OREGON was a vast and empty empire when the Felix Collards, Charles Hubbards and others of the first Pike county wagon train reached Oregon City (end of the famous Oregon Trail) in the late fall of 1847. Oregon still included what is now the state of Washington. Spanish navigators had discovered Oregon's coast in the 16th century. Spain claimed the territory between Mexico and Alaska by virtue of various discoveries. Canadians connected with the Hudson's Bay Fur Company formed the greater part of the population until the period 1833-1850, when considerable numbers of immigrants from the United States entered the region.
By the cession of this part of the country by Spain in 1819, and as a part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the United States laid claim to the region now known as Oregon and Washington. This claim was disputed by Great Britain, and the northern portion was occupied by both powers until the year before the arrival of the Pike county immigrants, in which year (1846) the dividing line was fixed at 49 degrees north latitude, Great Britain to retain the island of Vancouver. Captain Robert Gray in 1792 had discovered and partly navigated the Columbia river and in 1805 the Lewis and Clark expedition explored the river from its source to the sea. Settlement also had been made in 1811 at Astoria, which was a small trading post. Upon these factors, Blaine based United States title to the country.
The remoteness and emptiness of the vast empire caused stern opposition in Congress to granting a territorial government. Even Daniel Webster said that the region was "so far off, that a delegate to Congress could not reach Washington City until a year after the expiration of his term."
In this far-off region the Pleasant Hill characters of our story made their settlement late in 1847. Not until the succeeding year (1848) was Oregon given a territorial government. Five years before the arrival of the Collards and Hubbards, in 1842, a Provisional Government had been set up in the territory by the 500 trappers, missionaries and immigrants who then populated its vast reaches. This government, however was without federal authority.
Five years after the Collard settlement, Oregon Territory was divided, what is now known as the state of Washington being set off from it. In 1857 a state constitution was framed and ratified by the people. Oregon, with its present boundaries, was admitted into the Union in February, 1859, twelve years after our Pike county pioneers had settled there, where they again became pioneers of a wild and untamed land. At intervals there was trouble with the Indians. The Rogue River War, and the Modoc War in 1873, were the severest of these contests.
Thus we find the Felix Collard and Charles Hubbard families, the Barnetts, Cannons and others of the early Missouri border and the early Pike county (Illinois) settlements, growing up with a new territory and a new state in the far northwest where rolls the Oregon.
Felix Collard and his family, rolling down the western slopes of the Cascade Range, which divides Oregon into two unequal parts (East and West Oregon), outraced the mountain winter which dogged their heels, reaching Oregon City in safety. Oregon City is on the east bank of the Willamette river, southeast of Portland. Felix and his family spent the winter of 1847-48 at Oswego, in the northwestern part of Clackamas county, between Oregon City and Portland.
Says Victor Wayne Jones, resident of Seattle and great grandson of the Collards:
"He (Felix) and his family spent the winter of 1847-8 in a log cabin at Oswego. Near here he took up a donation land claim consisting of a square mile. A Catholic convent school stands on part of it today. However, he did not stay long at Oswego but settled at Parkplace, which is on the outskirts of Oregon City; building a blacksmith shop on his land, which consisted of several acres, the smithy being on the north side of the road that bordered his place. The present St. Agnes Baby Home is on the property. He built his house several hundred yards northwest of the Home, towards the Clackamas river."
Felix, as we have seen, was an early blacksmith in the Bay Creek country in Pleasant Hill township, being also a worker in wood and a coffin-maker for the early Bay Creek settlement. In Oregon Territory he resumed his trade on the outskirts of the town at the end of the Oregon Trail.
"In early Oregon," says Victor W. Jones, "blacksmithing was very much in demand and the shoeing of oxen and horses, making plowshares and mending wagons was a very profitable business."
The great Northwest owes much to the vigor and initiative of those Pike county pioneers of whom we write. They were strong in the Baptist faith of their fathers and we soon find them establishing that faith in the new country of Oregon. On July 9, 1848, only a few months after their arrival in the Territory, we find Felix Collard and his wife helping organize the first Baptist church in Oregon City. Felix and his wife, the Reverend Hezikiah Johnston and his wife, and a young man named Jackson were the organizers.
Again we quote Victor Wayne Jones: "Felix was a devout member of the Baptist church as his forebears had been before him. He had an uncle, the Reverend Charles Hubbard (one of the Pleasant Hill emigrants with Felix), who had been a Baptist minister in Missouri; his mother's people, the Cannons, were also strong Baptists."
