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

Friday, February 12, 2010

Salem in 1875

World Events
  • Thomas Nast political cartoons expose corruption of "Boss" Tweed in New York City.
  • Twain's new novel, "Tom Sawyer", is popular reading.
  • James Ead invents a steel truss for the first bridge wide enough to span the Mississippi River.
The Willamette Woolen Mil on Mill Creek
In Salem
An opportunity for laborers and skilled weavers was created in 1857 at the Willamette Woolen Mill, a company formed by Joseph Watt, John Minto and Dan Waldo, constructed on North Liberty Street under the direction of Superintendent Lucien Pratt. The mill three story, 190 feet building had a boarding house operated by Mrs. Pratt. The mill annually produced cloth worth $100,000. Products were easily sold and the Salem mill under Pratt's guidance was on it's way to becoming the largest mill on the Pacific Coast. Then came stockholder problems creating a period of unrest.
According to records of Pioneer Cemetery, "On May 3, 1875, the mill was destroyed by fire, supposedly due to spontaneous combustion. But suspicions persisted that the fire was set to collect insurance to pay debts. Afterwards, Lucien Pratt planned and built one of the Oregon City woolen mills. For many years he was engaged in steam boating on the Willamette, and it was then that he received the title of 'captain,' which he retained throughout his life. Early in the 1870s, when the steamer "Shoshone" sank near the west bank of the Willamette, just opposite Salem, Captain Pratt, in charge of the steamer "Fannie Patton," rescued the passengers and crew from the ruined vessel. Pratt also served in the Salem city council for a number of years and was deputy county clerk during the administration of F. J. Babcock and also served in the same capacity under W. H. Egan. He was one of the oldest members of Chemeketa lodge No. 1, I.O.O.F." He died in 1899.

When you visit
Driving north on Front Street, the two lanes pass over the Mill Creek viaduct. The large mill site was probably to the right, along the creek, on land that is now occupied by offices between the present Commercial and Liberty Streets. Further to the east, at High Street (or Broadway), stood the 1840 mill built by the pioneer missionaries. In 1960, the Marion County Historical Social placed a historical marker here where Salem began. The waterpower of Mill Creek was a vital element in the earliest settlements of Salem. You may see the graves of Lucian Pratt and his wife Nancy at Pioneer Cemetery.

Other Events

  • The residence now known as the Robertson-McLaughlin house, at 1598 Court Street, is built. The original owners are unknown. J. N. and Mariah Robertson bought it in 1918 and rented a small apartment upstairs to Russell McLaughlin. Grace Robertson married Mr. McLaughlin in the 1940s after the deaths of her parents. She lived there until her death in 1982. To the rear is another historic house, the Spayd cottage that would have been demolished for the new Anderson house, built across the street in its original location. The Spayd cottage was relocated in order to save it. This typical of the Court-Chemeketa neighborhood of long-time residents who care about preserving the valuable structures of their past. The nomination of this neighborhood to the National Register remains the most thorough, historically researched of our Historic Districts.
  • One of Seth Lewelling's black Republican cherry plants produces a promising seedling that he named "Bing" after his faithful Chinese helper. When Bing cherries were exhibited the next year at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, people thought they were crab apples. According to reports, the large Bings averaged 35 cherries to the pound and sold in the East for three cents a cherry.
  • Minimum 8-year elementary school levels are established in Salem along with a standard school year of 40 weeks. The school year start to start in September with three terms of 16, 14, and 12 weeks each along with a 2-week vacation.
  • Joseph Watt, above, (1817-1890), his wife Levina and their five children lived in Salem for a few years about this time, but are mainly associated with their Yamhill property. [This does not seem to be the Joseph Watt of the Watt Addition, now in the Court-Chemeketa Historic Residential District.] Levina Lyon Watt was the sister of Ellen Lyon who married Reuben Boise. The Boise couple lived in Polk County at Ellendale and in Salem. After Ellen's death, Reuben Boise married Emily Pratt, sister of Captain Pratt of the Willamette Woolen Mill described above. Emily was a schoolteacher before her marriage and lived in the Island House, a boarding hotel on Liberty Street, in the vicinity of the mill. After her marriage, Emily and Judge Boise made their home in the residence we now call the Jason Lee House, then in its original location Broadway location (north of Mill Creek) in the same neighborhood of Salem's pioneer settlers. Emily's life as a prominent member of the Salem community between 1860 and 1919 is told in her Oregon Statesman obituary.

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