Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sesquicentennial award honors Oregon pioneers

Wearing his blue FFA jacket, 15-year-old Thomas Moore listened to a presentation about how his ancestor, William Hatchette Vaughan, was part of the first wagon train to go all the way from Missouri to Oregon in 1843’s migration, eventually settling near Molalla. Cattle are still raised on a 107-acre parcel left from the original claim made 164 years ago.

Moore’s family was one of 14 that received sesquicentennial awards at a ceremony held by the Oregon Century Farm and Ranch Program on Feb. 14 in Salem.

For Moore, who traveled seven hours with his grandparents from Fox, Ore., to attend the ceremony, it was a learning experience. Although his grandfather had shared stories about the past, Moore said he “didn’t really know about this stuff, and I learned a lot today about agriculture.” One of the things that stood out was “people sticking with the family farms and not letting other people take it over.”

Speakers during the ceremony said several times how agriculture faces challenges, and hasn’t always been viewed in a positive light.

“There are some who I think would opine that we rape and pillage the land, and take from it and don’t give back,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse, a farmer himself. He said the best way to fight this is for those critics “to be able to hear the real story of the struggles, of the love for the land, of what we’ve done to give back.” Kruse said farmers all have given back to the farms, the land and their communities.

Kruse said he hoped that sharing the stories might influence urban people and politicians so they “won’t try to stop us from farming.”

Democratic Rep. Chris Edwards, a non-farmer from Lane County, is a fifth-generation Oregonian. He described his district: “If there’s an issue that is controversial and involves land use, pesticide use and a whole lot of people continuously growing out into the farm country, it resides right in my district.”

However, Edwards thanked farmers for what they do. “You’ve been a rich part of Oregon’s history, and will continue to be a good part of Oregon’s future, if any of us have something to say about it in Oregon’s Legislature.”

He admitted that there are people who don’t understand natural resource-based industries, “but there are a lot of us that do get it and will continue to support you from both sides of the aisle.”

Moore and his family know what it’s like to have other people try to influence their farming practices.

“I understand that very well,” said Moore’s grandfather, Jack Johns. “I’m in two lawsuits right now, trying to keep my cattle, to be able to turn them out on national forest.”

Johns’ family has two century farms, including the one in Fox and the one on Molalla that is run with 30 cousins as a partnership.

On his Eastern Oregon ranch, Johns has about 650 cows and has fought the last 10 years — with the last three in courts — to graze his cattle on Malheur National Forest land.

“If we don’t win this one, we might not turn them out this spring. We’ll just have to cut our cattle in about half,” Johns said.
Yet Johns knows his ancestor, William Hatchette Vaughan, faced big challenges of his own. He explained that Vaughan came to Oregon in 1843 on the wagon train. He first was in Oregon City, where he built a barn “where the courthouse is now, and in the spring of ’44, he raised his wagon, right where the elevator is, with horses and ropes and came to Molalla.” Vaughan was only the second white man to try to settle in Molalla — the first one was run off the land the year before.

“It had to be very, very tough,” he said. “Just think, raising a wagon where that elevator is, just to get started to go home, to make a home. And he had many a scrape with the Indians before he became friends with them.”

The original farmhouse still stands near Molalla, and is owned by a cousin, Champ Vaughan. The original Vaughan “never put a dime in it. It was all barter, he had his own sawmill, and he cut his own lumber.”

Other sesquicenntenial award winners could relate.

Jim Heater’s ancestors also worked with timber. They needed to slash, cut and burn heavy timber to open enough ground to grow crops for their cattle.

Lorenzo and Sophia Heater founded their farm in 1852 near Sublimity, Ore. Lorenzo Heater had first seen the land when he came out from Iowa with his brothers. He left for the California gold fields, went to Panama and crossed it, and didn’t get back to Oregon until a year and a half later.

“But in the meantime, there was a squatter that had come on some of the land that (Lorenzo) had intended to homestead,” said Heater. “The squatter hadn’t done too well. One of his oxen had died, and he was kind of in a bad condition.”

So Lorenzo Heater struck a deal. He gave the squatter one of his oxen and a new pair of britches he had brought back from Missouri — and got his land back.

His descendants have raised everything from cattle to hops, small grains to strawberries. Jim Heater said they mainly grow Christmas trees along with nursery and small grains crops.

Heater reminisces about the past. “It was a lot different then. Things moved a lot more slowly, you accomplished things a lot more slowly. The world events weren’t quite as close on your coattails as today. … I’ve often thought that I’d like to go back and live in that time once in a while, and just kind of get a good flavor for what those ancestors had to go through, because they had to be terribly stout, terribly dedicated people.”

Executive editor Elaine Shein is based in Salem. E-mail.

More online
Audio: Click here.
Oregon Century Farm and Ranch Program:
Information: Glenn Mason, coordinator, at 503-297-5892 or e-mail.

The 14 families honored on Feb. 14 were:
Robert Friedrich, Clackamas County.
Jack E. Johns, Clackamas County.
William MacFarlane, Clackamas County.
Victor Ted Birdseye II, Jackson County.
Stephen Ford-Ford Farms, Lane County.
Dwane Richardson, Lane County.
Donald H. and Dona Coon, Mike and Tami Coon, Linn County.
Frank E. Herrling, Linn County.
Joyce Jackson Martinak and Art J. Martinak, Linn County.
Richard Rice, Linn County.
James and Timothy Heater, Marion County.
Dean Arthur McKay, Marion County.
Guy and Mary Ann Scott, Marion County.
Ann D. Vasconi and John H. Davenport, Marion County.

No comments:

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

Our most popular videos