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of tlic

Oregon Historical Society


MARCH, 1917

Number 1

Copyright, 1917, by the Oregon Historical Society
Tha Qaart«rlr disavcwB responsibility for the positions taken by contribntors to its paces.



FRED WILBUR POWELL— Hall Jackson Kelley— Prophet
of Oregon —

Chapter One, Youth and Manhood - - . - i-io

Chapter- Two, Years of Agitation - - - - 11-23

Chapter Three, The American Society — Plans and Prop-
aganda _-_.._ - - 24-41

Chapter Four — The American Society — Delay and

Failure 42-53

LESLIE M. SCOTT— Soil Repair Lessons in Willamette

Valley - - 54-68

Entered at the post office at Portland. Oregon, as second-class matter

/aienCouniy Public Library
ft Wayne, IrKiioM


1790 - 1874



of the

Oregon Historical Society

Volume XVIII MARCH, 1917 Number 1

Copyright, 1917, by the Oregon Historical Society
The Quarterly disavows responsibility for the positions taken by contributors to its paff*i.

HALL JACKSON KELLEY - Prophet of Oregon

Youth and Early Manhood

Any statement as to Kelley's early life must be pieced
tog"ether from fragments now at hand over forty years after
his death as a worn-out old man. That he was born at North-
wood, New Hampshire, February 24, 1790, is set forth by the
town records. He was a descendant of John Kelley. one of
the settlers of Newbury, Massachusetts. His grandfather was
Samuel Kelley of Salem, and his father was Benjamin Kelley,
a native of Salem and a physician who practiced in the New
Hampshire towns of Northwood, Loudon, and Gilmanton. His
mother was Mary ("Polly") Gile of Nottingham.

Kelley was a boy of ten when his family went to Gilmanton
after four years' residence in Loudon. He attended Gilmanton
academy, and at the age of sixteen taught school at Hallowell,
Maine. ^ In 1813 he graduated from Middlebury college, Ver-
mont, with the degree of A.B.- From his own words it is
possible to picture the sort of boy he was.

"Blessed with intelligent and pious parents, who led me in
early youth to fear God, I came into active life serious minded;
and much inclined to consider my ways, and to seek to know
what could make me useful and happy. Before the years of
manhood, I resolved on a fearless obedience to the divine com-
mands . . .^ Pious, maternal instructions, in early youth

1 Lancaster, Hist, of Gilmantov, zzg, 250, 274; Cogswell, Hist, of Nottingham,
DeerHeld and Northwood. 584; Temple, Hist, of the Toivn of Palmer, 26$.

2 The nature of his college environment is indicated by the fact that thirteen
out of twenty-nine members of his class entered the ministry.

3 Kelley, Hist, of the Settlement of Oregon, 6.

2 Fred Wilbur Powell, A. M.

much inclined me to lead an active and useful life . . .*
It was a mother who taught me never to take the name of
God in vain — never to be guilty of the sin of insulting the
Almighty with the breath he gives. She impressed my mind
with a profound and pious reverence for Jehovah, and with a
high and solemn veneration for the institutions of Christianity ;
and so impressed it with the love of truth, that not a single
doubt, as to the divine authenticity of the Scriptures, ever
profaned the sanctuary of my heart. Her instructions and
examples inclined me to be diligent and persevering in busi-
ness, and faithful and patient in the discharge of duties ; to be
hospitable and merciful, — when enemies hunger and thirst, to
feed them, and give them drink; and to bless them that
persecute . . .

"Early in youth I acquired a fondness for reading. The
post came along once a week and left at my father's house the
newspaper. Besides accounts of events, accidents and remark-
able occurrences, it contained bulletins concerning the terrible
wars then raging in Europe, and thrilling accounts of Bona-
parte's invading and devastating armies. They were new to
me, and I read wth an intense desire to know about them.
. . . I read them, and was led to read books and papers of
every kind as they came to hand. They were calculated to
inspire ambition and to interest my feelings. ... I did
not then, so early in youth, understand the distinctions proper
to be made as to the conductors in those wars. But afterwards,
in riper years, reading, hearing and observations enabled me
better to comprehend the meaning of what was read, and better
to discriminate between lovers of their country and philan-
thropists, and traitors and misanthropes. Hence, was my
fondness for reading and itching ears for news. At
once I left my juvenile plays and sports, and turned
to books and papers. I read at times through the day,
and more than once through the night. When taking up a
book, treating on some subject I would wish to comprehend,

4 Kellcy, Hist, of the Colonisation of Oregon, $.

Hall Jackson Kelley 3

it was not laid down until I understood all its pages could
inform me. 'Neil's History of the Indians of New England,'
the first ever published, and other histories of that benighted
and oppressed people were read. While preparing for college
I have more than once studied my \''irgil lessons by moonlight ;
in this way, often times I overstrained the optic nerves, the
stress so often brought upon them caused near-sightedness
and to be slow of apprehension. . . .

