Bancroft's Works Chap. XIV. Pg. 348

[A BRIEF EXCERPT REGARDING OREGON'S
FIRST STATE HOUSE, THE FIRE, THE SQUABBLE, & THE CAUSE]


In August 1854 Governor Davis resigned. There was no fault to be found with him, except that he was imported from the east. In resigning, he gave as a reason his domestic affairs. He was tendered a parting dinner at Salem, which was declined; and after a residence of eight months in the territory he returned to the states with a half-declared intention of making Oregon his home, but he died soon after reaching the east. Although a good man, and a democrat, he was advised to resign, that Curry might be appointed governor, which was done in November following.

Curry was the favorite of that portion of the democratic party known as the Salem clique, and whose organ was the Statesman. He followed the Statesman's lead and it defended him and his measures, which were really its own. He was a partisan more through necessity than choice, and in his intercourse with the people he was a liberal and courteous gentleman. Considering his long acquaintance with Oregon affairs, and his probity of character, he was perhaps as suitable a person for the position as could have been found in the party to which he belonged. [2] He possessed the advantage of being already, through his secretaryship, well acquainted with the duties of his office, in which he was both faithful and industrious. Such was the man who was chosen to be governor of Oregon during the remaining years of its minority, and the most trying period of its existence.

The legislature met as usual the first Monday in December, [3] with James K. Kelly president of the council, and L.F. Cartee, speaker of the lower house. The session was begun and held in two rooms of the state house, which was so far finished as to be used for the meetings of the assembly. The principal business, after disposing of the Indian question, was concerning the public buildings and their location. The money for the state house was all expended, and the commissioners were in debt, while the building was still unfinished. The penitentiary fund was also nearly exhausted, while scarcely six cells of the prison were finished, [4] and the contractors were bringing the government in their debt. The university commissioners had accepted for a site five acres of land tendered by Joseph P. Friedley at Corvallis, and had let the contracts for building materials, but had so far only expended about three thousand dollars; while the commissioners appointed to select, protect, sell, and control the university lands had made selections amounting to 18,000 acres, or less than one township. Of this amount between 3,000 and 4,000 acres had been sold, for which over $9,000 had been realized. In this case there was no indebtedness. No action had yet been taken concerning the Oregon City claim, which was a part of the university land, but proceedings would soon be begun to test the validity of titles. [5] To meet the expense of litigation, an act was passed authorizing the employment of counsel, but with a proviso that in the event of congress releasing this claim to McLoughlin, the money obtained from the sale of lots should be refunded out of the sale of the second township granted by congress for university purposes in the last amendment to the land law of Oregon. [6] Such was the condition of the several appropriations for the benefit of the territory, at the beginning of the session.

And now began bargaining. Further appropriations must be obtained for the public buildings. Corvallis desired the capital, and the future appropriations. At the same time the members from southern Oregon felt that their portion of the state was entitled to a share in the distribution of the the public money. An act was passed relocating the seat of government at Corvallis, and removing the university to Jacksonville. [7] It was not even pretended that the money to be spent at Jacksonville would benefit those it was intended to educate, but only that it would benefit Jackson county. [8]

The act which gave Corvallis the capital ordained that "every session of the legislative assembly, either general or special," should be convened at that place, and appointed a new board of commissioners to erect suitable public buildings at the new seat of government. [9] Congress made a further appropriation of $27,000 for the state house, and $40,000 for the penitentiary, to be expended in such a manner as to insure completion without further aid from the United States. [10] Then it began to be understood that the relocation act, not having been submitted to congress as required by the organic act, was not operative, and that the seat of government was not removed from Salem to Corvallis by that act, nor would it be until such times as congress should take action. Nor could the governor pay out any part of the appropriation under instructions from the legislature, except under contracts already existing. The executive office, more-over, should not be removed from Salem before congress should have approved the relocation act. [11] So said the comptroller; but the governor's office was already removed to Corvallis when the comptroller reached this decision. The Statesman, too, which did the public printing, had obeyed the legislative enactment, and moved its office to the new seat of government. [12]

When the legislature met in the following December, Grover introduced a bill to relocate the capital at Salem, which became a law on the 12th of December, 1855. But this action was modified by the passage of an act to submit the question to the people at the next election. Before this was done, and perhaps in order that it might be done, the almost completed state house, with library and furniture, was destroyed by fire, on the night of the 30th of December, which was the work of an incendiary. The whigs charged it upon the democrats, and the democrats charged it upon "some one interested in having the capital at Corvallis." [13] However that may have been, it fixed the fate of Corvallis in this regard. [14] Further than this, it settled definitely the location question by exhausting the patience of the people. [15] The legislature was reduced to the necessity of meeting in hired apartments for nearly twenty years before the state was able to erect a suitable structure.

The $40,000 appropriated to complete the penitentiary was expended on a building which should not have cost one third of the two appropriations, the state a dozen years later erecting another and better one at Salem.

