SHINE on Salem 150, celebrating the sesquicentennial of our city's 1860 charter, continues (and concludes) with the 2012 entry.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Salem in 1860

World Events
  • Abraham Lincoln is elected president.
  • South Carolina secedes from the Union.
  • "Pony Express" begins mail service from Missouri to California.
In Salem
John Boon builds this store at 888 Liberty Street. Oregon had become the nation's 33rd state this year with John Whiteaker as Governor, Lucien Heath as Secretary of State and John Boon as Treasurer. The first State Treasury was located here. A favorite trading place in Salem's early history, the next owner, William Lincoln Wade, who built his residence on the same block, opened the building's upper story to serve as a community hall. With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Fred Karr transformed into a "beer parlor". A 1940 photograph shows John and Martha Boon's house next door, now relocated to Willamette Heritage Center. After 1976, the commercial building was sold and reopened as "Boon's Treasury". Purchased by the McMenamins in 1988, it is perhaps the oldest Salem business building in its original location.

When You Visit: Boon's Treasury

 Boon's Treasury offers food, drinks, and live music.
While you're there, check out the 1960 historic marker at Mill Creek, across High Street behind Boon's Treasury, to read about Salem's founding at this location along Mill Creek in 1842.

Lincoln Wade's Gothic-style 1870 home, formerly next door to Boon's Store, is now located at 1305 John Street S. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other events in Salem this year


  • With the passage of the City Charter, Lucian Heath, who had been our first state Secretary of State in 1859, was now elected our first mayor and took office on Nov. 22. Realizing the shallow wells used by residents and businesses were unhealthy, he initiated a committee of aldermen to discuss diverting water from Willamette Woolen Mill's Salem Ditch (itself a diversion from Santiam River) to Mill Creek. Negotiations with John Force, who owned the water right, failed.
  • Edward Dickinson Baker, one of Abraham Lincoln's closest friends, is invited to Salem. He leaves his law practice in San Francisco, to establish residence here and become a US Senator from Oregon. 
  • Drake's Iron Works is established on Front Street, beginning industrial use of our Salem downtown riverfront. Further north at Mill Creek and Liberty Street, Lucian Pratt and Joseph Watt build the successful Willamette Wooden Mill. B.M. Durelle moves his lumber mill machinery from a floating steamboat to a plant on the riverbank just north of Trade Street, but fire destroys his first plant and the replacement is washed away in a flood with in a year.
  • Asahel Bush II, prominent pioneer newspaper publisher and banker, purchases 100 acres, farmhouse and barn from Dr. David Leslie, a pioneer Methodist missionary at the Willamette Mission, who held a Salem donation land claim, for $4,000. (Mary Kinney Leslie and Rachael Beardsley Beers were among the five wives who had accompanied the missionaries to the 1837 settlement abandoned in 1841.)  The Bush family will live in the former Leslie home for the next 17 years.
  • The Rural Gothic Waller-Chamberlain house (above)  is built on State Street, probably in the present 1600 block. It was the home of Alvin Waller, a pioneer Methodist minister and supporter of the school that became Willamette University. He raised funds and oversaw construction of the First Methodist Church. In 1901, after a move to 1658 Court Street, the Chamberlain family was photographed on the front steps. This is the earliest home now in the Court-Chemeketa Historic Residential District. The present owners house remodeled the house in 1982. A few blocks away, on the northeast corner of Chemeketa and 14th streets, Joseph Holman built his log home and the first bridge across Mill Creek.
  • At 738 North Front Street, John Webster Huntington, Superintendent of Indian Affairs builds a home. In this neighborhood, bordering Marion Square Park, other notables live including E. N. Cooke, our second mayor, and Obed Dickinson, first minister of the Congregational Church. The only residence to survive is the rebuilt 1861 Wilson-Durbin House on Water Street.
  • This year, Chemeketa Lodge No. 1, Oddfellows (IOOF), established as the "Mother Lodge of Oregon". It moves to the Holman Buildin for the next 30 years. Members of the Lodge at this time include many prominent Salem names: B. F. Harding, E. N. Cooke, Joel Palmer, Cyrus Reed and Albert Zieber.
  • Charles I. Roe becomes the second man hanged in Salem: he confessed to the murder of his (second) wife, Angelica, the motive being he "loved his wife better than life, and killed her to prevent others from enjoying her." The hanging was 150 feet east of Church Street toward near Trade Street, adjacent to the present Lindsay Towers. Roe's first marriage, to Nancy McKay, was part of the 1838 wedding festivities that also united Jason Lee and Anna Maria Putman at the original Willamette mission.
  • John Phillips farm is already established in Polk County by this year. This historic 1853 vernacular Greek Revival house was built for pioneer John Phillips, who came to Oregon via the Oregon Trail in 1845. He finished his journey to Oregon on the Meek Cutoff as part of Stephen Meek's "lost wagon train". Phillips was a native of Wiltshire England who arrived in the U.S. in 1834 and married Elizabeth Hibbard in 1839. He came to Oregon and bought the Turner donation land claim in Polk County for $100. The locale was once known as Spring Valley Ranch. John Phillips' daughter Hannah married Samuel Barker. The grandson, Samuel E. Barker and his wife Velma were the last occupants. Their niece remembers stories that the local Native Americans would come in the back door to warm themselves by the pot-bellied stove. In 1976 the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2014 it is the oldest residence in Polk County and was owned for 156 years by the same family. This National Register property on Spring Valley Road has been unoccupied since 2002.

3 comments:

Jim Scheppke said...

Way to go Virginia. I look forward to the next 149 years! I hope your efforts are covered by the S-J so you can attract a lot of eyeballs to this.

Capital Taps said...

This is a terrific idea and I'm looking forward to all of the installments! I hope you'll wander off of some of the beaten paths, too, though.

My very first questions was - why did it take three years to charter Salem? Al Jones' note, reproduced here in the article on Salem's Mayors for the Salem online history, suggests Asahel Bush made accusations of voter fraud in the first charter vote of 1857. Was he causing trouble or was he advocating for an honest election? What's the juice!

As for 1860, the most interesting thing locally might not be Lincoln's election. Instead, it might be how little support he enjoyed. Although Lincoln won Oregon with a small plurality, he didn't win Salem. Salem was solidly for Douglas. Bush and the Statesman had endorsed him, and Douglas took 368 votes to Lincoln's 239 in Salem. The other Democrat, John Breckinridge, running from the South, and who shortly would support secession, won 71 votes. 5 votes went to John Bell of Tennessee. So Lincoln got only 35% of the vote here. The more interesting story might be the tenuousness of Union sympathy in Salem.

Virginia Green said...

Asahel Bush, as publisher of the local Oregon Statesman newspaper, was a very vocal critic of Salem being granted a Charter. He pronounced "the garment too large for the child" and wrote that "City Councils are fleas on the body politic".
After the death of his 95 year old son, A N Bush, in 1953, the City purchased the family home and the property surrounding it for $50,000, several million in today's money. The City has maintained the property as Bush House Museum and Bush's Pasture Park to the present day.
Another note of local historical interest is the Civil War fate of Lincoln's friend, Edward Baker, which is recalled here for 1861.