Curry-Multnomah County OR Archives Biographies.....Blake, Harry G. 
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Ila L. Wakley iwakley@msn.com May 5, 2007, 11:19 pm

Author: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company

     HARRY G. BLAKE.  Coming to Oregon during the formative period in its 
history, Harry G. Blake aided in pushing forward the wheels of progress in 
this region and was long regarded as one of the leading ranchers and stockmen 
of Curry county, also doing work of importance and value in the field of 
public service. Of sturdy New England stock, he was born in Claremont, New 
Hampshire, and was a son of John and Annie Blake, who always remained in the 
east. He was reared in his native town and in youth responded to the call of 
the west, making the trip to California during the gold excitement. From there 
he journeyed to Oregon and soon afterward went to Idaho and at Placerville, 
Mr. Blake opened a store. After a three years’ stay in Idaho he returned to 
Oregon, arriving at the time of the discovery of gold on the Rogue river. He 
joined the prospectors at Gold Beach but decided not to remain and later 
returned to that district, in which he followed the occupation of mining for a 
time. Mr. Blake then turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, in which 
he prospered, and gradually increased his holdings until he became one of the 
largest landowners in Curry county. His property was used chiefly for grazing 
purposes and he devoted his energies to the raising of cattle, sheep and 
horses. He was a scientific breeder and his methods were systematic and 
methodical. His ranch was improved with substantial buildings and good fences 
and the work of the farm was facilitated by the best equipment obtainable.
     In January, 1863, Mr. Blake married Miss Mary Geisel, the wedding 
ceremony being performed by Justice of the Peace Gregory, a former teacher of 
the bride, who was born February 14, 1843, in Hamilton, Ohio. Her parents, 
John and Christina (Brucks) Geisel, were natives of Germany and met in 
Covington, Kentucky, where they were married. From there they went to Ohio and 
thence to Indiana, where Mr. Geisel conducted a grocery store. In 1852 the 
father and mother started for Oregon with their family which then consisted of 
four children; Mary, John, Henry and Andrew. They traveled in a covered wagon, 
drawn by oxen, and located in Portland, where they spent two years, living in 
a rented house on Front street.
     In 1853 gold had been discovered on the beach near the mouth of the Rogue 
river.  The dust was very fine and had to be saved by catching it on blankets 
in the sluice boxes or on copper plates coated with quicksilver. In 1854 Mr. 
Geisel decided to seek his fortune in that locality and boarded a steamer 
which was bound for San Francisco, but stopped at Port Orford, a place started 
in the spring of 1851 by Captain William Tichenor, who left J. M. Kilpatrick, 
a Portland carpenter, with eight other young men there while he went on to San 
Francisco with his ship, the Sea Gull. These nine men, when attacked by the 
Indians, took refuge on a rock jutting out into the ocean. They were 
victorious in the fight and the scene of the conflict was afterward known as 
Battle Rock.
     Mr. Geisel took up a claim on the beach near Elizabethtown, about thirty 
miles below Port Orford. Other mining towns along the beach were Logtown and 
Ellensburg, the latter named for Captain Tichenor’s daughter Ellen, and the 
first stores there were conducted by Gus and John Upton and the firm of 
Huntley & O’Brien. A store and several cabins had been erected in 
Elizabethtown and John Geisel, Michael Riley, Dr. Holton and a Mr. Thorp were 
among the first to settle in that vicinity. Fortune favored Mr. Geisel, whose 
claim proved to be one of the richest in the district. The place was situated 
about six miles above the mouth of the Rogue river and an Indian of that tribe 
was employed to assist in the work. He was sent to find some pigs which had 
wandered away from the farm on February 22. 1856, and the settlers celebrated 
Washington’s birthday by holding a dance at Ellensburg. This was attended by 
every family in the neighborhood except the Geisels, who decided to remain at 
home as the mother was not feeling well.  At midnight there was a knock on 
their door and on opening it Mr. Geisel saw his hired man, who forced his way 
into the house. He was accompanied by three other Indians and the four men 
attacked and killed the father with their knives. The mother courageously 
tried to defend him but her efforts were futile. The savages next massacred 
the sons, the oldest of whom was a boy of nine, Henry had reached the age of 
seven years and Andrew was only five. The Indians set fire to the house but 
spared the lives of Mrs. Geisel and her two daughters, Mary and Anna, the 
latter of whom was three weeks old. While the captives were being conveyed to 
the camp the party of Indians was augmented and the redskins stopped at a 
neighboring cabin, murdering the owner, Mr. McClusky, and the man who was with 
him. Mrs. Geisel and her children were then conveyed to the Indian village and 
lodged in a tepee. Among the prisoners was a kind negro, who skillfully 
bandaged the mother’s little finger, which had been nearly severed by the 
knife of one of the Indians. When they overheard the colored man telling Mrs. 
Geisel that a rescue would soon be effected they were very angry and killed 
him, throwing the body into the river. The mother expected to be slaughtered 
next but the savages treated her with consideration and tried to comfort her 
