Biography of Jacob Frazier

This pioneer of the wool business in Eastern Oregon, and owner of some of the best buildings in Pendleton, is a native of the Buckeye state (1820), and while but a boy of ten went with his father to Indiana, and as a youth of sixteen to Iowa. In this state, then known locally as the Black Hawk purchase, his father died at the advanced age of eighty-three.

In 1850 Mr. Frazer crossed the plains to California with horses, being one of a party of five. This company was made to pay a toll of sugar, flour, etc., by the Sioux, and near Salt Lake had eight of their eleven horses stolen. Frazer himself was sick at the time; but two of the company gave chase and recaptured the animals, arriving at Hangtown (more euphoniously Placerville), our pioneer began gold digging. One of the first men he met in the country was his brother Montgomery, who had been out a year, and who had been very successful, insomuch tat he returned East soon after and bought the farm in Iowa which Jacob had first purchased with the avails of a big job of wood-chopping that he had undertaken for the brother of Jefferson Davis.

Four years of mining life proved hazardous. Indeed, the list of casualties to which Mr. Frazer was subject suggest some sort of protecting agency that does not guard everyone. Once he had been setting a blast in a deep mine. Hastening up the shaft to be out of the way, the windlass crank broke, dropping him back and leaving him to take the explosion, which he was trying to prevent. He was not hurt. Another time he was buried fifty-four feet deep under a land-slide at Mokelumne Hill, but was dug out uninjured. At Georgetown, while he was in the twenty-five foot shaft, the reservoir gave way, filling the pit with water; and he was hauled out like a drowned rat, yet was by no means drowned.

Quitting the mines in 1854, he began ranching on the Sosumnes river, which he followed eleven years. Collecting, however, a band of cattle, he drove them to Boise to sell in the mines, and with his usual good luck passed unhurt with this tempting prize of a hundred and seventy-one animals, and with but seven men to guard them, between bands of Indians before and after, who were on the warpath and were massacring everyone that they caught out. In 1866, after settling up his affairs in California, he came to the Willamette valley and bought large bands of sheep, which he drove up East of the Mountains to the immense ranges on Birch creek. Here he has made his big ranch, acquiring 1,401 acres of deeded land, and some 1,600 acres adapted to grazing on the headwaters of the creek. His flocks increased so that in one year alone he sheared 104,160 pounds of wool from twelve thousand head of sheep, which he sold for $22, 860.

While out here in 1878,he had a skirmish with the Bannacks and renegade Umatillas. Captain Sperry’s company of volunteers, numbering forty-eight men, met the hostiles at Willow Springs and fought them for five hours. At the first attack of the Indians, the horses of the volunteers were nearly all shot down; and sixteen of the valiant volunteers ran away. But the rest kept up the battle until dark, losing two killed and nine wounded. Frazer received a shot through the leg which grazed the bone, and from which he nearly bled to death before he could receive attention at Pilot Rock.

Selling his sixteen thousand sheep in 1880, Mr. Frazer has devoted his time and means to the erection of fine buildings in Pendleton. In 1881 he put up a two-story brick building on Main street, twenty-five by eighty-eight feet; in 1882, the First National Bank building, two stories, fifty by eighty feet. Of this bank he is vice-president. In 1886 he built the Frazer Opera House, two stories, fifty by one hundred feet. The business enterprises in which he is engaged are the Customs Flouring Mills, and the Pendleton Foundry and Machine Shops. He is also one of the promoters of the Washington & Oregon Railway.

His wife, Mary Kizer, whom he married in Linn county, is one of the pioneers of Oregon, having come in 1854. She was from Iowa also. They have one son, Nickolas K., who is in the firm of Alexander & Frazer. He received his education at the Oregon State University and at Heald’s Business College, and was married to Miss Ida Cogswell, daughter of the well-known pioneer of that name of Lane county.



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

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