we went to Vicksburg. I served for four years and three months, not being mustered out until February, 1866. Our company was stationed just outside the arsenal during the execution of the Lincoln conspirators.

"'Four years and three months of service in the army had made me restless, so I could not settle down to a prosaic job. I decided to cross the plains and see the Rockies. A month after I was mustered out I started for the west in company with Daniel Ridenour, a war-time comrade. We headed for St. Joseph, Missouri, to get a job driving an ox team across the plains. We were inexperienced and when we watched the bullwhackers handling six and twelve yoke of oxen, Dan said, "We can never learn to drive oxen. I'm going back to Ohio to marry the girl I'm engaged to."

We parted and I never saw him again. I had not set type for five years, so I was a little dubious as to whether I could land a job at the case or not. However, I had to eat, so I went to the office of the St. Joseph Daily Gazette and asked for a job. The foreman said, "Do you belong to the union?" I answered, "No, but I will be glad to join." He showed me where to hang my coat and told me to go to work, informing me that they would take me into the union next Sunday. I threw in my case and found that in spite of being away from the work for five years I hadn't lost my skill. I had a good boarding house with the family of one of the compositors on the paper. The wife was a good cook. She boarded others of the corps of compositors.

"'After I had worked for a few weeks Captain Lockwood, the commander of my company, and three others of my former campmates, came to St. Joseph and told me they were going to buy an outfit and go west. Every day or two they would drop in and urge me to go along. I was getting forty-five cents a thousand and was saving my money. I had accumulated seventy-five dollars. One evening, just after I was paid off, my four comrades dropped in and Captain Lockwood said, "Sam, you better come with us. We're going to pull out in the morning. Won't you come along?" I said, "All right; you can count me in." He asked me how much money I had and I told him, handing it over to him to pay my share of the expenses. I found the reason they were so anxious for me to come in was that they had bought an outfit, but had not enough money to complete the payments; a wagon and two yoke of oxen was purchased for the trip, so my seventy-five dollars was a life saver. Captain Lockwood bought a supply of bacon, beans, coffee and flour, which used up all of our money, so he was unable to purchase any sugar or tobacco.

"'Captain Lockwood was a good infantry officer, but he didn't know any more about driving oxen than the rest of us, which was nothing at all. All five of us walked beside the oxen and herded them along. That night we left their yokes on and tied them to a tree. I never remember spending a more miserable night. It stormed all night and we were soaking wet. We were afraid to turn the cattle loose to graze and the next morning we started out. During the day we made five miles. I said to Kline, who had put up most of the money for the outfit, "How do you like it?" He replied, "Every cent I saved is in that outfit, but I have a good notion to quit right now. If we are going to put in six months like we have the past two days, I'm through." A long storm started in and continued for three days. We had to stay out with the cattle while they grazed. When the storm was over we herded the cattle to a farm a mile or so distant, carried the neckyokes along, drove the cattle into a corral and got the farmer to yoke the oxen up for us.

"'We started out and overtook a freight outfit. One of the big wagons was stuck in a mudhole and the owner of the freight outfit asked us for the use of our two yoke of oxen. He hitched them in front of his and the Georgia negro driver, who was an expert, soon yanked the wagon out of the mudhole. The wagon boss said to us, "We have more freight than we can pull. If you will let us load some of our freight in your wagon we'll furnish you an extra yoke of cattle and this Georgia n****r to drive the outfit, and we'll pay you twenty cents a pound when you unload it at Bozeman, Montana." That was our salvation. Right then and there all of our troubles ceased. That negro driver was not only cheerful but one of the best bullwhackers I ever saw. Captain Lockwood volunteered to do the cooking for our out-fit and my job was to provide the firewood. One of the other boys did the dishwashing and we got along fine. Within a few days our outfit joined a train of thirty wagons, about half of which were bound for Denver, while the others were going on to Bozeman.

"'Just beyond Fort Laramie our wagon train split into two sections, so there would be more chance to graze the cattle. The section just ahead of us was attacked by the Sioux Indians. They killed two of the drivers and drove the cattle off. One of the emigrants hurried back to our train and every available man of us started out to overtake the Indians and get the cattle. We overtook the redskins, recovered most of the cattle and our trains joined. The Indians secured reinforcements and attacked our train. There were about one hundred and fifty of the Indians. Most of our drivers were ex-soldiers, some having served in the Union army and some in the Confederate army. We were all pretty good shots, so we gave the Indians more than they bargained for and stood them off. A little later we joined a train of three hundred wagons and during the remainder of the journey to Bozeman we traveled under military discipline.

"'On arriving at Bozeman we were paid twenty cents a pound for the freight we carried, and three of us took up homestead in that locality. We paid seventy-five dollars for a plow, and decided to grow up with the country. Not having money enough to pay five dollars a bushel for wheat, we had to look for work. That winter some men from Oregon stayed with us and hunted elks most of the time. They jerked the meat. I have seen as many as five hundred elks come down on the flat. Farming struck me as a pretty prosaic job, so next spring I pulled out, going to Virginia City. I guess I must have looked pretty tough. I was twenty-five years old. I hadn't had a shave or a haircut for more than a year. My beard covered my whole chest and my hair hung to my shoulders. I decided that if I was going to find a job on a newspaper I would have to indulge in a shave and a haircut. I have always been sorry I didn't have a picture of myself taken.

