The Weatherford Family

Dear Liza,

While you were visiting, we hung out with the Dead People at the Lone Fir Cemetery. I took some pictures of a monument I hadn’t noticed before, and decided to do some research by way of the online Historic Oregonian website.

This is the Weatherford family memorial, with four family members buried in the one plot over the course of twenty- six years.

First is William Weatherford, who was born in Virginia in 1814. His family moved to Iowa when he was very young, and he met and married Mahala Harris in 1839. They had five children and then decided to move west. In 1852 they began the arduous six-month trek overland to Oregon. They were authentic Oregon Trail pioneers.

Once the family arrived in Portland, William set up shop as a pharmacist on Front Street, just south of Yamhill. They built a ‘small, stylish’ house at the northeast corner of Third and Salmon in downtown. Five more children were born to he and Mahala, bringing the total to ten.

William G. Weatherford, son of William and Mahala, died in 1862 at the age of 18 and was buried with his father. William drowned in the Willamette River. I haven’t been able to find out any details if his death. Was he swimming? Did he fall off a boat? I wish I knew. New information, see below.

///Weatherford, William
On the 1st inst. Wm. Weatherford was drowned at Portland, while crossing the river in a skiff, in company with several other persons. The river was rough, and the boat dipped water and went down about the middle of the stream. [Source: The State Republican (Eugene City, OR) Saturday, August 9, 1862]///

Thanks, John Hamilton!

In 1873, the family house and business were both destroyed in a great fire that consumed 21 square blocks of mostly-wooden downtown Portland. Like many, the family re-built and carried on.

The eldest son, J.W. Weatherford, became his father’s business partner and they ran the business together until his father’s death, when J.W. took it over. After the fire, he had moved to Salem to continue the business for a few years (perhaps while downtown Portland was being rebuilt), and died of a heart attack in his Portland office in 1893 at the age of fifty-one.

Finally, Mahala Weatherford, having outlived her husband and five of her children, passed away in 1906 at the age of 84 at the home of her daughter Ella Steele in the town of Condon. She had crossed the country by wagon train, founded a business and raised ten children. She took in boarders to help the family finances, and built and re- built homes. She had served her community by ministering to the poor and it was written in her obituary that she was “truly a mother in Israel who exemplified in her life all the graces which ennoble true womanhood.”

I love meeting new friends at Lone Fir!


Grandma Judy

A New Friend at Lone Fir Cemetery

Dear Liza,

Saturday was beautiful and sunny, so between art and errands, Auntie Bridgett and I walked over to visit the Dead People at Lone Fir. This old cemetery is lovely in any weather, but on a sunny spring day it seems to deliver the package of emotions I need; beauty, mourning, eternity, new beginnings and final endings. It was wonderful.

Monument to James Gray Flowerdew

And I found a new friend. This eight foot tall monument was erected to James Gray Flowerdew (great name, right?) who had died on July 22, 1872. The Masonic emblem is on the tombstone, so we know he was a Mason in good standing. He was also only 37, which seemed really young to have this sort of marker.

I was really curious about this fellow, and got on the Internet to find out more about him. Mr. Flowerdew was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1835, where he and his family owned property. I know he lived there at least until 1867, because he is listed in a court case where he and other members of his family were awarded an inheritance due them.

He came to Portland sometime between 1867 and 1870, and on January 2, 1871, he formed a new company, Hewitt, Flowerdew and Co., with businessman Henry Hewitt. According to an ad in a June 1871 Oregonian, they had offices at the corner of First and Ash Streets downtown and bought and sold shipments of Liverpool Salt, Scotch Pig Iron, Dundee textiles, tin plates, and sheet iron.

The company got a valuable new client that June, the Imperial Fire Insurance Company of London. The ad announcing this business move was placed by Henry Corbett and Donald Macleay, powerful movers and shakers in Portland industry. Mr. Macleay was also from Scotland, so maybe having this in common with him helped young Mr. Flowerdew.

On August 16, 1871, Mr. Flowerdew was appointed as Vice Council to Great Britain, being congratulated in the official documents of the State of Oregon by Governor L. F. Grover. Life was good. His business was growing and he was becoming important politically. Then tragedy struck.

Sometime in June of 1872, he was thrown from his buggy in an accident, and died six weeks later of his injuries. He had been in the country less than four years. His brother and sisters back in Scotland put up this magnificent marble monument to him.

So now I know a little bit more about Portland’s late, great population. Only about a million folks to go!


