Oregon Republican League: History 104 Biographies
Every Wednesday, the Oregon Republican League will post the biographies of important figures, in the League's/State of Oregon's history. Feel free to comment or share stories of your family's Republican affiliation.
From the The Centennial History of Oregon 1811-1912, Volume II published by The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1912.
Hon. Charles Wesley Washburne: Intrepid Pioneer of Junction City
Many and varied are the interesting incidents in the life history of Hon. Charles Wesley Washburne, who has twice made the long and arduous journey across the country from Iowa and the Mississippi valley to the Pacific coast. During the period of his residence in Oregon he has been closely and prominently identified with agricultural interests and has become the owner of much valuable property, having today between two and three thousand acres of land in Lane county. He has also been a prominent factor in the public life of his community and has served from his district as a member of the state legislature.
Ohio numbers him among her native sons, his birth having occurred in Gallia county, September 13, 1824. His parents were Robert and Eve (Roy) Washburne, the former of English decent and the latter of Wales. According to the laws of England, an elder brother, Isaac, inherited all of the grandfather's property, leaving Robert, the youngest son, without patrimony. He crossed the Atlantic, made his way to Ohio and afterward settled near Springfield, Sangamon county, Illinois, where he died in 1840, having for about a year survived his wife who passed away in 1839.
C. W. Washburne was reared in the states of Ohio and Illinois, and in 1849 when twenty-five years of age joined a large company en route for the gold mines of California. They selected for captain one Ikenberry, who had crossed the plains to Oregon in 1847. They passed over the Missouri river at St. Joseph and on reaching Blue river thought they saw buffaloes, but on nearer approach these proved to be Indians who ambushed the company. The white men scattered, agreeing to protect themselves as best as they could and capture as many Indians as possible. As the red men approached they talked to them and told them they were a large company. The Indians seemed peaceful yet camped that night a short distance away with the intention of killing the party, but fearing that there was too big a company they did not risk an attack. While hunting near Chimney Rock, Mr. Washburne killed an antelope and, cutting out the hams, threw them over his shoulder and started back to camp. The morning being warm he had left behind his coat but ere he reached camp a terrific hail storm came on, pelting him unmercifully. At length he laid aside his gun and meat and started on a run for camp. Arriving there he found that the storm had caused the teams to stampede and that the axle of Captain Ikenberry's wagon had been broken, which caused the party to lay by until a man passed carrying an extra axle which was purchased. The oxen were recovered two or three miles away and some of the party also went back for the antelope meat upon which they all feasted.
On one occasion the Ikenberry party was passed by a company with horses and fine equipments and big wagon beds, being supplied with stoves. Their supplies had been shipped thus far by boat. The company called "good-by" and laughed as they passed the Ikenberry party, who however, said that they would see them again. In a couple of weeks they overtook the company who had cut their wagon beds down and lightened their loads. It was now the turn of the Ikenberry party to call out "good-by" and ride on. For the second time they were passed by the other company and then once more it was their turn to ride on in advance of them. By that time they had abandoned their wagons, previously down to two wheels, and packed their horses. On this occasion some of the company joined the Ikenberry party, who found them whole-souled, honorable men and to one of them Mr. Washburne sold a horse on time, receiving the pay after they arrived in California. The party proceeded over the trail of the Mormons and on reaching the Sierra Nevada mountains a number of the young fellows thought they would climb to the highest peak and look over into the Sacramento valley, but when they had scaled the heights they saw mountain stretching on mountain as far as the eye could reach. After building a fire they made tea, ate their luncheon and ran all the way down hill to camp. They then proceeded over the long mountain range, the way being at once so difficult and steep that they had to lighten their loads. At length they reached Hangtown and afterward Sutter's mill, whence Mr. Washburne and his partner, Mr. Morrow proceeded to Sacramento where they sold their oxen and wagons. From Coloma they proceeded to the middle fork of the American river and in the middle of the stream began digging until their heads were almost under water and they had to give up.
