Oregon Pioneer Biographies


LIFE SKETCHES, by John Q. A. YOUNG - 1889

I was born in Clermont County in the State of Illinois, in 1828. My parents were of New England stock. My father enlisted in the War of 1812. He was at the siege of Fort Erie, the battles of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane. He was wounded in the last battle. Soon after the close of the war, he moved to Ohio where I was born, the youngest of the family.

My father had the wandering nature, as he never lived more than five years in a place. My schooling was very limited, on account of my father's restless disposition. He emigrated to Missouri when I was eight years old. We lived there eleven years, until he heard of the land of the west.

He was almost wild with the description of the sunset land. "The land of red apples and rain." So, in 1847, we got our teams and provisions ready for a trip across the "Great American Desert", as it was called in those days. The spring of 1847 was quite late. We started on the seventh day of May - my father, mother, two older brothers and myself. We traveled on to Independence (Missouri), but found no wagon train there for Oregon, so we concluded that we would stop there until the next Spring and take a early start.

While we were settling the matter, two men rode up and inquired if there was anyone there that wished to go to Oregon. One of the men was Captain Bewly, and they had come back to see if there were any others that wished to join their train, which was about forty miles ahead. So we and two other families came up with them and joined the train. We traveled through Kansas, then known as the Indian territory, settled now and then with an Indian family.

At the crossing of the Walkarusha we stopped for dinner, and an old Indian came to us and said his name was Spybuck, one of General Harrison's spies in the War of 1812. He was at the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Thames, and several other battles. He lived in quite a neat house and had furniture of good pretentions. That was forty-two years ago. Ere now he has certainly gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Peace be to his ashes.

When we came to the Kansas River, we found it pretty high. We ferried our wagons on a small boat, but had to swim our stock across the river, and Captain Bewley's old red bull would take the lead and swim out a way; then he would circle around and around, the whole herd following him, and come back to the starting point. He went through this performance until he nearly drowned the whole herd and himself too, when two young men took some ropes and fastened them to the horns of two oxen and swam across the river, the whole herd following them, and in this way they succeeded in getting all across the river.

As we came near the Kaw village, quite a number of Indians undertook to lasso one of our heifers. We took turns in driving the loose stock, two persons at a time, each day. A man by the name of Chapman and myself drove one day. We carried a gun apiece, loaded, but orders were given to carry them without caps for fear of accident; but caps went in very quickly. The Indians sprang up out of the ground, it appeared, all around us, like magic. Orders were given for the train to stop, and the guns came out of the wagons in double-quick time.

The old chief was coming from the village toward us; he saw what was going on and he halloed as loud as he could to his men to leave there, that they would all be dead in five minutes. The old chief was very friendly; he said we could camp about a half a mile ahead at a stream of water, and there would be nothing molested. As we went into camp that evening he sent two men with a blanket and they spread it out for us to put flour and meal on, which some did. I suppose he thought one good turn deserved another. As to his promise, it was pretty well kept as there were only two steers missing next morning.

As we came up to the Blue River, we came down what is known as Ash Hollow - the road down there was very steep and cut up - drawing trees down behind wagons to keep them from running onto cattle, and ending over them. Some put oxen on behind their wagons, others tied trees behind theirs, and in this way we all got down safe.

We traveled up the Platte and passed Chimney Rock, a tall, straight column 260 feet high, standing on the level plain. It appeared to me to be only a mile or two away, and I rode toward it for about an hour and a half, and it appeared as far off as ever. I learned that it was fully eight or ten miles away. Distances on the plains are very deceptive. I have been told that about one hundred feet of the rock have fallen off since that time.

One afternoon we came upon a buffalo herd crossing the Platte River going south. There were thousands of them; the whole country, as far as the eye could reach, was black with the shaggy beasts. They passed between our wagons wherever there was a rod or two between them. We camped early that night to allow them to pass, for it is dangerous traveling in the midst of a buffalo herd on account of the liability of the teams to stampede. Soon after we camped, one of our men killed a fine fat buffalo, which furnished us a nice feast after eating bacon for so long.

In about half an hour another company drove up and asked leave to camp with us. We opened our corral and let them form half of the circle, and turned our cattle all out together. The newcomers were bent on enjoying themselves, so after they had finished their supper, and cleared away their things, they commenced their evening's enjoyment by fiddling and dancing on the ground until after midnight. A few of our young men took part in the dancing.