"At the age of fourteen I first experienced a difficulty in
utterance. For one or two years I suffered an impediment in
my speech ; in the presence of superiors was unable readily to
begin utterance. About the time of entering college I dis-
covered myself to be 'slow of speech' (of apprehension). . . ."*

Earnest, introspective, and diffident, he was also religious to
the degree of fanaticism. "In my youth the Lord Jesus re-
vealed to me in visions the lonely, laborious and eventful life
I was to live; and gave at the time of the visions, and after-
wards, unmistakable signs that the revelations were by Him."*
In practical matters, however, he showed early in life a dis-
position to get at the truth through actual experiment. Thus
he said :

"A year or two prior to my entering college, much was said
in the papers in regard to a perpetual motion. I went into a
workship determined on knowing the reality of such a motion,
spent several days in an attempt to find out the truth about it.
After several days of study and mechanical labor, I was en-
abled to demonstrate its impossibility. . . ."'^

Of his college life little is known except that he enjoyed the
respect of his fellow students as a young man who could be
relied upon to meet the problems which presented themselves.

"When 'in college,' my class was put to the study of astron-
omy. For the purpose of illustrating, I constructed an
Orrery — a machine showing the pathways of the moon round

5 Settlement of Oregon, 6, 13-4.
a ThiH.. T2^.

6 Ibid., 124.

7 Ibid., 10.

4- Fred Wilbur Powell, A. M.

the earth, and the earth round the sun. Lead pencils fixed to
the axes of those bodies, and the machine put in motion, their
orbits were exactly delineated on paper. It was similar to a
figure on one of the plates of Ferguson's Astronomv. My
class-mates thought me to have some inventive power and
mechanical ingenuity. In my Junior year, a Senior, whose
class had been required to calculate and project a certain
eclipse of the sun, which would happen far in the future, came
to me, saying, if he could be furnished within twenty-four
hours, with an accurate projection of that eclipse, he would
give me $5.00. I promptly complied with his request, and the
money was promptly paid, and was very acceptable, being, as
I was at the time, in needy circumstances."*

Kelley sought his opportunity in Boston, where he again
became a school teacher.'' On May 4, 1815, he married Mary
Baldwin, a daughter of Rev. T. Baldwin, D.D.^*' On the
records of the school committee of Boston Kelley's name first
appears as master of the West reading school, a position to
which he was appointed on September 29, 1818. after several
weeks' service as a substitute during the last illness of his
predecessor. On June 17, 1820, Kelley was appointed master
of the Hawkins Street grammar school, and on March 20, 1821
he became reading and grammar master of the Mayhew school.
Here, it appears, he became involved in "difficulties" with the
usher, whose dismissal was recommended by the sub-com-
mittee of the Mayhew school. Further inquiry was made into
the matter by a special committee headed by the mayor, Josiah
Quincy, with the result that on July 18, 1823, the secretary
was directed to inform Kelley that the school committee would
dispense with his services, but that his salary would be con-
tinued through the quarter.

As to the results of his educational activities, he claimed, "I
improved the system of common school education in my adopted

