Biography of John L. Curtis

JOHN L. CURTIS. – As one of the early and sturdy pioneers who assisted in opening these regions for the occupancy of his fellows that were to follow from the eastern states, and who has wrought with energy and assiduity in their development since, manifesting an ability and wealth of resources that have enabled him to grapple with the different problems that confront the frontiersman, and to overcome in these undertakings the subject of this sketch is deserving of a representation in any work that essays to chronicle the leading and prominent citizens of the county of Union.

Mr. Curtis was born in the east in the year 1827, and had the misfortune to have his father removed from him by death. His uncle was appointed his guardian and at the tender age of twelve years, our subject entered upon the realities of life for himself, his first occupation being to act as a silver-plater for the famous firm of Rogers Brothers. Six years he continued with this company and then came west to Jackson county, Missouri, where he was favored with an opportunity to attend the Chapel Hill College, a privilege which he was not slow to take hold of and improve to the best advantage. Following his retirement from the college he acted as salesman in Independence for a time and then in 1850 came to Sacramento, California. For a time after arriving there, he was occupied in packing supplies to meet the incoming emigrant trains, and then came to this section in the year of the great freeze. He first went on to the Florence diggings and there mined a short time and then went to Elk City and operated a store for a time, and then came out to the Grande Ronde valley and there bought a pack train. With this he did business for one year between the mining camps of this section and Umatilla and then sold out the entire train and went to prospecting. It was not long before he had discovered the Sanger mine on Eagle Creek and for about three years subsequent to that time he was engaged in mining and then repaired to Lagrande, where he lives at the present time. More or less he has been in public office in Union county since his settlement in Lagrande and among the positions where he has done efficient and faithful service may be mentioned that of county surveyor, county sheriff for four years, to years as chief of police of Lagrande, and in other capacities. In politics he is one of the old Jeffersonian Democrats and a stanch supporter of the principles, which he believes to be for the welfare of all. Fraternally, Mr. Curtis is associated with the A.F.&A.M., and is prominent in its councils and meetings.

In 1866, Mr. Curtis was married to Miss Almira Wells, a native of Ohio, whose parents were early pioneers to this county. To grace the union we note the advent of four children, whose names are as follows: William, Jesemine, Arthur and Elmer. Mr. Curtis is one of those worthy characters that pushed into the fastnesses and wildness of the domain of nature in these regions and wrought with a strong hand and a brave heart and wise head in opening places for mankind to dwell, and to-day he is passing the golden years of his eventful and interesting career in the quiet enjoyment of a good home, where once he saw but the dreary prairie and heard the howl of the wild animal and the fiercer yell of the savage. During these years of interim he has seen the county grow from a few struggling settlements to one of the strongest and most wealthy in the state and his hand and heart have ever been for its advancement and the welfare of every citizen domiciled within its precincts, and the result is that on every hand he is honored by his fellows and has now to enjoy the emoluments of thrift and industry.



An Illustrated history of Union and Wallowa Counties: with a brief outline of the early history of the state of Oregon. Western Historical Pub. Co., 1902.

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