Biography of Thomas Howard

This substantial and capable gentleman is one of the real builders of the county of Harney, and it is quite proper that he should be accorded representation in its history, being a man greatly respected and worthy of the high esteem given to him. He was born in the city of New York, on May 11, 1833, being the son of Patrick H. and Mary (Ford) Howard. The father was an engineer, operating a stationary engine. Thomas grew to manhood, gaining a good education meanwhile, and part of the time working in the markets, where he learned the butcher trade. In the memorable ‘forty-nine he was one of the gold seekers, going from New York on a steamer to Panama and thence to San Francisco on a sailing vessel. The trip was hot and tedious, being two months from Panama to the Golden Gate. He mined for a time and then went at his trade in Marysville and other places in the state. It was in 1859 that he went to Carson and Virginia Cities, Nevada, and there operated at his trade, and also wrought in Esmeraldo. In the spring of 1862 Mr. Howard was hired at a wage of one hundred dollars per month to accompany a herd of cattle belonging to Job Dye to Florence, Idaho. The water around Harney lake being so high that it was impossible to make headway, they were turned aside, not knowing the route they were taking, and came where Canyon City now stands. They discovered the first gold on the creek and their band of cattle were the first cattle that were driven into this section. The first gold that they discovered on Canyon creek went as high as one dollar per pan. Mr. Howard butchered the first beef in Canyon country, and the meat sold at thirty cents per pound. They went to Auburn and the cattle were left on Powder river and there part of them were butchered and the balance was driven to Boise. In 1864 Mr. Howard was nominated for sheriff of Wasco county on the Democratic ticket, but was defeated. However, he carried his portion of the county by a large majority. While stumping the county he was on his way to Rock creek with two men who were going to The Dalles. They had the express, about ten thousand dollars of dust, and Mr. Howard had two hundred ounces of dust with him. They were attacked by Indians, who shot his horse and headed off the express men, who were running away with the mules. All the saddles, canteens, purses, etc., were taken, but the dust was left, the Indians not seeming to know its value. They were shot at a number of times, but the savages seemed poor marksmen. Mr. Howard got a party of men to go back with him and he secured nearly all of his gold.

After Grant county was cut off from Wasco Mr. Howard was elected in 1866 sheriff on the Democratic ticket, being the first incumbent of that office in the county, serving six years, and was nominated for the fourth time but removed from the county before the election.

The marriage of Mr. Howard and Mrs. Shinn, a native of Illinois, was celebrated on April 18, 1865. Mrs. Shinn had been a pioneer of 1861. After leaving Grant county Mr. Howard traveled to various places and then returned to that county, and in 1883 he came to his present place, four and one-half miles west from Drewsey. He entered land and went to the commendable labor of improving and he has been numbered with the leading men of the county since his advent here. Mr. Howard now has a fine estate of one section, and plenty of water for irrigating purposes.

This worthy couple have one son, Edward J., who lives at home.



Whitman, Marcus. An Illustrated history of Baker, Grant, Malheur and Harney Counties: with a brief outline of the early history of the state of Oregon. Chicago: Western Historical Publishing Co., 1902, 871 pgs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top