8 Ibid., 9-10.

9 Ibid., si-2.

10 Middlebnry College, General Catalogue, 1800-1900, 46; Temple, ^65.

Hall Jackson Kellev 5

State. The Black Board and the Monitorial Desk were first
introduced into the schools of Boston by me. The late dis-
ting"uished Joseph Lancaster was the first to use them."^^ Now
that the blackboard has fallen into disfavor and the Lan-
casterian monitorial system has been long since abandoned
by educators, no one is likely to dispute the claim. He also
interested himself in the subject of industrial education. "1
attempted the founding of an institution, to be called, 'Massa-
chusetts Mechanical and Agricultural College.' The subject
was two years before the legislature. The Committee on Edu-
cation said to me, that if I would raise a fund of $10,000, the
State would give $10,000 more. A munificent individual of
Charlestown proposed to subscribe $2,000 ; myself would give
a portion of my estate in the town."^- The project was aban-
doned ; but Kelley expressed satisfaction that "his zealous ef-
forts . . . excited in others of abler talents, correspondent
intentions and labors, which resulted, in some small benefit, to
our literary institutions."^" However active he may have been
in promoting this movement, he was not its originator ; nor
does his name appear in any of the published documents relat-
ing to the matter. ^^

Kelley 's interest in the welfare of youth also prompted him
to take an active part in the organization of the Boston Young
Men's Education Society, of which he was the first secretary,
and in the founding of the Penitent Females' Refuge, which
was organized in 1821 and incorporated in 1823.^'^ His strong

iS Settlement of Oregon, 74.

1 1 Settlement of Oregon, 8-9.

12 Ibid., 4.

13 Kelley, Geographical Sketch of Oregon, $.

14 In 1825 the legislature received a memorial from the town of Stockbridge
praying for the endowment of "an institution best calculated to afford instruction
to laborious classes in practical arts and sciences." A brief report was made by a
committee of the house of representatives within the year, and a joint committee
was appointed to "prepare and digest a system" for such an institution. — Mass.
Resolves, 1825, c. 88. This committee presented two reports in 1826 and a third
in 1827 and also a bill "To establish the Mass. Seminary of Arts and Sciences."
This bill provided for an appropriation of $20,000, not $10,000 as stated by
Kelley, the grant being contingent upon the raising of $10,000 by subscriptions and
donations. — Governor's Messages in Mass. Resoh'cs, VI, 381, 579; also H. Doc. 5
and 5. Doc. 23 of 2 sess. 1826-7. While this matter was under discussion, the
legislature was also considering the needs of the elementary schools, the result
being a revised education law, passed in 1827. It was undoubtedly this act that
Kelley had in mind when referring to the results of the labors of "others of
abler talents."

6 Fred Wilbur Powell, A. M.

religious, bent naturally led him to attempt to promote the
systematic study of the Bible. "The first Sunday School in
Boston and perhaps New England was organized by me with
the assistance of the late Rev. Daniel Chesman. In 1820, or
the year following, I prepared for the use of the Sunday
Schools in Boston, a small book called Sunday School In-

As a writer of elementary school books, Kelley met with
considerable favor, if we are to judge by the number and
variety of editions. First came The Instructor's First Book.^^
Diligent search has failed to bring to light a single copy of this
work, and its date of publication is unknown. It was doubtless
the same as the First Spelling Book, Or Child's Instructor, the
eighth edition of which was published in 1827. In 1825 ap-
peared The American Instructor, Second Book, which accord-
ing to the title page was "Designed for the common schools in
America ; containing the elements of the English language ;
lessons in orthography and reading, and the pronunciation of
Walker's Critical Pronouncing Dictionary ; all made easy by
the arrangement and division of words, and an improved use
of figures and letters." A second edition was published in
1826. A fifth edition, published in 1827, bore the title Kelley's
Second Spelling Book. There was a further change of title
in 1832, when The Western Spelling Book was published in

The American Instructor contains selections for reading on
geography, agriculture, architecture, mechanics, astronomy, and
prosody, with special attention to Thomson's poetry. Its frontis-
piece shows Minerva, book in hand, directing two boys to the
"temple of fame" on a nearby height; a globe, a compass, and

i6 Kelley, Explanatory Remarks, Ms. attached to a copy of Kelley's Second
Spelling Book, presented to the Amherst college library about 1869.

"In 1818 provision was made for the instruction of children from four to
seven years of age. The primary schools established for this purpose seem to have
originated in a general desire of our citizens to relieve the Sunday-schools from
the great amount of secular instruction received there, which was fast crowding
out the religious training that should be the object of such institutions." — Dillaway,
Education, in Winsor, Memorial Hist, of Boston, IV, 245.

1 7 Settlement of Oregon, 9.