Grandma Judy

Colonel Summers Park

Dear Liza,

In our neighborhood there is a park I haven’t told you about yet. It is called Colonel Summers Park.


When it was developed as a park in 1921, it was called Belmont Park, because it was on Belmont Street. But in 1938 the name was changed to honor Colonel Owen Summers.

Colonel Summers was a Civil War veteran who, in 1883, combined all the local militias in Oregon (volunteer soldiers) into one group that was The Oregon National Guard. At the beginning of the Spanish American war in 1898, Colonel Summers organized this group into the 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry Regiment, with himself in command. They were the first American soldiers to sail to the Philippines in that war. After many engagements, Colonel Summers and his men accepted the surrender of 15,000 Spanish soldiers.

Bioswale and paved area

The soldiers who fought under Colonel Summers’s command remained loyal to him even after the war. In 1903, General Beebe, another famous military man, was chosen to be the Grand Marshall of a parade honoring President Teddy Roosevelt to Portland.

Community Garden

The Spanish American War veterans saw this as an insult to their beloved commander and at first refused to be in the parade if Colonel Summers wasn’t the Grand Marshall. But Colonel Summers refused the post, asking General Beebe to remain. The veterans, following their commander’s order, marched in the parade without him.

The park named after Colonel Summers had been getting a little worn in recent years. The huge boulder from Kelly Butte with a plaque of himself had been spray painted. The grassy area had been flooded and was muddy or dusty, depending on the season. But a new makeover has made it lovely again. The boulder has been cleaned, and the flood-prone grassy area has been outfitted with a bioswale to collect rain and a paved bike and skateboard area. There is a basketball court and a fenced community garden where people can grow flowers, fruits, or vegetables. There is even a public toilet that cleans itself after every use! img_6991.jpg

I am happy to see that the city is working to make sure all the parks in Portland are safe and welcoming places to play, read, work, and just enjoy this wonderful area.


Grandma Judy

Road Trip to Oregon City

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Dear Liza,

On Saturday we all took a drive south. The weather was very cold and almost drizzling, but we were snug in our coats and hats, inside Miles the Volkswagen.

Our first stop was Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie. We have been buying Bob’s flour, muselix cereal and polenta at Safeway, and were happy to see a whole store filled with his healthy, tasty goodness. Entire shelves were full of different types of oatmeal, or gluten-free flours, or bulk spices. We bought whole nutmegs and cinnamon sticks for holiday baking, and a loaf of cinnamon bread….just for fun.

Further south, we stopped at  The End of the Oregon Trail Museum at Oregon City. When people were coming to Oregon from Missouri in the 1850s and 1860s, many of them ended up here, sick, tired, hungry, and desperate, after a trip of eight months. This museum showed what they had traveled with, what problems they had on the way, and how they were able to built new lives here in Oregon.

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Pioneer dolls

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The museum used cut-outs to show the ages of the people on the Trail.

It made me sad to think of all those who died and lost loved ones along the way, but proud that people had the courage and strength to just keep going.

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Dr. McLoughlin looked scary, but was a kind man

Further south, we learned about Dr. John McLoughlin, who is called The Father of Oregon. He ran a settlement and store called Fort Vancouver, just north of Portland, across the Columbia River.  He didn’t own the store himself, but ran it for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Dr. McLoughlin would give help and supplies to anyone who needed them, even if they couldn’t pay. He would loan boats to people stuck upriver so they could finish their trip safely. Since he worked for The Company and they didn’t like him giving things away for free, The Company fired him.

Dr. McLoughlin moved to some land he owned in Oregon City, right by Willamette Falls, and set up businesses. He ran a lumber mill from a waterwheel that used the Falls’ energy. He sold land and supplies and took care of people, this time on his own, and because the people he saved were able to live and become paying customers, he got very rich. He saw Oregon City become the largest city in Oregon for many years.

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Willamette Falls

We were able to visit his house,  which has been moved from its original location by the river to a prettier place, up on top of a bluff overlooking the town. We saw his medical office set-up, his wife’s sewing room, and their house furnished with their own things as it would have been when they were here. We visited his and his wife’s graves, which were also moved from a cemetery by the river to be by their house.

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We were on the ferry, with the river between us and our road!

By 4:00 it was starting to get dark, so we found the Canby Ferry (yes, a small, modern-day boat) which took us across the Willamette River. I think Auntie Bridgett was a little nervous, but I was excited! I’d never been on such a small boat in such a big river.

Grandpa Nelson drove us all home, we had dinner, and slept like rocks.


Grandma Judy