Oregon Pioneer Biographies


WPA Historical Records
Benton Co, OR


August 13,1937


Mrs. SMITH, a woman in her eighties, was interviewed at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Sam. MOSES, in Philomath. Except for a slight deafness she is unusually sound in mind and body for a person of her age. She said:

"My mother was Mary BERKLEY. Her father, Jesse BERKLEY, was a Baptist preacher, who came with his family to the Willamette Valley in 1846. Grandfather BERKLEY took a donation land claim near Providence in Linn County. He was the first settled preacher in the old log church at Providence, a church started by Joab POWELL. The names of my mother and her parents are engraved on the memorial monument erected at the site of the old church. The early days were hard for all but the BERKLEYS suffered no unusual hardships on the trail or after their arrival.

"My father was Ira MOORE. He came across the plains with Grandfather BERKLEY and soon after married his daughter. I had three brothers, Judson, Robert, and Theodore. Mother died when I was seven and I was raised by an Uncle. My father later went to Canyon City in Central Oregon where he located a mine and was working it. He died there of pneumonia. We children received about $40.00 each from his estate. Long after that, just a few years ago, my daughter, Mrs. WOODWORTH, with her husband and some friends had occasion to be in Canyon City. My daughter hoped to find out more about her grandfather and visit his grave. The party were directed to an old timer named HALL. He seemed startled when asked about Ira MOORE, but admitted that he had been his partner. When he learned that he was talking to a granddaughter of his old partner he appeared to the point of collapse and pleaded that he was not well enough to show her grandfather's grave and the old mine. Daughter learned later that the old man passed a disturbed and sleepless night and the next day killed himself. Although there had never been any suspicion of a crookedness in settling my father's estate it seems now that his partner must have been dishonest and feared that an investigation was about to be made. Of course we never considered such a thing.

"I was born in 1855. My first schooling was at a little school house near the Providence Church. Mr. WALKER was my first teacher. Then there was Mr. LEEVER whose, descendants still live in that community. Lutitia HANEY also taught there. Later I went to the McFarland Schoolhouse between Tangent and Albany. Here John McFARLAND was my teacher as long as I went to school. He later taught my oldest daughter. The schoolhouse was on a corner of the McFarland claim. John McFARLAND was a brother of L. C. (Columbus) McFARLAND, a preacher of the South Methodist Church, who founded the church about twelve miles south of Corvallis on Highway 99W. The present building of this congregation was named McFarland Chapel. It is still the only thriving church in the open country of Benton County.

"The schoolhouses that I attended were both log buildings, with puncheon benches and home made desks. I can remember how the lizards used to scurry along the crevices between the logs on the inside of the buildings. We had a fireplace to heat the school. Sometimes a good sized log would be brought in, one end placed in the fireplace, and the log moved up as the end burned off.

"Cougars were very common in that part of the country in an early day. Uncle always kept a great yellow dog who escorted us children to and from school to protect us from wild animals. Once uncle was riding a mare when a cougar killed the colt that was following. Deer were plentiful but I think they were never slaughtered to be sold.

"In 1870 I married L. F. SMITH. We lived all our lives in or near Tangent. My husband farmed at first; then he had a store in Tangent. Mr. Albert BRYAN was his partner for a short time. Then for about eighteen years my husband carried mail on the Tangent route. He died just a few years ago. Our children were: Ida, Granville, Sarah, Delmar, Elizabeth, Anna, Addie, and Maud. Ida married Sam MOSES who for years had a general store in Philomath. Elizabeth was the wife of Judge WOODWORTH, formerly County Judge of Linn County. "My husand's parents were Michael and Mary SMITH, who started the journey across the plains not far from 1850. When they started Mary had insisted on bringing several pieces of dressed lumber which they had on hand, saying they would find use for them. She wrapped the boards in a piece of heavy homespun cloth and put them in the bottom of the wagon bed. On the way across the plains her husband Michael died and the boards were used to make a rough coffin and the homespun for a winding sheet.

"After Mary SMITH came to Linn County she took a farm and worked to support her family. The neighbors were kind, but she was independent and wanted to do for herself. One neighbor, a German named Martin WERTZ (?) [Wirts] was especially thoughtful, offering to split wood and bring stuff from his garden. The lady always thanked him but declined the offer very positively. But he was not discouraged and after a week or so he would be back seeking to do another kindness.

When winter came he appeared one day with a wagon full of produce and proceeded to unload on her front porch a supply of flour, bacon, hams, potatoes, beans, etc., and drove away without giving her the chance to protest. Such neighborliness had its effect in the end and Martin WERTZ won the hand of Mary SMITH. He was 'Grandpap' to all my children and a finer man never lived.

1860 Linn County Census, Albany P.O., Household 901:
Werts, Martin, 44, farmer, born PA
Werts, Mary, 44, born KY
Werts, Sarah, 4, born OR
Werts, Esther, 2, born OR
Smith, William, 23, Day Laborer, born IA
Smith, Matthew, 19, born IA
Smith, Thomas, 17, born IA
Smith, Green, 14, born IA
Smith, Lafayette, 12, born IA
Smith, Mary, 10,
Smith, Asberry, 8, born OR

1870 Linn County Census, Albany District, Household 83:
Wertz, Martin, 53, born PA, farmer, DLC 2589
Wertz, Mary, 52, born KY ( )[Smith], m. Aug. 23, 1855, Linn Co., OT
Smith, Mathew C., 26, born IA, works on farm
Wertz, Sarah L., 14, born OR, at school
Spink, Perry W., 40, born NY, grocier
Spink, Rebecca, 26, born IL (Rankin), m. June 9, 1857, Linn Co., OT
Spink, Ernest, 9, born OR
Spink, Lucy, 3, born OR
Spink, Ida, 9/12, born OR August
Spink, Martha A., 15, born OR, at school
Reggan, Harvey, 23, born IL, driving team

1880 Linn County Census, West Albany Precinct, Household 184:
Smith, Lafayette, 31, head of household, farmer, born IA
Smith, Lucinda, 25, wife, keeping house, born OR
Smith, Ida, 9, daughter, student, born OR
Smith, Granville, 7, son, student, born OR
Smith, Sarah, 5, daughter, born OR
Smith, Elmer, 4, son, born OR
Smith, Elizabeth, 2, daughter, born OR

Household 171:
Werts, Martin, 62, head of household, farmer, born PA
Werts, Mary E., 64, wife, keeping house, born KY
Smith, Mary E., 6, granddaughter, student, born CA

Submitted by Danell Aukerman, December 22, 1998.

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Copyright © 1998 by Jan Phillips

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