Eulogies for Joseph Carey Geer
We recently uncovered two eulogies for Joseph Carey Geer, the patriarch of the Oregon branch of the Geer family. In addition, this website also holds three separate versions of how the Geer family arrived in Oregon after crossing the Oregon Trail in 1847:
This eulogy of Joseph C. Geer was published in the following source: Oregon Pioneer Association (1882), “Joseph C. Geer, Sr.,” Transactions of the Ninth Annual Re-union of the Oregon Pioneer Association; for 1881, Salem, Oregon: E. M. Waite, Steam Printer and Bookbinder. pp. 70-72.
JOSEPH C. GEER, SR.
At twelve o'clock on Saturday, August 27, 1881, Joseph C. Geer, Senior, died at his home in Clackamas County. The funeral took place Monday afternoon at the family burial ground near his farm, and was attended by a large concourse of friends. Hon. Willard H. Rees delivered the following address, which we deem such an excellent tribute to the memory of deceased that we copy it from the Oregonian:
“Friends and Fellow-citizens: Again have we assembled upon this well-chosen eminence, made sacred by these tombs of departed friends, to perform a solemn duty which the living owe the dead. We who now look upon this open sepulchre, behold the last resting place of all that is mortal of Father Joseph C. Geer, Sr., who, at midnight’s hour, on the 27th of August, 1881, surrendered his life to the God of his fathers, and his body returns to the earth from whence it came. Full of years, coming down to us from the last century, and after having fought a good fight for liberty, righteousness and truth, he expired at the old homestead yonder by the river side, at the venerable age of 86 years, 6 months and 22 days. It is rare, indeed, in these times that we have an opportunity of fixing our eyes upon one like the venerable deceased, whose span of life linked together the administration of all the Presidents of the United States. While no former period or like age has been so productive of great results, through scientific investigation, or by the study and invention of means for the application of natural laws, as were the years in which he lived – marking an epoch in the history of human progress unparalleled in the past – an epoch introducing changes that have completely revolutionized the old methods of labor, triumphed over space, and in a very conclusive manner swept from the pathway of reason and truth much of the superstitious mysticism that enslaved the public mind in the ages that have gone before.”
“Mr. Geer was a native of Windham County, Connecticut, born February 5, 1795. He remained with his parents on the farm until reaching his 18th year, and soon thereafter volunteered in the defense of his country, serving in the late war against Great Britain. In grateful remembrance of the service of those who perilled their lives in defense of our rights and national honor, Mr. Geer’s name was a few years since placed upon the pension roll of the surviving veterans who answered their country’s call in the war of 1812. Leaving the tented field when peace was restored, he returned to his parental home, and at the age of 20 years married Mary Johnston, a native of Rhode Island. In 1818 he removed to freedom’s favored home, the old northwest territory, located in Madison County, Ohio, where for 12 years he was a successful farmer. Then joining again the migratory throng in its irresistible march to the fast receding border of civilization, he could have been seen in the fall of 1840 admiring the unsurpassed beauties of a new found home on the broad prairies of Western Illinois. But prior to the building of the railroads throughout the great interior of the country, the people were without a remunerative market for their produce, and farming was but little more than an irksome routine of unrequited labor. For this reason he was not long satisfied to remain in a country so remote from the sea while there yet remained far away at the ending west, a wild, unsettled land whose shores were laved by the waves of the grandest ocean of the globe. So, in 1847, Mr. Geer completed the overland journey from ocean to ocean in the springtime of life with his young wife Mary, who sleeps here by his side. They had commenced together 30 years before.”
“Our departed friend was endowed with a clear, thoughtful mind, having been much devoted to reading, but had the misfortune a score of years ago to lose his sight, yet through his great native energy and power of self-control, he bore himself manfully till the evening’s lengthening shadows closed over the landscape of life.”
“Father Geer leaves an aged widow, his third, with seven sons, four daughters, and his line of descendents, all residing on the Pacific Coast, number 150 souls. Leaving his Atlantic home at the age of 23, he spent nearly 64 years among the pioneers of the great Northwest, taking an active part in the stirring events that have given civilization the late vast wilderness extending from the Mississippi valley to the land’s end in the west.”
“Mr. Geer was, in the best sense of the term, a truly religious man. Having walked in faithful obedience to the requirements of conscious duty, the “Golden rule” was beautifully exemplified in his every relation of life, as husband, father, neighbor and friend, in the practical observance of the most ennobling of life’s duties he was an unwavering as the polar star. He lived and died in the belief of one fatherhood and one immortal destiny for all the sons and daughters of men. On this most charitable faith he leaned his head and breathed out his life serenely there. It is truly a source of great comfort to know that throughout a long and laborious life, he wore upon an unsullied brow the insignia of honest worth, the brightest jewel in the crown of life. Since the death of Capt. L. N. English, which occurred in 1876, Mr. Geer has been the oldest person whose name is recorded on the register of the Oregon Pioneer Association. Bowed down by the weight of nearly a century, his weary head will henceforth rest on the bosom of her who is the mother of us all. Thus time, like the flow of these limpid waters at the base of these green clad hills, bears us on year by year, and generation after generation to the ocean of eternity, where ‘ there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.’ How consoling to be assured in heart and mind that the all-sufficient laws which control life, growth and destiny were most wisely fixed, beyond the puny power of mortal man to change.”
