Biography of Captain Joseph Kellogg

CAPTAIN JOSEPH KELLOGG. – The old People’s Transportation Company of the Willamette has a record in the annals of early navigation scarcely less glorious than that of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company of the Columbia. Of this company, Captain Kellogg was one of the originators.

The Kelloggs are of old revolutionary stock, the father, Orrin Kellogg, having been born at St. Albans, Vermont, in 1790. He was married to Miss Margaret Miller, in Canada, in 1811. In 1812 they went to Canada; and, the war between Great Britain and the United States breaking out, they as Americans were not allowed to return until after hostilities had ceased. While thus detained, their oldest boy Joseph was born, the day being June 24, or St. John’s day. By action of Congress this child, in common with others in like circumstances, was still regarded as a native citizen of our Nation. After the war was over, the Kelloggs moved back across the border and settled near where Lockport, New York, now stands, but soon moved farther west to Ohio, and made a home upon the Maumee river. Here young Joseph grew up, and in 1844 married Miss Estella Bushnell, a young lady of noble character, who was born February 22d, – Washington’s birthday, – 1818, at Litchfield, New York, and who moved to Ohio in 1820.

In 1847, with his father’s family, they set out for Oregon. They made arrangements to lie over one winter at St. Joseph, Missouri, completing the journey the year following. By May, 1848, they were off. When but a short distance out on the plains they met Joe Meek, the Oregon veteran and mountaineer, hastening East with the news of the Whitman massacre and of the Cayuse war. Somewhat sobered but not daunted by this intelligence, the emigrants continued on their journey, preparing, if necessary to fight their way through; but they reached Oregon without the slightest trouble of any kind. One of the pioneers of this year, and a member of this company was P.B. Cornwall, since known as a very wealthy man of California, and the principal owner of the old steamer Great Republic. He was bringing with him a charter from the Masonic grand lodge of Missouri to establish a lodge of that order in Oregon; but, turning off at Fort Hall for California, he intrusted the document to Messrs. Orrin and Joseph Kellogg, who brought it through and established Multnomah Lodge, No. 1, the first Masonic lodge in Oregon. This fact makes notable the year 1848, and also the Kellogg company.

Soon after reaching Oregon, Mr. Orrin Kellogg, Sr., took his Donation claim between Milwaukee and Oregon City, and, although then reaching advanced life, set about with great vigor to build a new home, and at length developed one of the best farms and handsomest places in the territory. He was one of the first to begin fruit-culture on a large scale, and put up one of the first tanneries in that section. He was a man of great liberality, and kept open house for all of his friends, nor even stinted his hospitality to travelers and strangers. It was said of him that his latch-string was always out; and he was among the number to give Oregon that reputation for hospitality which she still enjoys. He also gave attention to navigation on the lower Willamette and Columbia, being the first of the remarkable family of river captains bearing his name. Upon the opening of Yaquina Bay to commerce and navigation by his son, Doctor George Kellogg, he accompanied the expedition, and contributed very largely to its success. Taken all in all, he was a man of robust character of sterling uprightness, and that mental energy and virility which have been of the utmost value in the formation of our commonwealth.

Having reached Oregon and examined its opportunities, Joseph Kellogg located a claim adjoining that of Lot Whitcomb at Milwaukee. Here he began at once that career of activity which has made him one of the foremost business men of the state. With Lot Whitcomb and Wm. Torrence he laid out the town of Milwaukee and built a sawmill. He also constructed for the firm a schooner which was loaded with produce from adjacent farms, which was taken to California. Selling schooner and cargo, the proceeds were used to purchase the brig Forest. Putting her on the lumber trade to California, a few trips sufficed to acquire purchase-money for the bark Lausanne, together with a pair of engines and boilers, and a complete outfit for a steamer, which were already upon the vessel; and, having secured this magnificent bargain, they began in the spring of 1850 the construction of the Lot Whitcomb, the first large steam craft built in Oregon. The launching of this boat on Christmas day of that year was the occasion of a general jubilee. But this was cut short by the explosion of a cannon, with which the people were celebrating, some of the fragments of which struck and killed Captain Morse, the master of a ship lying at Milwaukee, – a sad ending to the young city’s rejoicing.