Hall Jackson Kelley 7

several books giving to the scene a scholarly setting. "De-
lightful task to rear the tender thought;" so runs the legend.
This, of course, was Kelley's only by adoption. It was typical
of that generation of school masters who forced our grand-
mothers, while in their 'teens, to read and appreciate such
ponderous books as Watts' Improvement of the Mind; and —
it helps us to understand Kelley.^^

According to the minutes of the meeting of the corporation
of Middlebury college held on August 16, 1820, Kelley was
"admitted to the degree of Master of Arts." This was not an
"honorary" degree, as we now understand the term, for ac-
cording to the president of the college, "as it was quite cus-
tomary at that period to confer that degree upon any graduate
of more than three years' standing who applied for it, it could
not be regarded as a distinguished honor." Within the year
Harvard also conferred the same degree ad eundem gradum}^

Kelley was twice married. His second wife was Mary Perry,
adopted daughter of T. D. Bradlee of Boston, to whom he
was married on April 17, 1822 at Boston. They had three
sons, Benjamin, John S., and Charles H. His first wife also
left a son, Thomas B.^®

After his second marriage, and probably after his dismissal
from the Boston schools, Kelley took up his residence in
Charlestown. Many years later, he gave a description of his
property in Charlestown and Boston. There was an "estate
in Milk Row, Charlestown," and four other "estates." "One
comprised twelve acres of land ; and is situate near Craigie's
Point, Charlestown. . . . The other three consisted of
houses and lands, situate in Boston, where at this time [1854J
are the Lowell, the Eastern and the Western railroad depots.

i8 "Perhaps no spelling book while this was extant, and its author was about
in the land looking to its interest, had a wider circulation and was more popular;
and perhaps there was no book of the kind more perfect in orthography and
method of showing the true vowel sound and correct pronunciations. Walker's
orthography as far as it regards words ending with lick and our is now an objection
to its use — that of Webster now being generally adopted in the schools." — Kelley,
E.xplanatory Remarks, Ms.

19 Harvard University, Quinquennial Catalogue, 1915: 817.

20 Middlebury College, General Catalogue, iSoo-iQoo: 46; Temple, 265.

8 Fred Wilbur Powell, A. M.

. . . They had been purchased in anticipation of improve-
ments which it was supposed would much enhance their
value. "^' This is evidence that early in life Kelley possessed
a certain amount of business enterprise. His subsequent busi-
ness ventures were of quite another sort.

We do not know when Kelley took up the work of a sur-
veyor. We do know that he was interested in higher mathe-
matics, and he tells us that as early as 1815 he had conceived
what he considered an improved system of geographical and
topographical surveying. After declaring that the system in
general use was unsatisfactory in both theory and practice, he

"The system which I propose scarcely admits of an error. It
points out an easy and correct mode of running the line? re-
quired in the survey. My method has many advantages over
that now in practice.

"The numerous errors of the compass are entirely avoided.
The interests of the land proprietor are better promoted, and
the wide door so much open for litigation, which often costs
him his freehold, is effectually closed. It is the only simple
method by which right lines, having a given course, can be
run with precision. It is attended with as much certainty as
the high operation of trigonometrical surveys."-^ His nearest
approach to a definite description of his system appeared in
the Manual of the Oregon Expedition, or General Circular, in
which he set forth the manner in which divisions of lands
should be made in Oregon.

"AH boundaries of towns, and lots of land, will be identified
with meridian lines, and parallels of latitude, — not by the
parallels as found on the surface of the earth, where they are
crooked, as the hills and depressions make them uneven ; but
by such, as they would be, provided the surface was smooth.
, . . It is, however, true, that the divisions of land, as they
lay south of each other, increase in quantity, in proportion to

21 Kelley, .\(irralk'e of Events and Difficulties, 6.

22 Settlement of Oregon, ii.

Hall Jackson Kelley 9

the divergence of the meridian Hnes ; nevertheless their bound-
aries will be distinctly marked, and their contents exactly
known. A country thus surveyed, gives the advantage of
ascertaining, without admeasurement, the relative position or
distance of any one place from another, consequently the lati-
tude and longitude of the metropolis being determined, those of
any. other place are known. "-^

Confident that the principle he advocated would be of great
public utility if generally adopted and practiced, he presented
his system to the national government in the form of a petition
to congress on April 10, 1830.-^