“Farewell, father, patriot and fellow-pioneer. Wheresoever repose the souls of the departed generations of earth, there also, in peace and harmony with the laws of eternal truth, shall thy spirit abide forevermore.”
This eulogy of Joseph C. Geer was published in the following source: Oregon Pioneer Association (1882), “A Pioneer Gone: A Long and Eventful Life,” Transactions of the Ninth Annual Re-union of the Oregon Pioneer Association; for 1881, Salem, Oregon: E. M. Waite, Steam Printer and Bookbinder. pp. 73-74.
A PIONEER GONE.
A LONG AND EVENTFUL LIFE ENDED.
DIED. – At his home near Butteville, Oregon, August 28. 1881, Joseph Carey Geer, Sr., aged 86 years, 6 months, and 23 days.
Joseph Carey Geer, Sr., was born in Windham, Connecticut, February 5, 1795. At the age of eighteen years he enlisted in an artillery company then being raised for the war of 1812, by Captain Hibbard. The company was stationed at New London. His father was stationed at the same place in another company, at the time of the burning of that place.
After the war he worked on the farm summers and taught school winters, until 1818. In the meantime he Married Mary Johnson, and, to use his own words, “I found after working hard from daylight till dark for over three years, I could never make anything on that poor worn out land. I concluded to go to the far west, as Ohio was then called, and on the 10th of September, 1818, with my wife and two little tow-headed boys, less than $100 in money, a few yards of fulled cloth, a light wagon and a light team, I bid farewell to the old Geer farm and joined a company or about forty, Burnham's, Hathaways and Howards, and crossed the mountains into the Mississippi Valley, being the first Geer to venture so far west, as far as I can learn.”
He outlived all that company of over forty but his two sons, R. C. and F. W. Geer. Landing in Ohio he settled in Union County, and taught school two winters, and worked by day’s work the balance of the time – was such a good hand he could always get work, but wages were only $8 per month in Ohio at that time.
In the spring of 1821, he leased a piece of land of Gen. McArthur, near where Woodstock now stands, for six years. In 1822 he sold that lease and took another on the same terms, about three miles from that, in Union County, on Big Darby. He built the house, fenced the land, and raised two crops; but he and his family were taken sick in July of both seasons, and remained sick until November of each year, and in December, 1824, he left the Darby plains and took another lease of six years in Madison County, and in about six years bought the best farm in that neighborhood, and lived on it twelve years. He was a great lover of fine stock of all kinds, and always kept the best that could be obtained in the country. When he went to Madison County he was $300 worse off than nothing, caused by sickness, but in four years he was called pretty well off in that country. In 1840, he sold his farm in Ohio and with his children went to Knox County, Illinois, where he bought a farm, built a fine house and barn and otherwise improved it until 1847, when he again sold out, and came to Oregon.
He had a very hard trip across the plains. His wife had been very sick with winter fever in Illinois, and on the plains she had a severe shock of palsy which made her nearly helpless, and being a very large woman, it would have worn out an ordinary man to lift her in and out of the wagon. She died a few weeks after arriving at Butteville. On June 24th, 1849, Mr. Geer married Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, mother of Mrs. Rev. P. S. Knight, of Salem. She bore him three sons, and died March 14, 1855. On June 6, 1856, he married Mrs. Mary Strong, who survives him. He had his eyes operated on by a quack, who pretended to be an oculist, for cataract, and has been totally blind for 25 years. He leaves seven sons and four daughters, viz.: Hon. Ralph. C. Geer, Fruit Farm, Marion County; T. W. Geer of Clackamas County; J. C. Geer of Portland; Mrs. J. W. Grim of Hubbard; Isaiah Geer of Chico, Cal.; H. T. Geer of Cove, Or.; Mrs. R. V. Short, of Clackamas County; Mrs. Elizabeth Kent of Portland; Mrs. John Kouse of Clackamas County; Lucien Geer of Butteville, and Joel Palmer Geer of Butteville, with their families, numbering in all, children, grandchildren, and down to great-great-grandchildren, 167.
He was a fond husband and an indulgent father. He always governed himself by the Golden Rule. In religion, a believer in universal salvation.
Note: This website also holds the recollections of Joseph Geer's son, Ralph Carey Geer, and his grandson, Calvin Geer, as well as the diary of his second wife, Elizabeth Dixon Smith Geer, of their trips on the Oregon Trail. Additional background on the Geer family's emigration as part of the westward expansion during the 'manifest destiny' period can be found in T.T. Geer's (Joseph Carey Geer's grandson) autobiography: Fifty Years In Oregon. Specifically:
I have also found some information on the Palmer wagon train including a full list of the pioneers in his company. Captain Joel Palmer went to Oregon first in 1845 with a company from Independence. He kept a journal of his travels then and during his return to the East in 1846, at which time he had it published. Few of the copies ordered were completed by the time he was ready to set out for Oregon again in 1847, but it later became widely used. Palmer recruited a large number of people to join his company in 1847. These included the Ralph C. Geer family, the John W. Grim family, the Graham and Collard families and Christopher Taylor. Robert Crouch Kinney and his brother Samuel also stated in later years that they came with the Palmer Company, although Robert Kinney's name is also listed among those in the train of Capt. Jordan Sawyer.
A number of Geers - children, spouses, and some grandchildren - made the journey in 1847 as shown in the table below:
For other information on the Geer family, check out the following resources on these pages: