Biography of Hon. Matthew P. Deady

HON. MATTHEW P. DEADY. – The character of the man whose name heads this article is one to which justice cannot be done in a short sketch of the principal events of his life. However, it will serve to illustrate one pure, wise and energetic; one of those who, while he gained his education, toiled for his living; one of those whom no circumstances, poverty or hardship could deter or turn aside from his purposes and the pursuit of knowledge. Judge Deady was born in Easton, Talbot county, Maryland, on May 12, 1824. His parents were good and respectable people, his father being a teacher by profession. When the son was four years of age, the family moved to Wheeling, Virginia, where his father was employed as principal of the Lancasterian Academy for a number of years.

In 1834 his mother died as they were journeying from Baltimore to Wheeling, having been visiting her father at the former city. In 1837, Matthew removed with his father to Ohio, and there spent four years on the farm, until in 1841 he went to Barnesville and wrought at the anvil while he attended the Barnesville Academy. So, while he hammered away at the forge, he also shaped in his mind the knowledge found in good books. After completing his apprenticeship, young Deady with laudable ambition determined to read law; and, realizing that he could only succeed by means of severe application, he began the study of law in 1845 with Honorable William Kennon, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, afterwards on the supreme bench of the state, and now deceased. While pursuing his studies, he supported himself by teaching school. In October, 1847, he was admitted to the supreme court of the state, and commenced practice in St. Clairsville. His indomitable will and hard labor, both mentally and physically, had now placed him on a fair road to brave the battle of life; and he started out to succeed.

He crossed the plains to Oregon in 1849, and taught school during the winter of that year, until in the spring of 1850 he commenced the practice of his profession, soon becoming a man of mark in the community. Indeed, the very year he began to practice, he was chosen at the June election to the lower house of the territorial legislature, in which he was an active and leading member, and, as a consequence, was in 1851 elected a member of the territorial council form the same county, – Yamhill, – the opposition being Honorable David Logan. Here he served as chairman of the judiciary committee in the session of 1851-52, and as presiding officer during the special session of July, 1852, and the regular one of 1852-53.

He was already one of the leading men of the country, both at the bar and in the legislature, and was strongly urged in the spring of 1853 as a candidate for delegate to Congress, but preferred to accept the appointment of associate justice of the supreme court of the territory, which office he filled by subsequent reappointment, until the admission of the state into the union in February, 1859. Soon after his appointment he removed to the southern district, comprising at that time the country south of the Calapooia Mountains, and settled on a farm in the valley of the Umpqua, where the interested traveler may still find the fruitful orchards and vines planted and trained by his hands in the intervals of judicial labor.

While occupying this position he was elected from Douglas county as one of the delegates to the constitutional convention, which met in Salem in 1857, and formed the present constitution of the state, being president of the body, and active and influential in its workings. At the first election under this constitution, Judge Deady was elected one of the justices of the supreme court of the state from the southern district; but as he had been appointed judge of the United States district court for the state, on her admission in 1859, he accepted the latter position and moved to Portland in 1860, where he has ever since resided and occupied a seat in the district and circuit courts with marked ability.

In 1861-62 he prepared and reported to the legislature the present code and civil procedure, which was adopted with two small amendments, and with slight alterations has constituted the code of civil procedure for the state since it went into effect in May, 1863. At the request of the legislature of 1862, he also prepared and reported to the legislature of 1864 a code of criminal procedure, including the definitions of crimes and their punishments, which was passed at that session without amendment, and which is substantially still in force. With all of is other labors, Judge Deady has found time to prepare and publish a large amount of correspondence and contributions to the periodicals of the country, containing much information concerning the history of Oregon and its affairs. He has also given of his labor and means to the establishment and support of charitable and educational institutions, one of which is the Portland Library, of which he is president, and another the State University, of which he is president of the board of regents.

The judge, with his tall stature, with his intelligent and sparkling blue eyes, and auburn hair now plentifully sprinkled with gray, is when on the bench urbane and courteous, though requiring that decorum which he considers indispensable to the dignity of the court and the orderly transaction of business; and the “bullies” of the law soon find their level in his court. He is very kind and encouraging to the young and inexperienced lawyers; and neither reputation nor eloquence compensate, before him, for carelessness or neglect in the preparation or conduct of a case. In the social circle he is lively and entertaining; and those who have met him in assemblages where it was necessary to meet wit and eloquence with impromptu repartee, remember with delight the graceful humor, elegant dictation and forcible expression which characterized his utterances. His lectures have always abounded with original thought and interest; and he is indeed one whom Oregon may be proud to claim.

He was married in June, 1852, to Miss Lucy A. Henderson, the daughter of Robert Henderson, of Yamhill, a lady universally respected. They both occupy a high social position, and are among the best people of Trinity church, of which Judge Deady is a vestryman of long standing.



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

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