Oregon Pioneer Biographies


ELAM YOUNG, written by Nancy Prevost

     Elam Young, son of Clemens and Kezia (Hollister) Young, was born 5 Nov. 1788 in Albany County (a portion then belonging to Saratoga Co.), New York. The surname was originally Yonges or Youngs, several brothers coming from Southwold, England, to Southwold, Long Island, in 1635. Part of the family later settled in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and descendants moved up the Connecticut River valley and eventually into New York, where they settled near Saratoga. Elam Young was the fifth of nine children, but nothing is known of his brothers and sisters but their names and dates of birth from family records. He early learned the trade of millwright and "mechanic," and on 24 Oct. 1808 in nearby Otsego County, New York, was married to Irene EATON, daughter of Samuel Eaton, who was born 29 Mar. 1791 in Connecticut. During the War of 1812, Elam served under Scott, and was in the Siege of Fort Erie, the Battle of Chippewa, and was wounded at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. After the war ended, he moved with his family to Clermont (earlier Brown) County, Ohio, in the area of which six of his seven known children were born. About 1836, he took his family to Missouri, residing in 1838 near Gasconade, in Gasconade County. One of his sons described him as a man with a "restless disposition," and a "wandering nature," stating that Elam was unwilling to stay in any one place for more than about five years.

     Hearing glowing descriptions of the Oregon country, he decided to go there, and set out with his wife and three youngest children, sons Daniel, James, and John, on 7 May 1847. They found no train at Independence, all for the year having already started off on the trail. Disappointed, they had reconciled themselves to waiting until the next spring when two men rode up to see if there were any more immigrants who would care to join their train, about 40 miles ahead. One of the men was Capt. John Bewley, and the Youngs and two other families took him up on his offer. Elamís son Daniel, who was then nearly 21, took over driving the Bewley familyís commissary wagon. The train was one of the last of the season, and finding forage for the animals was probably difficult as so many others had already gone before them.

     By the time the train reached the Umatilla River that October, both the animals and the people were exhausted. Dr. Marcus Whitman visited the camps. While he offered shelter and work at the Mission to those obviously too weak and tired to continue on the trail, Whitman was also looking for people of particular skills to undertake several planned projects at Waiilatpu over the winter. Among these was the building of a new gristmill for the Indians, and for this he engaged Elam Young in his capacity as a millwright and mechanic. Accordingly the Youngs left the train the next morning, and traveled towards the Mission. That night they camped with the Saunders family, the father having been engaged to teach school. The next day they reached their destination, and met Capt. Bewley just leaving after bidding farewell to his son and daughter, who were remaining with the Whitmans while the rest of the Bewley family went on to the Willamette Valley.

     The Youngs rested at the Whitman Mission for a week, and then with their teams and cattle headed up into the Blue Mountains twenty miles away. Along with sawing lumber for a granary, they were occupied in framing the grist mill to haul down later to the station. Elamís second oldest son, James, was hired to haul finished lumber and supplies between the camp and Whitmanís. The Joseph Smith family soon joined them to cut logs for the mill. They had been working for about six weeks when James came up to the camp one Saturday for a load. On Monday the 29th of November, when he should have set out on the return trip, the rain came down so hard he was forced to delay his departure until the following day. The camp was out of beef, and James was to bring some on his next visit.

     A week went by, and James did not return. The Smiths and Youngs were running very short on supplies, so on Monday the 6th of December, Daniel rode down to the Mission to see what was keeping his brother. Dark had fallen by the time he arrived, and he noticed nothing wrong as he approached. He found Joe Stanfield and some of the women and children in the kitchen, and only after he sat down with them did he learn of the massacre the week before which had cost Dr. and Mrs. Whitman and nine others their lives. James Young had died the day after the massacre, the same day he had left the camp, killed within a mile or two of the Mission by a small party of Indians, and had been buried where he lay.

     Until Danielís arrival, the Indians had forgotten the families in the mountains twenty miles away. They sent him off the next day to tell them to come down to join the other hostages. He arrived about an hour before sundown and gave them the terrible news, and a short time later five Indians showed up to escort them to Waiilatpu. The entire party set out on the morning of 8 December, reaching the Mission just after dark. Earlier that same day, the Indians had beaten Crocket Bewley and Amos Sales to death on their recovery from illness, and thrown their bodies out the back door. The Youngs and Smiths were put into the room where the young men had met their deaths, the floor still covered with pools of blood.

     The weeks that followed were a nightmare. There was no more killing, but two of the young girls who had been ill with the measles died. The men and older boys were put to work grinding flour for the Indians, while the women were forced to cook and sew for their captors. Several of the girls were taken by the Indians for wives, and there was virtually nothing the others could do to prevent their abuse without risking more lives. They did manage, by an intricate series of subterfuges, to give some protection to thirteen-year-old Catherine Sager. A number of times she was hidden between a bed and the wall, shielded from view by the reclining Elam Young, when a particular Indian was looking for her. Elam had tried to protest when the Indians took some of the older girls, but Joseph Smith, whose own daughter was among those, insisted it was the only way to save all of them. There was much bitterness toward Smith later because of his attitude.