TO BE CONTINUED


Footnotes:

1. Nothing of Interest to type.2. George Law Curry, born in Philadelphia, July 2, 1820, was the son of George Curry, who served as captain of the Washington Blues in the engagement preceding the capture of Washington city in the war of 1812; and grandson of Christopher Curry, an emigrant from England who settled in Philadephia, and lies in the Christ Church burial-ground of that city. He visited the republic of Colombia when a child, and returned to the family homestead near Harrisburg, Penn. His father dying at the age of 11, he went to Boston, where he was apprenticed to a jeweler, finding time for study and literary pursuits, of which he was fond. In 1838 he was elected and served two terms as president of the Mechanic Apprentices' Library, upon whose records may be found many of his addresses and poems. In 1843 he removed to St. Louis, and there joined with Joseph M. Field and other theatrical and literary men in publishing the Reveille, emigrating to Oregon in 1846, after which time his history is a part of the history of the territory. His private life was without reproach, and his habits those of a man of letters. He lived to see Oregon pass safely through the trials of her probationary period to be a thriving state, and died July 28, 1878.

3. The members elect of the council were:

J.C. Peebles of Marion
J.K. Kelly, Clackamas and Wasco
Dr. Cleveland of Jackson
L.W. Phelps of Linn
Dr. Greer, Washington and Columbia
J.M. Fulkerson, Polk and Tillamook
John Richardson, Yamhill
A.L. Humphrey, Benton and Lane
Levi Scott, Umpqua

The lower house consisted of:


G.W. Coffinbury, of Clatsop
E.S. Tanner, David Logan, D.H. Belknap, Washington
A.J. Hembree, A.G. Henry, Yamhill
H.N.V. Holmes, Polk and Tillamook
I.F.M. Butler, Polk
R.B. Hinton, Wayman St. Clair, Benton
L.F. Cartee, W.A. Starkweather, A.L. Lovejoy, Clackamas
C.P. Crandall, R.C. Geer, N. Ford, Marion
Luther Elkins, Delazon Smith, Hugh Brown, Linn
A.W. Patterson, Jacob Gillespie, Lane
James F. Gazley, Douglas
Patrick Dunn, AlexanderMcIntire, Jackson
O. Humason, Wasco
Robert J. Ladd, Umpqua
J.B. Condon, Columbia
J.H. Foster, Coos, elected but not present.

Two other names, Dunn and Walker, appear in the proceedings and reports, but no clew is given to their residence. The clerks of the coucil were B. Genois, J. Costello, and M.C. Edwards. Sergeant-at-arms, J.K. Delashmutt; doorkeeper, J.L. Gwinn. The clerks of the lower house were Victor Trevitt, James Elkins, S.M. Hammond. Sergeant-at-arms, G.L. Russell; doorkeeper, Blevins.

4. The territorial prisoners were placed in charge of the penitentiary commissioners about the beginning of 1854. There were at that time three convicts, six others being added during the year. It is shown by a memorial from the city of Portland that the territorial prisoners had been confined in the city prison, which they had set on fire and some escaped. The city claimed indemnity in $12,000, recovering $600. A temporary building was then erected by the commissioners for the confinement of those who could not be employed on the penitentiary building, some of whom were hired out to the highest bidder. It was difficult to obtain keepers on account of the low salary. It was raised at this session to $1,000 per annum, with $600 for each assistant. G.D.R. Boyd, the first keeper, received $716 for 7 months' service.

5. A memorial had been addressed to congress by Anderson of the legislature of 1852-53, praying that the Oregon City claim might be released to McLoughlin, and a township of land granted that would not be subject to litigation. Whether it was forwarded is uncertain; but if so, it produced no effect.

6. This is an allusion to a memorial similar to Anderson's passed at the previous session.

7. Nothing of Interest to type.8. In the bargain between Avery and the Jackson county member, said the Statesman, the latter remarked that he 'did not expect it [the university] to remain there, but there would be about $12,000 they could expend before it could be removed, which would put up a building that would answer for a court-house.'

9. B.R. Biddle, J.S. McItuney, and Fred. Waymire constituted the new board.

10. Nothing of Interest to type.

11. Nothing of Interest to type.

12. Corvallis had at this time a court-house, two taverns, two doctors, and several lawyers' offices, a school-house, the Statesman office, a steam saw-mill, and two churches. The methodist church was dedicated Dec. 16, 1855, G. Hines officiating.

13. Nothing of Interest to type.

14. At the election in June 1856, the votes for the capital between the principal towns stood, Portland, 1,154; Salem, 2,049; Corvallis, 1,998; Eugene, 2,316. [this is not a type-o]

15. At the final election between these places the people refused to vote, being, as the Statesman said, 'tired of the subject.' Avery, who was elected to the legislature in 1856, again endeavored to bring the subject before them, but the bill was defeated.


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R. Gess Smith