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Fifty Years in Oregon was written by Theodore T. Geer, a grandson of Joseph Carey Geer and a shirttail ancestor of ours.

I have put much of the book on this website. I started because several chapters describe the early roots of our family history in Oregon. I kept going because I found many of the chapters from this perspective on the early settlers and the history of Oregon to be quite interesting.

Table Of Contents

This book was originally published in 1912 by The Neale Publishing Co. If you are interested in a copy, search at Powell's Books.

Fifty Years in Oregon

BY T. T. Geer, formerly Governor of Oregon, and one of her native sons



There was a fusion of the Democrats and Populists against the Republican ticket in 1898, especially against the candidate for Governor. The two parties nominated W. R. King, of Baker County, a prominent lawyer of Baker City, who had served as a member of the lower House in the Legislative session of 1893 and as State Senator in the two succeeding sessions.

Naturally, the burden of the speaking campaign fell to my lot and, with the State Committee, I arranged an itinerary which included every county in the State. I carried it out, thus accomplishing what, it was said, had never been done before in one campaign. It began at Toledo, in Lincoln County, on May 1, and ended at Vale, Malheur County, on the Saturday night before the election on Monday, June 6. It was an exceedingly hard campaign to make, much of the time requiring a day’s travel by stage, running well into the night, terminating with accommodations that were unpleasant in the extreme; but the game was big and worth a protracted struggle.

George M. Brown, of Roseburg, was the attorney for that district and a candidate for re-election. He had read that I was going into Coos and Curry counties, and as they were a part of his district, he wrote asking me to come to Roseburg on the evening before I was to speak at Myrtle Point, some seventy-five miles from Roseburg, saying that we would leave by private conveyance at six o’clock, drive twenty miles of the distance in “the cool of the evening,” and thus make a shorter trip the next day. I accepted his invitation and we started to the western coast at six o’clock from Roseburg over a splendid road, “every foot of which I am, familiar with, and I know all the people along it like a book,” said Brown. “We will drive until dark and stay all night with some of my old friends. Any of them will be glad to see us.” It was a most delightful drive, being one of the first balmy days in May. The farms along the road were at their best — and a well-kept southern Oregon farm is a delight to look upon, even to live upon. We enjoyed the beautiful turns in the road, shaded by the ancient black oaks, and the delicious perfume of the freshly budding wild flowers that abounded everywhere. We discussed our respective prospects for election, detailed the many mistakes the enemy had made — as we saw them — and the sun was setting before we realized the lateness of the hour. But the moon was kind and we appreciated the beneficence of Dame Nature, unlike the colored man who, being something of a philosopher, moralized after this fashion: “I don’t see no use of the moon, nohow. He never shines only on a right light night, and when it’s dark he neber shows hisself!” But Brown and I were in a different mood. Every prospect was pleasing and only man was to be distrusted. Finally, about eight o’clock, Brown said.

“Now, there is a house where a splendid man lives and we will stay all night with him.”

When we drove up in front of the house, seeing his friend in the yard, Brown shouted to him as only a candidate can greet a man when a campaign is on:

“Hello, there, old man! We are out campaigning and would like to stay all night with you. How is it?”

“Why, hello, Brown!” he said. “I am awfully glad to see you, but the fact is we have company to-night and are chuck full. Sorry.”

After a short conversation on local topics, we drove on a mile farther, when we came to the home of another of Brown’s friends and found him sitting on the fence by the front gate. Brown at once introduced me and said we would like to stay all night and get feed for our horses.

“Why.” said the man, “I have room for you two men, but haven’t a grain of horse feed left. Not long till harvest, you know, and I sold all my oats last week. But Smith, on ahead two miles, has a lot of oats left, I’m sure.”

So we drove on to Smith’s and found him going from his barn to his house, and, sure enough, he had an abundance of oats, but his son-in-law and wife were there on a visit and his spare rooms were all occupied. He, also, regretted the circumstance which made it impossible to entertain us.

“Well,” said Brown, as we proceeded on our way (it was now past nine o’clock), “the next man has a large house and a big farm, and I’ll bet that we will find things all right there.” It was but a mile farther on to this place and soon, as were made a curve in the road, we saw the house. It was apparently lighted from cellar to garret. They were at home, all right, and things looked good for us — almost too good, I remember I said to Brown. It looked as though they might be giving an entertainment. Arriving at the house, Brown gave a shout that brought the owner of the premises out to the gate and he gave us a very hearty greeting. Brown told him our troubles and said he hoped we could get lodging and feed for our horses, as it was then ten o’clock and we were as hungry as hired men.

“Well, now,” said the farmer, “it’s too bad. I’ve got all kinds of horse feed and several spare rooms, but the fact is, Brown, we are expecting an addition to the family any minute now and, really, you know, it would be a little embarrassing to have company at such a time, especially the District Attorney and the next Governor of Oregon!”

This information occasioned all three of us much merriment, and we finally concurred in the opinion of our friend that it would be a little awkward to remain there over night. As we resumed our journey Brown said: “Well don’t this beat h—?” But we voted it great fun.

About four miles farther on we came to Camas Prairie, where lived a preacher named Coon, one of the old-fashioned kind who was about three-fourths retired, being then fully eighty years of age. Brown knew him well, he said, and though it was then just twelve o’clock, he was sure we could get accommodations without trouble. His good wife was seventy-five years old, so we felt that at least one of the obstacles we had encountered would not meet us here; and, as for the horses, it would be better for them to rest without food than to travel without it.

