A young 22 year-old Courtney Walker first came to Oregon with Nathaniel Wyeth. Wyeth was an American businessman in Boston’s ice industry. In the 1830s, he became interested in the Oregon Country thanks to Hall Jackson Kelley and the Oregon fever breaking out along the eastern seaboard. In 1834 Wyeth outfitted and led an expedition, with plans for establishing fur-trading posts, a salmon fishery, and a colony on Wapato island near present-day Portland Oregon.
Courtney Walker joined this expedition and stayed in Oregon despite the fact Wyeth’s operation was doomed and abandoned. It could not compete against the British Hudson’s Bay Company nearby at Fort Vancouver.
Courtney Walker met Ewing Young at this time. He even sold him a cauldron that Wyeth was going to use for pickling salmon. (Ewing Young planned to use it for his whiskey operation.) After working with Ewing Young a few more times, he settled as a farmer near Dayton. He was a surveyor for Tillamook county before retirement in the 1870s. When he was near 70 years old the Oregon Pioneer Association asked Courtney Walker to write down his memories of Ewing Young.
TILLAMOOK, Tillamook Co., Ogn., Jan. 10, 188l,
Hon. M. Crawford, Dayton, Oregon.
SlR:—Your letter of the eigth ult., was received by me to-day at my residence on the Nestucca river of this county.
Your request that I furnish you with what I know of the life, or history and incidents of Ewing Young deceased. This I will do most gladly, as I candidly believe that it was through that thorough going man that Oregon was brought so speedily into notice. But without making any commentations on the subject, I will proceed to say that I made the acquaintance of Mr. Young about the 1st of November, 1834, a few days after his arrival in the Willamette valley from California. He brought with him from California a herd of Spanish mares and horses; he erected a dwelling on the Willamette river opposite to Champoeg, being the first house built on the west side of that river by a white man. At this time an unpleasant incident occurred to Mr. Young. It was this: At the time of his leaving California a large number of persons also came, and among them were some reckless persons, who, after the company had left the Spanish settlements, returned to some stock ranches and drove off a number of horses.
At the time Mr. Young left the Spanish settlement for Oregon, the Hudson Bay Company’s schooner “Cadborro” was at Monterey, California, and sailed in a few days for the Columbia, and by whom the Governor General of California wrote Dr. McLaughlin, then acting Chief Factor of the Hudson Bay Company for the District of the Columbia, stating that Ewing Young and company had stolen a band of horses from ranches in California. This letter reached the Doctor about the time Mr. Young arrived in the Willamette. Mr. Young being in want of some supplies, and having a few beaver skins, sent them to Fort Vancouver to exchange for his supplies. But Dr. McLaughlin having been advertised by no less authority than the Governor General of California that Young was at the head of a banditti, refused to purchase the beaver, but sent Mr. Young the articles which he had wished to purchase, besides sending him several articles of refreshments for his table. But when the articles came he. [page 57]
Young, indignantly refused to receive the goods or refreshments, but procured an Indian canoe and some Indian help and went in person to Vancouver, where harsh words took place between the Doctor and Mr. Young. After moderation and reason returned, the Doctor satisfied Mr. Young that he could not, being at the head of a company trading directly to California and elsewhere, have acted otherwise than to have given credence and respect to the charge against him and his company by the Gov. of California. And as the schooner “Cadborro” returned the ensuing year to California, Dr. McLaughlin wrote to the Governor of California, as also did Mr. Young. And the ensuing fall of that year the Governor wrote to Dr. McLaughlin and Mr. Young withdrawing the charges against Young, and regretting the occurrence. [In order to show how Mr. Young became the object of concern and interest of the Government, I will have to introduce another character, that is, Hall I. Kelly, an author and publisher of a pamphlet about Oregon, etc. Mr. Kelly was in California at the time Young started for Oregon and came in the company, and being a man of considerable literary talent and notoriety, he was also pointed out in the Governor General’s letter to Dr. McLaughlin, and also received the Doctor’s refusal of fellowship, but the Doctor prepared for him and had well supplied with all the comforts the Fort could supply, a dwelling, appointed him a waiter and laundress, and when in the ensuing spring the company’s vessel sailed for the Sandwich Islands, gave him a free passage.
On Mr. Kelly’s arrival at Boston, he published an account of his travels, and dwelt with a good deal of severity upon the officers of the Hudson Bay Company, and how he and Young had been treated, etc. This pamphlet was sent to our Consul at the Sandwich Islands, who was instructed to make the necessary inquiry about the condition of Young and other American citizens on the Columbia. About this time Lieut. W. A. Slocum, of the U. S. Navy, arrived a’t Oahu, (in Sandwich Islands) and Mr. Jones, the U. S. Consul, chartered a little brig and got Lieut. Slocum to come and see, etc. (This was in the winter of 1836.) ]
Mr. Young continued to live on his place opposite Champoeg, doing but little except to look after his Spanish horses, doing his trading with the American company, for which I was then acting agent (1835). But as Young was a man of strong natural mind and great determination, and withal industrious and enterprising, he resolved to go at something to make a better and more independent living, and resolved to erect a distillery, but the want of kettles and other apparatus prevented.
In the spring of 1836, Mr. Wyeth ; one of the partners of the American Company, had resolved to break up business in the country, and it was then that [page 58] Young purchased one of the chaldrons we used for pickling salmon, of Capt. Wyeth, and went formally to work in erecting a distillery. By this time a thorough reconciliation had taken place between Young and Dr. McLaughlin, and the latter told Mr. Y. that if he persisted in his distillering it would prove a ruin to the farming settlement, and assured him if he wished to enter into any kind of enterprise that would be useful and beneficial to the Young settlement, that he would advance any required aid. Upon this appeal and offer he abandoned the distillery and then was planing for a saw and grist mill. About this time (winter of 1836-37) Lieut. Slocum arrived, and calling at Vancouver, where he made his quarters. In a few days he called upon Young, and everything being explained satisfactorily, Young and Slocum put in motion the introduction of Spanish cattle into Oregon, and within a few days a company was formed, Slocum supplying the money and giving a free passage to the persons engaged, in his chartered brig, to California. In this company, Young acted as the purchasing agent and manager.
Shortly after the arrival of the cattle into Oregon, Young went to work at his saw mill and erected it on the Chehalem creek, near its confluence with the Willamette river. This he kept at work until the winter of 1840-41, when it was flooded off. A short time after this Mr. Young sickened, and in February, 1841, died.
Mr. Young was a native of Knox county, Tennessee, learned the cabinet maker’s trade in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was a very candid and scrupulously honest man; was thoroughgoing, brave and daring.
He was buried a short distance west of his residence, or where he died, in Chehalem Valley, in Yamhill county, under some oak trees. Sidney Smith subsequently occupied the house. There was once a railing put around the grave. At this time I know nothing of it.
This constitutes all that your society, perhaps, may deem necessary. All that I have thus brifly stated took place under my own observation and knowledge and what I learned from Mr. Young himself.
If anything else comes up before your society which I can aid in furthering, from any knowledge I have of it, I will cheerfully do so.
With high respect, most respectfully yours,
COURTNEY M. WALKER.
This letter was originally published in the minutes of the “Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer Association in 1880.” The physical journal is available in a few places, and the digitized version of Princeton’s copy is online. Because of its age it is in the public domain and has been reproduced here.
If you want to read more about Ewing Young and early Oregon settlement, refer to this bibliography for more resources.