Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 26/A Tribute to Reverend Andrew J. Hunsaker

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Oregon Historical Quarterly, Volume 26
A Tribute to Reverend Andrew J. Hunsaker



The mysteries of life and death are continuous and all absorbing problems. The answer to the query of the psalmist, "what is man that thou art mindful of him" depends upon whether you are considering him as an individual or in a generic sense. In the latter sense there is apparently no limitation to be placed upon his genius and he trespasses almost upon the domain of the Almighty. Individually, when compared with the countless multitudes of earth, he is but an insignificant atom. He continues to shrink in his influence and importance as we consider the small part that he plays in the solution of all the complex problems of life. The average man is but a minor figure in a narrow environment. His achievements make but a slight impress on the pages of history. How little do the petty turmoils and ambitions and disappointments of this life bank up against the problems of eternity or the opportunities and potentialities of the universe. How purposeless and ineffective is the scramble and how pitiful are the rewards of wealth and fame and ambition. Generation after generation spends its brief day and passes on. Yet we cherish this life, and while it lasts we are almost wholly absorbed in its pleasures and its problems. When death comes we call a brief halt. We hold a ceremonial, ostensibly to perpetuate the memory of the dead. We utter a few brief words of eulogy. We fill up the grave. We cover it with flowers, and then we dsperse to plunge again into the vortex where only the trivialities of this life are considered and soon leave the memories of the dead to oblivion. So soon does the world forget. Today we are met—a goodly company—composed in large measure of the men and women of the pioneer element—to pay homage to the work of a generation that has almost wholly disappeared, and incidentally to pay our respects to the memory of one of the pioneer Argonauts of Oregon, who left us but a few short months ago.

Rev. A. J. Hunsaker was one whose outlook upon life and its responsibilities was far broader than that of the average man. He took life seriously. He cared little for the pleasures and the rewards of this world. His motto was service and he unselfishly dedicated all of his years to the good of his fellow men. In a life covering almost three generations he was a leading force, and for many years was an active, aggressive and effective minister of the Baptist denomination. He was a descendant of Hartman Hunsaker, a native of Switzerland, who came to America in 1632 and settled, with his family, in the State of Pennsylvania. His immediate descendants were industrious and reputable farmers. The later generations were prominent as ministers of the Gospel and as members of the professions of law and medicine. The father of A. J. Hunsaker was Joseph Hunsaker, a native of Kentucky, born July 4,1799. His mother was Elizabeth King, a native of North Carolina, and of English ancestry. They came to Oregon with their son in 1847 and settled upon a donation land claim in Marion county, where the mother died in 1864 and the father in 1869. Both are buried and lie, side by side, in the family burial plot on that claim.

A. J. Hunsaker was born June 10, 1834, in Adams county, Illinois, and died November 6, 1924. He was one of the youngest of twelve children. His life covered a period of 90 years, exceeding the scriptural limit of three score years and ten by two decades. As a boy of thirteen years, in 1847, he crossed the Great American Desert as the shepherd and guardian of his father's flock of 120 sheep, trudging on foot almost the entire distance. When he reached the age of 21 he followed the example of his father and located a donation land claim in Lane county, upon which he resided for three years. He was essentially self-educated, and from 1856 to 1861 he taught school in winter and farmed in summer. On September 15, 1855, he was married to Emma J. Hill, a daughter of Dr. R . C. Hill. She died June 11, 1858. In 1860 he married Mary C. Adams. In 1870 he entered the ministry, though still continuing his farming operations until 1875. The reremaining years of his life were devoted to the Church. His field covered practically all of the Northwest, extending from California on the south and to the Rocky Mountains on the east. His labors corresponded in kind to those of the time of the Circuit Riders. He traveled on foot, by stage, on boats, cars, wagons and sleds. His compensation was meager. His hours were long. His compeers testify that for general work he was a great success—that he was a man of superior tact—that he knew how to adapt himself to any surroundings—that his social qualities were excellent—that he preached the pure gospel, and that "he was probably the best man the Baptists had in the state for general usefulness." He was known as an Evangelist, and was for several years engaged in general work under the auspices of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society. His pastorates included Albany, Brownsville, Independence, Adams, Weston, Baker, Walla Walla and Spokane, and he was very active in organizing churches at various points. He was also specially active as a friend of McMinnville College, serving for about 40 years as a member of its Board of Trustees, a large part of which time he was President of the Board. In 1919 he was President of the Oregon State Pioneer Association, and was for many years habitual in his attendance on its meetings. His death marked the culmination of a long and busy career. In his 90 years of life he saw more of material and inventive achievement than marked the passage of any preceding 1,000 years. He saw Oregon develop from a wilderness into a greate state. When Father Matthieu and his associates met on these grounds on May 2, 1843, 82 years ago, he was a barefooted boy of nine years in the Middle West. Four years later, as a boy of thirteen, he was doing a man's part as he trudged halfway across the American continent on his way to Oregon. He was the last President of the Oregon State Pioneers Association who was of responsible age when, on February 14, 1859, Oregon was admitted into the Union as a state. Father Matthieu, the last survivor of the famous 52, left us eleven years ago. William H. Packwood, the last survivor of the Oregon Constitutional Convention of 1857, went to his final reward years ago. Of the 40 Past Presidents of the Oregon State Pioneer Association but 14 remain, and of these 14 are a bare half dozen came to Oregon under the shelter of a covered wagon. The thoroughly seasoned pioneers of the 40's and 50's who were old enough to properly sense the trials and the perils of the overland journey to Oregon are practically extinct. The youngsters of the secondary or adolescent pioneer group are on deck. They will get their best inspirations from men of the type of Andrew J. Hunsaker and his compeers. These were men of noble breed. They were home builders. And as such they were state builders of the best type. They were makers of such history as to excite our pride and commendation. Father Hunsaker was a fair, average representative of the composite community of which he was a part. He was a kindly, considerate, unassuming Christian gentleman. The memory of his social qualities and the unselfish service he rendered his fellow men will remain as a perpertual benediction, and there will be a new classification, and a higher rating awaiting him than the world might now possibly be willing to concede. May the memory of his useful life and the influence of his example constantly abide with us.