Eugene City, Oregon, 18 June 1866. Two Octavo bifoliums (ca. 19,5x11,5 cm). 8 pp. Brown ink on creamy lined wove paper. With the original envelope, addressed to “Mrs. S.A. Davis, Pittsburg, Carroll County, Indiana,” with a cancelled postage stamp. Fold marks, one page with a minor tear in the right lower corner, the envelope taped on the lower margin, but overall a very good letter written in a legible hand.
Historically interesting extensive original letter by female Oregon pioneer, Margaret Rebecca McLean. Originally from Pittsburg, Indiana, she “came to Oregon in 1853 with the immigrant train which was lost for several months in crossing the mountains and was rescued by friends here who sent help to the settlers. She has lived in various parts of Lane county, including Pleasant Hill and Walterville, but has made her home in Eugene for many years” (Birthday Celebrated Sunday// The Eugene Grand, 4 November 1922, p. 14). In 1854, Margaret married another Oregon pioneer Joseph Mclean (1822-1894), who came to Oregon from Ohio in 1850 and became the first settler at Camp Creek (Illustrated History of Lane County, Oregon. Portland: A.G. Walling, 1884, p. 468). Margaret McLean led active social life, and several articles in Eugene newspapers mention her. In May 1911, during a public reception at Hotel Osburn, she gave a short speech, “narrating incidents of the Indian uprising and of the town’s people seeking refuge at the “Red Top” hotel” (Morning Register (Eugene, Oregon), 21 May 1911, p. 13).
In the letter, addressed to her cousin in Pittsburg, Margaret Mclean talks about the troubles of the United Presbyterian Church of Oregon, and mentions four of its leaders – Samuel G. Irvine, Thomas S. Kendall, Stephen G. Gager and J.M. Dick (the church was organized by James P. Millar in 1852 and joined the United Presbyterian Church of North American in 1859). There are also interesting notes on the upcoming camping trip in a “waggon” to the Oregon coast, where the family planned to enjoy swimming and “plenty of fresh oisters [sic!] and big fish in abundance”. Margaret says that the school in Eugene is good and that the teacher, “a young lady,” gets paid “forty dollars a month in gold.” The letter contains family news, including a note about her relative “William” who “was out fighting Indians” (possibly during the Snake War, 1864-68). Close to the end of the letter, Margaret expresses her love for Oregon: “Oregon is one of the best fruit countrys in the world and I expect if we ever leave it, we will want to come back right off.” Overall an interesting content-rich original letter from a noted female Oregon pioneer.
Excerpts from the letter (spelling is original):
“Dear cousin, <…> I have been very busy sewing, but this day finds me alone and with leisure to write. <…> Joseph is gone from home today and the children are all at school except Allie, and she is playing with her doll. <…>
It does seem to me like the United Presbyterian church of Oregon is going to die out entirely. A good many have gone with the old school Presbyterians and some have went to nothing. I feel discouraged with it. The fact is we have only got five preachers in the state and the majority of them verry poor things. I think Mr. Ervine is doing right well, Mr. Kendall is a verry able preacher, but rest of them loses more than they gain. Mr. Gager has quit preaching, so you can see the prospect is gloomey. Mr. Dick is going to the states if he he can sell his property. We ought to have more minesters. John Pattison is going to start back to the states tomorrow (he is Armilda’s brother-in-law). He is going to finish his education for the minestry, he is a verry promising young man. I do hope he will be spaire to get through and return again home. He has been superintendent of our Sabbath school this summer. He will be badly missed.
We have been talking some of going back ourselves. I don’t know it be yet. Joseph would like to see this mother. If I was real willing I guess we would go. <…> I would not mind going so much but I don’t know of anyome going back that was satisfied, but our physician recommends traveling or change of climate for Etta and myself. <…>
We talk of going out to the coast next week on a pleasure excursion. Would you like to come and go with us! We can plenty of fresh oisters [sic!] and big fish in abundance. <..> It is considered verry healthy to stay out there a while and bathe in the salt water. If we go we will be gone about two weeks. We will go in a waggon and camp out in a tent. It will take a little over three days to go. <…> We have had more rain this season that has ever been known since the country has been settled. <…>
Mother is gone to Portland. She went last week on a steamer. She thought she would stay two months or three maybe. It’s real lonesome without her. Her health is pretty good, but she is looking old. <…> William has got home, you know he was out fighting Indians. He is a man grown, he twenty one years old this spring. <…>
Tuesday, June 19. Since writing this we received a letter from Joseph’s folks stating that his youngest sister died in April with bronchit consumption. We feel real bad about it <…>. We may possibly go back in a year or so, but there is nothing certain about it. <…>
We have a verry good school, this summer it is a young lady teaching, they pay her forty dollars a month in gold. She has about thirty schollars. Times are tolerable, good money seems to be plenty, crops look verry promising and fruit plenty. I believe Oregon is one of the best fruit countrys in the world and I expect if we ever leave it, we will want to come back right off. I know several famileys that came the year we did, that went back and came again in two or three years and is now on their way back <…> One of them famileys is Stephenson of Lafayette, Indiana. I don’t think I would want to live in that Agne Country again. <…> I think Ohio is much healthier than Indiana…”.
Price: $950.00 USD