Civil War Veteran
My earliest recollection
takes me back to a time when I was just recovering from a spell of sickness
in the town of Deroyter, Madison County, New York. I suppose I was some
four or five years of age. I remember moving from this place in a one horse
wagon, horse named Jim, to Corning, Steuben County County, New York where
we lived some four years. During some of this time we lived in an old log
house that had to be propped up when the wind blew hard. There was a fireplace
and I think the most of the cooking was done on the fire as I have no recollection
of any stove. How long we lived at this place, I do not know, but later
we moved to a big frame house owned by a man named Smith who operated a
tannery. This place was on a hill where we could look down on the New York
and Erie Railroad, and just beyond was the Shemung River. We were at this
time four miles below the city of Corning. At this time there were four
children in the family, and I was next to the youngest. At this place,
Sister and I had the measles and an aunt who had been sick at our house
died - a sister of mothers.
After a residence here of some four years, we moved to Boliver, Allegany County, New York, a distance of about 90 miles. This was my first ride on the railroad, and I suppose, like all youngsters, I enjoyed it and had lots of fun. We left the cars at Friendship and rode in a wagon twelve miles to Uncle Frank Lewis, a brother of mothers.
To go back two years when we lived in Shemung County -- father, one morning, found a shepherd dog that had been thrown of the train and brought him home. Ed Newton, a cousin from Boliver, came to see us two years before we moved and took the dog home with him to Boliver. The next morning after we arrived at Uncle Franks, the dog was there and none of us had seem him for two years though we passed by the house the night before, it being so 60 rods from the road. Who says a dog does not remember his friends?
Father bought a farm about one mile south of Boliver, the first he ever owned, and we moved on to it and lived there until I was 14 years of age when he traded it for a 100 acre farm in the town of Little Genesee, just across the town line so that we were about the same distance from each village. Boliver was Sunday people and Genesee was Saturday people.
How we boys had to get in and do what work we could as there were not more than 10 acres cleared on this place, and the balance was covered with hemlock, pine, ash and maple. There was a creek running through the farm and along the creek there were a good many butternut trees. Well, we cleared up a fairly good farm, peeled the hemlock, and sold the bark at the tannery and the logs to the saw mills of which there were a good many.
There was always a winter school, and I got along fin until I got the big head as most boys will at from 15 to 18. I began to think I knew more than father, mother, and all the school teachers put together. Without going into any scrape and details, I quit school at about 17 years of age and worked at one thing and another, at home and away from home by the month. Wages at that time were 50 cents per day, 10 to 15 dollars per month.
Things ran along until the Civil War came on in 1861. My oldest brother, Morton L. Spencer, enlisted in Co. B. 23 N. Y. Infantry for two years. In August, 1862, M. M. Loyden, who had been a Lieutenant in Co. B., 23 and had resigned was recruiting for the next company that he could be a commissioned officer in and that happened to be Co. A, 136 N. Y. V. Fred enlisted and I enlisted on the 6th day of August, 1862, I being 18 years, 2 months old, and were assigned to Co. A. In the organization of the regiment, A. T. Cole was Captain, M. M. Loyden, 1st Lieutenant, Webster, 2nd Lieutenant, A. S. Cole, Orderly Sergeant.
In the latter part of September we went in to Camp of Instruction at Portage Falls, N.Y. We were here learning the drill tactics and manual of arms not to exceed two months. It was a beautiful place situated on the banks of the Genesee River just above the falls, in fact, two of them. A high trestle rail road bridge, said at the time to be the highest in the world, was located here. It was regular lattice work, any piece in it could be taken out and another part put in its place. The 130th N. Y. V. were here at the same time, but left for the front some time before we did. Our board at this place was furnished by contractors and was the poorest quality, the worst get - bread, meat and coffee-that I ever attempted to swallow.
Some time, I think it was the sixth day of September, we drew uniforms and arms and started for the seat of war. Arriving at Washington, D. C., we were marched to the Soldiers Retreat for grub, such slush as they gave us was enough to make a good soldier retreat, but we thought it was all right and soon got out of that place.
We crossed the Potomac River on the famous Chain Bridge and went into camp on Arlington Heights amongst fleas and grayback. We probably were here about two weeks when we were started on the march out in to the interior of Old Virginia.
We were assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division, Eleventh Corps. The Brigade was composed of the 33 Mass., 55 Ohio, 73 Ohio and the 136th N.Y. We were marched through the historic Fairfax Court House, Centerville, Manassas Junction, Bull run, and out to Thoroughfare Gap. At this point we stayed for perhaps ten days-dome of the time company roll call came every hour. The cause of this, at that time being young in the business, we did not understand, but a year later we would say, "Look out for the Johneys." Thoroughfare Gap is one of the passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and one side or the other might slip through and the other not know of it. Consequently, it was guarded. How long we played around this part I don't know, but in a short time we took the back track.
Burnside was having his fight at Frederickburg. This was in December, 1862, and I suppose we were on the road to reinforce him. We got within hearing of the cannon but the battle was over and we not in it. In going across the old battlefield of Bull Run past the Stone House, we saw a good many corpse that had been buried partially washed out by the rain. At one place there was an arm sticking out straight. I and the rest th ought that it was horrible, of course, but before our time was up, we could look on such things and think nothing of it. Brother Mort was hit in the arm at Fredericksburg. I have seen the minie ball that was cut out of his arm.
How many places we went to and where I do not remember. I recall that for quite awhile we were engaged in building corduroy road somewhere between Fairfax and some other place, but there was not very much hard labor done by the most of us. We were, the most of us, unfit for any sort of work. Not being used to the climate and the rations we go not agreeing with our digestive organs, we were the most of us badly afflicted with the usual disease, diarrhea.
We finally settled down at a place called Banksford on the Rappahannock River. At this place we were called on to do very arduous duties-on picket duty every other day, and drill, drill, drill all the time when not otherwise engaged. Carry your gun at a shoulder arms until you would think your arm would come out of its socket, and curse under your hat, but it did no good, we had it to do just the same. Here is where I first saw the rail and knapsack drill. It consists of a rail about all a man can carry. He has to shoulder it and march on a beat with a guard on the watch to see that he does not put it down, and by the time he is through, he thinks he will not shirt duty nor steal anymore. The knapsack is filled with stones and the punishment is about the same. I never got any of it.
I remember one night, while on duty as picket on the river, rations being short, of having some corn and putting it in a tin can with ashes, boiling it and washing it, and then eating the corn and thought it was mighty good. While here, the boys used to trade with the Confederates-coffee or tobacco. The Captain we had at this time was name Buell. He had a brother on the other side, and it was suggested, and I think it was true, that by some arrangement the brother came across and they met and had a talk. It got out and Mr. Buell resigned. Some time previous all of our commissioned officers had got tired of war and gone home. The regiment did guard duty at this place until Burnside's famous Wind Campaign ended, (see history) and he was relieved from command of the Army of the Potomac, and General Joe Hooker was appointed when we went into winter quarters at Stafford Court House.
One of the first duties of a soldier is to provide as good a house to live in as he can. four, and sometimes six, mess together and live through the winter in the same hut built out of split logs or round poles, whichever were easiest to get. This winters camp was mostly of round poles, built up with four foot walls covered with our shelter tents. If the gang were industrious enough, they would build a mud fire place at one end. If not, have the fire out in front of the company street.
Battalion and company drills and march duty took up the most of the time. But the most arduous duty was the job of getting wood. It was all of the pine specimen and of a young growth. We had to cut it and carry it on our shoulders to camp, and the longer we stayed in the one place, the farther away the wood was. No small job to supply the camp and I have no doubt many a man broke his back doing so.
