Biography of Henry Martyn Chase

HENRY MARTYN CHASE. – This gentleman was born March 28, 1831, in Philadelphia, from whence he moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1844. He is a descendant of Aquila Chase, one of the early settlers of Newburyport, Massachusetts, and also directly descended from the famous Hannah Dustin, who killed her Indian captors in the Indian war of 1689. Mr. Chase sailed from Boston for California January 11, 1849, in the brig Forest, and arrived in San Francisco July 6th of the same year. He earned his first money there by painting a ship. In August, 1849, he sailed for Oregon in the ship Aurora. Arriving at Astoria in the beginning of September, he proceeded to Oregon City and entered the store of Captain Kilbourn as a clerk. The freshet of that year carrying away the store, he went to Portland, then a small village, and, hiring a bateau and crew of Indians, engaged in the transportation of freight and passengers from that point to Oregon City, a distance of thirteen miles. The rates of freight were at that time twenty-five dollars per ton, and for each passenger five dollars. Compelled by sickness to give up this profitable business, he engaged in a mercantile venture at Oregon City and Champoeg, at the latter place acting as agent for the Hudson’s Bay Company. This proving unprofitable, he associated himself with a party of traders and went “east of the Mountains” in 1851 to engage in traffic with emigrants and Indians. Being impressed with the pleasant climate, fertile soil and fine grasses of the interior (now known as Eastern Washington) he located in 1855 on the Touchet river, where the town of Dayton new stands; and there he engaged in stock-raising and farming. He laid out his plans on an ample scale, and set to work with great energy, erecting a large and commodious dwelling and outbuildings, and making in-closures for stock, hauling timber from the mountains and breaking the sod.

In the fall of 1855, the Indian war broke out; and all the settlers in the lower part of the valley left the country. Being reluctant to leave, Mr. Chase barricaded his premises and prepared to remain, but was warned by a friendly Indian that his place would be attacked by a large force then on the road. He hastily collected part of his stock and retreated towards Lapwai, now in Idaho. The next day the war party totally destroyed the buildings and other property which had cost him the labor of several years to accumulate. After reaching the agency at Lapwai, he recruited a company of volunteers from among the miners who had come to the agency for protection, enlisting also a number of friendly Nez Perce Indians. Mr. Chase was commissioned as captain of Company M, Washington Territory Volunteers, and was kept on detached service for the protection of the agency at Lapwai, and did much useful service in scouting and harassing the enemy and capturing cattle and horses. He and his company subsisted upon the captured cattle, with an occasional died of horse flesh and roots.

Leaving the service he crossed the Bitter Root Mountains, and located at Fort Owen (now in Montana) in the fall of 1856. In the spring of 1858, he started to return to the Walla Walla country, and reached the valley a few days after the Steptoe defeat by the Coeur d’Alene Indians. He was there forced to seek the protection of the Hudson’s Bay Company, where he remained with his party until the latter part of July in constant danger of attack from the hostile tribes. They were, however, restrained by the influence of Mr. Angus McDonald, at that time in charge of Fort Colville, the Hudson’s Bay post. In the fall Mr. Chase managed with his party to get safely back to Fort Owen after a very hazardous journey, subsisting part of the time on berries and fish. He remained at Fort Owen until the spring of 1861, in the service of the Indian department, under Major John Owen, and during this time superintended the rebuilding of the fort.

In April, 1861, he, with a considerable party, left for Walla Walla via Salt Lake City, and at the latter place was specially commissioned by the superintendent of Indian affairs, Davies, to ascertain the fate of several children taken from the emigrants by the Snake Indians in the previous season. With this in view, Mr. Chase started on his journey, which at that time was quite perilous, and while on the way captured several Indians, from whom the information was obtained, which led to the restoration of the captured children.

He reached Walla Walla in the summer of 1861, finding the country, that he left in 1855 with a population of thirty souls, now numbering several thousand. He again engaged in stock-raising and farming, and in 1862 was elected to the legislature, serving in the session of 1862-63. In the year 1868, he was elected probate judge for Walla Walla county, and in 1869 was elected county auditor, and re-elected in 1871. He afterwards served two terms in the city council, also one term as clerk of the council, and one term as city treasurer. In 1869 he took part in organizing the Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad company, which company, between that year and 1875, built the narrow-gauge road between the Columbia river and the city, thirty miles nearly continuously since its organization in various capacities part of the time as a trustee and as secretary and treasurer. He has also been connected with the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company since its absorption of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company.

In the year 1876 he was appointed one of the alternate commissioners to the centennial exposition at Philadelphia, and attended the exposition during the whole season in the interests of the territory. From 1880 to 1885 he was in active service with the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, and since that time has given most of his attention to his private affairs, and the general promotion of the best interests of the country of his adoption.



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

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