Oregonian/1902/November 16/Historian of the Northwest

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Oregonian, November 16, 1902  (1902) 
Historian of the Northwest

See also another version of this obituary published in the Oregon Historical Quarterly


A Woman Who Loved Oregon.

Poems, 1851.
Florence Fane Sketches, 1863-65.
The River of the West, 1870.
All Over Oregon and Washington, 1872.
Woman's War Against Whisky, 1874.
The New Penelope, 1877.
Bancroft History of Oregon, 2 vols, 1886.
Bancroft History of Washington, Idaho and Montana.
Bancroft History of Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming.
Bancroft History of California, vols. 6 and 7.
History of Early Indian Wars in Oregon, 1893.
Atlantis Arisen.
Poems, 1900.

By the death last Friday of Frances Fuller Victor there wet removed the most versatile figure in Pacific Coast literature, a literary pioneer on the Coast, and a woman to whom Oregonians owe much. Frances Fuller was born in the township of Rome, New York. May 23, 1826, and had, therefore, reached the ripe age of 76 years. She was a near relation of Judge Reuben H. Walworth, Chancellor of the State of New York. Through her ancestor, Lucy Walworth, wire of Veach Williams, who lived at Lebanon, Conn. in the early part of the eighteenth century, she could trace her descent from Egbert, the first King of England, while Veach Williams himself was descended from Robert Williams, who came over from England in 1637 and settled at Roxbury. Mass.

When Mrs. Victor was 13 years of age her parents moved to Wooster. O., and her education was received at a young ladies' seminary at that place. From an early age she took to literature and when but 14 years old wrote both prose and verse for the county papers. A little later the Cleveland Herald paid for her poems, some of which were copied in English Journals.

Mrs. Victor's younger sister, Metta, who subsequently married a Victor, a brother of Frances' husband, was also a writer of marked ability. Between the two a devoted attachment existed, and in those days the two were ranked with Alice and Phoebe Carey, the four being referred to as Ohio's boasted quartet of sister poets. The Fuller sisters contributed verse to the Home Journal, of New York City, of which N. P. Willis and George P. Morris were then the editors. Metta was known as the "Singing Sybil." In eulogy of the two sisters N. P. Willis at this time writes concerning them:

One in spirit and equal in genius, these most interesting and brilliant ladies—both still in earliest youth—are undoubtedly destined to occupy a very distinguished and permanent place among the native authors of this land.

In her young womanhood Frances spent a year in New York City amid helpful literary associations. Being urged by their friends the two sisters published together a volume of their girlhood poems in 1851. In the more rigorous self-criticism of later years Mrs. Victor has often called it a mistaken kindness which induced her friends to advise the publication of these youthful productions. But in these verses is to be seen the true poetic principle and their earnestness is especially conspicuous.

Metta Fuller Victor after her marriage took up her residence in New York City, and continued her literary work both in prose and in verse until her death, a number of years ago. Frances' husband, Henry C. Victor, was a naval engineer and was ordered to California in 1863. She accompanied him and for nearly two years wrote for the San Francisco papers, her principal contributions consisting of city editorials to the Bulletin, and a series of society articles under the nom de plume of Florence Fane, which, we are told, by their humorous hits, elicited much favorable comment.

About the close of the war Mr. Victor resigned his position and came to Oregon, where his wife followed him in 1865. She has often told how, upon her first arrival in this state, she recognized in the type both of the sturdy pioneers of Oregon and their institutions something entirely new to her experiences and at once determined to make a close study of Oregon. As she became acquainted with many of the leanding men of the state, and learned more and more about it, she determined to write its history and began to collect material for that purpose. In doing this she performed a service of inestimable value to the state. since our statebuilders were then nearly all alive and facts concerning the beginnings of the state were well known to them, which, had it not been for Mrs. Victor's efforts would have been lost to posterity.

Her first book on the history of Oregon was "The River of the West," a biography of Joseph L. Meek, which was published in 1870. Many middle-aged Oregonians tell what a delight came to them when in their boyhood and girlhood days they read the stories of the Rocky Mountain adventures of the old trapper Meek as recited by this woman of culture and literary training, who herself had taken so great an interest in them. The book was thumbed and passed from hand to hand as long as it would hold together, and today scarcely a copy is to be obtained in the Northwest. Mrs. Victor before her death prepared a second edition for the press and it is to be sincerely hoped that the work will soon be republished. For, intensely interesting as the "River of the West" is, the chief value of the work does not lie in this fact, but rather in its value to the historian. Meek belonged to the age before the pioneers. It was the trapper and trader who explored the wilds of the West and opened up the way for the immigrant. That historians are just beginning to work up the history of the fur trade in the far West, the number of books in that padtlcular field published within a year will testify. And such men, for instance, as Captain H. M. Chittenden, who last year published his "History of the American Fur Trade in the Far West," freely confess their indebtedness to Mrs. Victor's "River of the West" for much of their material. And so the stories of the Rocky Mountain bear-killer Meek, romantic though many of them are, check with the stories given by other trappers and traders and furnish data for an important period in the history of the Northwest.

In 1872 was published Mrs. Victor's second book touching the Northwest, "All Over Oregon and Washington." This work, she tells us in the preface, was written to supply a need existing because of the dearth of printed information concerning these countries. It contained observations on the scenery, soil, climate and resources of the Northwestern part of the Union, together with an outline of its early history, remarks on its geology, botany and mineralogy and hints to immigrants and travelers. The preface closes with the prophetic words:

The beautiful and favored region of the Northwest Coast is about to assume a commercial importance which is sure to stimulate inquiry concerning the matters herein treated of. I trust enough is contained between the covers of this book to induce the very curious to come and see.

Her devotion to the Northwest and her interest in it could not be more clearly expressed than in the words just quoted. Her interest in the subject led her at a later date to revise "All Over Oregon and Washington," and to publish it again, this time under the title, "Atlantis Arisen."

In 1874 was published "Woman's War With Whisky," a pamphlet which she wrote in aid of the temperance movement in Portland. Her husband was lost at sea in November, 1875, and from this time on she devoted herself exclusively to literary pursuits. During her residence in Oregon she had frequently written letters for the San Francisco Bulletin and sketches for the Overland Monthly. These sketches, together with some poems, were published in 1877 in a volume entitled "The New Penelope."

This last volume was printed by the Bancroft publishing establishment in San Francisco. The Bancrofts were an Ohio family of Mrs. Victor's early acquaintance, and Hubert Howe Bancroft laid before her his plan for writing the