The 23 N. Y. at this time was encamped at Bell Plains and Fred and I got a pass. You see, you had to have a pass to go most anywhere. We went down to see Brother Mort, but he happened to be off on some detail, so did not meet him until the war was over. Some of the boys in his company we were aquatinted with and had a good visit. I don't know how Virginia is for sun and cold generally, but that winter was bad enough to suit us Northern boys. Francis Barlow, a regular officer now in command of the brigade, was regular martinet in everything pertaining to the soldiers duties. He won great distinction afterwards in another command.
Things move along until 27 April 1863, when order came to draw ten-days rations. Think of carrying ten-days group, sixty rounds of ammunition, bag and baggage, strike camp, and be prepared for a hard campaign. Away they go, the Commanding General alone know where. The first day the road was literally covered with overcoats, blankets, shirts , pants and everything that would lighten the loads, and some things besides. We crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelly's Ford, the Rapidan at Ealys Ford.
After crossing this last ford, while marching along in column without any thought of danger, a rebel battery away off on our right began to throw some shells at the column. This was our first experience under fire. Of all the ducking and dodging and rushing ahead I ever saw, it was then, but never afterwards. They were shooting way over and did not hurt anyone in our regiment, and don't think they did in the brigade. We were now near Chancellorsville, where there was a heavy battle, but so far as I know, we, that is our brigade, did not fire a shot during the whole fight. We were ordered out of the place in line of the Eleventh Corps just before Jackson made h is charge on the left flank of that corps, and where I went, I don't know, but wherever find find on the maps, Barlow's Brigade, there we were! And ten days grub was ll gone and eating raw beef. History tells how Hooker was defeated and fell back to his old camping ground, and the Eleventh Corps was made to bear the blame, but if you'll read impartial testimony, General O. O. Howard, the Eleventh Corps Commander, was at fault.
In June the Gettysburg Campaign began. We were then somewhere near Catletts Station, Virginia, from which place we moved leisurely through Centerville to Goose Creek, Virginia, thence across the Potomac River to Frederick City, Maryland, through Boonesboro, Emmetsburg, and arrived at Gettysburg July first at about one o'clock. Our line ws formed along the stone wall of what is called the Tauneytown Road. This position we held throughout the three days fight. Cemetery Ridge, just at our backs, was covered with artillery and when the and the rebel artillery were playing on each other, they fairly lifted us off the ground. On the second day, when out on the skirmish line I got h it in the left shoulder, I did not know how bad it was, but helped another badly wounded man back to the general field hospital which was situated back of the cemetery in a sort of a hollow. Having arrived at the hospital grounds, I took off my jacket and took a look at that rebel scratch. It did not look very serious so I slid into that jacket, picked up this enfield, and way I went to where Company A, 136 N. Y. was. I found them in the same old position.
None of the heavy fighting came in our immediate front, but we could away to our left where it was gong on. The height of the third day after the battle was over, the most heartrending cries, groans, and curses from the wounded men out on the battlefield filled he air, and I was glad to get out of its hearing. History will tell all who wish to read about what took place here in three days fight.
From Gettysburg we followed the Rebel Army up through Maryland to Hagerstown and across some of the old Antietam battlefield, Boonsboro Gap and other places, the names I have forgotten. We then recrossed the Potomac River back into the state of Virginia.
In September, 1863, the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps were loaded onto the cars somewhere in Virginia. I don't know the place now, and we started on a five day and six night ride down through Ohio, Indian to Jefferson City, Indiana. Here we crossed the Ohio River to Louisville, Kentucky and thence to Nashville, Tennessee, and from this place to Bridgeport, Alabama. The smoke of a magazine which had exploded had not cleared away and they were picking up the dead and wounded when we got off the train. This was - I guess, the longest rid, the most of it on top of the cars-and cattle cars at that - I ever had. We were treated right royally and had lots of good things to eat while going through Ohio and Indiana.
We did not stay very long at Bridgeport. We shouldered our packs and struck over the mountains to Stephenson, Alabama, and were strung out a company at a place to do guard duty along the rail road. Our company was station at a bridge at a creek called Crow Creek. We perhaps were here two weeks and not much to do. Here I learned to make corn bred in an old Dutch oven. We would take the corn to an overshot grist mill of ancient order, and let the old miller take out his toll. The inhabitants living in this vicinity were of the low Corn-Cracker order. I don't remember of but one young man, and he did not have good sense. The women were of the low character.
We returned to Bridgeport and crossed the Tennessee River on pontoon boats, the railroad bridge being burned, on the twenty sixty of October, 1863. At this time I saw the boys and myself as well, so something out of the usual order. It was choice between hardtack and cartridges, and of course we must have something to eat, and we knew that where we were going they did not have but a mightily little, but we loaded ourselves with eighty rounds of cartridges at the expense of hardtack. We were pushed through Whiteside on to Wanhatchee Station. Close to the foot of Lookout Mountain and near Raccoon Mountain, I believe, we went into camp. Before we did, while marching along, the Rebs on top of Old Lookout tried to shell us, but they could not depress the muzzles of their guns enough to do any harm to us.
Now get Greeley's History of the Civil War and turn to page 434, and read three pages and you'll find out what we did that night at about midnight. This will give you a better idea than I can, though I'll say it is not conducive to good health to be climbing a steep hill with someone shooting towards you. This action gave us fellows from the Army of the Potomac-Paper Collars, White Gloves, etc., as we had been styled, a pretty good fellowship with the Army of the Cumberland. We put up works and held this position until about the twenty-first of November 1863, when we were taken across the Tennessee River to Chattanooga. We did not have very much fighting but a good deal of skirmishing.
As the Battle of Chattanooga was over, we were sent out to a station on some railroad called Red Clay Station which we burned and tore the track up. My, but how it did rain that night. I took two rails, laid he down on one end higher that the other so the water would run off, covered myself with a rubber blanket and went to sleep.
I think the next day we, along with a host of others, were put under the command of Sherman and marched to the relief of General Burnside who was besieged at Knoxville, Tennessee. We were started without any overcoats or blankets, and so far as our regiment was concerned we did not have scarcely anything but guns and extra cartridge boxes. It had begun to grow cold, and being without the necessary covering at night there was a good deal of grumbling. All the same, we made very good time. The troops crossed the Tennessee River at London on a bridge made of wagons. There were pushed in and planks put across from one to another. I do not remember how far it was across, but the water was not very deep. We passed through several small towns, and arrived at a place, I think, called Marysville, said to be some ten miles from Knoxville.
Here news came the Longstreet had attacked and had been repulsed, so we were turned on the back track for home, or Chattanooga. Nothing to eat but what we could find in this part of the country, and there was but a mightily little to find. It had been the home of the forager of both armies too long. Flour and sorghum was the most we got and the flour did not stay on the stomach much longer than it took to swallow the pancakes it was made into. Cold? Well, yes, and a fire had to be kept burning all night, turning first one side then the other to keep from freezing. One night, I remember very well, the ice was fully one inch thick. We were dirty and each one carried a thousand or more graybacks. It was simply impossible to get rid of them. I have seen the boys on the tramp, when the sun came out and we would stop to rest, yank off their shirts and kill what they could but hey did not h ardly make a beginning. But, as all things have a beginning, so they must have an end and we arrived at Chattanooga on Christmas, 1863. I myself was in the barefoot squad and with pants gone up to the knees, I suppose I was rather pretty to look at.
We were marched around under the point of Old Lookout and went into camp at or near Wanhatchee and put up winter quarters where we stayed until about the first of May, 1864. During our stay in these quarters we had a very good time, camp and picket duties were not very hard and wood was quite handy to get during the winter. I was one of a lot of the boys who climbed to the summit of Lookout Mountain and went to the village of Summerville, but there ws not much to the place. Standing from the top of the mountain one of the most splendid views can be seen into four different states.
At this place and time the 73rd and 55th Ohio veterened, that is reenlisted. Two of the boys did not and they were assigned to the mess. I was in until the regiment returned from its furlough.
