SOLOMON EMERICK, – Some time before Horace Greeley gave his advice, “Go West, young man, go West,” there were hardy young Americans making tracks across the Rocky Mountains, and pushing into the fastnesses towards the pacific Ocean. “Ribs of brass and hearts of steel” had these young fellows; and they were without fear or even caution.
One of these was Solomon Emerick, who was born in Ohio in 1820. He moved to Buchanan county, Missouri, in 1830, and in 1843 was on the way to the rendezvous on the border. Falling in with the pioneer Gilmore, he accepted of him an outfit and took the job of driving oxen to Oregon, writing to his father that he was going to the pacific coast with Burnett’s expedition, as the emigration of 1843 was frequently called. When the one hundred and twenty-five wagons and loose stock were well under way, a division was made to accommodate all the hands; and Emerick was in the company that was under Captain Martin, with Gilmore, James Hayes, T. Reeves and others.
Upon their arrival, after the arduous trip fully described elsewhere, at Walla Walla, they disposed of their oxen to McKinley at the fort, taking an order for an equal number in the Willamette valley from the Hudson’s Bay Company, and, embarking in canoes, completed their journey by the swift waters of the Columbia. Unlike the most of navigators, they took no guide or pilot here, but went at their own sweet will past rocks and over rapids. Arriving at Celilo, they deemed the water bad enough to send the women and children and baggage around by the portage; but jumping into the canoe themselves, Hayes and Emerick pushed off and shot the falls and ran the chute, a feat of the most amazing temerity, and only justified by its entire success.
We read of the Goths sliding down the Italian snow slopes of the Alps on their shields with wild shouts of laughter, to the petrifaction of the Romans who were holding the passes against them. With much the same spirit and no eye to danger, the American immigrants crossed the mountains, and slid down the rivers. Upon telling their adventure to Doctor McLoughlin at Vancouver, he regarded them with astonishment, and assured them that the thing could not be done safely once in a thousand times. The good Doctor moreover astonished them by refusing to furnish the cattle in exchange for their oxen left at Fort Walla Walla. “Select your homes,” said he, ” and go up in the spring and get your yoke cattle and pay a dollar a head for their keep. You need to plow and haul rails; and my cattle here are Spanish steers, unbroken, wild and unmanageable.” this was an instance of his thoughtfulness by which they profited.
Reaching the Willamette valley, Mr. Emerick showed the taste to select the beautiful and historic site of Forest Grove as his farm; but, discovering that the land was somewhat better a few miles to the East, he sold his claim the next year and located his present farm at Cornelius. There he still lives.
Perhaps the pleasantest event of his life occurred in 1845. This was his marriage to Miss Lucetta Zachary, in whose company he had crossed the plains. this was quite an event in the social world; for there were two other couples joined at the same time. The triple wedding was celebrated at the house of Reverend Mr. Snelling, who performed the ceremony. The Fourth of July following was celebrated at Five Oaks farm of Alexander Zachary. A barbecue and party and general jollification was given by Mr. Zachary in honor of the marriage of Miss Lucetta, no less than in commemoration of the national birthday. This was one of the first “Fourth of July” celebrations in Oregon Territory. Mr. and Mrs. Emerick have reared a family of ten children, five of whom are living, the daughter in the Big Bend country, the sons in Washington county.
Mr. Emerick, although approaching old age, is still hearty, and has a world of pleasant anecdotes to tell of old times. he loves to recall the first grand jury of which he was a member. T’Vault was judge; the courthouse was a cabin; the jury-room was a large log some little distance from the courthouse, upon which the jury sat and whittled, and made their findings.