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Undaunted Pioneers

Ever Moving
ONWARD - WESTWARD
and
HOMEWARD

As Told by
Mary Dunn

First School

   In 1856 the upper valley settlers met at the home of Giles Wells for the purpose of making plans for building a school house. They elected Enoch Walker, Isaac Hill, J.C. Tolman, and H. F. Barron as directors and Mr Dunn was elected clerk. They built a school house on our place about a half a mile north of our house. This building was used for church and all other community gatherings. The first church services were conducted by Rev. M. A. Williams in 1857. He came from Yreka and stayed at father's house. Father went round and told all the neighbors that there would be preaching services at the school house the next Sunday. When they day arrived, father's horses had strayed away, so father hitched up a yoke of oxen to a big lumber wagon and took the preacher, his own family and as many of the neighbors as he could pick up. He was late, so he came down the road in a trot, and that was going some in those days. There was a good congregation; people came from all around as far as Myers' place over in Valley View, across Bear creek. There was no other church nearer than a Methodist church in Jacksonville.
   There were some good singers; John McCall, Albert Rockfellow, a Mr Smith and wife, my father, Rev. Williams and others. Mr. A.V. Gillette played the flute and led the singing. Later other ministers came and preached there regularly. My sister Lou and I were the first to join the Presbyterian church and were baptised by Father Williams.
   There was soon quite a settlement near the school house. Wells built a saw mill and blacksmith shop near the bridge on the Tolman place, and several families settled near the mill. Tolman built a tannery on his place. A bachelor by the name of Osborne built a shoe and harness repair shop on our place which he named Bridge Port. He named the Tolman place Salmonville, as in those days the creek was full of fish, and the dam at the mill made them more numerous there. He named the school after some college in Vermont which I have forgotten. He was quite a character and sometimes composed poetry about the neighbors and their peculiarities. This was a real source of amusement and entertainmment for us in the days before the movies came to town.
   I sent for a Sunday school quarterly and tried to teach my children the lessons. Mrs. Tolman came and wanted her children to learn too; so I asked Mrs. John Taylor, who had several children, if she wanted to help me. We all went to the school house and had ten children to start a Sunday School. A Congregational minister who was sick and staying at our house sent word to his church, and they sent a box of six Bibles and several singing books. I wrote to Mr. Huffman in Jacksonville, and he sent us a box of Sunday reading books. It was not long until we had quite a school, and I kept it going till we moved to Jacksonville in1872.
   As the country was settled and business developed, we lived the life of any American family with the varied interests of home, church and school. My grandmother Hill, who came out to Oregon in 1849, came and stayed with us for a while. She was very fond of my oldest daughter, Elizabeth. In 1856 she wanted to return to Tennessee to see her mother. Uncle George Hill took her to San Francisco and put her on a boat for Panama. She crossed the isthmus on a mule. One day she lagged so far behind the rest of the pack train, they thought she must be lost. In the evening, howe er, she came trotting in to camp. She then went by boat to New York and across the country to Athens, Missouri, where he daughter, Elizabeth Duty, lived. Her mother died that winter, so she was not permitted to see her again.
   I have a letter from a school friend in Tennessee that I prize very much. I do not think it sounds as the seventeen year old girls talk today.

Sweetwater, Feb. 18, 1854.

Dear Friend Mary:

It is with no small degree of pleasure that I hail the present laconic moment and embrace the opportunity of answering your very kind and much welcomed letter of September the 15th, which brought the joyful intelligence of your good health. --Mary, I have just returned from your grandfather's. They are in their usual good health. They all look so lonesome, and they say they feel so. -- Mary, I am often made to feel humble when I go to the old school house and get to thinking of the joyous hours we have spent together there. Ah, what a heart joy is would be to meet you all again, but that would be a sweet pleasure that I never expect to enjoy. I have often studied about you all and wished that I could recall the happy hours that we have spent on the old play ground, but time once past can never be recalled. Accept the most ardent love of your absent friend.

