Oregon Pioneer Biographies - John J. Crabtree

Oregon Pioneer Biographies


"Historical Atlas Map of Marion and Linn Counties, Oregon." Compiled, Drawn and published from Personal Examinations and Actual Surveys, by Edgar Williams and Co., San Francisco, California, 1878, reprinted by the Marion County Historical Society, 1975-76.

John J. Crabtree

Was born in the year 1800, in Lee County, Virginia. His forefathers were English, who came to this continent before the Revoluntionary War. Some of them served in the war. They were among the old families of Virginia. Mr. C.'s father was born and raised in Virginia, and John J. remained in Lee County until he was of age. His early days were spent in toil for his father. His opportunities for education at this early day were of course very limited.

When John J. was 25 years of age, he commenced farming for himself, on a place which his father had given him in reward for his long and faithful service. In 1825, he married Miss Melinda Yeary, the daughter of William Yeary, who was also an old citizen of Virginia, and a prominent man in the Indian wars of those days.

After marriage, Mr. C. went to work with a will to get a home and build up a competence. He understood the business of farming thoroughly, and, as consequence, he succeeded well. He remained on this farm for about eight years, when he sold out and moved to Missouri, where he took up a claim and also bought some land. He carried on farming in Missouri with his customary energy; but, owing to sickness, and other unfavorable circumstances, his progress was slow. At length, partly on account of the sickly climate of his then location, and partly because he was convinced that better chances awaited him on the Pacific slope, he started for Oregon in the year 1845, in the Spring, his outfit consisting of ox teams. The trip was, of course, at this early date, a very difficult and tedious one, there being no beaten road, which they had to make as they went. They arrived at the Dalles in October, where he stopped long enough to build a raft in which to descend the Columbia.

While here Mr. C.'s family was increassed by the advent of twin boys -- probably the first event of that kind among the white settlers of Oregon.

After the completion of the raft, the family embarked on the river voyage, hardly knowing where they were going, their object being to find some good location for a home. It certainly required a large amount of courage to embark on such an enterprise, encumbered with a helpless family, and ignorant of the extent of the dangers that might menace them. But the pioneer men and women were of the kind to brave and conquer such difficulties.

Mr. C. went to the Tualatin Plains, and subsequently went up the Yamhill River, where he worked some time. Finally he settled on the farm where he now lives. At this period the county was in its original garb -- no roads, bridges nor fences -- Mr. Crabtree being the first settler in the forks of the Santiam. For some time his nearest neighbor was ten miles off, and the Indians roamed over the hills and valleys with freedom. At this time he had to travel 50 miles to mill and store, and they had to live, for many a long month, on boiled wheat and peas.

Gradually he improved the place, but for the first few months, it took all he could do to find food for his family. In 1856, the Cayuse War took place. Six of Mr. C's sons served in it, and two of them served in the Rogue River War. By this time the farm was in a good state of improvement, and he remained at home to care for it, and provide for the boys when they came home. At one time the farm comprised about 700 acres of fine farm and stock land. It is situated about three miles south of Scio, on the Scio and Lebanon Road.

Mr. C. is the parent of 15 children, of whom 11 are now living. The eldest living is Job, born in Virginia in 1829 -- now on the Yellowstone River, in Montana; William, born in Virginia, in 1830 -- now on Willow Creek; Hiram, born in Virginia, in 1832, is now with his brother William; Isaac, born in Mo. in 1834, is on the Yellowstone River; James P., born in Mo., in 1837, -- on a farm near his father; Betsey, born in Mo., in 1840, is married, and living near Scio; Rebecca, born in Mo., in 1842, is married, and lives near her father; Jasper and Newton, twins, born in Oregon, at the Dalles, in 1845, -- both living at home; Phoebe, born in Oregon, in 1847, now married, and living in Scio; Martha, born in Oregon, in 1852, now married, and lives within six miles of her parents.

The children are all grown, and are all honest and respected members of society. Those who are away from home occasionally return to visit and honor their aged parents.

Mr. Crabtree is among the substantial, well-to-do citizens of the county, and did much towards improving the neighborhood. He takes but little interest in political matters. He possesses, as he merits, the esteem and confidence of all his neighbors.

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