We found the old people had retired, of course, but by a persistent rapping at the door we aroused the old gentleman. Upon ascertaining who it was, he was hospitality itself. He dressed himself, went with us to the barn, fed the horses and upon returning to the house explained that, as it was very late, perhaps we would not object to going to the pantry and helping ourselves to whatever we could find. In fact, we were ready to suggest this ourselves when he had said perhaps we would “want a bite to eat.” The result was Brown and I stood in the pantry of old Mr. Coon at a half-hour past midnight, and ate such a hearty meal of cold biscuits and potatoes, sandwiched with ham, as would have done credit to two hungry harvest hands.

At Marshfield, two days later, I was joined by Charles S. Moore, of Klamath County, the Republican candidate for State Treasurer, and we traveled together from that date until the close of the campaign. We made the trip from Lakeview to Burns, some two hundred miles, across what is known as the Desert, most of the houses being about fifty miles apart. He proved a most congenial traveling companion, as he afterward did a very obliging and efficient State Treasurer. He made no speeches but did the “glad hand” act to perfection. He frequently explained to people privately that I did the public talking, while he was along to add respectability to the affair. He was then judge of Klamath County, with a salary of seven hundred dollars a year. At that time the constitutional salary of the Treasurer of Oregon was but eight hundred dollars, it being the custom for that official to lend the State funds that might be on hand at intervals and retain the interest thus secured. His bonds were very heavy, and since the salary was so small, it was necessary to justify in this manner his acceptance of the office. Owing to that custom it was the most remunerative position under the State Government.

When the meeting at Drain, in Douglas County, was held, I was introducing Mr. Moore to several of the farmers who had come to hear the speaking, having myself been there in many previous campaigns, and had said to Mr. Jones:

“Meet Hon. Charles S. Moore, of Klamath County, our nominee for State Treasurer. He is now judge of that county.”

Farmer Jones was pleased to meet Mr. Moore and, by way of making conversation, said: “What is the salary of a judge in Klamath County?”

“Seven hundred dollars a year,” replied the Judge.

”And what does the State Treasurer get?” continued Jones.

This was a stunner to Moore, but, with a smile on his face as he glanced toward me, he replied, “Eight hundred dollars,” for there was nothing else to say, since there was no law, statute or constitutional, for any other remuneration.

“Well,” said Jones, “of course a hundred dollars is worth looking after these times,” and the incident was over, the farmer being perfectly satisfied that Judge Moore was justified in making the change, since the additional returns would be a cool hundred dollars.

In traveling from Lakeview to Burns one is obliged to furnish his own transportation, and since that point was the terminus of the stage line Judge Moore and I hired a team and buggy with which to make the journey, going by way of Paisley. We also hired a boy to ride on horseback to Burns to take the team back to Lakeview. For this we paid fifty dollars, and we agreed, as we rode along discussing every topic we could think of from Adam’s probable delinquency in that dress parade affair in the Garden of Eden to the prevailing price of hops, that we could ordinarily buy on any Indian reservation in Oregon two such horses as we were driving for ten dollars each, while the buggy was not worth a cent more than twenty dollars. We were sorry we hadn’t bought the outfit outright, giving it afterwards to some man in Burns who was financially able to accept it, for no really poor man could afford to maintain it.

One day on this trip we drove from morning till night without seeing a house. When evening came we stopped with a family consisting of a man and wife, and some eleven children, of course. Why they were there we never knew, but we voted it a dispensation of Divine Providence that they had not located elsewhere. The night was cold and we had a huge fire in a very large fireplace, the fuel used being a thrifty growth of sagebrush. The fireplace was as large as the entire end of the room. As building material was very expensive in that remote region, of course there was a feature of economy in thus saving nearly one-fourth of the cost of the shack. The man had a wheelbarrow on which he had constructed a light frame almost as large as the ordinary farm hayrack, and with this he would make raids on the adjacent ridges and hollows, returning with a load of sagebrush which, after being dumped out, would make a pile rivaling the house itself in its proportions. Of course this sort of fuel was soon consumed and the individual who did the wheelbarrow stunt was kept so busy at his job that he had no use for the artificial heat his fuel produced.

Judge Moore and I were put in a bed that night which was supported by a single post placed some feet from the wall; on this rested two “rails,” — real rails, too, which reached to the two walls. This was not particularly objectionable, considering the circumstances (and the nature of our mission), but about two o’clock, while I was dreaming of the avalanche which I hoped was going to overwhelm Will R. King, I was conscious of a falling sensation, which developed into the sudden discovery that the connection between the rails and the supporting post in the middle of the room had been severed in some way and that Judge Moore and I were nearly in a sitting posture. To remain in that attitude until morning was impossible and the only alternative was to call upon our host for assistance. This was soon furnished, and with the aid of a hammer and nails, which he found after a diligent search of a half an hour, we repaired the breach — I doing the actual carpenter work, while the other two indulged in near jokes at my appearance, all of us arrayed in costumes which would have been more appropriate for the beach or a fashionable ballroom.

There were no further mishaps, other than those which might naturally be expected, and we reached Burns in the afternoon of the third day of our journey.


Next Chapter - Geer's campaign continued across the eastern half of the state.


If you are interested in finding this book, Fifty Years in Oregon, it can often be located at Powell's Books in Portland which is one of the largest used book stores in the United States or, through the Alibris service which catalogs used books from stores across the country. For more information on the Geer Family, visit the Geer Family website. Other resources and references include:


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