Biography of Ephraim W. Baughman

Few men are more widely known in the northwest than Captain E. W. Baughman, of Lewiston, who for forty-eight years has sailed on the rivers in this section of the country. His circle of friends is indeed extensive, and his genial manner and social disposition win him the regard of all. He was born in Fulton County, Illinois, May 18, 1835, and is of German lineage, his ancestors having long been residents of Pennsylvania, however. His father, John Baughman, was born in that state and married Miss Jane Murphy, a lady of German descent. In an early day they removed to Illinois, settling in the west before the Black Hawk war. The father secured a farm in Fulton County and there reared his family of nine children, four of whom are yet living. He departed this life in the eightieth year of his age, and his wife passed away when about the same age Captain Baughman, their fifth child, was reared in the state of his nativity until his sixteenth year, and then crossed the plains with ox teams to California, in 1850. The party with which he traveled took with them a year’s provisions, but found they had more than they needed, and on reaching California they sold their surplus supply of flour, bacon, beans and sugar for two dollars per pound. The Captain engaged at placer mining at Hangtown and on the south fork of the American river, and after spending a brief time in the mines he went on a sailing vessel to Portland, Oregon, paying fifty-five dollars for the passage. The voyage lasted for a month, and on reaching his destination Captain Baughman worked at whatever he could find to do, being principally engaged in “packing” things on his back from one place to another in the town. After a winter spent in that way his employer wanted him to take city lots at fifty dollars each in payment, but he declined, wanting money instead. The man, however, failed and in consequence he got nothing, and the lots which he refused are now of great value.

That spring Captain Baughman suffered a severe attack of rheumatism, during which he was cared for and treated by Dr. Baker. When our subject had recovered and asked for his bill, expecting to be charged a very large sum, the doctor responded that he would make no charge except for the actual cost of the medicine, about forty dollars. Thus Captain Baughman realized the truth of the old adage: “A friend in need is a friend indeed!” Removing to Oregon City, he soon became well and strong again, and accepted a position as fireman on a steamboat. Later he was engaged in the sawmill business and subsequently went to Yamhill County, Oregon, where he operated a farm for a year. In 1851 he accepted a position as fireman on the Lot Whitman and was thus employed until 1853, when he went to the Cascades and became captain of a little sailboat, carrying lumber and merchandise on the Columbia river and also taking emigrants down the river to Portland and other point. He received eighty-four dollars per ton for loading freight. He next became captain of the steamer Hasalo, running between the Cascades and The Dalles, and in May 1861, he was sent by the Oregon Steam Navigation Company to explore the Snake river from Caldwell to Lewiston. In 1862 he was in command of the Colonel Wright and made the first trip up the Snake River. He made for his company over twenty-one thousand dollars, the trips averaging about fifteen thousand dollars. In August 1862, in partnership with Henry Corbet (now ex-senator) and others, he built the steamboat Spray, at a cost 01 thirty-three thousand dollars, and in five months he earned on her trips fifty-two thousand dollars. He then sold the vessel to the Oregon Steam Navigation Company for sixty-three thousand dollars. While running that boat the Captain made seven hundred dollars per month. After selling the Spray he went to the Willamette River and was a director of the People’s Navigation Company and captain of one of the boats, but the starting of an opposition boat proved a failure and he lost money.

Subsequently Captain Baughman engaged in boating on the Puget Sound for two years, and was also on the Fraser River for two years. In 1873 he returned to the Willamette river and urged the building of the locks at Oregon City, helped to organize the company for this purpose and was elected its president. He was in command of boats on the Willamette until 1876 and has been connected with the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company longer than any other of its employees. His long service on the rivers of the northwest has gained him a very extensive acquaintance, until in this section of the country not to know Captain Baughman is almost to argue oneself unknown.

In 1864 was celebrated the marriage of the Captain and Miss Lizzy Thomas, a native of St. Louis, and a daughter of John Thomas, an English gentleman who was brought to America when a child by his parents. Mrs. Baughman crossed the plains to the Pacific coast in 1850. By her marriage she has become the mother of four children: Hattie, wife of H. A. Thatcher; Henry, who was a steamboat captain for a number of years, and is now a leading business man of Lewiston: Ralph, who is a pilot on the steamer Lewiston; and Frank, who died of typhoid fever in his nineteenth year, while attending school in Portland. The family is one of prominence in the community Mrs. Baughman is a valued member of the Episcopal church and also of the order of the Eastern Star. The Captain belongs to the Masonic fraternity, and has attained the fourteenth degree of the Scottish rite. His many excellent qualities, uniform courtesy and genuine worth have gained him high and uniform regard, and he well deserves mention in the history of his adopted state.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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