Biography of Hon. Andrew Jackson Thayer

HON. A.J. THAYER. – Few of the pioneers of Oregon are more worthy of having their memories perpetuated for their worth and services to the state than the late Judge Thayer.

Andrew Jackson Thayer, the second child of Gideon Anne (Dodge) Thayer, was born in Lima, Livingston county, State of New York, on the 27th of November, 1818. He received an academic education at what was known as the Wesleyan Seminary, afterwards the Wesleyan University, studied law in the office of Doolittle & Thayer, the latter being his cousin. He was married to Melissa D. Chandler on the 9th of October, 1842, at Warsaw, Wyoming county, New York.

He was admitted to the bar of the supreme court of New York in 1849, and entered into partnership with his brother, Ed. Thayer, at Buffalo. He remained in Buffalo until March 28, 1853, when, accompanied by his wife, he started for Oregon. Buying an ox-team at St. Joe, they crossed the plains in the usual style of the overland emigrants. The journey though tedious was uneventful; and they arrived at Salem August 28, 1853. From Salem he went to Corvallis, and on the 9th of October of that year settled upon the farm three miles north of Corvallis, which is still in possession of the family. Upon the admission of Oregon into the Union in 1859, Judge Thayer was appointed by President Buchanan the first United States district attorney, a position he held with honor for six months, when he resigned, giving as a reason that he would much rather defend than prosecute a criminal.

In 1860 a question arose in Oregon as to the proper time of holding the congressional election, the portion of the party to which Judge Thayer belonged contending that it should be held in November, and that the election in June was illegal. Accordingly Judge Thayer was nominated, and at the election in November, 1860, was elected representative of Oregon in the Thirty-seventh Congress. He was admitted to the seat at the extra session in July, 1861, which he held till the close of the session, when it was awarded to Honorable George K. Shiel, who was elected in June. In 1862 Judge Thayer was district attorney for the second judicial district of Oregon, which office he held two years. In 1870 he was, in the same district, elected associate justice of the supreme court, which office he held at the time of his death, which occurred in Corvallis, April 28, 1873. Upon his monument the loving hands of friends have traced the appropriate words, “An honest man and a true friend.”

Melissa D. Chandler, wife of A.J. Thayer, was the youngest child of Moses and Clara (White) Chandler, and was born in Hartford, Washington county, New York, November 13, 1821. Mrs. Thayer is a typical pioneer woman, one who was ever the help-mate of her husband; and in the battle of life she has borne her share of struggles and toils nobly and well. A woman of unflinching personal courage, she stayed night after night entirely alone in the wide prairie, and “held the claim” while her husband was “riding the circuit” engaged in the practice of his profession; and by close economy and the prudent administration of household affairs she aided him in getting a foothold in their chosen state.

Four children were the issue of their marriage: William Augustine Thayer, born in Warsaw, New York, October 30,1845, died in Pittsford, N.Y. September 19, 1851. Clara Melissa Thayer, born May 29, 1855, graduated at the Agricultural College June 18, 1873, and was married July 2, 1876 to John B. Eglin, a lawyer of Roseburg, who died at The Dalles, Oregon, November 14, 1877. She is still a childless widow, and resides in Portland, Oregon. Emma A. Thayer, born July 2, 1857, graduated at the Agricultural College June 17, 1874, and was married December 25, 1878, to S.W. Rice, a lawyer, and at that time county judge of Multnomah county. They have one child, Claude Thayer Rice, born November 2, 1879, and reside at Portland. Edwin Alden Thayer, the youngest child, born at Corvallis November 19, 1860, is a tinsmith by trade, is unmarried, and also resides at Portland.

At the May term, 1873, of the district court held at Roseburg, Judge Mosher presiding, the members of the bar passed resolutions of respect and sympathy, which were ordered placed upon the record. Honorable L.F. Lane in presenting these resolutions, faithfully portrayed the character of Judge Thayer when he said: “As a lawyer he won the respect and esteem of the entire bar of the state. As a gentleman he was kind, affable and courteous. As the head of a family he was devoted and affectionate, as a judge firm, dignified and prudent. We can say with pride that he held the scales of justice evenly poised, and always compelled the right to incline the balance; and, although he has forever departed from the busy scenes of life, yet, if true merit here is rewarded with immortality hereafter, then angels will welcome our brother into the bright portals of heaven.”



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

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