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ALEX FURGASON. – One of the earliest pioneers of Union county, and one who has been a real pioneer of the pioneers, the subject of this sketch is eminently worthy to be represented in a work of the character of our volume, since also he has always maintained a bearing of uprightness and manifested principles of truth and probity, and has wrought during all the years of his domicile here for the development of the county’s resources and for the interests of all, while he has prosecuted successfully his private business enterprises.
Mr. Furgason was born in Rouse’s Point, New York, on March 26, 1826, and there he was reared on a farm until he was nineteen years of age. He was well educated in the common schools of his native place, and at the age mentioned he departed from the parental roof and migrated to Pilot Mountain, in the Iron mountains of southwestern Missouri. In that place he assisted in establishing the Iron Mountain Works, where he wrought for three years, then returned to New York on a visit, whence he went to Portage, Wisconsin, and there engaged in lumber business for about fourteen years, or until 1862. In that year he was led by an adventurous spirit to join the Davis train, which was bound for Oregon and across the plains to Union county. While en route they frequently saw the gruesome signs of murdered people who had been slain and robbed by the Indians. Providence smiled on the train with which our subject traveled, and they made the trip without molestation from the savages. They arrived in the Grande Ronde valley October 5, 1862, and Mr. Furgason had the distinction of being the first actual settler on the island where now stands Island City. Provisions were scarce and nature resented the invading of her domain by the pioneers, and they had to struggle hard for all that they secured. Mr. Furgason was practically without capital, except a good strong constitution, indomitable courage and a heart brave and true. He set to work and the scanty means were soon spent in getting provisions. He records that three dollars were paid for a milk pan of vegetables. He made a trip to The Dalles for provisions and seed, using four yoke of oxen and two yoke of cows. Before starting he paid twenty-five dollars for one sack of flour. At The Dalles, a distance of two hundred and ten miles from his homestead, he bought flour at eight dollars per barrel, inferior bacon at twenty-five cents per pound, molasses at two dollars per gallon, wheat and oats five cents per pound, potatoes five cents per pound and dig them himself, chickens one dollar per head, and other things in proportion. Returning across the Blue mountains, he was overtaken in a storm, and only preserved portions of his precious load by building a fire under the wagon. Such were some of the difficulties and hardships of the early settlers of this country. He soon improved is homestead, planted the first orchard, and started to raise the fruits of the soil and rear stock. Steadily he has pursued his way, and abundant success has crowned his efforts. In 1873 he bought four hundred and eighty acres of land, six miles distant from his homestead, where his son, Leander, now lives. In 1880 he bought three hundred and sixty acres for pasture. He handled about three hundred head of horses each year and four hundred cattle.
Mr. Furgason was married to Miss Jenette L. Dwinell, daughter of Luther and Caroline (Bryant) Dwinell, and to them have been born four children, George H., Ella (deceased), Leander, and Ada, the first white girl born in the Grande Ronde valley. All are married. Mr. Furgason has always taken an interest in the affairs of government, but has constantly refused office for himself; his political inclinations lead him to be allied with the Republicans. He is one of the most prosperous and progressive farmers of the co8unty, and is highly respected by all. He has wrought so well and faithfully in the county that words are feeble to express the excellency of his career, but the works speak in more eloquent tone than aught else, and now in his golden years he is surrounded by loved ones and has the joy to see his works appreciated and boundless success crowning him.