ABEL E. EATON. – The extensive reputation and wide influence of Mr. Eaton bespeak for him a candid notice in any work touching upon the lives of our responsible men. The seventh son in a family of eleven children, he was born May 30, 1834, at Conway, New Hampshire. The father, Simeon Eaton, a lawyer from Maine, and the mother from the same state, whose maiden name was Bessie Paine, made their home upon a farm. During the first eight years of his life, the boy Abel found opportunity for but seven weeks’ schooling. This was his annual stipend of educational advantages until his eighteenth year, when he secured eleven weeks in the South Conway Seminary. Nevertheless, having an active New England brain, he eagerly imbibed ideas and information from all sources, utilizing the evening hours by the torchlights and fireplace to peruse books. At the age of twenty, he obtained the consent of his parents to go to Ohio, and in this then somewhat remote region experienced the many adventures, and tried the numerous shifts and turns of the youth away from home, realizing his greatest profit in a business way form a pair of calves purchased with money that he had hoarded as a boy from the proceeds of his bean patch.
In 1854 he penetrated the West as far as Huntsville, Indiana, and although having no literary effects, except a family dictionary purchased some time before with a bushel of his white beans, he was able to secure a school and to teach it successfully, although heretofore regarded as one of those practically unmanageable schools of the West. He afforded the district a fin illustration of Yankee firmness. The three following years spent at home failed to satisfy him with the old East; and in 1857 we find him once more in Ohio following his profession as teacher. In 1861 his labors in this regard were broken off by General Rosecrans turning his schoolhouse into a military telegraph office, and making of his boys’ playground a parade upon which to drill ten thousand of the boys in blue, calling it Fort Denison.
A touching incident in his life, a few months later, was his relinquishment of a small army contract which he had taken, that he might go out to Springfield, Illinois, to see a dearly beloved sister, a beautiful and self-sacrificing woman who was sick in her distant home. Arriving at the Prairie city he found that she had gone even in her sickness and had been carried on a bed to her home in New England. This family to which Mr. Eaton belonged was one of those in which love and respect between its members rose to the highest significance. At Quincy, Illinois, Mr. Eaton was detained to teach a school from which the last master had been forcibly ejected; and, as in former positions of the same kind, he proved his ability to deal with refractory pupils.
During these months he had been revolving the advisability of a change to the Pacific coast, and in May was ready to make the journey, having in the meantime read a farewell address to the people, and patrons of the school, and arranged all his business affairs with a view to his departure. He began the arduous trip on the seventh of the month, in company with his brother-in-law A.L. Brown, and one other. The first day out they overtook Doctors Rudd and Griswold; and they five remained together in fraternal bonds until arriving at the present site of Baker City, having met with hairbreadth escapes, buried victims of the barbarous Indians, and in other ways partaken of frontier adventures. At Auburn they witnessed a scene formerly characteristic of early times, – a hanging, being in this case that of a Frenchman who had poisoned his partners. Here they separated, the doctors going to Portland and the other two to Walla Walla; while Mr. Eaton with a net capital of seven dollars and fifty cents; out of which he bought a scythe and a few provisions, proceeded to create for himself a business by cutting and selling hay near Baker City. For this he found a ready sale, and by means of the quantity on hand was able to keep a yoke of oxen, and soon to increase this number so as to engage successfully in freighting to Idaho. From this laborious and even humble beginning, he increased to a large business, operating for eight years, and owning at times as many as a hundred yoke of oxen and twelve mules.
As the great mining excitement and stampedes of the early days subsided, he turned his attention to farming and stock-dealing, making his home at Union, Oregon. Here he may be found at the present, living at his pleasant village home, the owner of two thousand acres of fine valley land, of six hundred fine horses and of two or three hundred cattle, and of money at interest.
He was married November 6, 1867, to Miss Mary E. Baird, a native of Missouri, who crossed the plains in 1863. Although having no children of their own, they have made their comfortable home the means of extending favors and blessings to others.
Mr. Eaton has figured prominently in the growth and development of educational and religious institutions, and in nearly every enterprise of a public nature in his locality. He has served in educational offices, and as mayor of his city, being in each case sought by the public for the service.