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Biography of Gen. John H. Stevens

Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Michigan,Oregon,Vermont | No Comments

GEN. JOHN H. STEVENS. – This hero of a hundred Western adventures, and a pioneer of the great Inland Empire, was born on a town line in Windham County, Vermont. The son of Asa Stevens, a miller and farmer, he learned to use his hands and brain in practical affairs, and at the village school obtained a good working education. In his youth he followed business in Boston, and was engaged in lumbering in Pennsylvania. In 1832 he came west to Michigan, and at Coldwater, Branch County, kept a hotel, advancing his business also by taking mail contracts, and in such early ventures as the conditions of life in the Wolverine state afforded at that early day. He became a colonel in the state militia, and succeeded also to a generalship. Eight years he served as sheriff of Branch county, and during that time made many notable arrests.

In 1852 he prepared for the journey to Oregon, rigging up a large team of mules and horses, and with his daughter Mary C., who subsequently became the wife of the famous lawyer of Eugene, Oregon, Stukeley Ellsworth, and with thirteen young men, among whom was Green Arnold, now of LaGrande, made the journey across the plains. Although in the midst of the pestilential cholera, he lost but one man. He made a speedy trip, covering the distance from the Missouri to the Willamette in four months.

In our virgin territory of thirty-seven years ago he undertook business as hotel-keeper in company with Green Arnold, and as successor of W.H. Rees at Champoeg. He dug gold in the early days at Shelly gulch in Josephine County. His services were also sought in the legislative halls; and he helped our young state to effect its entrance into the Union. He heard the drum-beat and lively shots of the volunteers to the Yakima war, and together with his son John joined their company to establish the white man’s supremacy. His arduous task in that service was caring for the stock of the column; and after the war he was assigned the task of selling at public auction all the stock, wagons, effects and accoutrements of the volunteers, – a six days’ labor. Returning to his farm near Silverton, he contented himself with agriculture and stock-raising, until in 1862 the reports of gold mines in Eastern Oregon drew him to the Grande Ronde valley. At the promising city of La Grande he made his home, and became one of its most energetic citizens. He was landlord there during the days of gold dust. As his means accumulated, he invested his surplus in three hundred and twenty acres of land on Clover creek, near North Powder, Union county, and there resides amid all the comforts and refinements of the successful Eastern Oregon ranch, having large herds of cattle, and much other livestock. He holds a leading place in the public affairs, and in the confidence of his community, – a venerable and noble old gentleman.

He was married firstly in 1830 to Miss Mary Adams of Pennsylvania, by whom he had two children. Her death occurring three years later, he was married secondly to Miss Harriet M. Pierce of Michigan, by whom he has had five children. He has six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren living in the West.


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