Biography of James H. Raley

JAMES H. RALEY. – Prominent among the pioneers of Eastern Oregon may be mentioned this gentleman whose name and portrait appear here with, and who now sits as joint senator in the Oregon legislature from Umatilla and Morrow counties. He was born in Nebraska City in 1855, and as a boy, in 1862, crossed the plains with his parents, arriving at Portland at a time so early in the history of that metropolis as to find an excellent spot for camping near the present site of the St. Charles Hotel. A year later the family found a location at Vancouver, but in 1864 selected the grassy, virgin hills of the Umatilla as their permanent home, thus antedating Pendleton, and even the organization of the county.

James gave early attention to books, and occupied himself in teaching, and during vacations went on freighting expeditions to Idaho. He completed his education at the State University, and in 1877 became one of the early builders of Pendleton by removing to the then little village and opening out a drug business, operating under the firm name of Raley & Scott until 1880. To build or rather to protect a town in those days not only required much faith and enterprise, but even actual fighting. It was in 1878 that the Bannacks, whose numbers were augmented to nearly one thousand by renegades from several reservations, came sweeping through the country, and threatened the town with destruction. The alarm brought in July 5th by Foster, of La Grande, met with a prompt response from the citizens of Pendleton. Foster reported that two others, Coggin and Bunker, with himself, had been attacked on the stage road seven miles from Pendleton; that Coggin had been killed, and Bunker wounded. A party of ten, of which Mr. Raley was one, went out the same evening to recover the dead and rescue the wounded. This little band fought the Indians two hours the next day, driving them over the mountains, and killing as many as six of their number, themselves sustaining a loss of two wounded. Bunker was found secreted in a sand bank; and the body of the other was secured.

Mr. Raley bore an active part in the affair, and for his bravery thus displayed in defending the city, and also for his every-day services in building it up, rapidly grew in public confidence and esteem. He was elected the same year on the Democratic ticket as county surveyor, and for the strength he developed in that campaign was assigned the same place and re-elected in 1880. In 1882 he was chosen a member of the city council, and was one of the most forward to push the town towards its first real effort to become a city, and thus to begin the astonishing growth which has made it so prominent in the Inland Empire. In June, 1888, Mr. Raley proved his popularity in Umatilla and Morrow counties by carrying to a successful issue his nomination as joint state senator, being the only Democrat elected from the ticket. His services thus far in the councils of the state are well and favorably known.

In a business way, Mr. Raley has been successful, and of service to his community. He is the manager of the Umatilla Real Estate and Loan Association, which he established, and of which W.F. Matlock is President and C.S. Jackson secretary. He owns six hundred and forty acres of improved land near Pendleton, and was instrumental in securing railway connection for the city by the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company. His wife, Minnie A., daughter of the pioneer Pruett, and herself a native Oregonian, is a lady of culture and a leader in society. A boy and two girls complete the home circle, and will perpetuate the abilities and virtues of their parents.



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

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