Mrs. Evelyn Collard Fidelle of Portland, Oregon, a granddaughter of Felix Collard and Damaris Lewis, says that the church which her grandparents helped organize at Oregon City was the first Baptist church in Oregon. Mrs. Fidelle's father, Isaac Newton Collard (born a few months after the Collard family's arrival in Oregon Territory), was six months old when the church was organized. She says also that this church, of which her grandparents were charter members, organized the First College of Oregon City, which was later located in McMinnville, Oregon, and is now Linfield College.
Felix Collard, a Democrat in politics, was active in the political affairs of the Northwest, as he had been in early Pike county, where he was a candidate on the Democratic ticket in 1838 for the lower house of the Illinois state legislature. In Oregon we find him thrice representing Clackamas county in the state legislature of Oregon, being elected each time on the Democratic ticket. He took an active interest in the affairs of his community and was active also in Odd Fellows circles, being a member of that fraternity.
Leaving Felix and his wife at their home at Parkplace in the outskirts of Oregon City, let us now follow their Pleasant Hill-born children into the life of the new territory.
Mary Jane, eldest of the six children born before the family's departure from Pleasant Hill, was, as we have seen, in her 14th year when she left Pleasant Hill, celebrating her 14th birthday while on the Oregon Trail. Also, as we have seen, the wagon train in which Mary Jane traveled across the plains was joined at Independence, Missouri, by the young Easterner, Earl Douglas Jones, who helped the Charles Hubbards drive their ox-team outfit across the great range.
Arriving in Oregon City, young Jones stopped there, while Mary Jane stayed with her parents at Oswego. Jones stayed around Oregon City until the outbreak of the Cayuse Indian War of 1847-48, when he joined Company H, First Regiment, Oregon Riflemen, under Captain W. M. Martin. This took place April 18, 1848. Later he was transferred to Captain Burnett's company, which was organized May 20, 1848. He received his discharge July 5, 1848, on which day the company disbanded. The scene of this service in the Indian war was in eastern Oregon (and what is now eastern Washington also).
Once, while after the redskins, his party had their horses stolen from them by the Indians. Each trooper had to equip himself with a mount and one pack-horse. While hunting for their mounts they came across the Indians who had stolen their horses and who were roasting them by a huge fire and feasting on them. This was very early in the morning. Jones and his companions immediately opened fire on the Indians and put them to rout. One of his sons asked him one time if he thought he had killed any Indians on this or other occasions and he replied that he did not know whether he had or not but that he had shot at them many times. This son stated that if his father ever shot at anything he was sure to hit it, as he was a dead shot. This son's mother was the Pleasant Hill girl, Mary Jane Collard.
Like many others who were smitten with the gold fever, Douglas Jones went to the California gold fields in 1849, two years after the arrival in Oregon. As evidence of the high prices prevailing in the gold fields, he paid $80 for an English Sheffield razor and strop, which are still in the family. There is also in the family an old gun, formerly a flintlock, that he carried from Ohio to the rendezvous on the Missouri and thence across the plains in the Hubbard covered wagon. Later he carried this gun in the Cayuse Indian War, and continued to use it for many years.
Douglas Jones did not get wealthy in the gold fields and we find him again in Oregon City in 1850, in which year he married Mary Jane Collard, the girl who had crossed the plain in the same wagon train with him. They were married September 17, 1850.
In the same year (1850) Douglas and his brother, Silas Jones, bought the Mission Farm at Mission Bottom, situated in Marion county, in which Salem is located and in which a number of the early Pleasant Hill emigrants to Oregon Territory founded their new homes. Mission Farm consisted of several hundred acres of land and was noted for its fertility. It had been the farm attached to Jason Lee's mission. The Reverend Jason Lee, pioneer and founder of American civilization on the Pacific coast, established his mission in 1834. This farm operated by the Jones brothers was therefore one of the first American farms in the Pacific Northwest. The principal crop was wheat. The Jones brothers were very successful in this venture.
