Biography of Joseph A. McWhirter

JOSEPH A. McWHIRTER. – The subject of this sketch is deserving of credit to many lines, having wrought with faithfulness and efficiency in a number of the callings of human industry, but first of all we wish to mention the fact that he is one of the earliest pioneers of this as well as other sections and has done very much for the development of the country and the inauguration of civilization’s rule in the places where he has been domiciled in the west, and it is worthy of note that Mr. McWhirter has ever conducted his life so uprightly and with manifestation of both capability and good graces so that he has always commanded the respect and won the encomiums of his fellows.

In Mercer county, Pennsylvania, in 1833, Mr. McWhirter first saw the light and there remained for twenty years, and then in 1853 his adventurous spirit le him to the wildness of the west for exploration and to carve a place for himself in the annals of the country. He landed in Portland and shortly afterward went to a place called Marysville and there wrought at his trade, harness making, for one J.B. Congle, for three months, and then migrated to Union Point and opened a shop for himself, remaining over one winter and then went to prospecting on the Coquille river, but on account of the hostility of the Indians he came back to Scottsburg and again took up his trade, remaining there for six months, and then went to the Willamette valley. From that place he went overland to California, visiting Sacramento, San Francisco, Stockton and many other places, and finally turned his attention to mining. For four years he worked on a ditch that was seventy-five miles long and that cost one million of dollars. The proprietors of the dtich sold out and left our subject and seventeen others without their pay. The new company refused to pay the bill, and finally the men became desperate and fought their cause with such vigor that they were rewarded by the payment of twnety thousand dollars. After this Mr. McWhirter started to the Florence diggins, making his way across the country from Hangtown, California, without trail. He struck the old emigrant road and came to Auburn, Baker county, and there took up mining. Afterwards he went to Walla Walla and bought goods and transported them to the mines. Two trips of this work were made by him and then he sold out and came to union county and located on the river about one mile east from Lagrande and bought from the state two hundred and forty acres of land, a portion of which he still owns. For five or six years he gave his attention to tilling the soil and then he came to what is now called Old Town and opened a harness shop and store, and in the steady prosecution of this industry he has been engaged ever since until the time of his retirement, eight years ago. He opened the shop in 1865 and operated it for nearly thirty years. His excellent work, deferential treatment of his patrons and upright business methods gave him a large and opulent patronage, and he is well known all over the county and respected wherever he is known. As stated, Mr. McWhirter retired from the greater activities of business some time since and he is now living in a comfortable house in Lagrande and the people have shown their approval of his worth and integrity by electing him to the office of chief executive of the city, and in this capacity he is found at the present time. He has manifested excellent executive ability and has shown marked faithfulness in the discharge of the duties incumbent upon him. He was also much interested in the educational advantages of the early times and the districts profited much from his services and ability as clerk. In politics Mr. McWhirter is a Republican and has the courage of his convictions, and is an ardent supporter of the principles of the party.

The marriage of Mr. McWhirter and Miss Helen M. Henderson, a native of Iowa, was celebrated in 1870. She passed from this life shortly afterward and is buried in the cemetery at Lagrande. She left one daughter, Helen M., who died at the age of seventeen.

In 1872 Mr. McWhirter was married a second time and the lady that then became his wife was Miss Kate Tantlinger, and to them have been born two children, May and Fannie. Mr. McWhirter is passing the richer days of mature life in the quiet of his pleasant home and is the recipient of the honor freely bestowed by his fellows and is one of the prominent and capable citizens of the county and a promoter of advancement and sound principles in government.



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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