The next morning there were no buffalo to be seen; everything appeared quiet so we went to collect our cattle for a forward march. After driving up all we could find, we were twenty head short, which included all of the oxen belonging to the other company. The cattle had disappeared as if the earth had swallowed them up. We made no movement that day. We hunted for the cattle for three days with no success. The supposition was that they had been caught up with the buffaloes and were forced on with them...where, no one could tell.

A bad accident happened while hunting for these cattle. Two men of the other company were out twenty or thirty miles from camp, and about two or three o'clock in the afternoon concluded they would rest their horses and eat a bite. One of the men, named Dunlap, dismounted and set the breech of his gun on the ground and took the other man's gun and, in setting it down, caught the hammer of his own gun, which was discharged, the ball entering his head near the eye. He lingered until after midnight, when he breathed his last. He left a wife and several children. The loss of their cattle and this sad accident was a terrible blow to them.

Most all of the company had two wagons each, and by leaving one of them and putting the load into the other, and impressing a few cows into service, they got along very well. Seven wagons of us starting on; the remainder staying a day or two longer. We left a yoke of cows to help them along.

Nothing worthy of mention happened for several weeks. When we reached the Green River, there was a company leaving the other side, that had just crossed over. Some of them had got into deeper water than they had expected and their wagons had turned over in the river, nearly drowning a woman and her children. We did not attempt to cross that evening, knowing that the river would be lower in the morning on account of the snow only melting during the day in the Wind River Mountains, which would make the water high at night. The water was at least a foot lower the next morning, and by placing blocks under the wagon beds about eight inches high, we all crossed over in good order. On the other side we found the dust so deep that it nearly smothered us. To make matters equal, we adopted the plan of having the wagon that took the lead one day drop behind the next, and in this way we traveled the greater part of the way.

We went around by Fort Bridger and, while there, a company arrived having Rev. William Jolly for their captain. We all joined his train and traveled down Bear River to where it makes an elbow and runs south towards Great Salt Lake. On the right side of the river, as you come this way, are the Soda Springs, situated in the finest scenery it has ever been my good fortune to behold. There were cedar groves, all as neat and clean of underbrush as any gentleman's park, with here and there a fine spring of soda water, very healthy and cooling to the palate. About two hundred yards distant was a spring called Steamboat Spring, which was very peculiar, on account of its shape and manner of discharging its contents.

In shape it was like a cone, about two feet high, with a rim at the top like a large jar. It was formed by the mineral in the water being deposited on the outside as the water came up through the cone. The water was not discharged in a steady stream like most springs, but at intervals of ten or fifteen minutes it would belch forth a stream of warm water to a height of eight feet or more, with a noise like the escaping of steam from a steam engine. We camped there two days resting, drinking the soda water and enjoying the beautiful scenery. About three hundred yards from the river bank we could see a cloud of steam rising from a hot spring in the river.

At this point the Bear River, which had been running west, turned south toward Salt Lake, and on the outer curve was a large lava bed, of a purple tint and in appearance it resembled the slag of a blacksmith's forge. It was not a great rough pile, but in undulating waves of a foot or two high. Occasionally you would come across cracks in the lava of from four to ten inches in width and of inpenetrable depth. I dropped a stone in one and could not hear it strike bottom. In the midst of this lava bed was the crater of an extinct volcano. There is room for speculation as to whether it had always been on the plain, or if at some remote date a mountain was there and had sunk into a "molehill."

We left this beautiful spot with regret, crossed over the Bear Mountain to Fort Hall, and on to the great American Falls on the Snake River, a beautiful sheet of water that makes a fall of fully seventy-five feet.

On the way to Salmon Falls we made several dry camps. A dry camp is where you have nothing to drink for man or beast and very little to eat; this in a dry and dusty country is not very pleasant. Salmon Falls is as high up the river as the salmon ever run. We forded Snake River at a place called Glenn's Ferry and went down on the north side of Boise River. We camped one night about ten miles from Fort Boise. The next morning some of our cattle could not be found. According to the rules of the company, the train would not start until the man that lost the stock said to go, whether he had found them or not, but that morning the ruling was disregarded; the train went on and we remained and hunted the cattle. That afternoon we drove on to Fort Boise and we saw no more of the company.

