Biography of Hon. William Savage

HON. WILLIAM SAVAGE. – This pioneer of 1845, one of the most successful men of Polk county, was born at Mexico, New York, in 1826. He was left an orphan at the age of five, and when sixteen went to Ohio, and three years later joined Colonel Taylor’s party for Oregon. His first work was taking the Colonel’s stock by water – the Ohio and Missouri rivers – to St. Louis, and driving them thence to Independence. Perhaps this early training in the handling of livestock gave him a taste for the work. At least he has been in that business more or less ever since.

The usual organization, reorganization and disorganization took place on the plains. Perhaps the question of observing the Sabbath produced as many differences as any. Some desired to stop that day for rest and worship, while others spent such days of recuperation in card-playing or hunting or washing. By the time the Rocky Mountains were crossed, each party was gong by itself; although one of the travelers named Welch was considered the captain-general; and the several companies kept up some form of taking the lead with good grass and breaking the road, and afterwards the rear with poorer grass but a smoother track. At Fort Hall many of their companions in toils turned off to California; and some most unfortunately essayed to reach the Willamette valley by the Southern Oregon or Applegate route.

Arriving at The Dalles September 27th, young Savage found passage on a bateau to Linnton, and subsequently, employment in navigating the craft for the benefit of other immigrants, – a job lasting till December. Thereupon he repaired to Oregon City, and took the responsibility of driving Mr. Ramage’s cattle thence to Yamhill. This proved a severe task. Driving the animals across the Tualatin one evening for the sake of better feed, the stream rose during the night under a heavy rain prevailing, which rendered it unfordable. Undertaking to swim his band back, they took refuge on an island in midstream and refused to move. The young man’s only recourse was to wade out to them, up to his armpits in snow-cold water, and, seizing each one by the horns, forcibly dislodge the creatures. The wetting, and no dry clothes on hand, was not the best part of the adventure.

During the succeeding winter, work was obtained at Hawn’s mill in Moses’ valley, and the next season with Captain Hembree. A look for lands and homes in the Umpqua valley was undertaken. No white man, except Hudson’s Bay trappers in the Umpqua, was found south of Mary’s river; and the sites of what are now cities were made without offense their untented camp ground. This region was far too lonely, despite its beauty, for living; and Savage returned to the Yamhill. In 1848 he drove a band of beef cattle across the Cascades from the Willamette to The Dalles, disposing of them to the soldiers then there. Upon this trip he and his comrades were without flour the greater part of the time, and lived wholly upon beef, – not so bad a fare.

He made the customary trip to California in 1849, but met with nothing but sickness, and, returning in 1850, located his Donation claim near Dallas, where he now lives. There he began farming and stock-raising, and has continued the business up to the present time, swelling it to quite large proportions. In 1871 he brought twenty-one hundred head of cattle from Texas to Burro creek on the Snake river, disposing of a part of them at once and the rest to a beef contractor for the Portland market. Since 1882 he has revived this business, and has sold more than a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of animals. He has a stock ranch of his own east of the Cascade Mountains, and at Dallas also raises fine stock on his farm. He also conducts a banking business there. In 1880 he was elected state representative from Polk county, and filled his term to the satisfaction of all.

He was married early in the fifties’ to Miss Sarah Brown, one of the Oregon girls of the old time, and has reared a family of six sons and two daughters. Four of the sons are in the stock business in Eastern Oregon. He was married secondly in 1883 to Mrs. Mary C. Lady, and has by her two children.



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

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