The only time I was every punished during my service was here. While out on battalion drill, the Lieutenant Colonel, Faulkner who was drilling us gave the command, right dress and by some hook or crook, he happened to get his eyes on me. He rode up to the captain and told him to send me to the Guard House under arrest. We always thought he had it in for our company anyway because we were at the head of the regiment and the company from his own home was B., on the extreme left. Well or course when we arrived at quarters, Jen Wycoff, a sergeant from A Company and also Sergeant of the Guard escorted me to the Guard House. "Gee, Id, what's the matter", say he. I told him.
"Oh well, you'll not stay here very long," and I did not-about twenty minutes, I guess. The Lieutenant Colonel was a good drill master, but he liked commissary whiskey and was overbearing. "Peace to his ashes" if he left any.
One of the incidents that happened to a squad or rather a patrol one day was this: There were about a dozen of us from the picket reserve ordered to patrol the railroad out to a "Stockade". At least that was the way the sergeant in charge understood it. The railroad was one that ran to Trenton from Chattanooga. Well, we hit the ties in the forenoon and traveled until quite late and found no such thing as a stockade. So we started back. When within some three miles of the infantry picket, stumbling along in the dark, "Halt, Halt" rang out in front and away to our left. Did we scatter or lay down? You bet we did something of that sort. After answering the challenge it turned out to an advance cavalry picket post. They had see us go out, but we had not seen them. We arrived in camp sometime in the night. They had given us up as gobbled by the enemy, but we saw none. It was a trestle we were to go to.
Well, we lived pretty well that winter-not very cold, but at one time there was fifteen inches of snow, and I believe the peach trees were in bloom at the same time. I had a picture-ambrotype- taken while at this camp, the same on I have now.
On May seventh, 1864, we started on the Atlanta Campaign. The first move was out through Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, past the Chickamuga battlefield, and found a stopping place at Braggard's Roost. Yes, the Johneys from here held the front line and although they invariably had to drop back to some other entrenched positions, they held on here a while. But it was not long until we reached Dalton. From Dalton to Resaca on the fifteenth of May, we had it hot and heavy, that is our brigade. Remember, one does not know much about what transpires on in ones own sight.
We were ordered to charge and when we stopped, part of Company A was out in a cleared field on quite a hill with some rebel skirmish pits in and around. In front of us was quite a steep slope to come up to reach us, and the Gray boys tried twice to drive us back, but without success. Here I had a lock of hair clipped from over my left ear. I thought that was close enough.
It was up to the Johneys to get out and they did. Carrville, Burnt Hickory, Big Shanty, Kennesaw Mountains, Marietta and other places have a name in history. Chattahouchee River was crossed and the Battle of Peach Tree Creek was fought on July twentieth, 1864 and on the first of September we marched into the city of Atlanta. Remember that from the start in May until we had possession of Atlanta we were either directly under fire or within hearing of it, moving from one point to another or building breast works through rain and wind, sunshine and dust. It was a continuous job. We had got the necessary things that we had to carry own to the fine point, the whole consisting of one piece of shelter ten, gun blanket, sometimes two pieces of ten, shirt, socks, etc. All were rolled up and the ends tied together and c arried over the neck. When two or more camped together, some of the others would have a woolen blanket. The haversack was the main thing to look out for and see that it contained something to eat at all times. I don't believe we put up any tents only when it rained or when we were not on the move.
Anything thing I should have put in this narrative is that when we started on this campaign, we were known as the Twentieth Corps. Our Third Brigade, Third Division corps badge was a five pointed star. The day before we entered Atlanta, tobacco was very scarce among us privates. Even if we had money tobacco could not be found. I remember asking Dave Root for a chew. He said, "I'd rather give you ten cents." But, as we were a part of the advance in the city, the tobacco problem was solved for some time, at least for everybody that had anything to put a caddy or two of it in, did so, and boys that did not use it all took it to sell to them who did.
Our brigade was composed of the 20th Connecticut, 26th Wisconsin, 33rd Massachusetts, 73rd and 55th Ohio and 136 N.Y. We had had this organization from Chattanooga. Colonel James Wood, Jr., our colonel, was in command of the brigade most of the time. WE lay in camp at and around Atlanta building forts and doing guard duty, and sometimes going out with foraging trains On one of these expeditions I was taken with cramps in my legs, could not get them in any shape but what they would cramp. I got into one of the wagons and rode back to camp. That night I think I must have got delirious. It seems as though I was trying to stand on my head, and to this day I don't really know what I did do. I was reported to the doctors and the next morning got some quinine and dover powders. This was kept up for about two weeks but did not seem to get any stronger. Had some appetite but the rations did not taste good. I asked Bradley, hospital steward, "What's the matter?"
He said, "You had a tight squeeze from a run of fever, and you had better take your medicine."
I took one dose and burned up the other two. One day I thought I could stand it, so I went on guard, but I could not bear to have the waist belt on at all. This finished the guard business so far as I was concerned.
On November 15, 1864, we broke camp and started for Savannah, as it turns out, but of course privates did not know it. I put my outfit in a ambulance and rode part of the time, but the next day I got them out joined the company and was on of them from that time on. The first place of any note that we reached was Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia. Here I went into a house to get some flour to make pancakes out of. You see we had to live off the country and as a general thing we lived fairly good. Bacon, sugar, flour, hogs, chickens, sweet potatoes, sorghum all fell in the hands of the foragers. It was not a very hard trip and when there was enough to eat and no rain it really was a picnic. Nothing but skirmishing was going on in the advance. On the 10th of December, 1864 we closed in on the city of Savannah and formed line of battle and began to advance on the works. I remember one day going out on the front line as skirmisher under a newly commissioned lieutenant. He made us keep closed up and we were in plain view of one of the Rebel forts. Of course they let drive a dose of grape at us. One of them hit Dave Root, that is it spoiled his rubber blanket. He had it in his belt folded up and buckled around his waist. No one was hurt but Dave turned around quicker than he ever did in his life. No more closed-up column for us and we where our post was and got there in short order. Rations there were none, but of course the most of us had coffee saved up. Beef cattle were not beef anymore but just beef bones. There was or seemed to be plenty of rice, so it was soup and most of the time until the river could be opened and transports could come up with rations.
November 20 (December ?) we went into Savannah with a hurrah, went out and put up quarters and supposed we would stay there at least until spring. Our camp was amongst oak trees and they were covered with a live moss hanging in long strings, some of the strings being twenty feet long. Along towards Charleston it got cold with hail, snow and sleet weather. I suppose that was not very much seen at that latitude.
Sometime, I think in January, 1865 we crossed the Savannah River on the steamer Planter. While waiting to get aboard of her, we could see alligators sticking their snouts up out of the water. Not a very healthy place for a man should he fall in the water, I should judge. We landed on the South Carolina side and went into camp amongst the rice fields with the rice out and bound in bundles and set up in shocks. The place was called Hardee-Ville. All we had to do here was to thresh out what rice we could eat, clean it by putting in willow baskets and letting the wind blow the chaff out. Slow work but we managed to have enough to live on and since then I have not had much hankering for rice.
There were here the outlines of breastworks built to protect Savannah during the War of 182 with the English. There were large trees growing on them. There were thousands of acres of rice and canal cut running through the land-canals built so the land could be covered with water in order to grow the rice. The river rose to a great big flood and came very nearly drowning a lot of men and carrying away the pontoon bridges. These bridges were of a skeleton sort, covered with heavy canvas. They could be taken all to pieces and put together again in a very short time.
In February we were again on the move, going through the state of South Carolina-marching day and night through mud-mud, fording rivers and swamps, sometimes breaking the ice and we had to pull off shoes, roll up pants, hurry as fast as possible to get through, tearing up railroads and living off the country as we went. There was no fighting to stop this column, some skirmishing but nothing serious.