The Fort at that time belonged to the Hudson Bay Company. We stopped there about a week in order to let our cattle recover. A company arrived with a man named (B?)ouser [John Bonser] as captain. We joined his company and recrossed the Snake River to the south side. The crossing here is very dangerous and crooked; one or two missteps here would take you into deep swimming water. One of the wagons in the company turned over within a few rods of the bank, with no damage, except getting the goods wet, which was soon dried. We then passed through the beautiful valley of Owyhee, Malheur and Powder Rivers and up Burnt River over into the Grande Ronde valley, a valley twenty or thirty miles each way, the Grande Ronde flowing through the center of it. All of those valleys were then inhabited by a few worthless, vagabond Indians, and are now settled with an industrious and thriving people, with railroads, cities, and villages.

From Grande Ronde we passed over the Blue Mountains. I never saw anything that would equal these mountains in beautiful scenery. Such timber! Pine, fir and larch, all straight and handsome; very little underbrush, with grass growing all through the timber as high as your shoulder. As we came out on the western side of the mountains, we saw the Umatilla River wandering away towards the great Columbia, fully five hundred feet below us. We could not help admiring the beautiful scene. Looking away west one hundred and sixty miles, we saw for the first time the grand old monarch, Mount Hood, with snow-capped top glittering in the sun. We thought of the children of Israel looking over Jordan from the mountains into the Promised Land. But we had our Jordan to cross yet.

As we camped that evening on the Umatilla River, Dr. Whitman, of the Whitman Missionary station on the Walla Walla, came into our camp and his talk encouraged us very much. He told us of the best route to The Dalles and seemed to take a great interest in the migration to this country. When a party had been traveling five or six months through dust and sagebrush, with their teams tired out, their clothes worn out, their pocket books rubbed very thin, and their patience about exhausted, a few words of encouragement and cheer from one they know they can trust is like "oil poured on the troubled waters." It seemed to give us new life.

Dr. Whitman engaged my father, a millwright, to go to his station thirty miles north and build a grist mill for him, or rather for the Cayuse Indians, as he was their missionary. Accordingly, the next morning we left the train and traveled towards the station. That evening we camped with a man and his family named Saunders, also bound for the station; the doctor had hired him to teach the school there. The next day we arrived at the mission and met Captain Bewley just departing. He had left his oldest son, Crocket, and his daughter Lucinda [Lorinda] at Dr. Whitman's and had been around that way to bid them farewell, and it proved to be a long farewell to his son.

We stayed at the mission a week to recuperate, then started with our teams and cattle, thirty head in all, up Mill Creek twenty miles to the Blue Mountains to saw lumber for the doctor to build a granary for the Indians, also to frame the grist mill and have it hauled down to the station. A man named Smith and his family came up to cut logs for the mill. My brother James was engaged as teamster by Dr. Whitman to team between the mill and the mission. He had been working for about six weeks when one Saturday he came up intending to return on Monday, but it rained so hard that he waited until Tuesday. We told him we were out of beef and for him to bring some when he returned. Dr. Whitman was to furnish us with provisions through the winter.

We waited until the following Monday, meanwhile living on salmon trout and bread made from unbolted flour without salt. My brother Daniel then went down to the mission to see why James had not returned. When he arrived at the mission, he learned that Dr. Whitman, his wife and all those associated with him, fourteen in all, had been massacred by the Cayuse Indians on Monday, November 29th, 1847, and that James was killed the day he left us when about a mile from the mission.

The Indians held a council the night Daniel got there in order to determine what they should do with us at the mill. Their conclusion was to keep my brother all night and have him come to the mill and tell us all to come down to the mission the day following. He got to the mill about an hour before sundown and told us the terrible news, and about half an hour afterwards five big Indians came up to see that we did not get away, which was useless as there were no white folks nearer than the Willamette Valley.

The next morning we started for the mission with the Indians following behind as a kind of rear guard. In fact, we were prisoners and were guarded as such. We got there a little after dark, and were put into a room where two men by the name of Bewley and Sales had been killed that day. At the time of the massacre, they were sick, so the Indians waited ten days until they got well and killed them. Their bodies were thrown out the back door and lay there when we arrived. The floor of the room was covered with pools of blood. You can imagine our feelings at such a time.

We survivors were held at the mission with a man named Joe Stanfield, a Canadian Frenchman, who was placed in charge of us by the Indians. There were four women in our group, with four or five children each. Some of the children were almost grown. The Indians took these girls for their wives while they were there.

