Biography of Thomas Smith

THOMAS SMITH. – Mr. Smith, whose life labors have had as their result in one particular the upbuilding of the handsome village of Winchester, near the Umpqua River, was born in Oxfordshire, England, February 12, 1823; and he crossed the Atlantic with his parents in 1830. The first American home was at Rochester, and a year later at Euclid near Cleveland, Ohio; and in 1834 a removal was made to La Porte County, Indiana. Thirteen years were spent in Indiana with his parents; but in 1847 the desire to go forth and test his powers in competition with others induced him in company with a younger brother to come West. He made the six month’s journey as a teamster, armed with his rifle and equipped with an ox-whip. Many and varied were the scenes and incidents of the trip; and the usual hardships common to the most of the pioneers who came “the plains across” were suffered and endured. Not the least exciting of these were the fording of the numerous deep and swift mountain streams. Vast herds of buffaloes occasionally broke through the train; and continual rumors of Indian outrages, combined with oft-recurring pursuit of the savages for stolen stock, rendered the journey anything but monotonous. Only once was pursuit successful, – securing both stock and Indians. At other times they were glad to get themselves back safely. The last ox stolen was on Grave creek; and the last horse stolen occurred in the timber on Wolfe creek in Josephine county. The last of an exceptionally tiresome and hazardous journey was made at the end of October; and the Willamette valley was entered from the Calapooia Mountains. It was with the most hearty enjoyment that on the twenty-sixth of that month the cabin and improvement of Eugene Skinner at the present city of Eugene were sighted. The wife and child of this pioneer, and the cheery sign of a little civilization after so long a sojourn in the wilderness, greatly stimulated the courage of the travelers; and Mr. smith went on down the valley to Butteville in Marion county, formerly Champoeg county.

Being ready with the axe and maul, he was soon splitting rails, and there and at Lafayette followed this form of labor. Before winter he was back again to Eugene, helping to construct cabins for a number of newcomers, tenting under a comfortable fir tree until Christmas. He occupied the remainder of the winter in rail-splitting, varied by an occasional tramp to look for a claim. His first location was north of the Willamette near Eugene; but after work done on the mill dam for Willard Shaw, and the delay of a year waiting for his parents, he set out for the gold mines. Upon reaching Roseburg, he found Daniel Hasty, the owner of the ferry at the Umpqua, preparing to go below to the mines; and, trading his team and outfit for the ferry and boat., Mr. Smith began plying at the site of the old Brown Ferry, but upon the loss of his craft in 1850 selected the site near Winchester. There he built a boat and operated the ferry until July, 1865, at which time he sold out his interest in the ferry. He removed to Roseburg in 1887, where he is still living. In 1852 occurred his marriage to Miss Arethusa E. Lynn, who became the mother of twelve children, ten of whom are now living, and who have increased for them the enjoyment as well as cares of life.

Mr. Smith has ever held an honorable and important position in public affairs, having served as one of the first commissioners of Douglas county, being three years in office. In 1874 he was elected to the responsible position of county judge, serving acceptably four years. he has given efficient aid to all worthy enterprises in the county, which is largely indebted to him as one of her earliest and most valuable citizens for the high positions he has occupied, ranking sixth in the state in point of wealth.



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

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