Biography of Rev. James R. W. Snellwood

THE REV. JAMES R.W. SELLWOOD. – The Reverend James R.W. Sellwood was born in the Parish of St. Keverne, county of Cornwall, England, June 21, 1808. His father died shortly before he was born; so that he and his older and only brother, the Reverend John Sellwood of Milwaukee, Oregon, were brought up and educated by their mother.

In 1833, the three, mother and two sons, emigrated to America, first residing for a time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and afterwards going to the then new State of Ohio, and afterwards going to the then new State of Illinois. Mr. Sellwood was married in 1837 to Miss Elizabeth H. Dawe, by whom he had four sons and one daughter, all of whom are still living. This lady died in Milwaukee, Oregon, January 18, 1871, aged sixty-seven years, and eight months. She was greatly beloved by all who knew her.

Mr. Sellwood moved to South Carolina in 1854, where he engaged in work as a lay missionary among the poor white people in the prairies of that state. On the 31st of March, 1856, he was ordained a deacon by Bishop Davis in old St. Michael’s church, Charleston. He was then on his way with his family and brother to Oregon, he and his brother having been appointed missionaries to our state. They came hither by the way of the Isthmus of Panama, and had a pleasant trip, except for the delay and loss and danger to which they were exposed at Panama on the never-to-be-forgotten 15th of April. While they were detained at that place waiting for the tide to rise so that they could be taken out to the steamer which lay at anchor in the bay, a fearful riot broke out among the natives, which resulted in great destruction of life and property. The whole Sellwood family were placed in the most imminent peril, and narrowly escaped with their lives. They were robbed of all their earthly possessions. One son was wounded on the head; and the Reverend John Sellwood received wounds from which he has never entirely recovered. His nose was broken in with a club, one hand was burnt with powder, the other grazed with a ball, and through his body a bullet passed so near his heart that but for its contraction just at that instant would have touched it.

After some delay at Panama because of this terrible affair, they set sail for Oregon. On the 27th of May, 1856, the subject of this sketch and his family arrived in Portland, then a small and uninviting place. He met with a cordial welcome from Bishop Scott. After remaining n Portland but a short time, he moved to Salem, and took charge of St. Paul’s church, remaining in charge a little over nine years. He was advanced to the priesthood by Bishop Scott, October 7, 1860.

In 1865 he moved to Milwaukee, and in1875 to East Portland, where he still resides, though very feeble with years. From the time of his removal to Milwaukee, up to within a little more than a year ago, he has been engaged as a missionary at large, going to such places and doing such work as he was able and as the bishop might designate.



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

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