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09/19/04

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 William Robert Blackburn 27 December 1867 - 19, July 1956 

My father [TRB1] was born in Missouri on December 16,1846.  He was raised on a farm and like many others at that time had but little schooling, however he could read and write and knew enough to be honest, and was very industrious, never got much for his labor but worked all the time at something.  When the Hamilton and St. Joe R.R. went though Missouri my grandfather Blackburn took a contract furnishing ties and timbers and did some grading.  My father was old enough at that time to help on some of the work.  They made the ties and timbers by hand.  They used hardwood such as Oak, Hickory, Elm, and Black Jack.  Chopped the trees down and scored and hued them to proper size, after that they took a yoke or two of oxen and hauled them out to a given point and cut them to proper lengths.

He served in the Confederate Army, was wounded, and was left a cripple for life.  One leg was one and quarter inches shorter.  Although a small man he was husky and healthy, very seldom sick, he was quick tempered and outspoken though he never held a grudge against any one very long.

After we landed in Oregon, we rented a farm about 15 miles East of Oregon City, Oregon near where the town of Estacada now stands.

In about one year, we took a homestead about one and a half miles from the rented place.  We built a small house, hauled the lumber with two yoke of oxen from the old Strickland mill which stood on the bank of Clear Creek about four miles from the homestead.

My mother[TRB2] was born in Missouri on June 18, 1845.  Was the daughter of Hiram[TRB3]and Elizabeth Carothers [TRB4].  Was raised on a farm and better than the average education for that time.  She was a lover of good books, a great reader and had a good memory.  She was a good Christian women and loved her bible though she did not burden other people with her views on religion.  She was married twice.  Her first husbands name was Jack Harding [TRB5] who was killed by the Bill Anderson and Quantrills notorious gorilla band of cutthroats that infected that part of Missouri during the Civil War.  He was killed in the Centralia, Missouri Massacre[TRB6] .

An officer by the name of Johnson[TRB7]  gathered up a company of young men and went out to break up this band of desperadoes and the result was only one man out of the outfit came back alive.  His name was Milby Timmons[TRB8] .  They chased him 10 miles and shot his horse out from under him.  This was in a small ravine and the tall grass and darkness saved his life.

In 1865[TRB9] , my mother married Marcus B. Blackburn and as a result of that union on December 27, 1867 I was born.  We lived around there until April 1876.  Then we started out West.

I was born in Shelby county, [TRB10] Missouri on 27 December 1867 and lived there until the spring of 1876 and was going on to my ninth year when we started West across the plains for California on one of those old emigrant trains with a few small coaches and a small slow wheezing locomotive.  Sometimes on the heavy grades I believe it was in Colorado, any way there was snow on the ground.  The men would go to the front coach and jump off and snowball each other, and when the back end of the train came along they would climb aboard, that was the only exercise they could get on that train.  We arrived in California in the early part of May.  There were three families of us traveling together.  M.B. Blackburn, wife and two children[TRB11] .  James Hayden and wife and four children and W.J. Smith and wife and two children and my mother’s brother C.A. Carothers[TRB12] .  We stayed in California until about the tenth of August.  The men worked through harvest and picked some fruit.  Our plan had been to take a boat from San Francisco to Portland, but about the time we were getting ready to start, there was a smallpox scare developed around San Francisco and our party decided to abandon the boat trip.  So, they had to plan some other mode of travel.  They decided to rig up a prairie schooner, a big wagon with a box 16 feet long with bows, a good canvas cover, and some tents to use when it rained.  They had six horses and worked four most of the time that way we had two fresh horses every day and they came through in very good condition.  We made good time by traveling late and early.  We started from Chico, California and followed the old stage road up through the valley and finally through the foothills with some stock ranches along and plenty of small vineyards.  There were a few small farms also.  We saw some Chinese they were mining at different places.

The end of the railroad on the California side was Redding and Roseberg was the end of the railroad in Oregon and for several years after we came to Oregon.  They ran stages between the two terminals to carry passengers and the mail.  They used pack animals and heavy freight wagons drawn by horses and mules to transfer supplies from Redding to Roseberg making necessary to cross two ranges of mountains.  The Siskiyou's south of Ashland and the Rogue River Mountains north of Grants Pass and it was not much of a road at that time.  The teamsters used bells on the leaders of these large teams.  They hung from the top of the <teams> on an arch made out of a small steel bar with several small bells hung from each arch and you could hear them for a mile or more coming over the crooked and narrow road.  That warning gave a small outfit time to find a place to get in the clear.  Some one in our outfit would walk ahead and meet the freight team and if they came to a wide place first he would stop there was no trouble that way.

I will never forget the beautiful chimes of those bells in that high altitude and clear pure air.  70 years this coming September 1946 since this happened.  We camped about the summit above Ashland after a hard and steep climb from the beautiful Sacramento Valley that had taken a considerable time and patience but we had not experienced any difficulty.  We dropped down from the summit and stopped at Ashland.  It was a small village at that time.  We stayed two nights there as it had been raining and the fish were plentiful.

