February 2 – On February 1, 1844 Oregon City became the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains. The community got its start in 1829 when Doctor John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, laid out a two-square mile claim at Willamette Falls and began construction of three houses. The houses were burned by Indians but rebuilt and soon a small fur-trading center was established. The community, originally known as Willamette Falls, was renamed Oregon City and in the 1840s became the final destination for many of the early wagon immigrants and was known as the “End of the Oregon Trail.”
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 3 - Ranald McDonald, born February 3, 1824, was the son of a fur trader father and an Indian mother. He was sent to school in Canada, worked for a time in banking but returned to Oregon where he resumed native life. In 1848 Ranald went by ship to Japan, which was closed to outsiders, and was imprisoned. Here he taught English to the Japanese who later served as court interpreters in negotiating a treaty with Commodore Perry. Ranald was eventually released and went to Australia, where he mined for gold. He returned to North America and took a homestead in the Washington Territory. He died in 1894.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 4 – The winter of 1861 a Chinook blew in from the tropics and for three warm days it rained in Western Oregon, melting the snow and causing the Great Flood of ‘61. At Oregon City, where the Willamette River crested at 57 feet above the average low water mark, floodwaters ran four-feet deep through the streets of the business district. On the west side Linn City disappeared under the floodwaters. Upriver, the buildings in Champoeg were swept away and throughout the Willamette Valley there was severe loss of livestock and property, and a number of lives were lost in the Great Flood of ‘61.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 5 - William Packwood was born in Illinois in 1832 and was a friend to Abraham Lincoln. When Packwood turned 16 he enlisted in the U.S. Army and his company was sent west to the newly created Oregon Territory. After his discharge Packwood turned to gold mining and served in several Indian wars before representing Curry County at the Oregon Constitutional Convention. In 1862 he moved to Eastern Oregon and returned to mining. He was the last living member of the Oregon Constitutional Convention and died in 1917. He was the great-grandfather of four-term United States Senator Bob Packwood.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 6 - An eight-year-old orphan boy was sent west to live with his uncle in Newberg, Oregon. After graduating from high school in Newberg, and attending Pacific Academy, the young man went to Stanford University and graduated in the pioneer class of 1895. After an international career as an engineer and mining expert he returned to the United States and became Secretary of Commerce. In 1929 this man, who had grown up in Newberg and attended school there, became the 33rd president of the United States. His name was Herbert Clark Hoover. He served only one term, and unable to deal with the Great Depression, he suffered a crushing defeat by F. D. Roosevelt in the 1932 election. By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 9 - Traditional belief holds that the Appaloosa breed originates from horses introduced by Coronado to North America in the 1500s. The Lewis & Clark journals made note of the spotted horses owned by the Nez Perce Indians and early day settlers claimed to have seen thousands of horses grazing in the Wallowa Valley of Northeastern Oregon. The Nez Perce selectively bred the spotted horses and their strength, stamina and sureness of foot allowed the Indians to travel great distances through rugged terrain. After the Nez Perce War in 1877, the government ordered the annihilation of the tribe's beloved horses. Only a few horses survived to become the foundation of today’s Appaloosa breed. By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 10 - James Marshall came west by wagon train, and although the main body of the wagon train turned south to California, Marshall came to Oregon and spent time in the Willamette Valley before journeying to California. At Sutter’s Fort, on January 23, 1848, Marshall discovered gold and set in motion one of the greatest migrations in history. As miners rushed in they drove Marshall away and he moved into a small cabin on the American River near where he had made his original discovery. He never returned to Oregon and died penniless in 1885.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 11 -The City of Baker, located in Northeastern Oregon, was platted in 1865 and named for Edward Dickinson Baker. He was Oregon’s first U.S. Senator and was killed during the Civil War. In 1868 the county seat was transferred from Auburn, a gold mining boomtown that had gone bust, to Baker City. The settlement grew rapidly and supplied the needs of the miners, as well as serving as a stopping-off spot for travelers on the Oregon Trail. In 1884 the Oregon Short Line reached Baker City and soon the line was connected to the trans-continental railroad. These were the golden years for the community, and on any street corner could be seen ranchers, sheepherders, loggers, miners, gamblers and dance hall ladies.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 12 - John Jacob Astor, the namesake of Astoria, was born in Germany and came to New York City in 1784 where he established a business buying and selling furs. He worked out an arrangement with the North West Company that allowed him to expand his fur buying operation into the interior regions, and when the United States obtained the Louisiana Purchase, Astor expanded into the Pacific Northwest. His employees established Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River but the enterprise was never successful and was sold. At the time of his death in 1848 John Jacob Astor was reputed to be the richest man in America.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 13 – On February 14, 1859 Oregon gained statehood. The path to becoming a state involved a two-year long battle centered on the question of slavery in Oregon. Pro-slavery Democrats were eventually voted down and Oregon was admitted as a free state. More than a month after the official proclamation, the Brother Jonathon, a pioneer steamboat operating between Portland and San Francisco, arrived in Portland with the first news of Oregon's admission as the 33rd state to the Union.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 16 - The federal government granted the Paiute Indians of Southeastern Oregon nearly two million acres of reservation land. The Bannock-Paiute War erupted in 1877 and many members of the tribe abandoned the reservation. The war ended quickly and the surviving Paiutes were rounded up and sent to several other western reservations. The federal government took back the Paiute reservation and threw the land open to settlement. In 1937 the government moved the remaining 150 Paiutes into 23 houses located on 800 acres of government land northwest of Burns. No additional government support was provided.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 17 - Joaquin Miller was a poet and a wandering man. He was born in Indiana and came west to Eugene with his family when he was 14. He went to the California mines, lived for a time among the Shasta Indians, studied law and was admitted to the Oregon Bar. Instead of practicing law he became a pony express rider between Walla Walla and the Idaho mines. He began writing poetry and one of his books, Songs of the Sierras, published in London, made him an international celebrity. He traveled throughout Europe and was a correspondent during the Klondike gold rush. He was married three times and died February 17, 1913.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 18 - From the snowfields on the north face of Mt. Hood, a river runs cold and swift, emptying into the Columbia. At first the river was given the unromantic name of Dog River because the members of an early wagon train had become stranded here, and to subsist, were forced to eat dog meat. Nathaniel and Mary Coe built a house along the river in 1853 and Mary refused to honor Dog River as the family’s mailing address. As a result of her refusal the name was changed, and since 1856, has been known as Hood River.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 19 - Bill Hanley, an Eastern Oregon cattle king and the “Sage of Harney County,” was born February 8, 1861 in Jacksonville, Oregon. He wrote that he came into Eastern Oregon “as a kid hazing a bunch of horses across the sagebrush.” At a time when Pete French was building his famous P Ranch, Hanley was putting together the Bell A Ranch and the Double O Ranch, encompassing nearly 25,000 acres of deeded property. From the gate to the front door of his ranch house was eight miles. Hanley traveled widely, made several unsuccessful runs as governor, and led a very colorful life. When he died in 1935 he was considered the Last Great Cattle King.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 20 - Daniel Matheny came west by covered wagon with the Great Migration of 1843. He settled in the Willamette Valley and acquired a ferryboat that he began operating across the Willamette River north of Salem. It was the first ferry on the Willamette capable of carrying a team and wagon. The Wheatland ferry crosses approximately 600 feet of river and is still in use, only one of three ferries presently operating in Oregon. Over the years there have been a number of replacement ferries and all have been named the Daniel Matheny, followed by a roman numeral. The current ferry, the Daniel Matheny V, was launched in 2002.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 23 - What has become known as the Gold Beach Massacre, took place on February 22, 1856. The deadly campaign was lead by Enos, a Plains Indian who had come to Oregon as a guide with Captain John C. Fremont in 1843. Enos joined the Rogue River Indians and was one of the instigators of the Rogue River Indian War. During the Gold Beach Massacre one of the first to die was Ben Wright, the Indian Agent. After that killing, Enos and his Rogue companions attacked Gold Beach and killed 25 other settlers. The survivors were besieged for 35 days before finally being rescued by a detachment of military men from Fort Humboldt, California.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com) February 24 - John Marshal is credited with discovering gold at Sutter’s Fort on January 23, 1848. It was Captain Newell, aboard the American trading ship Honolulu, who first brought word of the discovery to the Northwest. Upon his arrival, Captain Newell withheld news of the big strike until he had purchased all the picks, shovels and provisions that were offered for sale in the Willamette Valley. He turned the Honolulu south and made a fortune selling his wares and provisions to miners headed to the gold fields. The excitement caused by the discovery of gold in California set off a stampede that depleted the Willamette Valley of able-bodied men.
By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com)
February 25 -Gilliam County, located in Eastern Oregon, was created February 25, 1885. The county was named in honor of Colonel Cornelius Gilliam. He was a native of North Carolina, fought in the Black Hawk Indian War, served as the sheriff of Clay County, Missouri and led a wagon train to Oregon in 1844. Three years later, Colonel Gilliam was made commander of the forces of the Oregon Provisional Government sent to punish the Cayuse Indians after the Whitman Massacre. It was near the end of this campaign when Colonel Gilliam reached into a wagon to retrieve a rope. The rope caught the hammer of a rifle and it discharged, killing him instantly. A monument to his memory was erected along the Oregon Trail at Wells Springs. By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com)
February 26 - Thomas McKay, born in Canada, was one of the most famous Indian guides in the Oregon Country. He came west at age fourteen with his father, arriving at the mouth of the Columbia in the spring of 1811. After his father’s death, Thomas was forced to make his own way. He became a guide to a number of early explorers. He was with the party sent to the Umpqua region to recover the goods stolen from Jedediah Smith. During the Cayuse War he served as captain of a company of soldiers. He died in 1849 and his remains lie in an unmarked grave near Scappoose. By Rick Steber (www.ricksteber.com)
February 27 - Anne Shannon Monroe was an adventurous woman. Born in Missouri, she came to Portland in 1907 and fell in love with the Northwest. In pursuit of a freelance writing career she moved to New York, and later to Chicago. Her stories appeared in most of the major magazines of the time but finally, fed up with big city life, she returned to Oregon. She spent time hiking in the Cascades and lived in Central Oregon as she began writing Happy Valley, a novel depicting a family’s struggles to develop a High Desert homestead. The book was published in 1916 and was followed by many other books. Today Anne Shannon Monroe is considered one of Oregon’s most successful authors.