As the years went by the business of the firm grew; a flour mill was also built and kept in operation, and two brigs kept plying with lumber to Sacramento. Lumber in those days was worth one hundred dollars a thousand on the Willamette; and freight to California added a hundred more. Withdrawing from the firm of Whitcomb, Kellogg & Torrence, he formed a partnership with Bradbury & Eddy, putting up the Standard Flour Mills, which were for many years the most extensive in Oregon. In 1863 he began the building of the steamer Senator, which was afterwards sold to the People’s Transportation Company.

Besides these private interests, Captain Kellogg took a deep interest in public measures for the improvement of the young state. In about 1857 or 1858 he took an interest in the telegraph line which was then to be constructed from San Francisco to Portland, – the first in our state; – and at his mill were sawed out the cedar posts for the section between Portland and Oregon city. An interest of twelve hundred dollars was also taken by his company for the old Macadam road between Portland and the White House, – the first road of the kind in the Northwest, and still the best drive out of Portland.

About 1861, the People’s Transportation Company was formed by a number of aggressive and active men whose object was to navigate both the Willamette and Columbia rivers; but, coming to an agreement with the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, they confined themselves to the former, leaving the latter to the other company. In the fall of 1864 Captain Kellogg united his interests with the People’s Transportation Company. The most important work, after the formation of this company, was the building of the basin above the Falls in 1867 or 1868 to facilitate the portage. Captain Kellogg superintended this work; and its thorough construction, standing as it does to this day, is a master-piece of engineering. It was Captain Kellogg also, with Captain Pease, who began the navigation of the Tualatin with the little steamer Onward, and constructed the canal between that river and Sucker Lake, thereby making it possible to bring freight to Oswego and thence to the Willamette.

In connection with this enterprise he bought and laid out the town of Oswego, and made an agreement with the Iron Works Company by which they were able to continue in business once more. The People’s transportation Company sold out to Ben Holladay in 1870; and the Willamette Transportation Company, of which he was vice-president and a director, was organized, building the steamers Governor Grover and Beaver, whose construction Captain Kellogg superintended. But, soon selling out all his interest on the Willamette and Tualatin, he formed a new navigation company in partnership with his brother Jason and his two sons, placing his boats on the Columbia on the line to Washington and the Cowlitz. The two beautiful steamers Joseph Kellogg and Toledo, built by himself and commanded by his sons, are on the Cowlitz route, navigating that river far up into the heart of Washington, forty miles from the Columbia river to Toledo. This is one of the most popular and paying lines of the Columbia. It is incorporated as The Joseph Kellogg Transportation Company.

The venerable Captain, although now in the white winter of his age, is still in perfect health, turns off an immense amount of work, and is one of the leading citizens of Portland, Oregon.

One of the pleasant and memorable occasions of the life in Ohio was his attendance at a great celebration, at which people from all parts gathered to the number of above thirty thousand to see General Harrison, then just returned from is presidential campaign of 1840. The captain well remembers the magnificent form and commanding manners of this hero of the West, and retains in pleasant memory the pressure of the hand which he is common with many others was permitting to take in the familiar citizen’s grip of our country men.

As to the Indian disturbances, Captain Kellogg recalls the excitement following the report that the Indians surrounding the Willamette valley were ready to fall upon all the settlements, and tells how he stood guard all night to protect his family.

He had great faith in the advantages of Milwaukee as the metropolis of the state, and early became a pilot on the lower Willamette, performing the task of which no one else seems capable at present, – taking ships of deep draught past Ross Island to her dock. He now, however, regards the growth of Portland as on the whole most fortunate, since thereby the entire commercial interest of the lower river is massed at one point, rather than divided between some place above, as Milwaukee, and some point on the Columbia river, as St. Helens. Captain Kellogg, who began as a pilot of the river even before there was a pilot commission, and was one of the first to receive a license, is now the oldest river pilot.



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

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