"'There were two newspapers in Virginia City, the Montana Post, a tri-weekly, and the Democrat, which was issued once a week. Neither paper had work for me, so I went to the hotel, and to my delight, I found the clerk, Pliny Crume, was an old-time friend of mine from Eaton. We had served in the same company during the war, so he said, "You can sleep in the corral--I see you have your own blankets--and I'll stake you to the eats. You can stay here until you land a job. General James Francis Meagher was governor of Montana at that time and Martin Beem was secretary of the territory. I had gone out to one of the gulches to see if I could get work shoveling dirt into a sluice box. Martin Beem and I had served in the same regiment during the Civil war. When the color bearer was shot and killed Martin picked up the flag and went forward. The colonel made him a lieutenant for his gallantry. He, like myself, was a printer. We were delighted to see each other and he said, "What are you doing, Sam?" I replied, I am looking for a job but both newspapers turned me down." He said, "I'll get you a job. It may be two or three weeks until I can land it, but you stay right here and I'll divide my salary with you."

"'I refused to take his money and landed a job hauling quartz ore on a sled with oxen. The man for whom I worked told me to go on up in the mountains, cut a load of wood and bring it in, and we could start hauling ore next day. I worked half a day, cut about a half load of wood and came in about half dead, for cutting timber was something I had never tackled before. When I got in I found a message from Martin Beem offering me a job on the Post of Virginia City, setting type at one dollar a thousand. I lost no time in reporting for duty. While the Legislature was in session we were employed on State work and I could make from ten to fifteen dollars a day setting type. In one week of six days I made one hundred and forty-four dollars. The foreman said to us, "Make all the phat you can." During the meeting of the territorial legislature we set up the bills and every time we lifted a head it meant two dollars and a half on our string. I could really set ten thousand ems a day, but with the phat we had we were making from fifteen to thirty dollars a day. I worked on the Post a year.

"'From there I went to Fort Benton and took passage on a steamer down the Missouri. We went through a herd of buffaloes which were crossing the river. There were thousands of them on a stampede. Every man on board had a gun and practically all of them shot into the buffaloes which surrounded us. We killed dozens of buffaloes. It took us eleven days to get to Sioux City, as we had to tie up to the bank every night. After a short time at my home I went to Chicago and worked at my trade. In September I started back to Montana, reaching there the month of November when I secured employment with the Helena Tribune and remained there one year.

" 'In 1869 I went to San Francisco and worked on the Alta Californian until 1870. When the union struck Mr. O'Meara was in San Francisco buying a newspaper plant for Ben Holladay to ship to Portland. He bought the San Francisco Times outfit and hired some of the striking printers in San Francisco. I was one of the men he employed. We arrived in Portland on July 5, 1870, aboard the steamship California, and a week later the newsboys were calling out the first issue of the Daily Bulletin. We were paid sixty cents a thousand for composition. I worked on the Bulletin until It Was discontinued. Holladay lost a lot of money on it. When the Bulletin ceased Publication six of us started the Daily Bee, of which D. H. Stearns was the manager. I stayed with the Bee for eleven months and had charge of the city routes, which I sold to Mr. Holman, whose son, Arthur Holman, was for many years editor of the San Francisco Argonaut.' "

Mr. Blythe came to Hood River in 1877 and on March 3, 1878, removed to the ranch on which he has since resided. In 1894 he purchased the Hood River Glacier of which John Cradlebaugh was the owner and editor, and controlled the paper for ten years, on the expiration of which period he sold the business to A. D. Moe. Mr. Blythe then devoted his attention to agricultural pursuits, utilizing the most effective methods in the cultivation of the soil, and brought his land to a high state of development. He still occupies the fine old home but leases his place, which is known as the Twin Oaks Fruit Farm. It is situated near Hood River and commands an uninterrupted view of the majestic Columbia.

In 1873 Mr. Blythe was married in Portland to Miss Emma Jane Nation, who was born in Birmingham, England, of which country her parents, William Briar and Mary Ann (Lakin) Nation, were also natives, and her brother, John Nation, was connected with the Willamette Iron Works. William B. Nation was an expert carver of bone and ivory and also engaged in merchandising in England. In 1880 he sailed for the United States and spent about three years in New York city. Owing to failing health he returned to his native land but recrossed the Atlantic in 1857 and settled on a farm in Pennsylvania. In 1871 he brought his family to Oregon and three years later his wife passed away in Portland. Mr. Nation attained the advanced age of ninety-one years and died at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Blythe in 1889. To Mr. and Mrs. Blythe were born two children, both of whom are natives of Hood River county. The son, Edward N., was graduated from the school of journalism of the University of Oregon and in partnership with J. D. Riordan owns the Clark County Sun, the leading weekly of Vancouver, Washington. Mr. Blythe is married and has two children: Barbara, a capable newspaper woman, who prepared for her profession in the University of Oregon and who is connected with the Portland Journal; and Alice, a student at the University of Washington in Seattle. The daughter, Clara Blythe, is now the wife of David T. Marlor, of Mission Beach, California. They have become the parents of a son, George Finley, who is attending high school.

Samuel F. Blythe is a member of Canby Post, No. 16, G. A. R. In the affairs of this organization he is deeply interested and is a past department commander, to which office he was elected at Newberg, Oregon, in 1907. Despite his eighty-six years and the many hardships he has endured, Mr. Blythe is well preserved and keeps in close touch with the events of the world, possessing an alert mind and a retentive memory. He has witnessed a notable transformation in the appearance of this region and is deeply attached to the state of his adoption, which he considers an ideal place of residence. His prosperity has resulted from hard work, good management and honest dealing and he is known and honored throughout the valley.

[source: Fred Lockley, History of the Columbia River Valley from The Dalles to the sea. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1890-1901. Volume II, pages 295-300