It was as a surveyor that Kelley in 1828 became interested
in the affairs of the Three Rivers Manufacturing company,
which had been incorporated in 1826 to build and operate a
textile mill in the village of Three Rivers in the town of
Palmer, Massachusetts. This village, which was then but a
hamlet, lies at the point where the combined waters of the
Ware and Swift rivers join the Quaboag and form the Chic-
opee, which is one of the branches of the Connecticut. The
company had met with unexpected difficulties in digging a
canal, for its engineers were unable to make much progress
on account of the solid granite rock near the dam which they
had built. Kelley put his money as well as his efforts into the
project. He made surveys and prepared a comprehensive plan^
including the manufacturing plant, the water power, and the
village itself. One of his hobbies was straight streets and
rectangular blocks (a natural reaction in a Boston engineer),

23 Kelley, General Circular, 13.

24 "The [senate] committee [on naval affairs] to which the subject was referred,
for a good and obvious reason, gave the investigation of the subject to General
[Simon] Bernard, then at the head of the corps of civil engineers.

"This profound mathematician carefully examined the papers and the formula
I had prepared for their illustration, reported an opinion highly creditable to his
own talent, liberally estimating the talents of the memorialist. Notwithstanding the
'.ystem was recommended as being worthy of public adoption, yet nothing was
done to bring it into practice. President Jackson promised to adopt it, wfienever
a book, giving directions for its practice and a proper apparatus, should be pre-
pared. I had described minutely the apparatus and the manner of using it, and had
begun the table of deflections necessary for the book, and this was all my Oregon
enterprise afforded me time to do. The tables might require for their preparation
one or two years of assiduous attention of some learned mathematician." — Settle-
fneiit of Oregon, lo-i; ji cong. 1 sess. S. jour., 236, 275.

10 Fred Wilbur Powell, A. M.

but the position of the rivers and the configuration of the land
fortunately limited his efforts in that direction. True to his
New England inheritance, he reserved land for a small com-
mon in the center of the village.

The company soon became bankrupt, however, and Kelley
lost heavily. At the sale of the company's property, he pur-
chased some land, having become enthusiastic about the ulti-
mate prosperity of the village ; and early in 1829 he brought his
family from Charlestown and established his home there.-"'

Kelley was now in his fortieth year; yet in the record of
his life as here set forth, there is little that would seem to
bear out his early vision of a "lonely, laborious and eventful
life." It is a workaday record of a school master and a man
of small affairs. We have now to consider the man of dreams —
and his all-possessing dream of the settlement of Oregon.

2S Settlement of Oregon, 23; Temple, 262-3: Allen, The Town of Palmer, in
Copeland, Hist, of Hampden County, II. 144- Temple is authority for the state-
ment that Kelley projected a canal from Three Rivers to the Connecticut river for
the transportation of the supplies and goods of the mill and village. This plan
v/as not new, however. The citizens of Brookfield, at a public meeting held on
May 23, 1825, had proposed the construction of a canal to Springfield, via the
Quaboag and Chicopee rivers. — Sfrineiield Republican, June i, 1825. The canal-
building spirit was at its height in Massachusetts in the twenties.

Years of Agitation

The Biddle version of the journals of Lewis and Clark was
published in 1814.^ On December 24, 1814, the War of 1812
between Great Britain and the United States was terminated
by the Treaty of Ghent, which provided that ''All territory,
places, and possessions whatsoever, taken by either party from
the other during the war . . . shall be restored without
delay," and ratifications were exchanged early in 1815. At
the end of the war, Astoria, John Jacob Astor's trading station
and fort at the mouth of the Columbia river, was held by the
British, by whom it had been renamed "Fort George." Under
the terms of the treaty the United States announced its inten-
tion of asserting sovereignty over this fort and the region of
the Columbia, but no response came from Great Britain. Ac-
cordingly a sloop of war was dispatched in September, 1817
to take possession. This action compelled the British to declare
themselves, which they did by asserting a claim to the territory
upon the ground that it had been "early taken possession of in
his majesty's name, and had been since considered as forming
part of his majesty's dominions."

These events served to arouse great interest in the Pacific
Northwest. It was only natural, therefore, that Hall Jackson
Kelley should have sought out the Lewis and Clark journals
and read with avidity all that they had to tell of the far-off
land. Here was a young man with boundless enthusiasm and
ambition, and with energy which refused to be confined. Fate

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