In 1858 (or thereabouts) Douglas Jones sold his interest in the farm to his brother and moved onto a place near Foster's at Currinsville, in Clackamas county. He did not stay there long, however, but moved to Parkplace for a short time, where his wife's people, the Felix Collards, lived. He then bought a quarter section of the Samuel Campbell Donation land claim, paying $2,000 therefor. He had the deed made out to his wife, Mary Jane (Collard) Jones. The land lay in Clackamas county, one half mile east of Clackamas Station on the Southern Pacific Railroad, ten miles southeast from the heart of Portland. It was in the Clackamas Bottom. This place continued to be the home of the Douglas Jones family for many years.
Meanwhile Douglas and Mary Jane were becoming the parents of a brood of children, some of whom, as we shall see later, in addition to being descendants of Pleasant Hill pioneers, also married into families of other Pike county pioneers whose thrilling stories have already been related, in part, in this history.
In 1864, in the time of the Civil War, Douglas Jones moved with his family to a place on Birch Creek, near Pendleton, Oregon, to engage in stock-raising. It was a wild country, full of Indians. Here, the Pleasant Hill child, Mary Jane Collard, whom we have followed across the plains over the famous Oregon Trail, died January 25, 1865, of child-bed fever. It is told, says Victor Jones, Mary Jane's grandson, how she would gather her children around her and be in terror of their lives when the wild Indians would come and peep through doors and windows, but they were never harmed.
Mary Jane, born in the pioneer days of the Bay Creek country in Pike county, Illinois, and later a pioneer of Oregon Territory, occupies a grave on Birch Creek in the land to which she went as a child.
Following his wife's death and because of alarm due to the Indians, Douglas moved back to the Willamette Valley, where the children stayed with various relatives. Some time later he gathered his children together and moved back onto the old place at Clackamas, with its log and frame house, large fireplace and attic reached by means of a ladder.
The Clackamas farm was situated on the Barlow Route of the Oregon Trail, the place being about five miles north of Oregon City, end of the Oregon Trail. Douglas here sold feed to the immigrants for their stock. The immigrants would usually arrive there about sundown, and he would give them milk, butter, vegetables, fruit, etc. he pastured their stock for so much per head.
The class of immigrants crossing the plains at this time (1860-70) were not of the ox-team immigration of earlier days. They had horses if from the east and mules if from Missouri or the south. Immigration by wagon across the plains stopped for the most part shortly after 1870. The Union Pacific Railroad had gone through in 1869 to San Francisco and people from the east, south and middle west then began taking train to San Francisco, thence by boat to Oregon.
In recognition of his services in the Cayuse Indian War, Douglas Jones received a soldier's land grant entitling him to a quarter section. He did not take up land under this grant, however, but sold it to another man for $600.
In 1870 Douglas took up a homestead near Sandy, Oregon, between Sandy river and the head of Eagle Creek in Clackamas county. Most of his family stayed at Clackamas. His son William stayed with him, and his son Leonard part of the time. He raised stock and engaged in various ranching enterprises. He kept bees and was an expert in bee culture, having a library on the subject. He remained here for several years.
About 1883-84 he went to Oakland, Douglas county, Oregon, where he bought a house and lot, hoping the change would benefit his health. He had been restless for several years on account of ill health, and for that reason took up this homestead in the mountains. In Oakland he conducted a sort of small store. Bright's disease, from which he had suffered for many years, soon claimed him as a victim, his death occurring on April 2, 1884. His grave is not beside that of his wife. He was buried in the Old Citizens' cemetery in Old Town, the original site of Oakland before the railroad came. This cemetery lies next to the Masonic cemetery and is on an eminence overlooking Oakland, a short distance away. None of his family was present when he died. His daughter Lydia was preparing to go to him but he died before she could make the trip.
Douglas was a Democrat in politics and was said to have been a Mason, although not buried in the Masonic cemetery. Victor Wayne Jones, whose records we are quoting, speaks of him as a man who loved the outdoors. He was keen on hunting game of all kinds and was an expert shot, being able to bring down a goose on the wing with the greatest ease. Much of the time he wore the typical frontier costume, consisting of fringed buckskin jacket, or hunting shirt, and trousers. He was described as standing about five feet nine inches tall, of medium build, blue eyes, dark brown hair and mustache, regular features.
Mary Jane Collard, his wife, had the famous red hair of the Barnetts, inherited from red-headed Mary Barnett, heroine of the wild Missouri border, who in the old Indian wars once swam the Cuivre river in Lincoln county in the dead of winter to warn a sleeping garrison from impending massacre by Indians. This Mary Barnett of the Missouri border was the mother of Damaris Lewis Collard and grandmother of Mary Jane Collard Jones.