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REV. A.F. WALLER. – Alvin F. Waller for many years was one of the most familiar figures in the pioneer life of Oregon. There was with him an individuality of person and life that easily lifted him out of the common multitude of the street and the field, and marked him as no ordinary man. For more than thirty years he wrought among the foundations of Oregon society and life with a zeal and a wisdom that made his name a proverb; and no man was more widely known and more thoroughly respected than he.
He was born in Abingdon, Pennsylvania, in 1808, but removed to Elba, New York before reaching his majority, where he began his public life as a preacher of the gospel about 1832. Soon after he became a member of the Genessee Conference, in which very able and distinguished body he maintained a good standing until 1839, when he was appointed a missionary to Oregon. He came to this then little-known country around Cape Horn in the same vessel that brought Gustavus Hines and J.L. Parrish, landing on the soil of Oregon June 1, 1840.
The most prominent fields of his work on this coast were at Willamette Falls, now Oregon City, The Dalles Indian mission, as presiding elder of the Portland district, and as managing agent of the Willamette University. While he had charge of the Indian mission at The Dalles, his wisdom and courage were often put to a severe test, as it was a time when the Indians were restless, and when large immigrations were entering the country overland; but he always proved himself equal to the occasions of either danger or responsibility that surrounded him. Much good was done among the Indians by his faithful ministrations; and his name is affectionately remembered by many of the older of the Yakima and Warm Springs Indians until this day.
Perhaps the work in which Mr. Waller wrought most successfully was as agent of the Willamette University. This school was peculiarly the child of his affections. He helped to lay its foundations as the Oregon Institute; and for many years he put his time and toil and money into it with the generosity of a father’s hand. In gathering means for it he traveled all over Oregon repeatedly, and sought among high and low the little or the much to help forward this cherished interest.
He was once honored by his brethren in being made delegate of the Oregon Conference to the general conference of his church. For many years he served gratuitously as chaplain to the state penitentiary, and was held in highest esteem by its officers and inmates.
As a man and a minister, Mr. Waller had great perseverance, energy and fidelity, and was a clear, logical, powerful preacher. His judgment had weight in the public mind on all questions, whether connected with state or ecclesiastical interests, because his intellect was many-sided. He was a minister, and had an intense loyalty to his church; but he was more, – a broad, catholic, patriotic and public-spirited man. In such pioneers as Alvin F. Waller a great blessing came to the early days, when civilizations were made and commonwealths founded on the shores of the Pacific.
For nearly all the thirty-two years of his life on this coast, the home of Mr. Waller was in Salem, in which city he died December 26, 1872.