Nicholas and Sarah Hopper Lee

By Hon. Joseph D. Lee

The best information of the Lee family is that three brothers came from Normandy, France, with William the Conqueror in the year 1066. Their Norman name was DeLei and was Anglicized Lee.

Intervening history is too lengthy for recital in this paper. Joseph Lee, related to the Revolutionary Lees, was born in Cape May County, New Jersey, about 1781. When some 30 years of age he married Amy Lunbeck. In 1817 with their first child Jonathan Johnson Lee they moved to Pike county, Ohio, where were born Nicholas, Richard, Joseph Dunn Bradford and several daughters.

In the year 1833 Joseph Lee died of a quick consumption superinduced by exposure in fighting a forest fire.

Nicholas who was born February 11, 1818, assisted in maintaining the family and learned the cooper’s trade. His shop was near Waverly, Ohio.

August 4, 1840 he and Sarah Hopper were married. Her mother, Martha Anderson Hopper was of the Andersons of Virginia. Her uncle John Anderson belonged to the 5th Infantry in the Revolutionary war. John Woods Hopper who came from Ireland to Virginia when a boy with his widowed mother, married Martha Anderson about the year 1798. They had 8 boys and 8 girls. He was a lieutenant in the war of 1812. Sarah was born February 11, 1819 in Buckingham County, Va., the same year Queen Victoria and strangely enough both women were married the same year. Mr. Hopper moved to Ohio about the year 1828.

It will be observed that Mr. and Mrs. Lee had the same birthday (1 year apart), the 11th of February. The 11th of the month figured again in their deaths, he dying July 11, 1879 and she January 11, 1881.

In 1840 they moved from Ohio to Iowa while it was yet a territory. In the spring of 1847 they started to Oregon, fully equipped with a good team, 2 cows (Rose and Lilly), and necessary household goods, but raids by Indians upon the cattle of the train and losses in stampedes, left them practically without a team. They threw away much of the household goods and fortunately purchased a yoke of oxen (Dave and George) from another train enabling them to complete the long and wearisome journey.

The captain of the company for at least a portion of the way war Rev. Wm. Jolly who after some years of residence in Oregon joined with Dr. J.W. Watts of Yamhill county in the formation of a new church which was a short duration. Later he became a believer in Spiritualism.

Many and interesting were the incidents of the trip aside from its many perils. The vast herds of buffalo were a menace. In their annual migration they would not turn their course for any ordinary obstruction. When an army of them was seen coming, the wagons were hastily placed in a circle, the cattle in the center and the men at the open spaces to guard them. As the buffalo approached a few would be shout to break their rush and veer their course. Even then stampedes of cattle not always be averted and much time would be lost in gathering them up and usually some were never recovered.

At night a careful watch was kept for if an ox was struck by an arrow he gave a load snort and bellow and the cattle would wildly scatter.

One night an outside sentinel noticed a bush that seemed to slowly change its position. He shot aiming at the ground. The next morning some men went to the place finding an Indian dead from a shot in his neck.

In one instance a girl received a flesh wound from an Indian’s arrow while sitting at the camp fire.

At Fort Hall or some point well east the train divided. The Lees and quite a number of others took the Southern route via Klamath Lake and Cow Creek Canyon. James Frederick was captain.

Of the train coming down the Columbia, several stopped at Dr. Marcus Whitman’s station and were ruthlessly murdered or captured in the Indian massacre of Nov. 29 and 30, 1847.

It was late in the fall, when they reached the head of the valley, for the trip was a hard one, especially over Cow Creek Canyon. The cattle were weak and jaded. Elias Briggs who had safely brought a hive of bees lost them here when his wagon was overturned in the water.

The families of the Lees and Fredericks were particularly friendly. They selected claims and built cabins not far from Eugene Skinner’s, after whom the city of Eugene was named. Others including the Starrs and Belknaps located at Starr’s Point later named Monroe in Benton county.

In the spring 1848 Frederick and Lee came, with their families, to Polk county seeking work and supplies. Their intention was to return but hearing that the Indians had burned their cabins they decided to remain. They lived in a two-roomed cabin on what is known as the Whitaker place, then belonging probably to J.W. Nesmith.

Here on the 27th of July, 1848 Joseph Daniel Lee, their fifth child, was born, Dr. J.W. Boyle, a pioneer physician, attending Mrs. Lee. She had borne four children East of the Rockies and all had died in infancy or very early childhood. Of the seven born in Oregon all are alive but one.

The winter of 48 and 49 was spent by the Lees in Salem. The California gold rush was on but Mr. Lee not being rugged chose to stay in Oregon. Wiley Chapman, a widower arranged for them to care for his children while he went. Rhoda, the older girl later became the wife of George A. Eades the popular county clerk of Marion county. M.N. Chapman, the son, was also in that office.

In the summer of 1849 they returned to Polk county, bought the claim of one Pomeroy or Brumley, two and one-half miles South of Dallas. By other purchases the old homestead was increased to 700 acres.

The transition from the cabin to the “new house” was an important event with the pioneer family, 1852 was its date with them. Samuel T. Scott built the house and Martin Zumwalt the chimney.

A great deal of unnecessary work was done on frame houses in those days. Big timbers were used. Sleepers and studding were mortised in. The lumber was cut by an upright saw. Frequently the ends of planks were left held together by the “stump shot”. The planing was done by hand. Some four years after the big red barn was built by George B. Dana.

