Biography of James M. De Moss

JAMES M. DE MOSS. – This well-known musician of Eastern Oregon was born at Greensburg, Indiana, May 15, 1837. As a child he removed to Iowa with his parents, and in that state was reared, receiving his higher education at Western College. At eighteen he became a teacher of music, and three years later was married to Miss Elizabeth A., daughter of Reverend Henry Bonebrake. He spent his early manhood as an exhorter in the United Brethren church. In the great patriotic meetings held during the days of the Civil war by Honorable Henry Wilson, and others, he was appointed to lead in vocal music, thus assisting in helping on the Union army.

In 1862 he crossed the plains to Oregon. Arriving at Powder river about the middle of September, he was so much delighted by seeing the swarms of salmon disporting in the clear waters of the stream and was morever so well pleased with the surroundings of the place, that he stopped at this point, locating and building a cottage hotel, where now stands the town of North Powder. Here he put in a fish trap and built a toll bridge, the latter of which remains, having little need of repairs.

He soon resumed clerical labors as missionary, and labored extensively in the eastern section. In the spring of 1863 occurred the rush to the Idaho mines; and thousands of persons crossed the bridge. John Hailey established there his line of stages. In the midst of this activity, Mr. De Moss reaped a golden harvest, and in the autumn sold out to excellent advantage, removing with his family to The Cove, and throwing a toll bridge across the Grande Ronde river at the base of the mountain known by his name. He also built a mill, but sold both properties soon afterwards, and invested in mines, making and losing a fortune.

It was in 1867 that he began teaching music as a profession, operating in the Cove, in the Grande Ronde, in the Walla Walla and the Umatilla regions. Taking a transfer from the annual conference of his church, he began giving concerts with his family, who also developed great musical ability. In 1872 he took a tour East as far as Iowa, traveling with his family under the name of the DeMoss Concertists of Oregon, the members being himself, and wife, and the children, Henry S., George G., Lizzie, Minnie and May. All the children were under twelve years, and were even thus early known as musical prodigies. The professor still continued teaching becoming principal of the Normal Musical Institute at Des Moines, and there constructing a chart, called the Key to Music. On account of the failure of the health of Mrs. De Moss, who was also a teacher in the Institute, the family returned to the Pacific states, giving concerts en route through Colorado, at the summer resorts and parks, and continuing the same in the prominent towns by way of Salt Lake to Aan Francisco. The following summer they continued their tour through Utah and Idaho, and brought their wanderings to a close in Wasco county, Oregon, where they secured 840 acres of land, form which they set off 80 acres of the site of a town, – DeMoss Springs.

They have continued their concerts, making tours each year, although in 1886 the family circle was sadly broken by the death of Mrs. DeMoss, and of the daughter May, while they were in California. There are therefore now five members in the household, all of whom write songs and compose music to accompany. They are appropriately styled The Pioneers Concertists of Oregon, and Lyric Bards of the Mountain West. They have been making a successful concert tour of late to the far Eastern states, but still retain their residence in Oregon.

De Moss,


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

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