Biography of George K. Gay

GEORGE K. GAY. – Mr. Gay was among the earliest of the pioneers of Oregon, having come to our state in 1835, in a party of eight, consisting with himself, of Turner, Dr. Bailey, John Woodworth, Daniel Miller, Mr. Saunders, “Big Tom,” an Irishman, and an Indian woman, the wife of Turner. This was the company that was attacked one morning about breakfast time by Indians on the Rogue river, and who escaped only by the most desperate fighting and with the loss of two of their number, and of their forty-seven horses, the whole of their outfit, and all but two of their guns while all were more or less seriously wounded. They were thereafter compelled to hide by day and to continue their journey by night, at length making their way into the Willamette valley in the most pitiable and destitute condition. At the head of the valley Gay parted from his fellows, and traveled hungry, wounded, and lacking clothing except a shirt, to Wyeth’s trading post on Sauvie’s Island. In 1836 he went with Captain Slocum to California for cattle, and on the way back fell into trouble once more with the Indians, receiving an Indian arrow, the stone head of which he carried in his body for a number of years. He succeeded however in bringing his animals into the Willamette valley, and selected a claim and made a farm, or stock ranch, in what is now Yamhill county. He soon became one of the wealthiest men in Oregon outside of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1843-44 he built the first brick house in the territory. He here dispensed a prodigal hospitality, entertaining all passers-by, and sometimes having under his roof-tree such distinguished visitors as Commodore Wilkes and party. It is mentioned as illustrative of his bounty and of the number of his guests that he often slaughtered an entire ox to be consumed in the repasts of a single day. Mr. Gay was in favor of good government, and was long known as a pillar in our young society. After the advent of the later immigrants and modern business methods, he lost his wealth, and died in poverty October 7, 1882, at the age of seventy-two years.

He was an Englishman by birth, a native of Berkeley, in Gloucestershire. He went to sea as a lad, and arrived at Monterey, California, where he left his ship, in 1833, and joined Ewing Young, a trader from Santa Fe’, and came north with him, making at length his entrance into our state as above narrated.



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

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