It was a real treat to hear from any of our folks, and I have one letter on which the delivery fee was two dollars and a half. A letter from my father to a friend in the East shows how little news we had of the states. Dear Friends:

    We are well and have enjoyed good health. There is almost no sickness in this country. It is the pleasantest climate I ever lived in, but I will not say more about our pleasant country for fear you fall in love with it and move here before it is made a slave state. Cicero received a letter from Martha Fine, and Mary received two from her cousin Nancy and one from her brother since her death. They are all the letters we have since we came here. The miners from here have been doing well since the Indians have been removed. They are mining from here to the mouth of the Rogue river and on almost every stream that empites into it.

In the time of the Civil War we lived on what we could raise on our farms, as nothing was brought into the valley. We did without coffee and sugar for two years. Carrots made a good drink, but it was hard to prepare. We cut them in small cubes and roasted them. Dry goods was scarce and everything was high. The news from our friends in Tennessee was very meagre. A letter to my mother written during that period shows the distress there. Dear Betsy:

   We received your letter and you cannot imagine what pleasure it afforded us to hear from you. I imagine I could see you and your little ones running around small children, and now they are parents. I have a good hope we shall met where parting shall be no more. There are many changes in the country. In fact, there is scarcely anything remaining as when you left. All the timber between Lowden and your old place has been cut by the soldiers. We are groaning very much under the weight of our taxes; indeed it seems almost impossible to bear up under them. We are now under Negro rule, and I think you can sympathize with us, but I trust in God the time is short. Everything seems dark for the future-- I have no hope of ever seeing you or your children yet you and they shall have my best wishes and prayers.