Mr. Washburne next joined some old acquaintances and began mining in Humboldt canyon in the north fork of the American river where they found a pot hole, but after spending thousands of dollars did not meet with success. The Indians killed their pack horses while wintering on Canyon creek and prices were so high that sugar, flour, coffee and hay were sold for one dollar per pound. They next went to Grizzly canyon and in the fall of 1850 took a steamer from Sacramento to San Francisco from which point they proceeded by a sailing vessel toward Panama. One of the interesting incidents of that trip was that a whale followed them staying close by the vessel. Their progress was so slow that they changed their plans, continuing by the Nicaraguan route making the overland trip in a stage, which was a two-wheeled affair the wheels being cut from logs with holes bored in for axles. The covering was of rawhide and the stage was drawn by two yoke of oxen, one driver sitting in the front of the stage and punching the animals with a spear while the other held the leader rope. They proceeded across Lake Nicaragua in a sailing vessel and when on the opposite side hired two natives to take them down the San Juan river. On the lake trip they passed the first steam propelled boat that navigated on Lake Nicaragua which was being brought up the river by Americans and when the steam failed they would pull the boat with ropes from the bank. At that stage of the journey Mr. Washburne became ill with a fever and against the doctor's advice proceeded on his way, the sea voyage, however, restoring his health. After arriving at New Orleans they became passengers on the steamer Wide West. At St. Louis the ice was running in the river so that they could not proceed farther and then bought a wagon and team, driving to their home in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Mr. Washburne's intention was to return west the next spring but decided to spend a year at home and during that period there occurred an event which had to do with his whole after-life. At a spelling contest held between the Bradford and Washburne schools Catherine Stansbury and her sister Ann both carried off the honors, Catherine spelling down her sister at the last. On that occasion Mr. Washburne formed her acquaintance and on the 23rd of November, 1851, at Pleasant Hill, they were married. Mr. Washburne then purchased a farm but was not content to remain in Iowa and after a year sold his property and outfitted two wagons for Oregon, one of which he turned over to his sister Jane and her husband, R.S. Robert. His eldest brother, James W., also outfitted two wagons so that they brought all their relatives with them excepting one sister who died soon afterward.
On the 21st day of March, 1853 the start was made and after traveling through Iowa and Missouri they crossed the Missouri river on Sarpee's steam ferry below St. Joseph. At Elk Horn river they were delayed by high waters and at the Platte river were in a terrible storm of hail and rain, the water standing a foot on the ground for more than an hour. They burned their tent poles for no other fuel was obtainable and that night slept in wet beds. To cross Wood river the men lashed two wagon beds together to serve as a ferry, and the women washed and baked and sunned the loads. They passed many little prairie dog towns and as they proceeded they saw many graves along the way that had been dug up by the coyotes. When near Chimney Rock the eldest child of Mr. Washburne was born and the daughter was given the name of Ruth Ellen. After leaving the Platte river they were nearly choked by sand and alkali dust and when they reached the Sweetwater river they, indeed, thought it an appropriate name. In that locality they passed snow near which they picked lovely flowers, resembling cypress. The hills were very steep and on the descent they had to hold the wagon to keep them from upsetting. On a fork of the Bear river the crickets proved a matter of great curiosity to them, the ground being literally covered with them. They were of a red color and as large as mice. The Indians dry them, pound them to powder and mix them with berries and bake this for bread.
In camp on Snake river the party were in want of good water yet over on the opposite side they could see clear springs of water pouring over the banks from underground rivers. At Devil creek the Indians attempted to stampede the cattle and got away with an ox. The next morning Mr. Washburne was looking for it, standing up in the stirrups, he saw an Indian whom the white men surrounded and captured, but they could get no information from him and on being turned loose the fellow started away as hard as he could run. They continued over the old route and on the highest hills looked down in the Grande Ronde valley where they could see the Indian camps. At Umatilla river they bought the first corn and potatoes at an Indian garden and coming to an Indian agency saw the first house in two thousand miles. They proceeded over the Cascade mountains by the Barlow route and in going down the steepest mountains tied trees to the wagons while Mrs. Washburne led the horse and carried the baby. On reaching the Willamette valley they saw trees weighted down with red apples and it seemed to them a paradisaical spot. They proceeded up the valley to their claim two miles west of what is now Junction City, arriving November 9, 1853. Within a week's time, Mr. Washburne had cut and hauled logs from the banks of the Long Tom river and had a roof on his little cabin into which he moved his family. That night it began to rain and never ceased until the waters had risen from the foothills to the highest ground. Of both parties crossing the plains with Mr. Washburne in 1849 as well as in 1853 there is now no one living but himself.
