OREGON

To Mr. John Phelps, who died on Thursday, the 2d day of April, A. D. 1874, belongs the honor of founding Oregon City. He first visited the Rock Eiver Valley in the Fall of 1829, and returned in the Fall of 1833, and located a claim on the land that, a few years later, was subdivided into town lots by himself and others and christened Oregon City.

When Mr. John Phelps moved his family up from Schuyler County, in the Spring of 1835, he was accompanied by two brothers, B. T. Phelps and G. W. Phelps, and a hired man named Johnston. In the Summer of that year, Fletcher Hitt, a surveyor, was employed to subdivide the land embraced in Phelps' second claim into town lots, and the prospective town was christened Oregon City. The town site was regularly laid out in 1836.
The first house erected on the town plat was built by Jonathan W. Jenkins, in July or August, 1836. The site of that house is now included in the lot occupied by the Reporter printing office buildings. It was a log structure, 18x22 feet, and about one and a half stories high. It was used as a family dwelling, hotel, boarding house, "meeting house," etc., as occasion required. The first sermon ever preached in Oregon City was preached in that building; the preacher was John Baker, a so called "Hard Shell Baptist," and one of two brothers who came up from Schuyler County about the same time Mr. Phelps brought his family. Time of the sermon, during the Summer of 1837.


There were neither lumber nor sawmills in all this region of country when Jenkins built the first house in Oregon City. The floors were made of puncheons split out of large trees. The under side of the puncheons were dressed down at the ends, so they would rest evenly on the sleepers. The upper sides were also dressed off with the broad-axe. If the floor was not smooth, it was at least substantial. The roofing was made of clapboards or "shakes," and the doors were made from the same kind of material used for flooring. Strong arms, chopping axes, broad axes, cross cut saws, hand saws, mauls, iron wedges, "gluts," or large wooden wedges, and a hammer or wooden mallet were about all the tools used by the pioneers in the erection of the first cabins in the Rock River Valley, and with such tools the first cabin erected in Oregon City was fashioned and finished.
The second house was commenced by John Phelps in the Summer of 1836, and finished that Fall. It was a double log house of two stories, built of hewed logs, and, in its " day and generation," was famous throughout the Rock RiverValley. Its finish was a little more elaborate than the Jenkins cabin, from the fact that the Phelps saw-mill on Pine Creek, which had been commenced in the Spring of 1836, had been completed and was in operation, which furnished lumber for the floors, doors, etc. That house was built on the corner lot of the block now occupied by the cheese factory of George A. Mix. The old house was torn down about 1845 or 1846, and moved away by the party to whom its logs had been sold.
John Harris commenced and completed another house on the ground now owned by Edward F. Butcher, about the time Phelps commenced building. When a better class of buildings began to be erected, the Harris house was torn down, the logs hauled away and reerected on a farm a short distance below town. As soon as Harris had completed this house, being a blacksmith, he erected a shop near by, which long since gave way, and its place is also included in the grounds of Major Butcher.


The first frame barn in Oregon was built by Mr. Phelps in 1838. It was erected on the west side of Third street, a short distance north of the double log house just mentioned.

In 1835, Mr. Phelps also established the first ferry at Oregon City. The lumber used in the construction of the ferry boat was sawed out by hand with a whip saw, by himself and his brother, George W. Phelps. After the boat was completed and ready for use, it was managed for some time by Jonathan W. Jenkins.

The first trading place was opened by Messrs. Mudd & Brown in 1836. They kept a small stock of groceries, whisky, eatables, etc., in a small building which they erected very near, if not included in, the grounds now occupied by the stone residence of Henry Burchell.

The first dry goods store was opened in 1836, by Harvey Moss, in a small frame building not far from the site occupied by the Mix cheese factory. The building was afterward removed and now stands on Third street, a little south of Washington, and is occupied as a harness shop by Samuel Roat.

The early schools of Oregon were subscription schools, the first of which was taught in the Winter of 1837-8, in a small building on the Jenkins lot (before mentioned as the site of the first house built on the town plat), by Br. Adams, a young disciple of Esculapius.

In the Summer and Fall of 1839, the first school house was built, and occu­pied a site on the west side of Fifth street, between Washington and Jefferson streets. The building was long since abandoned as a school house, and is now included in the residence building of Jonas Seyster. Alfred Marks was the first teacher in the new school house.

In 1836, Edward S. Leland, now Judge Leland, of Ottawa, came to Oregon, and hung out his " shingle " as " Attorney and Counselor at Law." To the best knowledge and belief of the " oldest inhabitant," Mr. Leland was the first "lawyer " to claim Oregon as a field for the practice of his profession.

The first physician to prescribe cures for the ills of the people of Oregon and vicinity was Br. William J. Mix, who commenced compounding medicines in 1836.

The first white male child born in Oregon was Lamoil T. Jenkins, son of Jonathan W. and Rebecca Jenkins, who was born in July, 1837. Lamoil died in California in 1865, from the effects of a pistol shot wound received in Mon­tana soon after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the trouble growing out of a difference of political opinion between himself and others by whom he was surrounded.

The first female child born in what is now Oregon Township was Martha E. Mix (daughter of William J. Mix), who was born on the 28th day of November, 1836. When Martha grew to womanhood, she was given in marriage to G. M. McKinney, and is now his widow. She has always lived in the county, and now lives within three or four rods of the site occupied by the cabin in which her eyes first saw the light of day.
The first death occurred in the family of George Rosecrans, July 13,1837, when his youngest child, aged one year, three months and three days, was beckoned away to the presence of Him who said, "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."


The first adult death occurred in 1838—Miss Mary Ann Fuller, a niece of Mrs. James V. Gale, who died in August of that year.

The post ofiice was established early in 1837, with Harvey Moss as Post­master. The mail was supplied once a week (Saturday) from Buffalo, on the Galena and Dixon mail route. Jackson Jenkins, now of Shelby County (Ill.), then a boy of twelve or thirteen years, was the mail carrier.
Such were some of the first events in the history of Oregon City, now a town of 2,000 inhabitants, with four handsome church edifices, an excellent union school building, many handsome and elegant residences, broad streets and avenues, handsomely shaded grounds, and numerous stores, shops and manufacturing establishments, railroads, telegraph offices, etc.. etc. The people are refined, intelligent, sociable and hospitable, and, as they have reason to be, proud of their homes and their surroundings.
February 19, 1847, the population of Oregon City was only 225, including men, women and children, as follows:

 

CITY ORGANIZATION AND OFFICERS

EARLY SCHOOLS

LODGES

ORGANIZATIONS

LIBRARY

MANUFACTURING

 

 

History of Ogle County-1878

 

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