Arriving at the capital of South Carolina, Columbia, our corps crossed the Saluda River and did not enter the city but think we passed through Cheran. Before we arrived at this place we passed through several places, some I do not know, but Aken and Edesto I remember.
After passing Columbia, we passed through Winnsboro crossing the Catawba and PeDee Rivers, moving steadily along until we arrived at Fayettville, North Carolina, on the Cape Fear River. Crossing this river we pushed forward and on the fifteenth of March, 1865 we ran into a line of battle well entrenched. Sharp fighting occurred here.
The next night after the enemy fell back, I was one of a detail to go on picket. We were in sight of the camp fires of our troops. I and some other built fires on the line which was strictly against orders. There was quite a row about it when the officer of the day made his rounds. The result of it was that those of us concerned went and reported ourselves at brigade headquarters. Some staff officer took our names, regiment and company. We expected to catch the devil as at this time we had a Massachusetts man commanding the brigade by the name of Cogswell, but we never heard any more about it.
Here I was as well relate the way I lost my gun, the only one I ever lost, way back in the mud, and we had lots of it. Marching one night we had been trudging along sometimes on the run, then again just moving. We lay dow to get what rest we could. I went to sleep-don't know how long-but the first thing I knew we were marching along and some one said, "Spencer where is your gun?"
I says, "Back there in the corner of the fence." Probably it's there yet. I got one of the boys to steal one for me and I was too honest a boy at that time to do anything of that kind.
Read up on Sherman's march and you will find this part of it was no picnic. When we went into line of Battle at Averysboro, I carried a five-quart pail of cooked beans, and I think that was all we had, that is, Fred and I. Charles Graves was killed here.
From here we went through pine trees, pitch pine, soil of yellow sand and at the camp fires we all got smoked so we looked like darkeys. No soap to wash with, so it stuck for sometime. We passed close to a large rosin factory on fire. It was reported there were hundreds of barrels in there. We could hear the roar of it for a mile. A dense black column of smoke went straight up and once in a while the flames would burst through the top a hundred feet high-such things happen in war.
We move along, and on the nineteenth of March, 1865, the army again ran up against the Rebels. Under General Joe Johnson at a place called Bentonville, the fighting began late in the afternoon. Our regiment finally brought up in a swamp, how far the Rebel breastworks I don't know but not very far as we could hear them talk. There the firing slacked up a little. It wa a hot lace to be in. After awhile my cartridges gave out, I turned to Dave Root and said, "What will I do I am out of cartridges?". I don't know what he said or whether he said anything for a bullet just then hit my left forearm. "Good God." say I and away I went to the rear-gun left behind. The same bullet hit another of our boys, Will Gardner, this wound was through the elbow. We found our way back to the field hospital. Although it was after dark yet it was very light on account of the number of fires. Arriving at the hospital I did not see anything more of Garner for he had to have his arm take care of. They took about four inches of the bone out of his elbow while my wound proved to be only a good flesh wound and by bathing it in water I got along well enough.
The next day the army moved forward again and I was put in a wagon with a lot more. This was called the ambulance train. There were two in a wagon. I was in and one with a leg off and one with an arm gone and when the mules went on a trot over the corduroy road the language some of those boys used would shook a preacher.
I don't remember how long we were going but we pulled into the town of Goldsboro and were divided around in the different buildings used for hospital purposes the slightly wounded by themselves and take care of themselves. My arm was black and blue to the should and all I had to do was to keep the wound bathed in cold water. We were quartered in an old building that had been used as a hospital before. There were probably a dozen of us in our part. There was a Negro soldier there, badly wounded belonging to some of the troops that arrived at Goldsboro before we did. There was no surgeon to see to him and he died one night and I helped to carry him out. There was also a woman in one of the rooms who could not talk only sort of mumble and there was a lot of fat meat on a desk left for her as we supposed by the Rebels. Some of the boys notified the doctors and they came down and took her away on a stretcher. We were here maybe a week when one day the came down and examined us and set all of us to our different regiments. At which place I arrived in good time but as my arm was still lame I had to go to the doctor and get excused from duty.
I don't know how long we stayed here, it was but a short time however. We were on the march the first day, I guess, when I saw a second cousin, Israel Lewis a member of the 85th N. Y. who was at Goldsboro. A short talk and we separated to meet in after years as private citizens.
Our route lay direct for Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, and we out towards the Confederate Army, a day's march when the news came that Lee had surrendered to Grant.
I think we probably stayed here in Raleigh a couple of days when the whole of Sherman's army turned the head of the column towards Richmond, Virginia. I have no idea what places we passed through nor how long we were going that distance. But I do know and at that every one that had a foot it said that was the hardest marching we ever had. My feet were both blistered and everyone else was in the same condition I guess. If there was water handy at every rest off came shoes an socks and in the water went the feet. We passed through some of the battlefields around Richmond but did not stop here any length of time.
Leaving Richmond we headed for Washington passing through some of the hardest fought battlefields. Our camp one night was on the old Chancellorville battleground. Using a grave for a pillow I slept as soundly as anyone could. Of course I did not know it was a grave when we camped here as it was dark. No tents were ever put up at night unless it was raining.
We arrived at the Capital and took part in the Grand Review of the Armies after which we were marched out of the city and went into camp. Here Captain Cole joined the company. He had been captured by the Johneys while coming through the Carolinas out foraging. The Hon. A. A. Lewis, mother's brother came into camp one day. He was at Washington on a pleasure trip and to see the sights. There also came C. Lerner, E. Cowles, E. Newton and C. Davie, boys from our town who belonged to a band stationed at the Capital. We had a pleasant time here, running around and seeing the sights. I went in to the city-Washington-twice but did not go to the Capital nor White House. I did not at that time think much about seeing them. In fact as I look at it now I wish I had but at that time did not.
We were mustered out and discharged here on the 13th day of June, 1865. From here we were put on the cars and our next stopping place was Rochester, N. Y. where we went into camp on the fair grounds and were paid off, received our discharge papers and were once more foot loose or free men. From Rochester, Company A once more took the cars and they soon began dropping off at different stations, a good many stopped at Wellsville, N.Y. The Bolivar squad got of at Scio and here we hired a team to take us to Boliver. Arriving at the Newton House about dusk. We stacked arms in the bar room, saw a few old friends, took a drink, and I shouldered my outfit and started for home on and one half miles away south. Everybody was in bed but Mort. We had not written to them but they knew about where we were and were expecting us any time.
I was then just a few days past twenty-one. War was over and I must find something else to do. I worked in the fall and winter for one Horace Collins. In 1867 I went down to Oneida County and worked for Uncle George Lewis. Later I came back and went over to Toba in Elk County, Pennsylvania and worked one winter in the pine woods.
In the year 1868 I went to Michigan and worked this winter in the woods for A. Brown on the West Branch of the Rifle River. The camp was 20 miles from anywhere so to speak in the woods; worked six months and came out in the spring. I stopped in Saginaw awhile and then went out to Fenton and hired out to work on a farm for J. L. Smith. I worked through the summer then took a job of cutting wood for John Sackner. I joined the Oldfellows at Fenton, No. 125, I. O. O. F. I worked for different parties during 1869-70-71, to wit S. C. Skidmore, Lewis Beach, Charles Hodges and George Hall.
I was married to Elvira B. Skidmore of Rose, Oakland County, Michigan and just prior to this I took a trip up in the Muskegan country looking for a home. Nothing there I wanted so took another up the lake to Manistee in Manistee County. From this point I went to Bear Lake, 22 miles in Brown township. I paid a man by the name of Ormus D. Green three hundred dollars for his homestead right, 88 acres then took the state road to Travers City where the U.S. land office was located, transacted some business which afterwards made me the owner of the aforementioned tract of land. Taking the state at Travers City, I went to Big Rapids on the Muskegan a distance of 90 miles worked at this place a couple of months then skipped to Oakland County were there was the most attraction for me. After we married I took my bride back to New York, my home where we spent a month or so.