There was a mill of some kind and flume ran along the creek for a considerable distance.  The weather was fine after the rain quit; the women did some washing while there.  We went on to Jacksonville from Ashland.  If there was any Medford, I do not remember it.  We saw some Chinese at Jacksonville they were doing some mining so we were told.  The stage came in while we were there, changed horses and pulled out, did not fool around much.  They had a tough job to do.  When we left Jacksonville we went out to the valley and I think we crossed the river near where Gold Hill now stands.  Cannot remember any town being there then.  We traveled down that stream to Grants Pass and it was quite warm for September we thought.  We camped one night near Grants Pass then moved on.  Had some hard going after leaving the Rogue River Valley going over the mountains to Cow Creek canyon.  The outfit did not relish this part of the journey, as there had been a stage holdup a short time before.  However, nothing unusual happened and we never knew whether it ever happened or not.

We went through this small valley and came to our last range of mountains that took us over to Canyon Creek which was tough going.  The road was crooked, steep, and narrow and also rough.  A hard combination however everyone remained cheerful and reserved and we soon arrived in Canyonville which was a stage station.  With a few exceptions, the going was much better the rest of the way.  We camped near Roseberg and the men caught some nice trout.  We stayed a couple of days there and let the horses rest as well as ourselves.  We left there on a nice clear morning and everybody feeling better after our rest.  The first mention of a sawmill after reaching Oregon was brought up the last evening we were in the camp near Roseberg.  Two men on horseback and a packhorse came in from the North about sundown and camped near us.  The packhorse was loaded among other things with an assortment of carpentry tools.  They said they were going to Coos Bay.  They said something about a sawmill being built over there wit two saws, one above the other, of course that meant a double circular mill and we had never seen one, and of course there was considerable comment among the men folks after the fellows left our camp.  After a year or so we heard more about that, and it was the first circular sawmill in Southwest Oregon, at least that is all the information available at this time.  The first sawmill in the Oregon Territory was an old fashioned sash saw and cut mostly on the down stroke and the blade was straight and the teeth were shaped like a carpenters ripsaw only very coarse, about one tooth to the inch.  This mill was built by Dr. McLoughlin in 1827 and was located about 6 miles up river from Fort Vancouver and it was a water power mill.  Nothing happened between Roseberg and Eugene.  After we left Eugene I cannot remember whether we crossed the river on a bridge or a ferryboat.  We traveled pretty slow from there to Brownsville.  There had been a hard rain a few days before and the road was soft and slick and quite a few chuckholes along the road to keep the teamster from going to sleep.  We camped near a ranch house between Eugene and Brownsville.  That was the second woolen mill we had passed in Oregon.  Lebanon was the next town we camped on the riverbank just out of Lebanon.  I believe we forded the river on a gravel bar.  We went from there to Scio.  We went through Silverton, camped one night on the Abiqua Creek.  Through the Molalla four corners.  Some folks used that name instead of just Molalla.  Two roads crossed there and some of the old Northern soldiers called it the ex-confederate crossroads because there was a few Southern soldiers settled in that neighborhood after the Civil War and there was still a little hard feelings between them.  We went by Wrights Spring near the Molalla Bridge and camped at the spring one night.  The next day we went to the Strickland sawmill on the upper Clear Creek in Clackamas County between Highland and Springwater neighborhood.  My mother’s uncle ran this mill which was the old fashioned sash saw and water power.  They got their logs with the bull team system.  We camped there several days and visited with Uncle Mike Heckart [TRB13]  who happened to be the master of ceremonies around the sawmill.  The men started to looking for some good place to live and had good luck.  In about ten days time the three families had rented places to live and began to gather winter supplies.  My father rented a farm with 25 acres of orchard, in fact there was more orchard than there was farmland.  There was plenty of outside pasture and we took a band of sheep on shares.  It was one of the finest winters I have ever seen, no snow and no heavy rainstorm and the stock wintered mostly on the pasture.  However, the sheep did not pay much dividends as the lamb crop was light and wool sold for ten to twenty four cent a pound and some of the sheep were old and the wool clip was light, besides we had to haul the wool 25 miles to Portland.  Roads were bad and it required three days to make the trip, one day down, one day in the city, and one day back, and once in a while you would get stuck in the mud.  They did not have any graveled or hard finished roads.  There were a few short strips of punching road.  They were made by falling trees along by the side of the road and cut 8 to 10 feet long and split and laid across the road that would carry your load.  But it sure was rough riding a wagon over the bumps.  There was not much improvement for several years; in fact, it was pretty late in the eighties before the improvement had much effect on travel.  We moved on our homestead in 79 and my father and some of the neighbors put their ox teams together until they made up four yoke of cattle or 8 head of good heavy steers and got a large breaking plow made for that purpose.  When you hit one of those large hazel grubs, as that was about the worst thing we had to contend with.  It sure took some thing stout to hold that team and besides if you did not tear it out it would be there the next time you plowed the land.  You had to break the land the first year, that was in Eastern Clackamas County.  There was considerable brush and timber though very productive soil after it was put into cultivation.  My father helped run that breaking team about three years.  When it came to breaking land at home I had to drive the team.  It was fine for a few days but it got old pretty quick.