Mother's brother, Peter Lee Fine, came to southwestern Missouri and settled at Rock Prairie. On January 26, 1858, he wrote to mother telling of his children, Marshall Walker, then nine; George Washington, five; and Mahala Caroline, then two. He says: "Things are improving very rapidly. I made the trip to Tennessee in nine days and returned in eight." He would be surprised to know they are flying that distance now in that many hours. I also have a letter to mother from her sister, Sarah Fine Beard, written in 1867. She says, "Dear   Besy: I have often remembered the morning you left the old place. I stood in the door and looked after you. I knew I would never see you more till the judgment. O that we may not be separated then." She tells of the death of her son Ira. "I have great consolation believing he is now basking in all the sunshine of immortal glory.The last words he spoke were 'I am received.' Now sister how these words made me rejoice. Indeed, it gave me a sweet song in the night."
   My husband, Patrick Dunn, was born in the beautiful country of Wexford, Province of Linster, in the south of Ireland, March 24, 1824. His parents were Patrick and Johanna Toole Dunn, and he was the youngest of seven children. When he was only four they came to New York City and afterwards settled in Philadelphia, where he received his education. When he was nineteen, the family emigratd to Edwardsville, Illinois, and he was bookeeper in a flouring mill. In 1850 Mr Dunn came across the plains by mule team to California, arriving in Sacramento on August 9th. He thought his fortune was in the mines and went to the American river, working on Kelly's bar, trying his fortune at Ophir and later at Auburn. Hearing of rich mines on the Salmon river in northern California, he and Alberdine went to Trinidad from San Francisco by water, remaining there until fall, and enjoying salteratus flap-jacks when flour was worth three dollars per pound and mule sirloin at the most fabulous rates. The sufferings of the miners in the Salmon river camp the winter of 1850-51, who were snowed in with limited food and supplies and absolutely cut off from any source of procuring more for many weeks made one of the most thrilling stories chronicled in the early history of California. He and Alberding lived for several days on the shank of a mule some one had killed. Mr. A.D. Helman of Ashland was one of the men there that winter, and he tells of living on sugar only for seventeen days. In the spring Mr. Dunn crossed the mountain to Yreka on snowshoes and thence over the Siskiyous to the Rouge River valley. He camped on the place he later took up. He often told of the beauty of this country when he first saw it that spring full of waving grasses waist high and wild flowers. He mined at Jacksonville for a while and had a fair measure of success. He took out over a thousand dollars in one day on Jackson Creek, but that luck did not last long.
   He and his partner, Fred Alberding, came up the valley and took up claims. Captain Thos. Smith took up one at the same time also. Major Barron and a few men located at the Mountain house, further up. These men were the first actual settlers in that part of the Rogue River valley above Phoenix.
   It was soon after this that my family came, and I have told you of our wedding. Mr. Dunn was elected to the first territorial legislature in which he served two terms as Republican representative. A letter from him January 8, 1855, says: "Cicero (my brother) and myself will come home together as soon as the legislature session is over. It will terminate the first of February. I think I can go home from here in eight days. There are nearly three hundred miles between us which with the blessing and help of God will not remain long." While in Salem that time he ordered about three dozen fruit trees and brought a few home with him on his horse. He planted the first orchard in the valley, and a few of the pear trees are still bearing. Mr. Dunn was the Assesor of Jackson county in 1865 and was elected County Clerk in 1872, besides filling the office of County Commissioner for several terms and taking a lively interest in all educational matters. Mr. Alberding sent me the first rose bush in the country from Santa Rosa, California, in 1856, and a bush from it is still blooming at the home of my niece, Mrs. Geo. McConnell in Ashland.
   We had six children. The oldest died in infancy, and one daughter, Amy Mae, died in 1883. In 1860 we felt that we had outgrown the log cabin and built the house which is still occupied by my grandson, Edwin Dunn, and his family. The weeping willow trees that are there were switches planted by my little girls. Our home was quite a center of activity of all kinds, just as the old Fine home had been back in Tennessee. We lived there until 1890 when we moved into Ashland, and my son, Geo. W. Dunn, took over the farm.
   Mr. Dunn was not well the last years of his life and was confined to his home most of the time. One of his most regular visitors was Jacob Wagner, who came almost every day to talk over the happenings of the day. Mr. Dunn was keenly interested in the development of the country long after he was able to take an active part in the affairs. "He was always a warm-hearted, genial gentleman, whose hand was always open, guided by the golden rule." At last, completely worn out by the long struggle, the spirit of this old and rugged pioneer took its flight, and in the language of the text selected by the preacher, "in the evening there shall be light." He died July 29, 1901.
   I would like to tell you of the many tributes to my mother's influence, for she displayed many worthy traits both in the happy hours of safety and the trying moments of peril. It was truly said of her that "she exemplified the many crowning graces that made her life beautiful in her pioneer home in the sunset land and gave her a strong hold on the affections of the people." She died at the home of my sister Has on the 14th of December, 1879. My father had died some years before, and she spent most of the time with me. Her refining influence on the lives of her children and grandchildren cannot be measured.
   My brothers, La Grande and Cicero, were men of sterling worth and played their part well in the new country. However, my two sisters and myself were a trio whose interests were bound together in an unusual way. We reared our children together and faced the same conditions of a new country. As the years had advanced, we have had many reunions and many expressions of love and esteem have been shown us. I am putting in part of a letter written back to my daughter by the son of my brother Cicero, after one of these gatherings.
 

My dear cousin:

I must write and tell you about a trip to Ashland. It was great. And the grub. Nothing but two-legged birds and cake all the time. Gained several pounds in good foul flesh. --We promised we would spent Thanksgiving in Ashland, so that is how we happened to go on that trip.
   I had never been away from home before and was rather afraid of the cars, but after a few hours I got accustomed to the motion, and as it was dark and I couldn't see how fast we were going I finally went to sleep.
   We travled all night (trains do that out here all the time). I think it is dangerous, but the trains don't seem to care whether it is or not. The car we were on was a rooming house car, and the chamber maid was a nigger. There wasn't any real partitions between the beds, just some cloth hung up for make-believe. I was ashamed to go to bed and stayed up until everybody else had gone and was snoring. Bunks is what they call beds on a rooming house car.
   The next morning I was the first one up and when I went to dress, bless you if that blooming black nigger hadn't cleaned my shores off and set them alongside of my bunk. Why that chambermaid was the kindest fellow to us you ever heard of. Well, that day was an ever changing panorama of rugged mountains and good fishing creeks and then spread out before us the beautiful Rogue river with is little burgs and interesting towns. Fainlly about two p.m. we landed at Ashland and saw Pat and Lyle awaiting us. Well, we were received all right, and the reception did not let up until our departure. Just one grand receive. Well, we began on chicken at Pat's, and I saw then it was a case of eat, eat, eat. By the way I forgot to tell you that I had a few other cousins out there, and they are all O.K., A1, 22-karat fine, it sort of runs in the tribe, and three of the finest aunts a feller ever had. One of them was away visiting, and I didn't see her, but she's a dear just the same, and I was sorry I did not get to see her.
   Next morning we awoke to look on one of the prettiest landscapes that we have ever seen. Before us spread a peaceful valley, guarded by snow-tipped peaks, and behind were wooded hills through which, winding its way among many fashioned rocks its clear water, dancing and dashing hither and thither, a pretty creek humming on toward its tomb, the river.
   But we had not time to get over sentimental that morning, for there were things adoing. It was Thanksgiving. Everyone looked happy, although I knew some were working hard to make others thankful they were alive.
   We went to Van's for dinner. Oh! I forgot you were not acquainted with Van. Well, you ought to be. It makes a fellow feel good and better to know them. Van married a sister of Pat's. One of a sensative turn could find Van's home without directions, for the harmony there pervades its interior, filters through to the outside, and you can feel it glow the minute you reach its threshold. There we met--well I cannot tell you all we met, there were so many, but they had the something that draws you near, you know.
   Well now, about that dinner, I do not know how many turkeys there were executed for the occasion, but they certainly were not a few. And they were cooked just as good as fat turkeys should be. The table was crowded with other good things just as well prepared as Mr. Turkey, and dainty cards at each place represented a love stroke for each one of the words it expressed. From away up somewhere festoons fell, whose garlands grasped the table's either corners, and amid the laughing of the happy hearts and witty words of witty people we ate and ate and ate. All things have an ending except eternity, so it was an impossibility to continue, after our stomachs were chuck-a-block (that's a steamboat term signifying "not another pound of freight can be stored away.), and we were forced reluctantly to discontinue. Then a chatter, a happy all-souled chatter of many voices. Dr. W.'s a good talker and can express himself on all occasions, so he made appropriate remarks about the assembly. They, of course, drifted in the direction of dear, kind-faced Aunt Mary, who sat pposite to me and was the direct cause of nearly all the assembled crowd. As she sat there she must have been proud that she could look upon those happy faces and count so many that owed their existence to her motherhood. May she live many years to enjoy the pleasures that her large and interesting family are sure to bring her. The never-ceasing ticking of old time made us reluctantly withdraw from the warmth of the Van household and we adjourned to Pat's for a good old-fashioned chat vefore retiring.