From that time to the present Mr. Washburne has been identified with agricultural interests in Oregon, but while he has prospered in his farming pursuits he takes greater pride in the fact that he has reared a large family who have been a credit and honor to the community. His wife was a native of Indiana and a daughter of John and Ruth (Hubble) Stansbury, the former of whom was born in Maryland. Mrs. Washburne died in Junction City, April 4, 1894. She was a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal church which she joined soon after coming to Oregon and it was through her untiring efforts that the house of worship of that denomination was built at Junction City. Their eldest child, Ruth Ellen, became the wife of John Wortman, a son of Jacob Wortman and the founder of the First National Bank of McMinnville. Three sons were born of this marriage; Ralph, Frank and Fred, who are conducting the bank, with their father. Their mother died on March 14, 1909. George W. Washburne, now deceased, was one of the first graduates of the University of Oregon. He studied law, was admitted to the bar and served as judge of Lane county. He married Minnie Lockwood and had two sons, the elder, Chester W., in the United States geological department in which he has a number of men working under him. At present the government has granted him a furlough which he is spending with a mining company in Argentine Republic. The younger son, Carl, is partner in one of the leading mercantile establishments in Eugene. Eve Jean Washburne became the wife of R. P. Hill, formerly a merchant but now a banker of Colfax, Washington. They have three children, Catherine, Charles and Eva. Byron A. Washburne of Springfield was engaged in the flouring mill business with his father but recently sold that and bought the Mallory farm. He served a term in the Oregon legislature in 1909, is now postmaster of Springfield and is vice president of the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Junction City. He married Amanda Clark and they have two children: Helen, a graduate of the State University, of 1911; and Claude, who is now studying there. William C. Washburne is president, cashier and manager of the Farmers & Merchants Bank at Junction City, which latter position he entered upon at the opening of the bank. He also manages his father's extensive business affairs and is one of the leading and prominent men of his town and county. He married Julia Hamilton and has one son, James. Emma A. Washburne married William Butler by whom she had two sons, Guy and Jay. Since the death of her first husband she has become the wife of W. W. Crawford, engaged in the automobile business in Albany. Bertha K. Washburne is the wife of E. U. Lee, who served for ten consecutive years as a clerk of Lane county and is now in the banking business at Eugene. They have two children, Croesus and Roy. Fred W. Washburne owns a fruit and chicken farm north of Vancouver, Washington. Laetitia S. Washburne is living with her father in his declining years, making his home life happy.
Mr. Washburne resided for twenty years on the old donation claim but in 1873 purchased one hundred and sixty acres of T.A. Milliorn, adjoining Junction City and removed to that place, although he still owns the old donation homestead. He is yet engaged in farming and stock-raising and is also one of the stockholders and directors in the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Junction City, with a capital stock of fifty thousand dollars. The new home of the bank will be a two story brick building fifty by one hundred feet and the entire stock is owned by C. W. Washburne, W. C. Washburne, B. A. Washburne, T. A. Milliorn and J. P. Milliorn. Beside owning residence property in Junction City he has between two and three thousand acres in this district together with other land and business property in other parts of the county. He still manages his individual business affairs and buys and sells land, having thus handled thousands of acres in different western states and he just now sold seventeen hundred acres in Morrow county, Oregon.
Mr. Washburne cast his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln. In 1872 he was elected to the state legislature in which he served with Al Power and Nat Martin, while in the senate then were William Bristow and Dr. Patterson, all of whom are now deceased. With Mr. Washburne these men were instrumental in locating the University of Oregon at Eugene and in laying the foundation of the state capitol at Salem. In community affairs Mr. Washburne has also been deeply interested, cooperating in any movements for the public good, and in 1908 he donated land for and helped to build what is now known as the Washburne high school. He is in his eighty-eighth year, one of the most venerable and honored residents of lane county. His mind is stored with many interesting incidents of pioneer times and his memory forms a connecting link between the primitive past and the progressive present.
From the The Centennial History of Oregon 1811-1912, Volume II published by The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1912.
Ernest U. Lee: Junction City Native
On the list of Eugene's leading business men appears the name of Ernest U. Lee, who is cashier of the Merchants Bank. He was born in Klamath County, Oregon, December 25, 1868, his parents being Dr. Norman L. and Amanda M. (Griggs) Lee. His grandfather, Philaster Lee, was a native of western New York and, making the long journey across the plains, accompanied by his family, he settled near Gervais, Oregon. Subsequently he settled at Soda Springs, where he followed the occupation of farming. He was also one of the early nurserymen of this part of the state and became a pioneer in an industry -- that of fruit culture -- which is now one of the important sources of Oregon's revenue. The maternal grandfather, Aly B. Griggs, was also numbered among the early settlers, coming from Illinois in 1852. Dr. Lee was born in Illinois before the family came to the west and is now seventy-six years of age. He read medicine under private instruction for a time and afterward attended the Willamette University, from which he was graduated. He then located at Junction City, where he has since practiced.
Ernest U. Lee was educated in the public schools of Junction City and became a clerk in a drug store, thus making his initial start in the business world. Eventually he established a pharmacy of his own and was engaged in the drug business for some years prior to 1898, when he came to Eugene to fill the office of clerk of Lane County, to which he had been elected on the republican ticket. He had previously had some experience in public office, having served on the school board and as a member of the city council of Junction City. He filled the office of county clerk until the 1st of January, 1910, and became cashier of the Merchants Bank in March, 1911.
Mr. Lee is also well known as a public official for he is now serving as a member of the Eugene school board and as a secretary of the water board.
In 1889 Mr. Lee was married to Miss Bertha K. Washburne, of Junction City, a daughter of Charles W. Washburne, who is an old pioneer of this state, now eighty-six years of age. Mr. and Mrs. Lee have two children, Croesus and Roy W.