Biography of Capt. William Martin

CAPT. WILLIAM MARTIN. – Captain Martin, of the first real immigration, that of 1843, is still living in a hale age at Pendleton, Oregon. He was born in West Virginia in 1822, and came west to Missouri in 1841. In 1843 he joined a company coming to Oregon, being intimately associated with Daniel Waldo. Reaching Oregon after the vicissitudes of that eventful march, he took up a claim at Howell’s Prairie, working for Waldo at ten dollars per month, although wages were sixty dollars. But the former figure was his pre-agreement with Waldo; and he would not dishonor it. In 1848 he enlisted in a company of a hundred and fifty men that went to the Walla Walla to punish the Cayuses for the murder of Doctor Whitman. After the Indians were defeated at Sand Hollow, he was left in charge at Waiilatpu to protect the immigrants coming through remaining there nine months.

In 1849 he went to California, and, although successful in digging gold, found that his rifle, with which he was an excellent shot, was nearly as profitable as a gold mine. There was a good market for venison at seventy-five cents per pound; and in three weeks he secured and disposed of eleven hundred dollars’ worth. Provisions in general were worth three dollars per pound. This was on Trinity river. In 1850 he began the business of buying cattle in Oregon, and driving them to Yreka and other Northern California towns, and mining during the interims. This he continued until 1862, when he was lured away to Idaho by the great reports of gold discoveries at Florence. He was stopped midway, however, by discovering gold on the John Day river, and there remained thirteen years, still retaining an interest in quartz mining at that point.

After ranching at Camas Prairie, and raising sheep and cattle on Stewart creek, he moved to Pendleton in 1880, making that his home since. He has seen the most of the growth of the place. Mr. Martin has been justly honored with official trust. He was sheriff of old Champoeg county, sheriff of Siskiyou county for two years. In 1880 he was elected sheriff of Umatilla county by a majority of a hundred and twenty-two. He ran on the Republican ticket; and the county was strongly Democratic on a strictly party vote. He was re-elected in 1882, and again in 1884, but declined to run in 1886. He was elected, however, mayor of Pendleton in that year. In1888 he was successful as candidate for county judge.

He found his wife in Siskiyou county, California, and has lived with her a happy life. A man of whom the state is proud, whom we cannot help liking, and who has born the burden and heat of the day in every toil, and in exposure to the elements, and who has battled with the Indians; – such is Captain Martin.



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

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