Biography of Hon. T. C. Shaw

HON. T.C. SHAW. – This honored pioneer of 1844 was born in Clay County, Missouri, near Liberty, the county-seat, February 23, 1823. On his father’s side the stock was Scotch-Irish, and on his mother’s Welsh and English. His father, Captain William Shaw, was born in Eastern Tennessee, and belonged to a large family of that name who settled in Maryland at an early date, whence they removed into Tennessee, North Carolina and Missouri; and from the latter state the Oregon branch of the family came in the year 1844. His mother, whose maiden name was Sarah Gilliam, was the sister of General Cornelius Gilliam, of fame in our early history.

When T.C. Shaw, the subject of this sketch, was about ten years of age, he move to Clinton county, in the northern part of Missouri, with his father, who settled on Grindstone creek and engaged in farming and stock-raising. Here the boy also learned to be a farmer and stock-raiser, an occupation which he has never entirely abandoned. In the year 1838 the family moved into what was then called the Platte purchase, and took up their residence near the west fork of the Platte River, about seven miles south of Savannah, the county-seat. In the absence of schools in the new county, it was not possible for young Shaw to get even a common English education; and in consequence he has had the laboring oar all through life; and his present large information has been acquired wholly by his own later efforts. indeed, all his early disadvantages have been more than made up by his own native good judgment and force of will. In the winter of 1843-44 the Shaw family, naturally rovers, felt the great excitement then prevalent in all the western part of Missouri about the far-away territory of Oregon, and especially the great Willamette valley, and as might have been expected prepared to make their great journey hither. They expected to acquire both land and health upon this far-off western shore, in the realization of which they were not disappointed when they actually reached Oregon.

About the 10th of May they left camp with the train, comprising something like one hundred wagons, and moved west. The company was commanded at first by General Cornelius Gilliam, but afterwards broke up into smaller parties and came across the plains with comparative safety, arriving at The Dalles about the 15th of November. About the time the mission was reached, Mr. Shaw was taken with mountain or typhoid fever; and in consequence the family remained there all winter, and were treated with the greatest kindness by Rev. A.F. Waller, in the way of favors to the sick and hospitality to the family in their hard trials. It was late in the spring of 1845 when the son was fully recovered; but as soon as the weather would permit the family moved down the Columbia River, performing the journey in boats and driving the stock down the obscure Indian trail. Provisions being all exhausted they were easily persuaded to stop at the mouth of the Washougal River to make shingles and cut and raft sawlogs for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Some eight or ten families spent the summer at that point, but about the last of September came the time for separation. Some moved to Olympia, some to the Willamette Valley. Among the latter was the Shaw family, who moved on to the mission farm some twelve miles north of Salem, then owned by Alanson Beers. T.C. Shaw rented the south half of this farm. They spent the winter in chopping wood, and in hewing and getting out timbers for a large barn which Mr. Beers was constructing, and a part of which is now standing as a fit monument of the past.

In the spring of 1846 there was much interest among the Americans about a wagon road across the Cascade Range of mountains. The construction of such a highway was thought to be a most important measure; and there were two companies organized for the purpose. One of these was headed by Mr. Jesse Applegate, which took the southern route, which was comparatively smooth with the exception of the cañon on the South Umpqua. The other company was headed by General Cornelius Gilliam and Colonel James Waters, who sought to built the road up the Santiam River or its branches. To this company Mr. Shaw belonged. It also had six Hudson’s Bay men besides the five Americans. They understood that there was an easy pass over the Cascade Range of mountains up the dividing ridge between the north and south Santiam. They started from Salem the 3d of July, 1846; but, after much hard work and a travel of nearly a week into the mountains, they found themselves baffled at Shell Mountain, along whose side on the east was a small trail sufficient for the trappers and for deer and elk, but impassable for wagons, and incapable of improvement by any means then at hand.

Returning from this useless work, Mr. Shaw moved over into Polk county, and made his home wit his uncle, Mitchel Gilliam, near Dalles, and was there when the startling news reached the valley of the murder of Doctor Whitman and wife and some twelve or fourteen other American citizens at Waiilatpu. Mr. Shaw was one of the first to respond to the call of the government, and enlisting at Portland entered the service January 8,1 848, being elected second lieutenant of the company of which John C. Owen was captain. He performed a most gallant part in the campaign, the particulars of which are given elsewhere. Returning to Polk county after the war was over, he pursued his business of farming until in the spring of 1849 he, as well as many others, was taken with the gold fever and went to California. After a year in the mines he returned to Oregon and made his home with his parents on Howell Prairie, and the following November, on Thanksgiving day, was married to Miss Josephine Headrick, Elder G.O. Burnett of the Christian church officiating.

Mr. Shaw now took a claim on the east side of Howell Prairie, near Salem, Oregon, where he made a delightful home and good living and reared his family of five children, named as follows: Mary Jane, now the wife of Dr. S.C. Stone of Milton, Oregon; Elizabeth E., the wife of J.C. Lewis, who resides five miles northwest of Salem in Polk county; Thurston T., who married Miss Lulu Lowe and resides at Salem; Grandison B. (deceased); and Minnie N., who was recently left a widow by the death of her husband, Leon W. Smith, and lives with her parents.

Mr. Shaw is a man endowed with large popular qualities, and has been continuously sought to fill public positions. In the year 1864 he was elected commissioner of Marion county, and in 1866 re-elected to the same office. In 1870 he was elected assessor, and was re-elected to the same position in 1872. Upon the expiration of his term he was chosen sheriff. Retiring to his farm he succeeded in living a private life until in 1882, he was chosen to fill the office of county judge, and in 1886 was re-elected and is now filling this important position with his usual ability and popularity. In his official capacity Judge Shaw is firm in his own opinions, and in his decisions acts without bias, seeking chiefly for the facts in the premises, and being satisfied only with the ends of justice and equity.



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

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