Biography of John L. McKinnis

JOHN L. McKINNIS. – This prominent and representative citizen of Union county is one of the leading agriculturists of this section, as well as being one of the most successful business men, having demonstrated his ability in the realms in which he has wrought in such a decided manner that he has placed his name rightly among the distinguished manipulators of industrial affairs in the eastern part of the state, while commensurate with this brilliant display is the stanch character of worth of which he is possessed, and the sterling qualities of moral distinction which characterize his entire walk.

John L. was born in Jackson county, Ohio, on July 3, 1843, being the son of Craner and Catherine (Truseler) McKinnis, and six years later was taken by his parents to Ottumwa, Iowa, and thence to Knoxville, in the same state. He remained with his parents on the farm until the spring of 1864, gaining meanwhile a good education from the school of the sections where he resided. At the date last mentioned, he undertook the dangerous trip across the plains with ox teams, completing the same in the Grande Ronde valley after some trouble with the Indians, and enduring the hardships and deprivations incident to such a journey. He engaged here for wages for a time on the farm and in frewighting and then took up the school teaching, later identifying himself with the saw milling business. Then occurred one of the most important items of his life on the third day of March, 1867, namely, his marriage with Miss Rachel C., daughter of Joseph and Mary A. (Sturgill) Harris. Mrs. McKinnis had crossed the plains with her parents in 1865, making the entire journey with ox teams from Sullivan county,Missouri, to the Grande Ronde valley. Then, on the 3d day of March, also, in 1868, our subject and his wife moved onto the nucleus of their present farm, three miles northeast from Summerville, having purchased a man’s right to a quarter of state land. With courageous hearts and good health, they started to build a home for themselves, and how well they have succeeded is better told in a brief summary of the possessions of Mr. McKinnis at the present time than in any other way. At his home place he owns nine hundred and twenty acres of good land and also eight hundred acres of timber land. He has a fine dwelling of twelve rooms, large barn and all outbuildings necessary for the operation of the estate. In addition to this handsome showing, Mr. McKinnis has achieved a distinct and brilliant success in altogether another line, each one of which will mark him as a man of both ability and sagacity worthy of especial note. In 1880 he engaged in the saw milling business, first near Elgin then north from Summerville, and success crowned his efforts, but in 1898 his mill burned. Mr. McKinnis was one of the builders of the Alliance flouring mill at Lagrande, being one of the heaviest stockholders in the enterprise. In the spring of 1900 he sold his entire interest in this plant. In 1898 he was one to incorporate the Elgin Milling Company, of which he now owns one-half of the stock. They have a plant, which for completeness of equipment and quality of machinery is not surpassed in the state. The mill has an output capacity of one hundred barrels per day and it is one of the most successful and excellent industries in the county. In addition to this, Mr. McKinnis has achieved a good success in raising fruit, having about eight acres in orchard, and also has a fine band of stock.

To our subject and his estimable wife there have been born eleven children, as follows: Clement L., married to Nettie (English); Beatrice, wife of W.F. Hug; Hershcel married to Cora Bishop, of Elgin; Ina, wife of Isaac Bingaman, of Flora; Frank, married to Anna McKenzie; Hannah, wife of Henry Davidhizar, of Joseph; Rosa B., wife of George Bade, of Milton; Thomas, twin to Rosa; James; Charles; Stella. Mr. McKinnis was one of the delegates who nominated J.B. Weaver for president in 1892. He has served as county school superintendent, being elected to that position in 1874. And of Mr. McKinnis it may be said that in public service, handling the weighty industries of this section, in all of his business career, and also in all of his private life, he has displayed both great ability, stanch and unswerving uprightness and integrity and he is beloved and esteemed by all.



An Illustrated history of Union and Wallowa Counties: with a brief outline of the early history of the state of Oregon. Western Historical Pub. Co., 1902.

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