Biography of Hon. Dolphes Brice Hannah

HON. DOLPHES BRICE HANNAH. – This gentleman is the son of Brice and Celia Tade Hannah, and was born in Gallatin county, Illinois, October 11, 1822. His father, who was a substantial business man engaged in trade and forwarding, died in the spring of 1823, leaving a wife and two children, one boy and one girl. He left considerable estate, consisting of personal property. John McLaughlin and the widow were appointed to administer the estate; and, as usual, McLaughlin did the work, pocketed the entire proceeds of the estate, and then left for parts unknown.

About two years after the death of young Hannah’s father, his mother married Silas Farley, a flatboatman and farmer, by whom she had five children, three boys and two girls. They moved to White county and settled on the Big Wabash river. In the winter of 1833-34 Farley died, leaving a wife and seven children. While living with his step-father, young Hannah attended school two terms, one kept by a man by the name of Blackwell, a severe disciplinarian, the other named Buckalew, whom he remembers as an elegant and kindly man. The last expedition of his stepfather on the river proved disastrous, all of his estate being swept away, leaving his wife and seven children without means.

In the spring of 1834 the widow with her family left their former home and rented a small farm, and with the help of her children planted ten acres of corn and vegetables. In the fall of 1834 she sold the crop standing in the field, and moved to Jefferson county, Illinois, and built a cabin in the woods.

During the summers of 1835-36, Dolph worked on a farm and in a brickyard at four dollars a month. In September, 1836, his grandfather, David Tade, came from his home and moved the family to Lee county, of the then territory of Iowa, where they again built a cabin in the woods. They lived poorly through the winter, receiving some timely assistance form General Brown, U.S. Army, stationed at Mount Rose, who was an old friend of the family.

For several years Dolph was variously engaged running a ferry, a carding machine, as cabin boy, steward, and keeping a hotel, and attending school as he had opportunity. In the fall of 1839 Dolph walked from Fort Madison, Iowa, to Belleville, Illinois, through snow and ice, to attend free school. Mr. Taylor being the teacher. In the year 1840 he returned to Iowa, and between that year and 1843 learned the brick-mason’s trade, attending school in the winter. In the winter of 1841-42 his teachers were ladies named Wilson.

On reaching manhood Hannah rented the ferry at Smith’s Mills on Skunk river, Iowa, and ran it for two years. While thus engaged he saw a description of Oregon Territory written by General M.M. McCarver and Peter H. Burnett, which enlisted his interest in the country. He attended a meeting at Fort Madison, Iowa, in the fall of 1844, called for the purpose of organizing an Oregon emigration, and there signed an agreement to start for Oregon the next spring. He left Fort Madison on the 14th of April, 1845, and reached The Dalles on the Columbia river in October. Hannah had outfitted for a hunting expedition across the plains, but soon learned that the long journey could not be made a diversion; so he agreed to drive Mrs. General McCarver’s team to Oregon. Their pilot was Joe Meek, who proposed at Fort Boise on Snake river to take them by a southern route into the head of the Willamette valley, Oregon. Mrs. McCarver refused to leave the old trail; so their mess came safely across the Blue Mountains and above The Dalles. They were met by General M.M. McCarver, who had boats ready to take the family down the Columbia river. Hannah was left in charge of the goods and wagons at The Dalles, where a raft was built; and as captain, he took them to the Cascades, where he was relieved by Mrs. McCarver’s brother-in-law, Samuel S. White, who had taken the cattle down the trial. He proceeded to McCarver’s location on the Tualatin Plains, and made his home with the family until the death of Mrs. McCarver.

In the summer of 1846 Hannah and Mr. Howland laid the brick walls of the Catholic church at French Prairie, which are still standing. The next winter he made rails, and by the light of fir limbs at night improved himself by study. In the spring of 1847 he made a trip to Puget Sound with a party consisting of John Cogswell, E.R. Scott, Robert Pentland, Sam Knox and Messrs. Williams, Flint and Polly, their object being to engage in the lumber business. At Tumwater they hired Polly Slocum, an Indian chief, with six of his men and a large canoe, to take them through the Sound. At Point defiance an Indian chief met and warned them not to land on Commencement Bay, as trouble had arisen with the Northern Indians. They then visited the wild country surrounding Elliot Bay, also the bay where Port Townsend is located and crossed to Whidby Island, where the Tumwater Indians and the islanders had some difficulty in regard to a debt owed by Polly Slocum and his Indians to the islanders. At one time during the night, while at this camp, matters assumed rather a serious turn; but the difficulty was quietly settled by the party making up the amount necessary to pay the debt due the islanders; so they were allowed to go with their hair. Before reaching Fort Nisqually on their return, they ran out of provisions. While they were passing the southern shores of Commencement Bay, Mr. Flint shot five eagles; and the party landed at Point Defiance, skinned, and cooked the birds, and regaled themselves on patriotic soup. They abandoned their purpose of building a mill and of shipping lumber to the Sandwich Islands, and returned home.