Peter Skene Ogden was sent from Fort Vancouver to ransom us from the Indians who had held us captive for about thirty days. The ransoms being in the form of knives, blankets, tobacco and ammunition. During our captivity, two little girls who had been ill with the measles during the massacre, died. [Helen Mar Meek and Louise Sager] The prompt action of the Hudson Bay Company averted any further trouble between the Indians and Americans until after we were ransomed. We later learned that the wages of the boatmen and the ransom were paid by the Hudson Bay Company. There were fifty-three of us, ranging in age from one year to fifty-nine (my father).

We started from the mission the last day of December (1847) bound for Fort Walla Walla. The next day was New Years Day and we started down the Columbia River from the Fort on three large batteaus, with Canadian crews, with Peter Skene Ogden in the lead boat. Think of this, going down the Columbia in mid-winter in open boats, with only blankets and our scanty clothing on our backs, and a very few personal possessions. All our cattle, oxen, and wagons were confiscated or, in other words, stolen from us by the five Indians in the camp.

At the Deschute in the Columbia River we made portage of over one mile, carrying the boat bottom side up on our shoulders. We launched the boats again and ran through the Dalles, a very dangerous passage. We were the second party that ever made the passage through those rockbound channels. It was 8 miles through the rapids and we ran the distance in 20 minutes. We came out four or five miles above what is now The Dalles City. As we came opposite the Dalles, we saw the volunteers from Fort Vancouver on their way to avenge the murders of Dr. Whitman and the others. We exchanged salutes with them and kept on our course down the river to the Cascades [later Cascade Locks], where we made another portage about a mile. We carried two of the boats and let the other down over the cascades and the men caught it below. Two nights later we arrived at Fort Vancouver, the journey down the river taking about six days. Fort Vancouver was a dirty, delapidated place with a few Indiana and French Canadians occupying the grounds around the Fort. Our family occupied a small plank house, the first shelter we had after leaving Fort Walls Walla.

We stayed at Fort Vancouver a few days then all of us got onto two large barges and started for Oregon City, our destination. As we came up the Willamette River we stopped at Portland for an hour or so, without leaving the barges. At this time we were turned over to Governor Abernathy who accompanied us to Oregon City. (Portland at this time contained only two frame houses and some log huts on a road now known as Washington Street.) We camped that night on Ross Island, the next day reaching Oregon City, destitute of practically everything, including our wagons and oxen. A sorry lot we were! All this we suffered and endured coming from Fort Walla Walla to the Willamette Valley, but this experience was like paradise compared to being a captive of the Indians, with a council held every few days to determine what they would do with us. We were put on the river bank to hustle for ourselves, for food, shelter and some type of work for our livelihood. After a few hours my father found a small slab shanty with one room in it. That night we slept the sleep of the weary and worn out!

My brother and I secured a contract cutting wood for one dollar a cord, for a man named Benjamin Stewart, who had arrived in Oregon City by emigrant train in 1846. He now has four children in Washington County. We also found work that first winter in sawmills, while my father made patterns for a foundry and also helped build a mill for Dr. McLaughlin in Oregon City. We also made and sold tools we made by hand, some of metal, others of wood. This is the way we existed for the next six months in Oregon City. We were paid for our labors in paper script; that is, the merchants would issue paper saying it was good for one or five dollars, as the case may be, to the bearer, but when we would present this paper they would shave it about one-third, selling their goods at two prices.

Steve Meek was a neighbor in Oregon City, and he would come over to our house and spin yarns by the hour. You would have to have the stomach of an ostrich to swallow or digest one-fourth of them!

On May 1Oth, 1848, we moved to the Tualatin Valley plains (now Washington County), and worked that summer for Walter Pomeroy, Sr. We found a small house and lived there about a year. While living at this location we learned that the Volunteers from Fort Vancouver had returned, and had driven some cattle down to Yamhill from the Cayuse country, that had previously been stolen from the emigrants around Whitman Mission. We went over there and found two cows and one ox that belonged to us which, as you can imagine, helped us a great deal to get another start.

In the fall of the next year, my father Elam Young and my mother Irene Young each took up a Donation Land Claim, totaling 642.41 acres. Father's claim was #45 and to the south was mother's claim #38. The Grant for these two claims were signed by President James Buchanan on April 18th, 1859, and placed on record by the Recorder of Conveyances, General Land Office - Book 41, Washington County Land Grants.