by saying that after they had killed all of the men in the fort they would 
bring all the women and children to the village to keep her company. Mrs. 
Geisel learned that the redskins had massacred over thirty persons, among whom 
were Ben Wright, the Indian agent, and Captain Poland, who was in command of 
the volunteers. The Indians burned the cabins of all the settlers in that 
district, taking their stores of flour, rice, bacon, beans, sugar, tea, coffee 
and other supplies. The captives were given plenty of food, for which they had 
no relish, as they were worn with anxiety and the terrible scenes they had 
witnessed were constantly before their eyes. After two weeks of suspense they 
heard that a course of action had been decided upon but were ignorant as to 
its nature.
     A squaw had been captured by the settlers and was held at the fort. It 
was arranged that a man named Charley Brown should be sent out with a flag of 
truce and offer the Indians the squaw in exchange for Mrs. Geisel and her two 
children, who were taken to a point midway between the two camps. In addition 
the savages were to receive a certain number of blankets, which they claimed 
was insufficient, but when the conference ended the mother and baby were 
restored to the settlers, while Charley Brown and the elder daughter went back 
with the Indians. As she slept that night all alone in a tepee the dreams of 
Mary Geisel were filled with dread, for she was but a child of thirteen, 
surrounded by bloodthirsty Indians, who were planning to kill all the settlers 
in the coast country. However, Mr. Brown made a trade satisfactory to the 
redskins and on the following day the young girl was taken near the fort and 
liberated. The settlers remained in that stronghold until the soldiers arrived 
from Port Orford and Crescent City, when they were taken to the first named 
place, which they left when the Indian uprising was quelled. Mrs. Geisel and 
her children journeyed to Crescent City, in which the mother operated a 
boarding house for years, and afterward conducted a similar establishment at 
Gold Beach. There her daughter Mary attended a school taught by Judge M. B. 
Gregory and her next instructor was Frank Stewart, who later owned and edited 
the Port Orford Tribune.
     While a member of congress Hon. Binger Hermann secured a widow’s pension 
of twenty-five dollars a month for Mrs. Geisel, who lived alone, and it was 
reported that she kept a considerable sum in the house, One night in 1896 
Colma Gillispie and Charles Strahan, of Gold Beach, broke into the home and 
because Mrs. Geisel refused to disclose the hiding place of her money they 
choked her to death and set fire to the house, which was completely destroyed. 
When Colma Gillispie tried to cash the widow’s pension check in the smaller 
Willamette valley towns he was apprehended, arrested, tried, convicted and 
hanged in the yard back of the courthouse at Gold Beach. He made a confession 
implicating Strahan, who before he was brought to trial, tried to escape in a 
small boat with his brother and a half-breed Indian, and all were drowned. On 
the site occupied by the Geisel home in 1856 a monument has been erected to 
the memory of the brave father and his sons, and although the bodies were 
incinerated, the settlers made four mounds for their graves, placing a fence 
around the spot.
     Mr. and Mrs. Blake were the parents of a son, Fred, who was born December 
8, 1863. After the death of his father he took charge of the property and 
successfully managed the estate. Later he located in Portland, becoming one of 
its prominent hardware merchants, and on August 26, 1927, was called to his 
final rest. On November 7, 1895, he had married Miss Ruby Costello, of Chetco, 
Oregon. Her parents were Peter and Elmira (Snodgrass) Costello, the former of 
whom was a surgeon in the Union army and after the Civil war settled in Curry 
county, Oregon, where he engaged in teaching for many years. To Mr. and Mrs. 
Fred Blake were born four children: Harrison Gray, who married Miss Corabelle 
Bailey, of Portland; Seth B., who married Miss Esther Thompson, by whom he has 
one child, Jimmie, and makes his home in Medford, Oregon; Dorothy, who is in 
Portland with her mother; and Howard F., also at home.
     Mr. Blake was elected treasurer of Curry county and also became a member 
of the Oregon legislature. He regarded a public official as a servant of the 
people and conscientiously and efficiently fulfilled every trust assigned him. 
During the fifty years of his residence in Curry county he witnessed notable 
changes in the aspect of that part of the state and its progress was a matter 
in which he took much personal pride. His influence for good deepened as he 
advanced in years and his death at Chetco, on August 17, 1896, brought 
profound sorrow to his many friends as well as the members of his family. 
Since 1914 Mrs. Blake has resided in Portland with her son’s family but each 
year returns to Curry county and there spends the summer season. Despite her 
eighty-five years and the tragic circumstances of her life, she is alert and 
active, being remarkably well preserved. The terrible ordeals endured in 
childhood have never been effaced from her memory and her heart responds 
readily to the call of the needy and the cry of those in distress. She has 
seen the actual ‘winning of the west” and is loved, honored and respected by 
all who have enjoyed the privilege of knowing her. 


Additional Comments:
History of the Columbia River Valley From The Dalles to the Sea, Pages 252-254

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