Biography of Mrs. M. Weatherford
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MRS. M. WEATHERFORD. – Of all the pioneers of Oregon, none have performed a more devoted part than this now venerable lady, who is well known and esteemed in our chief city. She was born near Beaufort, North Carolina, September 22, 1822. In her fifth year she accompanied her father Josiah Harris and family to Indiana, making a new home. In 1839 she was married to William Weatherford, a young physician from Richmond, Virginia. Thus united they entered upon various scenes, and made their home in a number of different places in the old West, selecting New Haven, Illinois, as their first residence. The location, however, proving unhealthful, they advanced further towards the outposts of civilization to Iowa, stopping successively at Keosauque, Bonaparte and Oskaloosa. With none of these were they fully satisfied; and the Doctor determined to push to the very verge of the continent, and to become a builder of a new state on the Pacific shores. Preparing for this great undertaking, he was able to be off on April 22, 1852.
With his family of wife and five young children, and in company with Mr. William Dart and family, he set forth. Soon after starting, two young men were taken into their company; and these were the sole regular associates of their march. The journey on the Nebraska or Platte river was made uncomfortable at times by bands of Pawnee Indians stopping them and demanding toll; and more than once Mrs. Weatherford was addressed by an Indian with a drawn knife for a supply of victuals. By appeals to their sympathy, she avoided difficulty. They found the plains populous with emigrants, and were not lacking in chance traveling companions. On the plains east of the Rockies they were overtaken by that dread pestilence which scourged the immigration of that season, – the cholera, – of which Mrs. Weatherford had repeated attacks; and the Doctor was called upon to administer to the sick in the trains before or behind. Great was the suffering thus experienced, and such that one in anticipation would not believe endurable.
On the western slope of the continent the mountain or typhoid fever was almost as malignant, and called for as great attention on the part of the Doctor. It was, therefore, with great satisfaction that in August they passed the ridge of the Cascade Mountains, and at last saw Mount Hood behind them. To a gentleman asking Mrs. Weatherford how she had enjoyed the trip, she replied that if that mountain were a wedge of solid gold, and should be hers for crossing the plains to get it, she would refuse the gift at that price; – not that she was sorry for coming, but felt that her strength would be insufficient for such an undertaking. It was by the exertions of such wives and mothers, who gave all but life and sometimes even that, that our state was purchased from savagery.
The first home was made at Lafayette, the Doctor entering there upon the practice of his profession. He was led to believe, however, that at Portland was the best opportunity for business and a career, and in 1855 moved to the then little city in the woods. Besides attending upon the sick, he established in 1856 a drug business, dealing both in a wholesale and retail line. In 1869 this was enlarged by a branch house at Salem, under the management of his son, J.W. Weatherford, now a practitioner in Portland. Being a man of wide information and much ambition, in about 1867 he assumed the management of the Herald, the Democratic paper of Portland. He found it in a bankrupt condition; but so able and popular was his management that it was almost immediately became a financial as well as a literary success.
Owing to the cares of a business so extensive, he began to decline in health, and in 1872 retired from active business in Portland, although still retaining his interest at Salem. In 1880 his life forces gave way; and he passed from this to the better life. Although in the midst of much weakness during the last weeks of life, he preserved his faculties in perfect clearness, had his business affairs in perfect order, and was afflicted by no dread nor shadow of the future. He left his family provided with ample means.
During the years of her husband’s activity, Mrs. Weatherford made for him a home of comfort and refinement, strengthened his hands in the community, and herself furnished of her endowment something of the refinement and better ideas so essential to transform the wild society of early Oregon into our present elevated position. The labor of creating christian communities in our state fell, as the credit should be awarded, to women like Mrs. Weatherford, who would not lower their conception of life, even though living away from all the ordinary incentives to social exertions.
She has reared a family of nine children: Mary E. (Mrs. F.H. Simmons); J.W.; William G. (deceased); Lewis C.; Emma C. (Mrs. S.S. Douglas); Sarah E. (Mrs. David Steel); Ada H. (Mrs. R. Schmidt); Lilly M. (Mrs. Doctor S.N.A. Downing); and Charles E.