Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 20/Documents

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Letter, Jesse Applegate to W. H. Rees, Secretary Oregon Pioneer Association.

Yoncalla, Oregon, Dec. 25th, 1874.

W. H. Rees, Esq.,
Sec. O. P. A.

Dear Sir:

Your letter informing me that I had been named as a speaker to your association at the fair ground on the 15th June next has been received. I will not be present.

Did my circumstances permit, it would afford me great pleasure to meet my old friends and neighbors on that happy occasion.

Many of them crossed the plains when I did, and we have shared the toils and dangers of the journey, and the privations and hardships of settling a new country together. May they long enjoy in honor the just fruits of their enterprise.

It would be a great enjoyment once more to meet them and present them with an address. There are many pleasant and flattering things I could truthfully say to them, and some scraps of history in which some of the early settlers of Oregon deserve honorable mention yet untold, which I should like to see go on the record.

The pioneers of the U. S. are of illustrious descent. Their forefathers were that band of heroes who shed their blood for the rights of conscience in Europe three centuries ago. And rightly appreciating the blessings of civil and religious liberty, they ran all risks and endured all hardships to plant these precious seeds in a virgin soil. They have taken deep root, and, watered with the blood of patriotism, they have borne abundant fruit.

From Plymouth Rock to Cape Disappointment, from Mexico to the Pole, all is sacred to liberty. Multitudes of men of all LETTER OF JESSE APPLEGATE

398 races, colors


and languages

live together in

own manner,

seeking happiness in his

each worshipping



peace and unity,

and equal


as seemeth best to himself.

seems to the purpose of the Deity that the human race should increase in knowledge, virtue and happiness, and men, as the physical forces of nature, are but the instruments in His It


hands to effect His purposes. a physical advance, the agent



the world

found to carry

is it

ready for

into effect.

moral reform, the nation, race or individual is always found prepared to meet the crisis; and though the physical forces have existed through all time precisely as they exist today, they remain hidden in the womb of nature until a knowledge of them is a necessity. So of moral progress the occain

sion calls forth the


In this view of the case there

is little

honor due the human

more than the physical agent he executes the purpose assigned him and passes off the stage of action, just as the old machine is

superseded by a superior or later invention. were in our day So it is with the race of pioneers.


precisely adapted mentally and physically to perform the part assigned us in the march of civilization, and no matter what

our individual motives as individuals, as a class we have well executed the purposes of our creation. But like the scythe, the sickle and the shovel plow, the best of tools among the roots and stumps of a new land, we will be thrown aside and

now our work is done. Descended from the old Puritans of England, the love of liberty is as natural to us as the color of our skins. A life of many generations on the border between the civilized and the savage has not only trained us to such a life of hardship and forgotten

The pioneer does adventure, but fits us for its enjoyment. not settle down to stay, he only halts he can no more bear to be crowded into cities than his half-brother, the savage; while the range





good, firewood convenient and until the near


plenty he

approach of the pursuing multitude. these arrive, with the din of machinery and the snort of LETTER OF JESSE APPLEGATE


the engine, the pioneer follows the beaver to a




True, there are some





from the


who came

to preach the gospel to the heathen. They are entitled to honor for their motive, however small their success.

But for myself and those of my class I claim no higher motive for coming here than the inherent restlessness of our nature, and if we have done any praiseworthy thing it has only been incidental to aims purely selfish, and so far from being proud of the years I have been in this country, I am ashamed to confess the insufficient motives

upon which

I acted.

Most of us were

well-to-do farmers or, rather, graziers, in the valley of the Mississippi, had young and growing families and the means to educate them up to the requirements of civilization,

which must overtake us

advantages to a land almost

in the end.

unknown, and


fled these

to be reached only

by a journey so long and exhaustive that there was no more retrieving it than to return from the grave. Yet we started with slow moving ox teams, encumbered with our wives and children and all our worldly wealth, to cross a continent intersected by great rivers and high mountain ranges and the way beset by fierce and treacherous enemies. Those who came to Oregon in 1843 can never forget the toils,

the dangers, the sufferings of that journey, nor the years that followed after

of want and struggle True, our coming


incidentally established or at least hastened the establishment of the Republic on the shores of the Pacific. But is even this much of honor our due? Is it not rather the due of Senator Benton, whose far-seeing statesman-

ship comprehended at that early day the great value of our Pacific possessions, and whose sagacity directed him to the choice of the proper instruments to secure them?

Decree a statue to the Hon. Thos. H. Benton, if you choose, let his humble and almost blind instruments slip away to








Naming and Reservation of the Oregon Caves.


"In 1909 Mr. C. B. Watson, one of the members of the Commission, called the attention of the Commission to the beauty and grandeur of the Josephine County caves and asked that steps be taken to preserve and keep them, in their original beauty as a national monument. The Commission took up the matter with Mr. Gifford Pinchot, then Forester of the United States, and on July 12, 1909, the caves were by proclamation of President Taft duly set apart as a national monument under an act approved June 8, 1906, under the name 'Oregon Caves.' These caves are under the immediate care of the Forest Service, being in a national forest. They are of great beauty and will be preserved as a public monument forever."