The next spring, myself and brother-in-law, Dennis Skidmore, bought a farm in the town of Argintien in Livingston County, Michigan of two hundred acres. On November 15, 1873, Elvira died leaving me a baby girl 12 days old. Her Grandmother Skidmore took her and Dennis and I undertook to run the farm. In 1874, Dennis died and that busted things up, the place was sold and in the winter of 1875 I took my last trip back to the old home, returning in the early spring to Oakland County, Michigan.
On the first day of May, 1876 I bid my friends a good by, and hugged my baby girl for the last time. (Up to the present, 1910) and started for Oregon. My starting point was from the home of S. C. Skidmore in the town of Rose, Oakland County, Michigan. He took me to Holly where I bought a ticket for San Francisco, California, for which I paid approximately one hundred dollars. I took the train at Holly on the Pierce Marquette Railroad. In due time arrived at Chicago, Illinois. Two French boys from Saginaw, with whom I got some acquainted with were bound for the mining regions of Utah. One of them got bounced out of all the money he had in Chicago. Except for this everything went smoothly except for some delays and accidents. From Council Bluff to Cheyanne ws almost one continuos prairie with an occasional settler with a sod house, and from Cheyanne, then the headquarters for the Black Hills gold excitement to the summit of the Rocky Mountains and on down to Ogden was one rocky and dreary waste until we struck the Sacremento Valley. It took about seven days to make the run from Michigan to San Francisco.
Myself and a man by the name of Smith from Canada sorter chummed together. He was to stop in California for some time and I had to lay over there, San Francisco, one week in order to take a steamer to Portland, Oregon, no railroad at that time. We took up a boarding place on Pacific Street more appropriately called Barbary Coast, hotel Nevada House. We spent the week wondering over the city and drinking beer as we did not consider the water fit for a white man to drink. The only variation we had in the line of provisions at meal time was boiled salmon and roast beef-changed around every other meal. It was a rotten place and I for one was thankful when it came time for the steamer to leave which was on Sunday.
I had few days previous been to the ticket office and bought my ticket, paying $15.00 coin. (No greenbacks taken only at brokers offices at a discount of ten percent) I engaged an expressman to take my trunk to the dock. The $15.00 ticket gave me a steerage passage. Showing my ticket, got my trunk checked and walked aboard the side wheeler steamer Ajax, bound for Portland, Oregon. My berth or bunk rather was located somewhere near midship. We were required to furnish our own bedding and just by luck I had bought me a blanket in the city. I did not get seasick at all. The grub set up by the ship consisted of seabread, hard tack, soup, and stuff they called coffee. I don't think I eat very much, at least I have no recollection of doing so. Stayed up on deck the most of the time during the day and of course had to be down below at night to get any sleep. My recollections are that there was a very good lot of emigrants as they were called in the steerage.
We crossed the bar at the mouth of the Columbia and docked at Astoria some time in the forenoon of Tuesday. I went ashore and stretched my legs on a short walk, and it must have been for Astoria at that time did not show up very large. A hotel drummer came on board here and he surely worked his jaw to some good for his employers.
We arrived at Portland Tuesday night after dark. The arrival of a steamer at that time was announced by the firing of a small cannon on board the vessel. The drummer gathered his big crowd and took us up to the American Hotel, managed by S. M. Quimby. I don't know what street it was on. I was given a cot to sleep on. Woke up in the morning in a strange place and it has seemed strange ever since.
The next day, as I remember I went to Salem, crossed the Willamette at the Stark Street Ferry the railroad depot being on the East side. Why I went to Salem I don't know. From this place I wandered around up to Lebanon and Sweet Home, these places having the reputation of being a good country and plenty of government land open for homestead entry. Nothing up in this part of the state suiting me, I meandered back to Salem where I stopped at the Commercial Hotel.
From Salem I went to Albany where I was offered a job of cutting cord wood. Excuse me, say I from that sort of work so I back tracks myself and stopped off at the then famous falls of the Willamette River at Oregon City, somewhat disappointed over the results of my observations that there was no such thing as being able to secure a homestead of prairie land in the Willamette Valley as I had told by circulars sent out by the Board of Emigation before I left Michigan.
While at the hotel in Salem I chanced to observe an old gentleman sitting there who looked very familiar to me and he proved to be Father Kelly, so called, who I knew in Michigan, we both being members of Fenton Lodge, 125 I. O. O. F. I met him afterwards in Oregon City.
Some time in the latter part of May, 1876, it was my fortune or misfortune to be in Oregon City, the United States Land Office at that time being located there, and I being what at the time was termed a tenderfoot from the East. Oregon City at this time was but a city in name, being but a straggling sort of a town in my mind and would not amount to very much. They were having wood delivered with ox teams and the driver was using a whip with the old time ropes which sounded like the crack of a pistol. I struck up an acquaintance with the rancher whose name I have forgotten who told me he had a claim out on the Abernathy Creek east of the city some eight miles, more or less so I took a tramp out that way as I was looking for some government land to make me a h ome. The result of this trip was not satisfactory to me as I found the land to be quite rough and stony, the soil being red clay and covered with a heavy growth of fern something new to me and the timber being short and scattering. After looking around a day or so I returned to the city.
One morning while hanging around the street I came across a couple of what at that time were termed old Moss Backs, oldish men. In the course of our conversation they told me of the Nehalem Valley where they lived that they were up there at the Land Office to see something about their land as they were living on it and it was being held as railroad land and they expected to start home the next day and they invited me to accompany them. They were there with horses. As I could not go with them having no horse they gave me directions where and when to meet them. They would go across country to Cornelius in Washington County while I would have to go back to Portland and out to Cornelius on the Oregon and California Railroad. I therefore made my arrangements accordingly and me them at the appointed time. They were at the home of Uncle Billy Wilkerson who I got to know very well in later years. My trunk I stored away at the St. J oseph Hotel in care of the landlord whose name I have long since forgotten. This was my first acquaintance with C. L. Parker and Thomas L. Adams with whom I lived as neighbors for 84 years
From Cornelius we went north out through Centerville where these two men put a pack on each of the horses. I think it was flour as they was a mill at Centerville. We took dinner at the home of Mike Wren, an old Hudson Bay trapper and his half breed wife, squaw, good looking girl. The wife got up a very good dinner, nothing extra, no frills. Dinner eaten we packed up and struck out towards Mountaindale, a post office on East Dairy Creek. I have forgotten whether we made the through trip in one day or not. No recollection of camping any - Yes we did too, at some point near Mountaindale. At Mountaindale was a saw mill owned and operated by D. B. Quick, he also had charge of the P. O. (from this office we received our mail. From the mill we traveled on up the creek through mud deep enough to satisfy the mind of most people, with here and there a log house, the homes of some prosperous homesteaders. On to Meachams where we crossed Dairy Creek by fording. Only one more house, De Boards, no for a distance of some fifteen miles. There was no time to stop and view the wonderful scenery that was to seen behind us for we must get to the valley before dark. So forward was the word and on we went climbing up the long red clay hill and on to Green Mountains with its good spring on the right of the road, down past Lookout Mountain where I think we took lunch, over and around logs, the pack horse on ahead. They knew enough to stick to the trail, (could hardly get out of it) and also not to run against any trees or stumps. That is something they soon learn as a collision of that kind brings them up standing in short order. We crossed Pebble Creek three times either by fording or walking logs arriving at Parkers place somewhere close to six p. m. having passed Adams place one half mile back. To say that I was not tired and footsore would be a lie for I was. I was wearing a pair of light boots and my feet were blistered badly, but I could eat.
