Biography of Rev. David Leslie
REV. DAVID LESLIE. – David Leslie was a contribution of the spirit and the life of the new England of half a century ago to the development and civilization of the Pacific coast. Though so much of his life was spent in the newer and ruder conditions attendant on a pioneer work in this distant west, he never forgot the carefulness and precision induced by his early training, nor widely departed from the habits and modes of thought characteristic of his Yankee origin. He was a native of New Hampshire, where he was born in 1797, and was reared among the White Mountains, partaking so much of the spirit of his native hills that he ever seemed as indurated and solid as their own granite bases.
In 1822, when he was twenty-five years of age, he was admitted as a preacher in the New England conference, in which he continued until 1836, when he was appointed a missionary to Oregon. He was the first missionary to bring a wife and family to this coast; and to him and his wife belong the distinction of having set up the first christian home west of the Rocky Mountains. his wife was of a family eminent in New England life, being of the Pierce family, and sister of B.K. Pierce, D.D., long one of the most eminent preachers and authors of Massachusetts. She died many years ago.
Mr. Leslie sailed from Boston for the Columbia river January 7,1837, and landed in Oregon September 20th of the same year, and entered at once upon the work to which he had been assigned.
In 1838, when Jason Lee returned to the States for his large reinforcement to his mission, he left the superintending of the mission with Mr. Leslie; so that for nearly two years he had charge of all the work of his church in Oregon.
In the organization of the Provisional government of Oregon, Mr. Leslie took a leading part. Coming from New England, a state of society where every man was a law unto himself was intolerable to him; and so he threw the whole force of his character and influence in favor of the organization of the only form of lawful order that seemed possible in the then condition of the country.
He was also among the foremost in the work of founding the Oregon Institute, so long the only educational light and hope of the country, and now rejoicing in its fuller powers as the Willamette University. He was president of its board of trustees for twenty-five consecutive years, and as such wielded a controlling influence on its destiny. For many years also he presided over the Oregon Bible Society; and his venerable form, with its crown of silver hair, was both an ornament and an inspiration to its annual gatherings. Thus in establishing order, and founding educational and christian institutions in Oregon, David Leslie won an honorable standing among the most worthy of our pioneers. His work being mostly done in the center of the Willamette valley, in and about Salem, where he had his residence for nearly thirty years, there was les of adventure in it than in the work of several of his fellow-laborers; but it was done well, and has left a record that can never be effaced. He died in Salem, March 1, 1869, full of years and full of honors.