Robert Lindford Cole 1867 – 1950
Robert Lindford Cole was the son of Rev. William Person Cole Sr. AKA Wiley P. Cole and Catherine Lindord Misner Cole. In the early 1940’s the Enterprise Chieftain published articles concerning Wallowa County Pioneers still living in the area. At this time they interviewed Robert Cole and the following article was published as a result. It gives his complete history.
Another Wallowa County resident who belongs in the ranks of the pioneers is Robert Lindord Cole of Enterprise who has resided in the county since 1880.
Mr. Cole was born on May 5, 1867 in Johnson county, Nebraska, about then miles from the town of Tecumsch. His parents lived on a corn farm, which they had homesteaded in the early ’60’s. The lure of the West gripped them in the spring of 1880 and with four neighbor families they set out in a covered wagon for Walla Walla, Washington. The Cole family consisted of Robert’s parents and three brothers and one sister. The oldest boy was eighteen and Robert Cole the youngest of the boys, was 13. His sister was 11.
The five-wagon train left Johnson county, Nebraska, on April 20, 1880. During most of the trip Robert walked behind the wagons carrying a double barreled shotgun with which he managed to shoot enough ducks, grouse, sage hens, and rabbits to keep all five of the families supplied with meat. While he tramped about over the county to the sides of the road in search of game, he often lost sight of the wagons. Generally in the evening he would catch up with them, but on two or three occasion the wagons got too far ahead an he camped out alone for the night catching up with the wagons the following day. This activity kept his mother in a constant state of anxiety.
Although the road was not too well defined in places, they managed to move along without too much trouble. In the course of their journey they met many herds of cattle, sheep, and horses being driven east to market. No Indians were encountered and the wagons came through with not more than a couple of short stopovers. All five of the wagons, which set out from Nebraska, arrived in the Grande Ronde Valley on July 9, 1880 making the time on the road a little less than three months. All of the emigrants except the Cole family went on to Walla Walla, the original destination. The Coles, however, stopped in the Cove and went to work.
Their employer was Dan Chandler who owned a large farm and at the time was engaged in building a house in addition to harvest work. Mrs. Cole cooked for the hired hands another boys and Mr. Cole went to work in the fields, Robert however worked on the new house doing miscellaneous unskilled jobs.
After living in one of the houses belonging to their employer for about three months the family drove on into the Wallowa valley making their first stop across the rive west of Joseph. Robert’s father bought the improvements on a place there and the two oldest boys filed on homesteads.
Robert went to a nearby subscription school where each pupil paid an agreed part o the teacher’s salary. His first teacher was Arthur Soul. Later a schoolhouse was built in Joseph and he went there to school. Cora Samms, later Cora White, was the teacher. Mrs. White and Mr. Cole became lifelong friends and visited often over a period of many years.
On October 23, 1887 he married Maud Burnap, a neighbor girl who had come across the plains with her parents in 1885. At that time he was not yet 21 years old and had to secure the consent of his parents to the marriage.
Following his marriage he filed on a preemption of 57 acres adjoining his brothers’ places. Before proving up on this claim, however, he sold out to is brothers and moved to a place on upper Prairie Creek where he farmed for several years, first on the T. F. Rich place, then later on the Sam Adams and Thomas Roup places.
Near the turn of the century he rented a place at Lowden Station near Walla Walla and worked for wages for two years. From there he moved on to a homestead at Lost Prairie were he lived until 1917 when he moved to Canada.
After farming two years in Alberta and having two complete crop failures, Mr. Cole come back to Wallowa County and sold his homestead to William Fordice. For the next few years he lived at Paradise. In 1924 he moved back to Canada to a farm north of Edmonton, Alberta. In 1929 he returned to have an operation performed on his eyes and soon moved to fossil, Oregon to take care of the children of this daughter, Margie, who had just passed away. From there he moved to Talent, Oregon where he lived for a couple of years. Coming back to Wallowa County Mr. and Mrs. Cole took the Paradise post office, which they managed until 1935 when Mrs. Cole passed away. Mr. Cole has made Enterprise his home from that time up to the present.
Mr. Cole states his parents, brothers, and sisters have all passed away. He has two sons, Claude Cole of flora and Lloyd Cole of Alberta, Canada. There are also two daughters, Mrs. Roy Ralls of Paradise and Mrs. Everette Boone of McMinnville. Two daughters, Mrs. Margie Blankenship, and Mrs. Hettie Applegate are deceased.
Mr. Cole states that Wallowa County has looked better to him every time he has been away and returned. He is firmly convinced that the county is a hard place to beat.
Five years ago, Mr. Cole states he let his Master take charge of his life and since then he has known greater peace and happiness than he had ever experienced in his life before. His advice to the young people of today is for them to make their peace with the Master and most of their problems will be solved.
Information taken from page 35-36 of Burnap and Cole History, “Crossing the Plains” by Maud Burnap Cole. Compiled and printed by Bonnie June Lindroff (Boone) in 1965.
Bonnie June Lindroff (Boone) Nov. 1,1926 – Oct 9, 1967 was the daughter of Cordilla Maud Cole and Everett Boone.