We had to build a barn.  There was a small creek near our ranch and some cedar poles grew along this creek.  We fell those poles and hauled them out.  I helped on this work being old enough to drive the oxen and there was where I made up my mind to be a logger.  It was great to see the poles accumulate around where we to build the barn.

My father was an extra good ax-man and he peeled the poles and I and the oxen took them out of the brush.  After the material was out we had a barn raising and the neighbors came and helped put the heavy part of the building up which was a regular habit those days, help each other and change work.  Money was scarce, but plenty to eat.  Everybody raised his or her own food such as meat and grain.  Made their own bacon, hauled their wheat to the gristmill, and took their flour home.  Dried their own fruit and made their own butter and some of them made their own cheese.  Applebutter and plenty of cider had to be made every fall.  After a year of fixing up around the ranch father and a man named John Howell rigged up another breaking team and followed that business for about two summers.  Among the old timers they broke land for Mr. Folsom and John Tracy.  A short distance, I believe it was northeast of Estacada.  A town which was started several years after we left that part of the county.  On the other side of the Clackamas River, they broke ground for Sam Rainey, and Branch Tucker, and others that I cannot remember.  Mr. Rainey had an interest in the team after crossing the river instead of Mr. Howell.  This last work was in the Springwater neighborhood.  We sold our ranch and bought another about a mile from Estacada and northeast.  We had to build a barn there also.  There was a man by the name of Jim Deshields.  He had an old fashioned sawmill, a sash saw which was run by waterpower, and we worked there and took lumber to build our barn.  They put the logs with oxen.  It was not far from our ranch.  The next year just after harvest my brother about seven years younger than myself thought he would help cleanup around where we thrashed and he set a pile of straw on fire.  About fifty feet from the barn and a gust of wind carried a spark into the barn and the job was finished in a very short time.  We lost our winters hay and the thrashed grain oats and wheat all went up in smoke.  We just rustled around, gathered up material, and built another barn.  We made rails for one of the neighbors and took our pay in hay and grain.  No money, but plenty to eat and got by O.K.  The next summer we traded that ranch for a span of horses, a wagon, and some money.  We moved to the Rowley place in lower Springwater.  We put in crop that spring and then my father went to work for a man by the name of Rankin who was building a sawmill and opening up a logging at Felthamer Ferry about four miles down the river from Estacada.  My job was to take care of the garden at home, milk the cow, and take father to work Monday morning and bring him home Saturday night.  That way I saw quite a lot of logging with cattle, as I would stay around Monday until father would send me home.  Saturday I would leave home as soon as mother would let me go.  The more I saw of logging the more fascinating it became and it started me on a logging career that lasted approximately fifty years.  That mill on the Clackamas did not do very well for some reason or other.  Rankin did not run it very long; it was a single circular saw and had to saw small timber.  Someone around Oregon City took it over for a short time.  I believe Harvey Cross; a lawyer who lived there had something to do with the management after Rankin left.  There was some talk of trying drive the logs down the river to the Portland market, and if my memory serves me right I think they put some logs in the river and made a trial drive.  They decided to abandon the idea as there was not enough water in the river at normal stage and when the freshet came the water was so swift and rough that it battered them up and split some of them so they did not follow that up.  The next year 1884 my father and I helped, get in a few logs at Viola on Clear Creek.  There was a small sash mill there.  We cut some trees along the edge of the pond and they rolled them in with two yoke of oxen.  <continued>


 [TRB1]Marcus B. Blackburn, December 16, 1846 - July 18, 1895 (96?)

[TRB2]Sarah Ann Carothers, June 18, 1845 - June 23, 1906

[TRB3]Armstrong Carothers, April 26, 1815 - March 27, 1858 (Very certain that the diary is incorrect and that this man’s name was Armstrong – not Hiram.)

[TRB4]Elizabeth Christian, 1825 1891

[TRB5]John W. Hardin Abt. 1836 – September 27, 1864

[TRB6]September 27, 1864.

[TRB7]History indicates this was Major A. V. E. Johnston, commanding a unit of the Thirty-ninth Missouri Infantry

[TRB8]Milby Henry Timmons (Son of Levi D. Timmons) – History indicates 24 people out of the Thirty-ninth Missouri Infantry survived, not just Milby.

[TRB9]February 12, 1867

[TRB10]Marcus and Sarah were married in Shelby county in 1867, but by 1870 were living in Monroe County.

 [TRB11]William and his younger brother Thomas – July 1875 - ?

[TRB12]Charles A. Carothers, 1825 - ?

[TRB13]Mike Heckart was married to Sarah Malinda Carothers on December 22, 1857.  Sarah Malinda Carothers was the sister to Armstrong Carothers, Sarah Ann Carothers (Marcus’s wife) father (thus William’s mother’s uncle).

 

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