Biography of Conrad G. Saylor

CONRAD G. SAYLOR – Among the pioneers to the Pacific Northwest, and especially to the “classic shades” of Yamhill county, Oregon, none enjoyed a greater measure of esteem than the gentleman whose name is the title to this memoir. He was born in Martinsville, Indiana, October 6, 1818, and in that state resided until he was twenty-two years of age, when he came west to Iowa. In the latter state he learned the brickmaking and brick-laying trades, which he followed in various sections, first as employe’, then as contractor and builder.

Among the numerous buildings which were constructed under his supervision, and which attest his skill as a master mechanic, might be named the county courthouse at Council Bluffs, Iowa, which has been for forty years the special pride of the citizens of that place. He was united in marriage to Miss Mary A. Black at Iowaville, November 3, 1842, the fruits of their union being five children, three of whom survive.

Influenced by the reports concerning the Pacific Northwest, he resolved in 1852 to start for the Occident, beginning the journey in the spring of that year. Among the many who left their Eastern homes for far-off Oregon, there are but few whose experience on the plains was much more fraught with sadness than his. The family, at starting, was unbroken save by the death of a son prior thereto; but on reaching Elm creek, a small tributary of the Platte river, the affectionate wife and mother was suddenly stricken with cholera, which was raging to an alarming extent that year, and was quickly called from earth, leaving her husband with four small children dependent upon him, the youngest of whom, a daughter, being only eighteen months old. In October, after a wearisome, sorrowful and dangerous journey of six months, the train reached The Dalles. Learning there that the road over the Cascades was impassable for vehicles, he sent his horses by trail to Vancouver in the care of his oldest son. The only route by which he could convey his buggy to his destination was by water; and, constructing a raft, he placed it thereon and towed it along behind an Indian canoe, in which he and the two younger sons embarked.

His little daughter was left behind in the custody of a lady who had kindly consent to take care of her until her arrival at Portland. This was the last he saw of his babe; for on her way down the river she took sick, and, in site of the motherly attention and solicitude of the lady who had her in charge, her spirit passed away. Her remains were interred near Hood River. The winter of 1852 was spent in Portland; and in the succeeding spring he removed to Puget Sound, locating at Olympia, where he engaged in making brick until 1854. On May 22d of that year he was again married, this time to Matilda J., eldest daughter of Asher Sargent of Grand Mound Prairie, a pioneer of 1849. By this union three sons were born. After a brief stay in Olympia they removed to a farm which he had purchased on Rock Prairie, some eight miles away.

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On the breaking out of the Indian war in the following spring, he was compelled to abandon his home and seek protection for his family in a common center to all the settlers in that vicinity. The point selected was on Grand Mound Prairie; and there they erected a stockade and blockhouses, naming their fort after Captain Hennis. he served as a volunteer in Company F until the fall of 1856, when he received his discharge, after which he removed again to the Willamette valley, locating at McMinnville, Oregon, where he permanently resided until his death. At that time but little of the present city was visible, the old flouring mill, the old college building and half a dozen houses constituting its extent. Soon after his arrival, he opened a general merchandise store, the pioneer one, and in connection therewith carried on brickmaking. He followed such avocation until 1861, when he disposed of his mercantile business and left for Oro Fino mines. On arriving at Walla Walla, adverse reports reached him concerning the stability of the new El Dorado; and he retraced his steps, and soon after, with A.W. Sargent as partner, again engaged in merchandising. This he followed until 1864, when he retired with a competency and devoted the balance of his days to its management, and in taking his ease in the comfortable home he had erected.

Though at various times solicited to accept political preferment, he always refused to be a candidate for office. Notwithstanding this, he was ever an active and earnest supporter of the Republican party, to which he allied himself on the breaking out of the Rebellion; and he stood ready to preserve the loyalty of Oregon to the Union at the risk of his life, should an outbreak be made by those who sympathized with the South. Any enterprise which lent strength and stability to the material welfare of his adopted home found in him a friend. To the educational interests of the community he was always a liberal patron, contributing by donation, at various times, for the benefit of the college. In early manhood he identified himself with the Church, and through life remained a consistent and upright believer in the teachings of the Master, carrying his profession into his every-day walk in life and practicing what he preached. He was accustomed to look upon the bright side of life, and imparted the sunshine of good cheer to those about him. Whole-souled, genial and courteous, he gained friends at every turn. All in all, his career was above and beyond question a model for the youth and a guide for the adult.

At the age of twenty-five he became a member of the Masonic brotherhood; and his record in that order for observance of its teachings and principles were excelled by none. In recognition of his worth and integrity, the lodge established in McMinnville, of which he was a charter member, kept him in the responsible position of treasurer for many years.

In 1884 his health being on the decline, and thinking an extended trip to the East might be beneficial, he left for the scenes of his childhood. But the trip did not have the desired result; and soon after his return it became apparent that the end was fast approaching, as a dropsical affection of the heart had made its appearance. He gradually became worse; and on September 13th of that year he breathed his last. He realized his condition throughout his illness, and died surrounded by those he loved, and conscious to the moment when the wing of the waiting angel wafted the soul away. The funeral discourse was delivered at the Christian church, of which denomination he had been for years an earnest and consistent worker. His burial was conducted under the auspices of the Masonic fraternity, the members of which came from far and near to pay their farewell tribute to an honored brother.

In “the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns,” he was soon joined by his wife, she dying January 23, 1886; and when the large concourse of the people of her acquaintance, gathered around the vault beside the resting-place of her husband, they realized that in her demise they had lost a valued friend, felt the sweet influences of her kind and gentle counsel, and gathered new inspiration from memories coming up from the past like the fragrant perfume of beautiful flowers. The plainest truth is at once her highest eulogy, and the sincerest tribute that can be offered to her memory. her character was without a blemish; and in every relation, as a daughter, wife, mother, at home, as a member of the church, and in society at large, she displayed the highest qualities of a christian womanhood. An elegant costly monument marks the place of entombment of these departed pioneers, having been erected to their memory by their children. The family they left behind consists of six sons, all of whom are grown to manhood, and are occupying respectable positions in life.



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

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