   We were lazy the next morning, and after breakfast Don piloted me up beautiful Ashland creek to the falls. It was a most healthful and invigorating trip, and I enjoyed it highly. It took me back to times long past when I was there with both feet, in voyish vigor and expectation. After dinner George was there with a two-seated rig and his dandy span Queen and King, to take us out to the old Hill farm where Pat's grandparents and mine first settled when they came to the wild and woolly west. We arrived at the old place, and as I looked over its broad fields and beautiful hills I thought of him who in my boyhood was a lot with me, was ever my trusted friend, who encouraged me and helped me when life's problems were puzzling and difficult and who, when I stood beside him one drear morning at four, trying to feel a pulse not there, looked smilingly in my face and asked, "Is it still there?" and then closing his eyes never to see again said, "Let me rest," and rested the long rest.  His eyes had seen the same scene, and in his boyishness he had leaped the same stream that we stood beside that day and had drink of the same spring with its soda scent fromwhich we drean that day.
    But there was not enough time to think of all the things the day suggested, for time was pressing; so after a last look at a memory dear scene we started home, stiping at the site of the old farm house to take of the crystal ancient edgted water a parting gulp.  We also stopped at George's farm where Pat the original took Mary, a young wife in the long ago, to love, protect, help and keep, which family history says he did as well as man could do.  It was there all the children were born and spent their childhood, and I could see through the drawn clouds of the past a girl in all her glee, romping and riding over fields and hills.
    Another pleasant ride and we were at Otto's and Bird's to eat.  They are cousins too and O.K. I had been told that I would like them immensely, and you can just put up your last dollar that I was given the right tip.  Bird is simply charming, and their interesting family of tots tells one at once their home is builded with care, and that the old sory of love and confidence has been told and retained within its walls.  We had quails, and they were simply immense, and so was everything else.  Then around the fireplace other cousins began to appear, and we had a gay evening.
    The next day we all rounded up at dear Aunt Mary's.  Fine as the dinner was, far better was it in her home, to hear her tell of the long agos and see the old fashined pictures of those we all love.  I would like to say more about my visit here, for many pleasant and sombre thoughts were filling my brain that day, and I know that being in her home has stamped an impression on me that will ever influence me to live better.
    The next day was Sunday, and of course we attended church.  We listened to the best sermon I have ever heard in five years, then across the street to where another of the Three dear Girls whom I have had the honor to call Aunt.  Aunt Has, the dear, had worked and worked I know as had cousins Nellie and Mable, to make us happy.  And happy we were.  'Tis a most pleasant home, theirs, the walls hold many beautiful scenes, the artistic work of cousins, and happy indeed is my dear aunt and proud of the pictures her girls produce.  But they come by their artistic turn naturally, for Aunt can whittle stone herself to any design she likes, and I am told that experts say she has no superior.  We passed a most pleasant time there and enjoyed every minute.  Then we called to say farewell to Ottie and her family and went up the heill to get a last view of the charming scene spread as a beautiful picture before us.
    Wending back, we went to feed at the home of cousin Charlie and Lizzie.  And feed we did.  I can taste that stuf we had the had the banana in the middle yet.  And that pink filling with cake between it will still be in my dreams when years have changed my locks to silver.  We spent the evening most pleasantly, and Charlie and I discovered that we dont know one from the other when we were babies.  We may be mixed now.
    The next morning good-bye to Don, the maid, the monk, God bless them all, was said before they left for school.  Pat went to the depot with us.  Those good-byes I hope are omitted in heaver, for I don't like them a little bit.  It's not th e words but the dumb lump in the windpipe that's so disagreeable.  The train pulled out, and soon the last of pretty Ashland had faded from view, and we sat down and voted we had the finest time of our lives, excepting our wedding day.
            Affectionately your cousin,  C---
    The last of these large reunions was held in Ashland in June 1923 (when some seventy gathered to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of our coming to the valley.)  My sister, Mrs. Ann Hasatine Hill Russell, and myself wore gowns made in the style of long ago, and Has wore a silk shawl she had worn on her wedding day.  We had a dinner together in Pioneer Hall, which had been transformed into a bower of beauty.  There were so many expressions of kind thoughts and well wishes from friends and flowers sent by the Chamber of Commerce and the Civic Club that I cannot take the time to tell of them all.  Twenty years had passed since we had met in such a gathering, and we missed most of all our sister Lou, who had gone on before June 5, 1920.  The next day we met in Lithia Park with the Pioneer Association,  Mr. Fred Wagner was toastmeaster and welcomed Has and me with the poem of Joaquin Miller's "Mothers of Men."  My neice, Mrs Merrick gave a tribute to her mother (sister Lou) in the following verse.
 