My father passed away in 1855 at the age of 67 years, born in 1788. Mother was born in 1791 and died in 1865 at the age of 74. My brother Daniel and his wife Allazan, as well as myself and family remained on father's farm for some years before we sold it. Daniel's first wife Allazan lies buried in Union Cemetery, Cedar Mill. Daniel moved up into Klickitat County, Washington and left many descendants around Goldendale and beyond.

In 1856 I married Elizabeth Constable, of Hillsboro. She was one of five orphans brought to the Oregon Territory by their father's nephew and lived at his home until grown. Her parents perished while enroute across the plains to the West [1852]. Her father's name was Barton Constable.

On December 15th, 1869 I formed a partnership with W. E. Everson who had crossed the plains in the same wagon train with my parents. We purchased a lumber mill and 160.7 acres of timber land and the mill, then known as "Jones Lumber Company" from Justus Jones and his wife Lois, about five miles further east from our family DLC in Orenco. The Joneses operated the mill for ten years, 1859 to 1869, before selling to us and then they started the Jones Lumber Company on the west side of the Willamette River, Portland. Everson and I operated the mill a few years together, then I sold out to him. He later sold out to us again, and the mill was then known as Young and Sons Lumber Company. Later my two sons, Linc and Jasper, operated the mill until 1892, and at that time dismantled it, as the available timber was exhausted.

I purchased 280 acres of land across the road and later built a home there in 1884. Later I divided my acreage between my eight living children. I used this little old house for a store and a Post Office. The old postoffice on Walker Road, a mile or two to the south, had been closed for some time. I petitioned the United States Government for a Postoffice in Cedar Mill, on Cornell Road, suggesting the name of "Cedar Mill", which was granted in 1874. I was commissioned the first Postmaster and served until the year 1882, keeping store and Postoffice at the same time, resigning to take up the noblest calling of man, farming. Then George H. Reeves was commissioned Postmaster. The postoffice then being in Mr. Reeves' General Merchandise and Feed Store at the corner of Cornell Road and Barnes Road. This postoffice was discontinued in 1904, at which time Cedar Mill was served as a Route out of Portland.

[The foregoing story was extracted from the biography of John Quincy Adams Young, which was written by his daughter Mabel Young McIlwain.]

JOHN Q. A. YOUNG, Family Genealogy provided by Nancy Prevost:

John Quincy Adams YOUNG, son of Elam and Irene (Eaton) Young, was born 19 July 1828 in Clermont Co., Ohio; and died 8 Mar. 1905 at Cedar Mill, Washington Co., Oregon. He was married on 25 Dec. 1856 in Washington Co., Oregon, to Elizabeth CONSTABLE, daughter of Barton and Martha Constable, born 1 July 1840 in Bates Co., Missouri, she died 1934 in Washington Co., Oregon. John Q. A. Young was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church, and served his community in many wasys. He was a counsellor in his church, a Justice of the Peace, Postmaster, and a Washington County Commissioner, among other activities. Children:

  1. James D. YOUNG, b. 21 Oct. 1857 Washington Co., OR; d. 8 Nov. 1917; m. 1) Esther ----- ; m. 2) Sadie ----- .

  2. William B. YOUNG, b. Sep. 1859 Washington Co., OR; d. 28 Nov. 1917.

  3. Jasper Ellsworth YOUNG, b. 8 June 1861 Washington Co., OR; d. 1941; m. 28 Dec. 1893 Hillsboro, Washington Co., OR, Anna Louise SCHUYLER.

  4. Abraham Lincoln YOUNG, b. 3 Nov. 1863 Washington Co., OR; d. 1953 Cedar Mill, OR; m. 30 Oct. 1893, Rose Jane REEVES.

  5. and

  6. twins, stillborn 20 Feb. 1866 Washington Co., OR.

  7. Lowell Adams YOUNG, b. 1868 Washington Co., OR; buried Portland, OR; m. Rocelia BURBANK.

  8. Frank Clemens YOUNG, b. 3 Oct. 1871 Washington Co., OR; d. 1941; m. 20 Oct. 1897, Olga Elizabeth ANDERSON.

  9. Martha Elizabeth YOUNG, b. 1878 Washington Co., OR; m. William O. DIX.

  10. Mable Jane YOUNG (twin), b. 18 Mar. 1882 Cedar Mill, Washington Co., OR; d. 15 Aug. 1968; m. 14 Apr. 1916, Charles McILWAINE.

  11. Henry YOUNG (twin), b. and d. 18 Mar. 1882 Cedar Mill, Washington Co., OR.


Contributed by Nancy Prevost -, October 25, 1998.

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