     Finally the captives were ransomed by Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudsonís Bay Company. They left the Mission on the last day of December and proceeded to Fort Walla Walla. There they were joined by the Spaulding party, and on New Yearís Day headed down the Columbia River on three large batteaus. The weather was extremely cold, and most of the survivors had only blankets and their scanty clothing to protect them from the elements on the six day journey. At Fort Vancouver, the Young family was allowed to stay in a small plank house for a few days, then all of the remaining survivors were sent across the river on two barges to Portland, where they picked up Governor Abernethy, and then taken up the Willamette to Oregon City. There they were set ashore to fend for themselves.

     Except for a few small personal possessions, the captives had lost everything they owned. The Youngs lost all of their cattle, oxen, and wagons along with all the tools and property they contained. They scraped by. Elam found a small one-room slab shanty for them to live in, and the boys secured a contract to cut wood for a dollar a cord. They did some mill work, and made tools by hand which they sold, and Elam made patterns for a foundry and helped to build a mill for Dr. McLoughlin. They were paid mainly in script issued by the merchants, which was then "discounted" by the same merchants upon redemption. In May 1848, they moved to Tualatin Plains and worked for Walter Pomeroy over the summer. While they were there, a troop of volunteers from Fort Vancouver returned from the Cayuse country with a band of cattle they had recovered from the Indians, and the Youngs found two cows and one ox that belonged to them. By this time merely a tenth of their former stock probably seemed like untold riches.

     On 15 March 1849, Elam and Irene Young settled on a donation claim (#40) in Washington County in the area of present Orenco and Cedar Mill. As far as is known, only one of the children they left behind in the east eventually came to Oregon - their daughter, Irene. Her husband George BLISH made a trip to the California gold fields in 1849, and stopped to see the Youngs on his return home. When he decided to bring his own family out west, he chose to bring them by steamer via the Isthmus of Panama, perhaps persuaded by the horrors the Youngs had encountered only a few years earlier.

     Elam Young, however, had reached the end of his wandering days. Perhaps he had found fulfillment at last in green hills of Oregon, or perhaps the experiences suffered during the days following the Whitman Massacre had taken their toll. Or possibly, time merely ran out before restlessness took hold of him again. He died on his donation claim on 8 or 9 Feb. 1855 [also given as 9 Jan.], at the age of 67. Irene outlived him by ten years, her death occurring on 20 Feb. 1865. Both are buried in Union Cemetery at Cedar Mill, Washington County.

Known children:

  1. Orson YOUNG, b. 1 Aug. 1810 Ballston Springs, Otsego Co., NY; d. Aug. 1890 Arickaree, Washington Co., CO; m. 1) 28 Apr. 1833 Hannah BURNETT (d. 1846); m. 2) 31 May 1846, Sarah HALL (1821/4-1890). 11 children. Went from Ohio to Illinois in 1853; 1887 to Colorado to live with a son.

  2. William E. YOUNG, b. 20 Aug. 1815 OH; m. 6 Apr. 1837 in St. Louis, MO, (possibly Mrs.) Mary Caroline EWING (1815- ). At least 6 children born in Ohio; resided St. Louis in 1850.

  3. Irene YOUNG, b. 10 Aug. 1818 at Williamsburg, Clermont Co., OH; d. 5 Apr. 1887 Whitman Co., WA; m. 31 May 1828 at Gasconade, Gasconade Co., MO, George BLISH (1816-1905). They came to Oregon via the Isthmus in 1853, and settled at Hillsboro, Oregon. In 1880 moved to Whitman County, WA, and farmed. 11 children.

  4. Martha YOUNG, b. 1 Aug. 1820 Clermont Co., OH; m. Mar. 1837, Harman HUSBAND (1804- ). Stayed in Missouri. 4 known children.

  5. James YOUNG, b. 7 June 1824 Clermont Co., OH; killed 30 Nov. 1847 by Indians near Whitman Mission.

  6. Daniel YOUNG, b. 1 Aug. 1826 Clermont or Brown Co., OH; d. 16 Jan. 1889 Goldendale, Klickitat Co., WA; m. 1) 17 Apr. 1853 at Hillsboro, OR, Allazan HINTON (1832-1861); m. 2) 26 Nov. 1864 Washington Co., OR, Anna M. NELSON (c1825- ); m. 3) Sarah GOSNEY. At least five children by 1st wife. Resided in Washington Co. to 1875, when he moved to Klickitat Co., WA, and farmed.

  7. John Quincy Adams YOUNG, b. 19 July 1828 Clermont Co., OH; d. 8 Mar. 1905 Cedar Mill, Washington Co., OR; m. 25 Dec. 1856 in Washington Co., OR, Elizabeth CONSTABLE (1840-1934). 11 children. Farmed and milled in Washington Co., OR.



Family papers and records in possession of the author; John Q. A. Young "Life Sketches"; Catherine Sager account in The Whitman Massacre of 1847 (Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, WA, 1986); Young depositions in Grayís History of Oregon; Oregon Donation Claims; Census records.

Contributed by Nancy Prevost -, October 25, 1998.

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