Biography of Jacob Reith

JACOB REITH. – Mr. Reith, one of the most valuable citizens of Umatilla county, passed through some of the severest hardships on record in coming to our state.

He is a native of France, having been born in Alsace in 1836. In 1850 he crossed the ocean with his father’s family, residing for a time in New York State, and until 1860 in Minnesota. In that year, with his brother Joseph, he set out across the plains for Oregon. That was the time of the fierce Snake Indian outbreak; and at Bruno creek the immigrants were attacked at daylight on the 6th of September. They made a brave fight until the evening of the seventh, losing at the first onslaught four men; and three more fell before the battle was over. It became necessary to abandon the wagons; and thus, leaving their stores and stock in the hands of the Indians, they were molested no more. It was, however, a frightful march to the Umatilla. That was two hundred miles away; and the journey thither must be performed on foot. The forty-four emigrants, men, women and children, separated into little squads; and such was the horror of hunger that befell some of those little parties that a number of those who survived fed upon the flesh of those who perished; and only twelve came forth alive from the wilderness. These were Joseph and Jacob Reith; James Myers, his wife, one boy and four girls; Miss Emily Trimble; Mrs. Chase; a Mr. Judson, and a discharged soldier, and two others, perhaps children. The Reiths came wholly by themselves and reached the agency. The rest were rescued by Captain Dent and Lieutenant Reno, with three companies. Some of the victims were found in a cave on the Snake river.

After recovering from that awful experience, Mr. Reith went to the mines at Oro Fino and at Auburn, and within three years had money. Coming back to a point on Birch creek near Pendleton, he located a ranch and became one of the first in that section to introduce sheep. In 1878, during the raid of the Bannacks, he suffered the loss of some three thousand of his animals. His brother, his partner, narrowly escaped being overtaken, and dissuaded him from venturing out to do what he could to save the flocks. In 1881 he turned his attention chiefly to wheat-raising, having now half a section in cultivation. He obtained twenty-five bushels of this grain to the acre, and, in such a season as was the last, when, for ninety days after sowing, there was not a drop of rain and the showers fell only after the wheat had bloomed, the yield was but little slackened.

Mr. Reith was married in 1879 to Miss Magdalen Mark, daughter of a pioneer of 1873. They have a pleasant home with the frontier good cheer and refinement, and a family.



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

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