Every transient man in those days was supposed to carry his bed with him. I had a double woolen blanket bought in San Francisco and any and everyone who has been in the Nehalem Valley know what it is or ought to. Parker with whom I boarded for a short time had at this time probably one and a half acres cleared. He was living in a double log house about 16x24x8 feet high with a drove of small children. Parker made it a part of his business to locate parties who were on the look out for a piece of government land.
As that was what I was h ere for we started out one morning crossed the river and looked over the N. E. 1/4 of Sec. 4, T4-Nr 4W. This piece of land had been filed on before. There was at this time a split board house, cedar boards, 16x18x8 feet high, pucheon floor, dirt fireplace. There was about an acre and a half slashed with a small garden spot cleared. We went west from the house and north to the northwest corner and by the way, I did not find this corner again for four years. I was told that the man who held this claim wanted to sell as he was going to Eastern Oregon. His name was Henry Beecher, no relation to H. W. B.
In a few days I went outside as it is called at this late day and by good luck or bad I h ave not fully made up my mind to this day, I found Beecher already on the move. Caught him on the road between Greenville and Forest Grove. I broached the subject of his selling out but did not let him know that I wanted it for myself but some of Parkers friends did. I finally told him I would give him twenty dollars for his relinquishment. After doing considerable cussing he agreed to take it.
Then came the hunt for his notice of filing, this was found and we started on foot for Cornelius to find a Justice of the Peace to take the acknowledgment of the relinquishment which we did. I have forgotten his name but he was a blacksmith by trade and lived on the south side of the railroad and at the east end of the town. I think it was while I was here at this time I got acquainted with Mr. J. R. Spencer, a merchant of Cornelius. (But he ain't no relation of mine.)
I soon returned tot he valley with an ax on my shoulder prepared to hew me out a home. But instead I went to work with the most of them settlers and helped cut the road from Mountain Spring through to the settlement. By this means I got acquainted with all of them. Some of them were queer characters, odd, peevish, plain spoken, but good meaning. Here I begun to use tobacco after having gone without one year. I don't know just how long we were at this work probably two weeks. It was slow work and no pay.
I made my first improvement August 12, 1876 and went to Oregon City and filed Preemption Claim September 14, 1876. I did not let this filing stand but a short time, two or three months when I filed a Homestead Entry. This of course knocked me out of some cash because it took coin to do business in this country and I had nothing but greenback and there were at a discount of ten percent and no change smaller that a short bit (ten cents) during these trips to and fro out in Gods Country as it was called.
It was m good fortune to meet at Cornelius one James Benefiel and a more whole souled man never lived. He lived in Mountaindale. He loaded my trunk in his wagon and took it h ome with him. Probably it was three or four months before I saw him or the trunk again. I don't know when I did take it away. It must have been there nearly a year. Jim, at the time had quite a family of boys lived on a rented place and done a lot of teaming.
In the meantime over in the valley I had changed my boarding place for Parkers to Henry Van Blaricom's. I think I paid them two dollars and a half per week. Was at this time doing some slashing on my place north of the cabin. I probably cut down five acres and there is some of that ground not cleared up yet.
Very soon I conclude I would have to see what I could do towards keeping bachelors hall. I could sweep, shake up a bed, boil potatoes and fry meat but baking bread was a corker, never having tried it. Well I moved my trunk over on the hill and commenced the business of stirring up some dough to sour. Everybody made sourdough bread or biscuits. Well for about three weeks more bread went out the back door than was eat. The cooking utensils were not of the most elaborate style, consisting of a dutch oven, an iron pot or two, coffee pot, frying pan, tin plates, cups, etc. Cooking on a fireplace made of dirt pounded down hard is not the most sanitary place to cook, (Try it, if you think it is) using green fir or maple wood with sparks popping around.
There was a certain Jo Van Blaricom whom the most of the people who have ever been in this part of the world would know and myself got quite chummy, he and myself being soldiers of the Civil War, he was in the Fourth Minnesota. We got to going hunting together and manys the three day trips we had. Jo could and did tell the best hunting stories of any fellow I ever heard and they were endless.
The first deer I killed and didn't kill was way over east and south somewhere about the head waters of what is now called Elk Creek. It was this way; I had borrowed Hnery's double barrel rifle. Jo and I were to take a hunt of three days. Taking with us some bread, meat and coffee. We went south up Pea Vine Ridge, then we must have turned east and crossed one of the deepest canyons I believe there is anywhere around here. We could and did see the stars in the heavens. (Don't laugh, it was a clear day). The first night out we camped at the head of a small draw. Camp being established we took the guns and started out in different directions to see if there was any game. Soon I saw a deer standing broadside of me and not more that seventy five yards away. A good shot? Of course I was. Instead of holding my gun on a vital spot, I let drive at the body. The deer walked off. I tried the other barrel but in some manner the ramroad had got pushed down so that the hammer hit it instead of the cap and of course it did not explode. I yelled for Jo, up he came. He soon brought the deer to the ground and we h ad venison for supper. This was the first deer I had ever shot at. While laying close to the camp fire this night some varmint came creeping up on a log and gave out sniffs and growls but moved away without doing any damage. Of course I was somewhat scared.
The next morning we pulled out not knowing where were and went, I judge south, we had no compass, to a high ridge from which we thought we could look down on the head waters of East Dairly Creek. We followed this ridge to the right until we came to a point where we could recognize some landmarks on the Green Mountain road. Then by bearing short to our right we came to stream of water which we followed down. This proved to be the East Fork of Pebble Creek. Three days from home out of grub and out of tobacco but there are or was then several deer licks on the East Fork and we also discovered immense bodies of coal. Have often wished to take this same tramp over but never have. When we reached the main road on Pebble we met a man by the name of Loftus, a Confederate soldier who was on his way outside and he gave me a chew of tobacco. Yes it tasted as good as a piece of mince pie.
I had several of such hunting trips and used the same gun, but finally got disgusted with its mode of going off if the weather was anyways damp, so on one of my trips to Portland I bought me a Remington single shot, breech loader, 40-70. Paid $45.00 for it. It was the first gun of the kind here.
By this time I could eat my own cooking with gagging.
I remember another hunt I had in company with some Smith boys from Washington County and Uncle Jo. This was down at the mouth of East Fork. I had that same two barreled gun. We were camped down there those three or four days. Early one morning I wa on a stand near where Jo Konkle later on built his house. The dogs were out and in the creek jumps a deer not more than thirty feet away. Snap, snap went both hammers and no explosion. Powder damp in the tubes and I had not picked it out and put on a fresh cap. I got disgusted, turned the over to Jo, and went home, but we go meat just the same.
It would not be good policy to tell of all my hunting trips as there were a good many failures and would show too much time spent in that way.
Large bands of elk used to range all around here. They came in the swale northeast of where the house now stands, at different times. One experience that I, in company with Dock Beeghleey, Wm. Mellinger, C. N. Plowman and Jo Van took us up Rock Creek in the early times, 1877, in a swale now owned by Claude Prosper. We thought we were some ten miles from home. We got two elk and we concluded to dry some of it, but had no salt so Dock started for the settlement to get some. This was Docks first hunting experience here. He made the trip all right and I think got back the same day. Remember there was nothing but deer and elk trails from the Plowman place up to where we were.
On another occasion the second or third of July 1877 or 8, T. M. Tucker and myself started up to Rock Creek on a hunt. The first night we camped on the south side of the creek about a mile above the falls. We were the first white men to be up so far. The big drift in the creek just above where now lives Geo. Sitts was a full half mile long and in after years it was called "Spencer's Drift." We on our return got gloriously wet. It being on the fourth of July were gone two days and got 00.