In 1855 Mr. Lee took the lead in building a log school house on the John Nichols place, property now of the widow of Dr. W.J. Farley. His two older children attended. The school was taught by Daniel Sammis an elderly New York man whose grandson J. Nab Hudson lives in Portland. Some may remember his father Dr. Nathaniel Hudson.

Soon after a move started for an independent academy in Dallas. He was on the first board of trustees. Three generous men whose claims cornered donated each some 40 acres of land. They were John E. Lyle, Solomon Shelton and John H. Lewis. Mr. Lee and many others donated money and purchased lots in the townsite that was laid off.

The town which had been on the hill or plateau on the north side of the LaCreole was moved to the South side. In 1856-7 were built the new court house and jail and the building of the La Creole Academic Institute so far completed as to furnish a two-roomed school to be taught. Prof. Horace Lyman and Miss Lizzie Bosie were the teachers. The Lee children as they grew large enough walked three miles to school. To give the children the advantage of winter school Mr. Lee built a house in Dallas which they occupied at times until the fall of 1862 when Mr. Lee started a small store in Dallas.

In 1864 Wm. R. Dunbar became a partner for one year. He withdrew that he might join a company of U.S. volunteers. He was made first lieutenant and Charles Lafollett, another Dallas resident, became the captain.

In 1867 Joseph D., the oldest son whose time had been divided between going to school, caring for the farm, helping in the store and teaming to Portland, took a business course at a business college in Portland and in 1870 was appointed postmaster at Dallas and became a partner in the store, the style of the firm being N. & J.D. Lee.

In 1878 J.D. bought out his father and continued the business for nearly 18 years.

The old folks later moved back to the farm where they lived the remainder of their lives.

Only one of Mrs. Lee’s family came to Oregon, a widowed sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Lancaster. Two of Mr. Lee’s brothers came: J.D.B. Lee, in 1852 who with Marshall Lyle, bother of Jno. E. Lyle, went to Southern Oregon, and J.J. Lee who finally settled in Umatilla county. His only daughter Amy Lee lives in Pendleton.

Their seven children born in Polk county were: Joseph D. of Portland, Martha Amy of Dayton, widow of J. A. Odell; Mary Ann of Monmouth, wife of Orville Butler; Eliza Jane of Portland, widow of John E. Smith; Sarah Lavinia of Ventura, Calif., the wife of Dr. J.W. Bean; Geo. W., deceased, whose widow, Mary Frances, lives in Portland; and Victoria Adelaide of Portland, widow of W.P. Williams.

In 1872 J.D. married Miss Eliza Alice Witten who was born in East Tennessee October 11, 1847, a most estimable lady and successful educator. For a time she had taught in the University of Washington, located in Seattle. They raised four children: Lyman Marshall, Portland, Annie Lorene (Hinman) who died in Yakima in 1904, leaving two children; Joseph Roscoe of Rickland, Ore., who married Myrtle E. Gutterson of St. Paul, Minn., who have 4 boys; and Althea Eleanor of Portland who in 1918 married John Ivan Kisaberth, a soldier boy of Ohio, they have two boys.

Mrs. J.D. Lee died June 27, 1913.

The families of the other children are as follows:

Martha, 3 boys and one girl, one boy died in the Manila war.

Mary, 3 boys and 1 girl.

Jennie, 2 boys and 2 girls.

Lavinia, one boy who died in childhood.

George, one girl who died in childhood.

Addie, one boy and one girl. Her son Howard, a most promising young mechanic, died, the result of an accident. Her daughter Viola is the wife of Henry G. Pratt, head captain of Washington, D.C., police.

In 1854, probably entirely unexpected by him Nicholas Lee was licensed local preacher by the Methodist Episcopal church. His vacations and lack of good health precluded active service but he conscientiously performed his duties without hope of financial remuneration.

His strict adherence to principle was shown by his refusal to accept a good paying job. He had brought a set of cooper’s tools from Ohio and supplied neighbors with barrels, tubs, churns, etc. Parties who wished to start a distillery ordered an outfit but he refused to fill the order.

His use of tools enabled him to do other needed work. He made and rigged the Mexican saddles of those days.

In the early 50s he purchased a span of American horses. Previously oxen served the family for transportation.

In ’58 or ’59 he ordered a carriage from Newark, N.J., which came around Cape Horn. His family had the first piano and first sewing machine in the neighborhood.

He was a systematic farmer and took pride in his good horses and cattle.

During the long winter evenings he would read aloud to the family. Their home was the stopping place of the itinerant and many, both friends and strangers, shared its hospitality.

Ms. Lee was a wonderful and willing nurse. She seemed to naturally apprehend the need and wishes of the sick.

Some people of note were in that train of 1847: W.W. Chapman who conceived the Portland, Dallas and Salt Lake railroad the route finally adopted by the O.R. & N.Ry.; Mr. and Mrs. Markham, the father of Edwin Markham, the world known poet who was born at Oregon City in 1852. Mrs. Elizabeth Markham was an able writer of verses. A booklet of her verses have benn compiled by J.D. Lee. Mrs. lee relates that one Mrs. Markham was busy with her literary work, sitting on the wagon tongue when some cattle ran against it knocking her over and scattering her writing material much to her disgust.

Silently the remains of Mr. and Mrs. Lee lie side by side in the Odd Fellow cemetery near Dallas. To their children it is a shrine-a consecrated spot. Their memory will be cherished while life lasts and their posterity will rise up and call them blessed.

Different but interesting and absorbing are the histories of our pioneer families. They wrought well and heroically, triumphing over colossal obstacles and dangers. They deserve our sincerest veneration.

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