Biography of Francis McGuire

FRANCIS McGUIRE. – Under the wheeling shadows of Lone Fir, where green vines clamber over the gently swelling mounds, where beautiful funeral flowers, at each glorious resurrection of the year, breathe sweet memorial incense, and gleaming marble guards the last bivouac of the loved and lost, lie the remains of Francis McGuire. Standing by his grave we have no need to invoke the tender Latin maxim, – De mortuis nil nisi bonum; for when his weary head drooped at last it was by the chosen path of duty. He left no stain on the bright escutcheon of his manhood, – no cloud on his title to honor and affection as a man and as a citizen, and in the close and sacred family relations, which build up and beautify, all over this broad land, those clustering shrines of home at whose vestal fires the torches of true religion and advancing civilization are forever renewed. No, it was his happy fate, as he bowed meekly to the imperious mandate of the pale messenger, and followed him in silence down the lonesome pathway that leads to the Valley of the Shadow of Death, to leave behind him a green and fragrant memory and the light and inspiration of a bright example.

Francis McGuire was one of that illustrious band of early Oregon pioneers, who, in those stern, heroic days that tried the fiber of the manhood of men, and amid almost incredible hardships and dangers, blazed the first narrow, winding trails of progress through the green wilds of these sunset slopes and vales, and laid the sure foundation, “as rude and as strong as stone hinges,” of the state whose heraldic ensign now streams in proud splendor among the clustering ensigns of the queenly sisterhood of states.

When the mythical hero Hercules had finished the might labors imposed upon him by destiny, he ascended Mount Aetna, and then, with his lion skin about his loins, and his conquering club by his side, lay down on the lofty funeral pyre which his attendants had prepared and calmly surrendered his colossal form to the devouring flames. And there it is with the early pathfinders and home-builders of Oregon. One by one, as the swift seasons roll, the gray-haired veterans, their battles over and their victories won, stand forth to answer the summons that cannot be denied, and, in the calm of the golden sunset that closes a long and stormy day, pass on serenely from labor to reward.

The pioneers were not perfumed knights, but strong heroic souls on whom a stern and sacred duty was imposed. In review of their rugged, romantic lives, it is not easy to point out special achievements; because in noble purpose, matchless daring and unbroken fortitude they were peers. The life-work of each must be looked upon as a whole. We must consider the state of the country at the time of their advent in comparison with what it is to-day. With all this splendid progress and lofty achievement, their name and fame, their toils and battles, and their victories and defeats, are inseparably connected; and it is the duty of those that follow them, and bask in the sunshine of the day whose dreary dawn they ushered in, to revere their memories and endeavor to still keep burning in their own bosoms the fires of patriotism and public spirit that burned in the bosoms of the pioneers.

Francis McGuire came of good old patriotic stock. He was born in Brooks county, West Virginia, July 4, 1810, his father having served gallantly as a lieutenant in the Revolutionary war. Led by a spirit of enterprise and adventure, and while yet a very young man, he engaged in the business of trading on the Mississippi river, then the great highway of wild, romantic life and swift, successful commerce, when fortunes were lost as easily as they were won, and when the pistol and knife were the unchallenged arbiters of the sudden and frequent quarrels. He continued in that business with profit for five or six years, when the malarial mists of the Mississippi swamps began to affect his health; and he was compelled to seek a more congenial clime, removing in 1840 to Burlington, Iowa. There he continued to prosper in business, and in 1842 was happily married to Miss Arvilla Green of New York.

In 1851 the pallid specter of disease again appeared in his path; and after considering the matter judiciously, he bade adieu to Burlington, and, with all his hopes and household goods, set out on the long and memorable journey across the great plains to the sunset slopes of the far Pacific. He arrived in Portland in 1852, and in the following year purchased and settled on a valuable farm in Washington county. In 1855 he returned to Portland, and immediately interested himself in many public enterprises, prominent among which was the Mechanics Fair, the initial enterprise of the kind in the state, which was held on the site afterwards occupied by the old Oro Fino hall. Possessed of abundant public spirit and remarkable business energy, he was soon looked upon as one of the most valuable citizens of the future Metropolis.

Noting with the quick eye of a successful business man the opportunity for a profitable investment, Mr. McGuire, in 1871, removed to East Portland, then hardly more than a struggling village of few houses and weary spaces. he purchased a home of twenty acres in the vicinity of Eighteenth and I streets, and was soon energetically engaged in private and public business. It was here that the grisly phantom of consumption, which had menaced him twice before, again appeared and would not be denied. For four long, hopeless, torturing years his vital energies struggled heroically against the fell disease, but finally succumbed; and he breathed his last January 13, 1879, being in the sixty-ninth year of his age. Followed by a long cortege of sorrowful friends and relations, his remains were laid to rest in Lone Fir Cemetery. A widow and four children – one daughter, and three sons – were left to mourn his loss, Eliza, his eldest child, became the wife of J.M. Murphy, editor of the Washington Standard, published at Olympia. The three sons, H.D., H.P., and W.W. of the now flourishing city of East Portland. Mr. McGuire was a devout and consistent Christian, being at the time of his death a communicant of the First Baptist church of Portland.

“They were each of the breed of the hero,
The manhood attempered in strife, –
Strong hands that go lightly to labor,
True hearts that take comfort in life.”



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

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