Biography of Hon. James B. Sperry

HON. JAMES B. SPERRY. – The striking difference between a savage and a civilized community is the multiplication of different industries in the latter. The most of our interest in life arises from the interdependence of many persons, each supplying some single necessity of all the rest. The man who makes flour for the people of Heppner, Oregon, is Mr. Sperry. He built his mill with a capacity of seventy-five barrels in 1885, from means realized by the sale of his band of fourteen thousand sheep, which he drove to Montana to market. He is one of the substantial men of the city, a reliable, kind neighbor, as well as a driving man of business.

He was born in Lawrence County, Ohio, in 1834. After living some time in Iowa, the family moved on across the plains without disturbance from the Indians, and located in Linn county, Oregon, in 1856. Farming and trading-over the country, and mining by odd spells, engaged his attention for a number of years. During the Rogue river Indian war of 1855-56, he bore an active part, assisting in the fight at Big Meadows. He was also in a company of twenty sent to Rogue River to escort a government train. Being an active young man of twenty, and always ready for a brush, he was usually elected for any special work. He was record sergeant for his company.

In 1877 he went to Umatilla county (Morrow), engaging in sheep-raising, which he prosecuted successfully. In 1882 he was elected representative to the state legislature on the Democratic ticket by a majority of over three hundred. He pushed through the house the bill setting off Morrow county; but the session closed before it passed the senate.

At the outbreak of the Indian trouble of 1878, he was absent in the Willamette valley, but returned to Heppner immediately. He found the city barricaded; and no one was willing to leave the place to discover what was doing outside. Mr. Sperry was not at home three hours before he found a man who would accompany him, and set out for Pendleton.

In February, 1856, Mr. Sperry was united in marriage to Miss R.J. Rice, daughter of a pioneer of 1850. In 1875 this lady died, leaving a daughter. In 1877 Mr. Sperry was married secondly to Mrs. S.B. Spencer, who died in1889, leaving two daughters, Ethel and Susan.


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

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