Biography of Charles L. Blakeslee

CHARLES L. BLAKESLEE. – A man of energy, sagacity, and keen foresight. Mr. Blakeslee is today one of the well-known pioneers, whose labors have opened this vast and fertile region for the settlement of his fellows, and, he has gained distinction not only on account of this work but also through his enterprising endeavors in operations in the industrial world here as well as in the ranks of educators that laid the foundations deep and wide for the advancement of the new found land for the training of those that should follow.

In 1827, in New York, Charles L. was born to Levi and Polly (Toby) Blakeslee, the father being a native of Litchfield, Connecticut, and the mother of New Bedford, Massachusetts, the former being born in 1778 and the latter in 1784. Levi Blakeslee was a giant in the commercial and manufacturing world, being one of the most prominent men of his time. He was heavily interested in mercantile pursuits in New Berlin and other places, owned woolen mills, paper mills, flour mills, distilleries and great quantitites of agricultural lands in different localities. In his time distilling was on a par with the manufacture of flour. During the panic of 1816 he issued scrip from his own mills and sent it to Albany, where it was set in circulation, being of the following denominations: Three, six and one-fourth, twelve and one-half, twenty-five fifty, and seventy-five cents. On December 5, 1800, he received the master Mason degree, and the son still has in his possession the medal of honor bearing that date and the apron presented to him at that time by the lodge, as also some of the scrip that was issued from the paper mills. The war records that he gained in the conflict of 1812 secured for him a grant of land in Illinois which remained in the family untill after his death, when it was sold by the widow. His death occurred in Battle Creek, Michigan, on May 16, 1841, having come to that place the year previous. The widow lived until March 11, 1872.

Returning more particularly to the subject of this sketch, we find that Charles L. was the recipient of a good education, and at the age of twenty-one went to farming for himself, being injured in this work he was obliged to turn to the occupation of the educator, where he gained a pleasant distinction, thus utilizing well the training that he had acquired in his early days. He taught in the region of his home in Michigan until 1864, then acting under the advice of his physician he came to the west for his health. He landed in the Grande Ronde valley in September of that year and taught his first term of school at Summerville, it also being the first school in that district. Following that he taught at the Cove, that being also the first school taught there, and in the fall of 1865 he taught at Union, the first school held there. There being insufficient funds for a teacher to be employed he collected the same by subscription and was busy for four years teaching in Union. In 1867 he returned to Battle Creek and brought the family across the plains. He bought a squatter’s right to eighty acres that joined Union on the west and there erected a chop mill for the supply of the freighters. Later he added wood-working machinery as shingle saws, planers and lathes, where he utilized the water power, it being the second place where nature’s force was thus harnessed in Union. He recently sold this plant to a seattle company. At present he owns a block of land in the town of Union, where his residence is. Mr. Blakeslee had been eight years justice of the peace in Union.

The marriage of Mr. Blakeslee and Miss Caroline, daughter of Truman and Wealthy (Foreman) Dewey, and a second cousin of the famous admiral, was solemnized in 1850 and to them have been born the following children: Cornelia, deceased: William B.: Lynn K. and Lillie M., twins: Abbie J.: and Winnie C. The funeral of his daughter Cornelia was the first one where a sermon was preached in the county. She died at the age of sixteen on September 17, 1868. Mrs. Blakeslee’s parents were natives of New York and the father was well known throughout Indiana and Michigan, where his business carried him. he fought in the war of 1812, enlisting from Sackett’s Harbor, New York. The two are sleeping side by side in the cemetery at Jamestown, steuben county, Indiana. Mr. Blakeslee’s grandfather was a prominent Mason of early days.

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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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