On his return Hannah was appointed deputy sheriff of Clackamas county, Oregon, by William Holmes, and in the winter attended Judge Thorton’s school at Oregon City. On the 18th day of August, 1848, he started with a party for the California mines, reaching Sutter’s fort in the latter part of September, and went to the American river to mine. In January, 1849, he left the mines, taking with him three thousand, five hundred dollars in clean gold dust, and went to Sacramento and invested in city property. There McCarver and Hannah built a storehouse and went into the commission business. In February, 1849, Hannah was elected sheriff of Sacramento county, and held the office until California was admitted into the union. He then returned to Oregon City.

In 1855 Hannah enlisted in Company C, of Clackamas county, Oregon Volunteers for the Yakima war. On the organization of this company, James K. Kelley was elected captain and D.B. Hannah first lieutenant. The volunteer companies rendezvoused at The Dalles, where the regulars were concentrated under command of Major Rains. It is not necessary to review this campaign further than to say that Colonel Nesmith’s order to Major Armstrong at the Yakima gorge were carried out to the letter. Of the two Indians that were killed, as returned in Colonel Nesmith’s report, Lieutenant Hannah killed the first. In the charge through the gorge, Lieutenant Hannah was in the lead; and, when he reached the brush at the junction of the Yakima and Attanum rivers, he urged his horse forward, reached the the north bank of the Attanum, and found himself confronted by a number of mounted Indians. He stopped his animal suddenly, and was thrown violently over his horse’s head, gun in hand, facing the enemy, but made one good Indian before Major Armstrong came up with the command.

At this point Major Armstrong ordered a halt. Lieutenant Hannah was on the ground with an empty gun; and, when the Major inquired what he had done, Hannah merely answered that he had made a good Indian, and said, “Major, the Indians are running away.” The Major at once ordered the command to charge. The only Indians to be seen were feeling up the Attanum river and across the valley towards the Nahchess. The Major and the command dashed away after them, leaving Hannah behind on the ground reloading his gun in a cloud of dust so dense that nothing could be seen. Lieutenant Hannah did not see Major Armstrong or the command again that day until two o’clock in the afternoon. If Colonel Nesmith and Major Rains had both been present, they could not have prevented the volunteers from following the Indians wherever they went, the order to charge having been given.

In the spring of 1856 Hannah went into the steamboat business on the Willamette river, following it for a year. He then bought a law library, and studied law at Oregon City. In 1858 he was sent to the legislature, and helped to elect General Joseph Lane and Delazon Smith United States senators He was a member of the first and nearly all the Democratic territorial conventions. On the admission of Oregon as a state, he was appointed United States marshal by President Buchanan, and took the United States census of 1860 of Oregon. From that time until 1872, he was engaged in the land business, going in that year to Tacoma, Washington Territory where he invested in real estate, and has been in that business till the present time. He was married in May, 1874, to Mrs. Kate E. Wilcox, a daughter of Peter G. Stewart, of Portland, Oregon, by whom he has had four children, three of whom, one boy and two girls, are now living.

In 1878 he was elected one of the fifteen delegates to the Walla Walla convention, which formed a constitution for the State of Washington. He was county commissioner of Pierce county at that time. He was a member of the city council for Tacoma in 1866-87, and has been several times a delegate to the Democratic territorial convention, and once a candidate of his party for the territorial legislature. Hannah was a member of the committee of fifteen which was appointed by a mass meeting of citizens to persuade the Chinese to leave Tacoma on the 3d of November, 1885. At the beginning of the agitation for the removal, there were about nine hundred Chinese in the city; and they were all persuaded to leave without personal injury or the destruction of property. Since that time there have been no Chinamen in the city or county, except those passing through. For his connection with the removal, Hannah was indicted, with fifty-two other citizens of the county; but they were never brought to trial, for the reason that the federal courts had no jurisdiction. He is now a prosperous and leading citizen of Tacoma, Washington.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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