Biography of Sidney Walter Moss

SIDNEY WALTER MOSS. – Mr. Moss is a venerable and noticeable character among the pioneers, not only for his long residence in Oregon, but for the esteem in which he has ever been held by the people. He has, in an eminent degree, that quality for which the early Oregonians have been remarkable, – liberality.

He was born in Paris, Kentucky, March 17,1810. His father, Moses Moss, was a Baptist minister; and his mother, Katherine Buckford Moss, was a woman of great force and elevation of character. The young man learned the trade of stone-cutting, and in 1828 left Kentucky for Ohio. He found an abundance of work in the Buckeye state, but in 1837 went on to Indiana, working at Madison and on the Madison & Indianapolis Railway. At the state capital he erected two bank buildings.

In 1839 he was back in Kentucky working on lock three on the Licking river canal. In 1841 he was at Fort Smith in full charge of the stone-cutting department in work then under construction. But a desire for the wild West there overtook him; and he joined the company of Doctor White for Oregon. That was the first genuine immigration; and the particulars are given elsewhere. At Waiilatpu Mr. Moss met Doctor Whitman, and remembers his inquiries about the Ashburton treaty, and in what shape Oregon would be left, and believes that the Doctor’s trip undertaken the October following with A.L. Lovejoy was for political reasons.

Reaching Oregon City, our skilled stone-cutter found the country a wilderness; and there was no work to do except chopping wood. The remuneration for chopping fifteen cords was sufficient to last him a few days; and after this was completed he found similar odd jobs requiring neither energy nor skill. It was impossible to remain in a country on pain of living a nondescript life; and he did as all the Oregonians of spirit found it necessary; he made work and created business. He put up a house fourteen by seventeen feet and seven and one-half feet high, and opened it as a hotel. In connection with this he kept a livery stable, the first west of the Rocky Mountains. The first ferry-boat run on the Willamette was built by him; and he also mentions with pride that he dug the first well, grubbed the first stump, and built the first board fence in Oregon City. After four years he built a larger hotel and operated it until 1858. He made his home and caravansary the instrument of much unrewarded hospitality; but generous deeds done for the needy, as so many of the immigrants were, will not be forgotten or be without the reward of the just.

Between 1849 and 1854, he also carried a stock of goods and did a large business. As he lived at the old capital, he acquired a faith in the place which led him to invest largely in farming property; and, although residing at the city, he gave his chief attention to agricultural operations until 1871. He did much voluntary public work in the early days, acting as assessor without salary, and traveling in that capacity all the way from Vancouver to Eugene, and from The Dalles to Astoria. Of his five thousand acres of land, he has given the most to his children, but retains a competency for himself.

Mr. Moss has ever been a stout Whig and Republican, although a Kentuckian, and having been brought up in early life by the aunt of Jefferson Davis.



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

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