We find God's message everywhere
To do good unto others;
But the crowning glory that he gave,
Was giving us our mothers.
    June thirtieth was the last day of the reunion, and we closed with a final gathering in the Civic Club House. For a time happy groups chatted merrily, then Hugh Gillette, as master of ceremonies, presented a program given by members of the family.  After music and readings had been beautifully given, Mable Russell's pictures of Oregon scenes were shown in color on the screen.  At the close "Sunset on Mount Shasta" was shown, and Mrs Speer sang "The End of a Perfect Day" as it is rarely sung.  Then the quartette sang "God Be with You Till We Meet Again."
    When the trio of sisters was broken in 1920 by the death of my sister Lou, we all realized as never before what a wonderful woman she had been. Her grand-daughter, Hazel McGonnell Nims, gave such a true estimate of her in hir paper for the D.A.R. meeting that I am going to let her words be my tribute.

    "I am here giving to you a subject that is very near to my heart, the events in the pioneer life of my grandmother, Martha Hill Gillette, a woman whose spirit and su preme faith carried her through her eighty-six years, for from the thrill of adventuring into the primative country to the everyday happenings of life, her living was the same cheerful, serene and the good Samaritan always.
    "We speak of pioneer women with reverence and wonder, only half realizing the courage and dauntless spirit that gave to us this wonderful land of Oregon.  All honor to the wonderful women who gave up home and friends to travel to an unknown land. Hardship that we can not conceive awaited them -- and the Hill family became one of Southern Oregon's pioneer families.  Soon Martha Hill became Martha Gillette and settled in Ashland to live and see it grow to a prosperous town.
    "Her love of God and her generosity to all made her a beloved woman.  She was never too bsy or too tired to lend a helping hand.  Her love of nature and of the hearens was at all times her joy and solace.\
    Prohibition and woman's sufferage stood foremost in her political life, and she lived to see both made laws.  She was one of the founders of the First Presbyterian Church here, and an ardent worker and devout Christian.  On of the women's organizations of the church is dedicated to her, "The Martha Gillete Chapter of the Westminster Guild."

    To such a life tribute is paid, not in words, but in the hum of growing cities and the influence of loyalty and unselfishness upon the lives of those who knew her,\
    A friend quoted this to her memory:
 

Live all thy life,
Seem what thou are,
Nor from simplicity depart,
And peace shall come upon thy heart,
Live all thy life.
---Hazel McConnell Nims
    It is not only the sister that is gone on that I would have you know, for Mrs Ann Hasatine Russell has lived a life filled to the full with deeds of usefulness and courage,  She is the mother of eleven children, all but one of whom are still living.  Her husband was a marble cutter, and she watched him chisel out his designs.  One day she took a piece of marble, a chisel and a mallet into the house, drew a flower, put the marble on a kitched chair, and kneeling down by it, began to carve it.  Mr. Russell, hearing her, watched her awhile and said, "I declare that beats anything I ever saw."  So she began a life as a marble cutter, and while she worked for the joy of it, success came; and later on when Mr. Russell became badly crippled in the mines, her marble trade became a real financial help  She continued the marble business after her husband's death, doing all the lettering, carving, designing, only hiring the bases cut  She has on her table in the entrance hall a carved white ribbon bow with the motto "For God and Home and Every Land." She says it is a testimonial of the policies of her home.  She carved a beautifuyl emblem of white ribbon and placed it in the W.C.T.U. booth at the Jackson County Fair.  It was soicited for the women's building at the World's Fair in Chicago, and after that it was taken to the Temperance Temple and is now in the memorial room at Rest Cottage, Evanston.  She says, "I aim to please my customers and glorify God and hold the temperance banner high."  She is now in Ashland in her home, and you have only to know her a short while to recognize a strong character that has lived a strenous life of earnest endeavor.  Her life has beenb crowded with service to the community and to her family, and they delight to do her honor.  Her ninty-one years have been well lived.


    An honor that has come to me of which I feel I am rightfully proud is that of being crowned "Mother Queen" of the Oregon pioneers, June 23, 1927.  J.D. Lee, Portland, pioneer of 1864 placed the crown and congratulated me.  My daughter, Mrs Ella D. Rice; my grandaughter Mrs. Wm. G. Smith; and my great-grand-daughter, Janet Smith completed the circle of four generations there.

    I am happy as I live over my ninty-three years in retrospect, surrounded by my family and a host of friends.  My grandfather Fine would never say "good-bye," but "I wish you well."  So may I close my story with these words, "I wish you well."
 

Last updated by William P. Russell onSaturday, 25-Jun-2005 21:35:32 MDT