Biography of Jeremiah De Spain

JEREMIAH DE SPAIN, – This veteran among the pioneers of Union and Umatilla counties illustrates in his career what one may accomplish on this coast. Coming here a poor man, he left at his death a competence valued at many thousand dollars. He was born in Knox county, Kentucky, in 1833, being the fifth child of Benjamin De Spain, whose family numbered six sons. In 1836 he removed with his parents to Warren county, Illinois, and there, on his father’s farm, acquired the habits of industry, and obtained what education was afforded in the frontier schoolhouses. In 1852, having attained his physical growth, he grew tired of the close work and small wages of his home country, and crossed the plains to Oregon. The journey was toilsome and perilous; but, despite Indians and cholera, and a thousand hardships, the Willamette valley was reached; and in Lane county our young pioneer found a home. He took up the livery business a few years, but, upon the outbreak of the great Salmon river mines excitement, began the hazardous work of packing thither. He avoided or escaped all the difficulties which wrecked the “prairie schooners” of the navigator of the plains and mountains, and in 1862 was able to locate to good advantage in the Grande Ronde valley.

In 1866 he was united in marriage to Miss Nancy E. Howard, daughter of Reverend William H. Howard, of Monmouth, Oregon. This lady was in every respect his worthy companion, sharing his toils and labors, and giving zest and enjoyment to his successes.

Soon after their marriage the energetic young couple went onto a sheep ranch on Birch creek near a stage station since known as Pendleton, and in 1872 moved into the town, which by this time had attained some importance. Here Mr. De Spain began to devise means for improving the place. He still kept his sheep, but the avails of his business he began to use in erecting buildings. The result of this policy is the De Spain Block on Court street, adjoining the Villard House. It was built in 1887 at a cost of thirty thousand dollars, and is one of the best business structures in the city. It was erected after his death; but the building was according to his plans and arrangements.

During the winter of 1886, owing to long and close application to business, his health suddenly gave way; and at the solicitation of his family and friends, who hoped that the change might benefit him, he went East. But their hopes were not realized; and a few days after his arrival in Illinois, his old home state, his death occurred. He left a wife and seven children, who reside in Pendleton. His loss from the community has been deeply felt and universally deplored; but the results of his life remain to the city and to his family. His were the virtues which our young men may well emulate.

De Spain,


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

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