Oregon Letter, Delphi Weekly Times, 1852

Letter written by John Odell to his brother-in-law, Adam Porter, 8 months after the Odell family emigrated to Oregon. Published in the Delphi Weekly Times, October 9th, 1852. To view a transcription of this article, please scroll down.

Article Transcription:

Oregon Letter.

From John Odell to Adam Porter.

Yamhill Co., Oregon Ter.,
[May 30, 1852.

Dear Brother, -- You ask me several questions, all of which I will answer to the best of my judgment. I have seen but little of the country, and consequently cannot give you all the desired information.

You ask me if I think we have bettered our condition, as to health and climate and the means of making a living. I think we have. In respect to making a living, a man can live here with one half the work he could in the States; for the reason, that the grass is green all Winter, and that cattle, which is the principal [sic] part of the wealth of the country, can live without being fed through the winter. It is impossible to say what land will be worth when the people get titles to it; but I suppose it will be very high, as claims are now selling high. There was a prairie claim sold here, with but very little timber on it, having a cabin and 20 or 30 acres fenced on it, for $2500. You ask me, “do you think it would be better for me to come to that country?” That is a hard question. But I will say that, if it were not for the dangers and hardships, and the almost impossibility of getting here, and if the health of your family should improve as much as mine has, it would pay. You ask, “would the country afford a large population?” I am told that it will make about two States, and this part of it would support a very dense population, if it was not that each man is allowed to hold a section of land.

You ask, “is there plenty of timber?” There is a scarcity in some parts of the valley; but the mountains so far exceed any thing I have before seen, that I can hardly believe my own eyes. I have seen trees three hundred feet high, and standing twice as thick on the ground as they do in your country, and every one a rail tree. I do not know but there is timber enough on the Cascade mountains to fence the world.

You ask, is there any lime-stone? I answer, no. You ask, are the valleys wide or narrow? This valley is said to be from 30 to 50 miles wide. You ask, are the hills and mountains difficult to cross? The hills are high, but not difficult to cross; they are covered with a good coat of grass, and produce well. You ask, “is the farm land stony?” Not that I have seen. You ask if I think the lands will wear well. The soil is deep and solid, and I cannot see why it should fail, if properly cultivated. You ask, “is it very muddy or disagreeable in the rainy season?” I think not so bad as it would be in the States, from the fact that it does not freeze and thaw, and consequently the mud does not get so deep. You ask, “what proportion of the country is susceptible of cultivation?” A very large proportion. You ask, ‘what are the productions of the country?’ Wheat, oats, grass and peas, in great abundance. Vegetables do not do so well without manuring. There are the best gardens here, and the largest potatoes, cabbage, beets, onions and parsnips, I ever saw in my life, and of a superior quality. You ask, “are the seasons as changeable in Oregon as in the States?” Since I have been here there has been no sudden changes in the weather. It has not been cold enough, at any time, to freeze potatoes in an out-house – they only dig them as they want to use them. -- You ask in relation to our civil affairs. The Governor and the Legislature have got into a snarl, and at present, affairs are in rather a confused state. The society in general is as good as could be expected; yet there is plenty of room for reform. – As to schools, I think there will be some inconvenience so long as each man holds such large tracts of land. You ask about fruit. There is not much here; but what there is does well, although a good many of the peaches were killed this season. They blossomed out in February. The apple trees are very full.

You must be your own judge as to the propriety of your coming here. – I am decidedly of the option that it is much healthier here, than it is where you live.

I should be very glad to see our friends all here, safe and well, but they must remember it is a great undertaking to cross the Plains. We are all well, and I never saw the family look so healthy in my life.

Notwithstanding there are many good things in this country, yet there are some objections to it. One is, that the water and the timber is not equally divided over the country. Near the Mountains there are fine water privileges, but as the streams pass through the valleys, they seem to dry up; and from this you would be led to suppose that the valleys are sandy; but not so, the waters must dry up by evaporation. The country is very level, and the soil is deep. – There is very little rain in the summer season, and a good deal in the winter, and this is an objection to the country. But take it all in all, I think it is a pretty good country. If any of you coming to this country, ship around by water, everything you wish to bring to this country, especially everything of a heavy character. And do not forget to ship reaping machines, and a good number of good ploughs.

The two waggons [sic] that were made at Peru, of water-seasoned timber, were the best waggons in our train. They were most too heavy for the road, but just right, here. Those light waggons, made by Mr. Dunkle were pretty good waggons and about the right size.

I would recommend to any persons coming here, to bring as many more oxen as they expect to use at a time, and then change them every day or wto; and when you get here you can double your money on them.

Yours, truly,
John Odell.