Don't think I did not do any work on the ranch at home, for I did, such as clearing the land and building fence. Of course it was slow doing everything alone, no team, in fact nothing but a couple of cats for which I paid one dollar apiece. I soon after $20.00 for a pony named "Bird", and she was a bird too. Raised a colt and finally sold and traded them to Jim Benefiel. The spring I got her as I had no feed I put a bell on her and took her up the creek and turned her out to hunt her own grub in a piece of swale land now owned by John Brouse and Bill Plocke. There was plenty of grass and she soon got fat. I let her run there I think to or three months alone. Nothing nor nobody living about Plowman's.
During the winter of 1878 and 9, Judson Weed was teaching the school here in the log school house, at that time located close to the corner of the N.W. quarter of Section 304. I concluded to start a boarding house for young men and see if I could not replenish my flat pocket book. Charley Benefiel and Chaney Benefiel, his cousin and Weed boarded with me this winter, I doing the cooking and the two boys going to school. Sometimes I would have to go and get them across the river specially if the water was up very high because they could not handle the cedar canoe properly. There was not much danger of its capsizing but they could not land on the opposite where they wanted to and there farther you drift down the worse it is about getting back. That was a grand old time we had that winter.
Well all things come to an end and so it was with the school. One day during the summer of 79 Weed and myself concluded we would take a hunt, he with a Winchester rifle and I with my Remington. Starting from his place we would go north and see what we could find, and there was a rumor that there was a big prairie off in that direction somewhere. Filling our pack each with grub we crossed the river and circled around what is now the Denslow Swale or Swamp. We thought there was at least a hundred acres in it by now by the looks at that time, but there is a good deal less. But to proceed with the hunt. We did not go very far before we discovered signs of elk. Soon a large band broke from cover and started up the hills. I got one shot and brought down a cow elk. This was the first one I had ever saw or rather these were. Weed did not get shot which was his misfortune. This put a stop to our exploration for the prairie. (In fact there was never was any). The next thing was to get the meat out. We dressed it and hung it up and went back home. Found Wilson, he took old Charley a steady old pack horse. I and Wee took an ax apiece and started back. We cut a trail so the horse could get to the meat, lashed it on him and went home very well satisfied. I think it took two trips to get it all. In dressing this one we found a bullet embedded in one of its front legs which was all grown over and well flattened out. It probably had been in there a year of so.
It was a good feat to get elk in those days. I have seen bands of them numbering as high as thirty, but they are are all gone at this time. Probably a few are in the Coast Range Mountains but they are so far away.
Getting lost in these woods is no fun. I never was exactly lost but on Christmas morning in say 1879 I went up to Neighbor Plowmans to grind my ax and took my gun along for company. After doing the sharpening act, thinks I, I'll cut across through the woods and hit the river. Well I did but not where I expected to by some six miles. I started up the hill back of the house and struck level ground and soon found trees blazed about in the direction I wanted to go. Thinks I to myself, "This is alright, I'll go on." By and by I came to a creek. Nearing this creek was a section corner. I had gone due north instead of east. Now I was up against it. Some two years before I and some others had been over on Crooked Creek on a hunt and I now recognized that I was on this creek some two miles from Plowman's and nothing to eat. I did not want to back track myself so I says, "Here goes for the mouth of the creek.". It was clear and cold. Frost hung on the logs and fern. You may believe I wasted no time but went for all there was in it. At one point on the creek I ran into a band of elk. I judged there were twenty five or more. I took one shot at a big fellow with horns on but did not stop to see whether he was hit or not. It was a hard tramp climbing over logs, crawling through brush, but I arrived at the river and after doing a lot of hollering, I routed out "Hey, and Irishman. This was about 5 p. m. No boat so he cut an alder tree on his side and I fell on into it and crossed over safe and sound but most mightily tired. Camped with him that night. Asked why I did not stop and get some of these elk my answer to such will be I was not after elk just then. Furthermore the fresh meat without any salt is not very god for the bowels. Another thing I did not relish the idea of camping out alone. By the way Brill Pringle lives on the O'Hey place. Arrived home the next day, fed my pony and rested up.
Some time during 78 or 79 through the instrumentality or some thing else of Phineus Peck who lived on Sauvies Island I began to correspond with a widow by the name of S. A. Gillihan at Vancouver Washington. Then after a correspondence of some time I don't know just how long, perhaps she can tell, I went over on the island to see her. Some people would call it sparking. The weather was terrible cold and I believe the Columbia River froze over that winter. Well to cut this short, "The rats and the mice they made such a strife, I went to Vancouver to get me a wife." Or rather the landing at Gillihans was called Potato Hole, some three miles below Vancouver. She was willing and so was I. We were married on the third day of June, 1880 in the parlor of the National Hotel, Portland, Oregon. Whether we have made a success of married life, I'll leave the readers of this journal to judge.
We moved in on the homestead the 13th of July, 1880. One hundred dollars was the capital stock of the corporation. This served to get household goods and some grub to eat, one cow and some hens. What we have got, it took hard work to accumulate.
P. S. Perhaps some of the children can tell the ups and downs that have happened since this time.
March, 13th, 1910 signed by I. P. Spencer
(These memoirs were transcribed my Omar Spencer, Israel son and at
that time only the family had copies.)
The history of the Spencer
family in and around Vernonia, Oregon are numerous. Sarah and Israel had
4 children: Omar C. born 1881 in Vernonia, Oregon d: 1964, Oral G. born
1882 in Vernonia, Margaret E. born 1887 in Vernonia and Robert Lloyd born
1890, died 28 Jan 1993 in Vernonia.
There is a room in the Vernonia Museum commemorating Israel, with various pictures and artifacts of his for all of the area to see.
The following are various articles concerning Israel and his family that can be found in the Museum, with out the pictures. A lot of these words are similar to his own memories but with some addition information added.
ISRAEL P. SPENCER
Since the early settlers
in the Upper Nehelem Valley arrived here in the period from 1874 to 1880,
none of that original group is still alive, and though there are many descendants
from these pioneers still living here, the ranks of the children born to
them is thinning.
However one of the settlers of 1876 had a son born here in 1890 who observed his 90th birthday Sunday October 5, 1980, and this seems the appropriate time to talk about that family which for the past 100 years has played an important part in this community. The birthday celebrant known to most of you is Robert L. Spencer.
Bob's father, Israel P. Spencer, was born June 3, 1844 at DeRoyter, Madison County, New York. He found his way to the Nehelem Valley in the spring of 1876. And in 1910, he had the foresight to write his memoirs which are a veritable gold mine of information. Some excerpts from his writings will be shared with the reader. Israel tells of growing up on a farm, and recalls as a boy moving to another farm near Boliver, N.Y. which his father bought and he and his brothers cleared of brush. He recalls:
"There was a creek running through the farm and along it a good many butternut trees. We cleared a fairly good farm, peeled the hemlock and sold the bark to the tannery and the logs to the sawmills.
"There was always a winter school, and I got along fine until I got the big head as most boys will from 15 to 18. I began to think I knew more than Father, Mother and all the teachers put together so I quit at about 17 years of age and worked at one thing and another with wages about 50 cents a day.
"Things ran along until the Civil War in 1861....I enlisted August 6, 1862 when I was 18 years old...was sent to Washington, D. C......crossed the Potomac River on famous chain bridges and went to camp at Arlington Heights amongst the fleas and graybacks."
Spencer's memoirs contain many pages of interesting stories about the Civil War including his participation in the Battle of Gettysburg. With that background he brought with him to the Nehalem Valley a deep sense of patriotism, and was an ardent member of the GAR until the day of his death in 1922.
In 1868 Spencer went to Michigan and worked in the woods. Two significant events took place in his life while in Michigan; he joined the Odd Fellows Lodge in 1869 and was married to Elvira B. Skidmore who died in November 1873 just 12 days after she gave birth to a baby girl named Emily. The baby's grandmother Skidmore took the child to raise and in May of 1876 Israel bid them good-bye and headed West as so many were doing at that time. He paid about $100 for a train ticket from Michigan to San Francisco, and had a week lay-over there until he got a passage fro Portland, Oregon. He paid $15 for a steerage ticket on the side wheel steamer Ajax and was required to furnish his own bedding.
