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.
An Illustrated History of Umatilla County & Morrow County, by Colonel William Parsons and W. S. Shiach with a brief outline of the early history of the State of Oregon. W. H. Lever, Spokane, WA, (1902), p. 335-336.
HON. JOHN S. GURDANE. - It is with pleasure that we incorporate in this volume an epitome of the career of the substantial citizen and worthy gentleman whose name initiates this paragraph, and whose life of activity and enterprise has been so filled with interesting incident and stirring adventure that it is a matter of regret that we are unable, on account of lack of space, to more fully detail the same. Especial note should be made of the excellent record that Mr. Gurdane made during the late Civil War, making sacrifice to offer his service in defense of the country and then demeaning himself with such courage and intrepid valor that few equal and none exceed his brilliant military career.
Mr. Gurdane is the son of John Sylvester and Elizabeth (Batie) Gurdane, natives of Scotland, and was born on the sea off Sandy Hook, while his parents were en route to the United States, the date being May 4, 1824. His early days were spent in New York and Canada, and while but a small child was adopted by Thomas and Elizabeth Lundy, and at the age of fifteen took up a seafaring life. Thirty years were spent in this occupation, during which time he visited every port of any consequence in the world at that time. In 1846 he enlisted in the United States navy, serving there for five years and four months. He filled all of the offices in the merchant marine, and at one time owned a half interest in a good vessel, being captain and manager of the same. In the heavy gales of 1859 the ship and all of its cargo went down, entailing upon Mr. Gurdane the entire loss of everything he possessed in the way of worldly goods. Following this disaster he borrowed from a friend, J. I. Case, sufficient money to keep his family and then repaired to Mobile, Alabama, working as captain on a lighter of $125 per month until the war broke out, leaving there on the last mail steamer that sailed for the north. After visiting his family in Racine, Wisconsin, he took service as first mate on the Sweepstakes, continuing there at a salary of $80 per month until September, 1861, at which time he resigned this position and enlisted in Company E, Fourteenth Wisconsin Infantry, officered by Captain Waldo, Colonel Wood, Lieutenant Colonel Messmore and Major Hancock. His first fighting was skirmishing at Fort Donelson, and the first heavy battle was at Shiloh, where they suffered heavy loss, Captain Waldo being killed and the other officers wounded. Following this he participated in the siege of Corinth, then fought at Iuka, and in the fall of 1862 was two days in the battle of Corinth, and then a few weeks later did valiant service in the battle of Cold Water in the Mississippi valley. The following year he fought in the battle of Port Gibson, also in the battle of Raymond, Champion Hills, and a Black River. He was in the heavy charge at Vicksburg on May 22nd, when his company went in with three hundred and seventy-seven men and ten minutes later came out with a loss of one hundred and seven men, he being wounded. In November, 1863, he re-enlisted in the veteran service, taking place in the same company. After a thirty days' furlough at home, he went to Lookout Mountain, participating in all of the heavy battles to Big Shantee, being able to hear the musketry and cannonading for ninety days thereafter. On July 22, 1864, he was in the battle of Peach Creek, was on Leggitt Hill, with General Leggitt in the Seventeenth Army Corps, near where General McPherson was killed, the brigade commander being also badly wounded in that fight. Here his gun was shot out of his hands and a bullet struck his cartridge box, shocking him pretty badly, but he secured another gun and continued in the fight. Following this they marched to Eastport, and after the fall of Atlanta they proceeded to Jonesboro and fought a heavy battle, and then joined Sherman's forces to the sea, where he was put in charge of the pontoon construction, assisting to lay them all of the way. Following the fall of Fort McAllister they marched from Savannah to Raleigh, North Carolina, skirmishing much of the way, as the crossing of every stream was contested. After this they went to Alexander and prepared for the grand review at Washington. He was mustered out at Mobile, Alabama, in the fall of 1865.
Returning to his family, he remained for two days, and then shipped as first mate on the William Vanderbilt, laying her up on December 5, in Buffalo. Returning home, he immediately engaged to ship wagons for Mitchell, Lewis & Company, and the following March removed to Shelby county, Missouri, and took up farming, it being his first experience in that occupation. He followed this and railroading until the spring of 1882, when he organized a company and crossed the plains to this county, landing in Pendleton on August 18, 1882, and camped where Byers' warehouse now stands. Late he settled on a place in Little Potts, using his soldier's right to gain title from the government. Here he continued for seventeen years, raising cattle and feeding stock sheep in the winter, until recently, when he sold his place and bought a residence in the Riverside addition to Pendleton, where he now resides.
Mr. Gurdane has always been active in the political realm, having frequently served in the state conventions an nearly all of the county conventions, and is at the present time state central committeeman from this county, being allied with the Republican party. In 1894 he was elected to the state legislature, where he made a commendable record and so wrought for the interests of his constituency that they
rewarded him by electing him as his own successor, and he was enabled to give another term of efficient and faithful service.
He was married on October 15, 1856, to Miss Janette, daughter of William and Ann (Cavin) Smith, and they have been blessed with the advent of the following children: Ann Jane, Douglas C., Nettie A., John W. (deceased). On may 20, 1866, Mrs. Gurdane died.
On October 9, 1867, Mr. Gurdane contracted a second marriage, the lady then becoming his wife was Miss Celia McBroom, and from this union one child has been the issue, Thomas B. Mr. Gurdane is a member of the Methodist church, South, and is especially active in the support of its interest, being an ardent advocate of the faith which he has embraced. He also affiliates with the I. O. O. F. and the G. A. R. Mr. Gurdane has shown himself a worthy and typical man in every relation of life, manifesting rare ability and sterling integrity throughout.