Spencer remembers docking at Astoria where he first set foot on Oregon soil. They reached Portland at night after dark and the arrival of the steamer was announced by the firing of small cannon. Spencer crossed the Willamette River on the Stark Street ferry and then traveled to Salem, Lebanon and Sweet Home where government land was open for homesteads. But that part of the state didn't suit Israel Spencer.
He continued his search and in the later part of May visited the United States Land Office at Oregon City. He recalled Oregon City as "a city in name only, a straggly sort of town with wood being delivered with an ox team and a driver using a whip of old time ropes which sounded like the crack of a pistol."
While there his search for land proved fruitless until one day he me a couple of "old Moss Backs" who told him they were from the Nehalem Valley. Those men were Clark L. Parker and Thomas L. Adams. They said they were in Oregon City on business and were returning to the valley the next day if Spencer was interested in accompanying them. The two men road horseback cross the country from Oregon City to Cornelius while Spencer returned to Portland to collect his belongings and then out to Cornelius on the Oregon and California railroad. From there the men went on foot to Centerville where there was a flouring mill and Parker and Adams loaded their pack horse.
In his memoirs, Spencer vividly recalled the trek into the Nehalem Valley.
"At Mountaindale there was a sawmill owned and operated by D. B. Quick who also had charge of the post office. From the mill we traveled up the creek through mud deep enough to satisfy the mind of most people, with here and there was a log house, the homes of prosperous homesteaders. On to Meacham where the crossed Dairy Creek for a distance of 15 miles. No time to stop and view the wonderful scenery behind us as we must get to the valley by dark. so on we went, climbing up the long red clay hill and on to Green Mountain with its good spring and sent the pack horses on ahead. They know enough to stick to the trail (could barely get out of it!)....Crossed Pebble Creek tow times, either by fording or walking logs, arriving at Parker's place about 6 p.m. having passed Adams place a mile and a half back. To say I was not tired and footsore would be a lie. I was wearing a light pair of boots and my feet were blistered, but I could eat.
"Every transient man in those days was supposed to carry his bed with him. I had a double woolen blanket bought in San Franciso. Parker with whom I boarded for a short time had a double long house about 16x24.8 feet high and a drove of small children."
Parker made it a part of his business to locate parties who were on the lookout for government land. He took Spencer to a piece that had been filled on by Henry Beecher who wanted to sell out and go to Eastern Oregon. The property had a split cedar board house, 16x18x8 feet high with a puncheon (split log) floor and a dirt fireplace. A small garden plot was cleared. It was about 200 acres and encompassed all of what is now O. A. Hill, and extended down to the river along Mellinger Road and crossed the river for a small area.
Spencer located Beecher and succeeded in buying a relinquishment to the claim for $20 ( a lot of money in those days) and set about the necessary work of filing his pre-emption land claim. But before he got to work on his own place, he joined with others to cut a wagon road from Green Mountain into the valley. It was slow work and no pay be he did get to know the other settlers. He remarked, "Some were queer characters, odd, peevish, plain spoken, but good meaning."
In the meantime Spencer had changed his boarding place from Parkers to the Henry Van Blaricom home. While there he slashed several acres on his own land and finally decided he should set up "bachelor hall" in his own house. Of this he said, " I could sweep, shake up a bed, boil potatoes and fry meat, but baking bread was a corker." But he got sour dough starter and tackled the job and said that for a few weeks more bread went out the back door that was eaten. In time he mastered the art.
In his memoirs Spencer told a good deal about hunting. He said bands of elk roamed all around here at the time (1876-1880) and deer were plentiful. He told of h is first hunt: "I borrowed Henry Van Blaricom's double barreled rifle. Joe Van Blaricom (brother of Henry) and I were able to take a hunt of three days...I saw a deer standing broadside to me, and not more than 75 yards away. A good shot? Of course I was. But instead of holding my gun on a vital spot I let drive at the body. The deer walked off. I tried the other barrel but in some manner the ramrod had got pushed down so the hammer hit it instead of the cap and of course it didn't explode. I yelled for Joe and he came and soon brought the deer to the ground and we had venison for supper. This was the first deer I had ever shot at. While lying close to the campfire that night, some varmint came creeping up on a log and gave out sniffs and growls, but moved away without doing any damage. Of course I was somewhat scared."
Spencer told of other hunts and he soon invested in a gun of his own, a Remington single shot, breach loader, 40-70 for which he paid $45.
By the winter of 1879-80 Spencer had mastered the art of cooking so as to be brave enough to take three boarders. One was Judson Weed who was the second teacher of the school in that first log school house on the Parker place. The other two boarders were Charley Benefiel and his cousin Chaney Benefiel. Spencer recalled that when water was high he sometimes had to bring them across the river in the cedar canoe. "It was a grand old time we had that winter.", he remarked.
ROMANCE IN THE VALLEY
No story is complete without
a touch of romance in it and the story of Israel Spencer had its own interesting
love story. Even in those days there were matchmakers always looking out
for their friends. Spencer stated it thus:
"Some time during 1879-80 through the instrumentality of Phineous Peck who lived on Sauvies Island, I began to correspond with a widow by the name of S. A. Gillihan of Vancouver, Washington. After a corresponce of some time I went over to see her. Some people would call it sparking. The landing at Gilliahs was called Potato Hole, some three miles below Vancouver and as I recall the Columbia River froze over that winter... She was willing and so was I. We were married on the third day of June, 1880 in the parlor of the National Hotel, Portland, Oregon."
Spencer brought his bride to his Nehalme Valley homestead July 13, 1880. He said $100 was the capital stock with which they had to buy household goods, some grub, one cow and some hens.
Mrs. Spencer, formerly Sarah Ann Tindle, was born in Ceder County, Miss.....ri on May 17, 1850. She was educated in the schools of that state and married Martin Gillahan. They came West in 1870 and first located on Sauvies Island but later homesteaded in Clark County, Washington. Gillihan passed away there in 1872 leaving Sarah Ann a widow and mother of a small daughter Bertha who was born in November of 1871. (Bertha later became Mrs. Otto Malmsten and resided in Vernonia.)
Spencer certainly claimed a bride in who the pioneer spirit was already born. She very rapidly became a vital part of the Vernonia community and remained so until her death on her birthday, May 17, 1932. She was active in the Woman's Relief Corps, auxiliary to the G. A. R. and later became the darling of the American Legion. Everyone knew her as Aunt Sallie.
Mrs. Spencer brought her nine year old daughter, Bertha into the family when she and Israel were married in June, 1880. In time they added two sons and two daughters to their family. Omar C. Spencer was born April 18, 1891. After getting the schooling available in the valley he went to Portland and later became a successful Portland attorney. He passed away in 1964.
Next came Oral, born on November 5, 1882. She lived in Portland for many years and was a dressmaker for many of the wealthy women in Portland society circles.
In 1887 Margaret was added to the family. She married Thomas Throop and they resided in the valley until their children were growing up and then moved to Dayville in Eastern Oregon.
Then, October 5, 1890, along came Robert, the only family member who remains in the valley now. He can tell about many of the schools in the area, because he was an avid student and when an especially good teacher, Mrs. Hatfield (wife of the second Vernonia doctor) came here he followed her from school to school.
It was at the Tucker school located near the present site of Perry's Sports Camp that Bob first met his wife. They met face to face at recess when running around the building in opposite directions. The girl was Irene Duggins and that meeting blossomed into romance. Her family later moved to Bakersfield, California, but Bob went there to claim his bride in 1912. They observed their golden anniversary here in 1962.
The Spencer family has left its indelible mark on the Nehalem Valley and anyone who has lived here any length of time can add to this saga.
Information by George Spencer