Growth of Umatilla County, Oregon


In 1874 Weston had advanced to such proportions that it aspired to possess a county seat. The little town of Milton had appeared to the north east of it, though as yet containing but a few houses, and the rich farming lands in that section had become occupied by a numerous and prosperous population. The question of a division of the county and creation of a new one with the county seat at Weston, was agitated by those living in that section, but nothing definite was accomplished. The election of 1874 resulted in another victory for the Democrats. County Officers 1874

     In 1876 an independent county ticket, composed of both Democrats and Republicans, was run against the regular Democratic nominations. Three were elected, but they were Democrats none the less, and the Republicans gained no offices. County Officers 1876

     In 1877 the Nez Perce Indian war in Idaho was the cause of considerable uneasiness to the people of this region. There were over 600 Indians on the Umatilla reservation, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla, while some 200 Columbia lived in the vicinity, refusing to reside there. It was feared that these latter, and possibly the reservation Indians, might commit depredations. Maj. N. A. Cornoyer, the agent, held a council with chiefs on the reservation and they were profuse in expressions of friendship and peaceable intentions. He then selected about twenty-five of them and held a grand council in the Pendleton court house on the twenty-sixth of June. This had a good effect upon both Indians and citizens. The chiefs then went to Walla Walla and held a council there. This ended all apprehension as far as reservation Indians were concerned, but doubt of the others still remained. Hostilities were nearly precipitated with them by a "scare," arising from this feeling of timidity. The Columbia had a favorite grazing place for their horses upon which a man had recently settled, and Wolsack, the head chief, dropped a few hints to him in order to scare him off. He did not go at once; but one evening hearing some guns fired by boys out hunting, he came to a sudden conclusion that it was a bad place to stay in. He jumped upon his horse and rode in haste to warn settlers that the Columbia had broken out and that Wolsack had told him that he could not control his braves. The "scare" was complete. A company was formed at the head of Butter creek to protect settlers; but it was soon found that they needed no protection, and the "true inwardness" of the whole affair was discovered.

     An independent ticket was again run in 1878, but was completely defeated. The election resulted as follows: County Officers 1878

     In 1880 there were three tickets in the field, Democratic, Republican, and Division, the last being unpolitical and having its candidates pledged to support a division of the county. Only two of these were elected, the county commissioners, and they were candidates on the regular tickets who had been endorsed by the Divisionists. The election resulted as follows: County Officers 1880

     On the fifth of January, 1881, in the jail yard at Pendleton, occurred the first legal execution of a white man. Edward, or Arthur Murphy, was hanged by Sheriff Martin for the murder of T. D. French, near Heppner, the previous May. Murphy was herding a band of sheep for S. S. Snyder, and allowed them to trespass upon French's field. The sufferer complained to Snyder, and another herder was sent to take charge of the animals. That night French was approaching the camp, when Murphy seized a pistol, went out to meet him, and after a few angry words shot him dead. For three days the murderer was hunted, and then came into Heppner and surrendered. He narrowly escaped lynching before being taken to Pendleton. In November he was convicted and sentenced, and in January suffered the penalty of his crime. The only other white man ever sentenced to be hanged in this county was one Brown, who was convicted of murder in 1866. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he soon after made his escape from the penitentiary. A man was lynched in 1864.

     The last election resulted in again dividing the offices between the two parties, though on the State ticket the county went Democratic: County Officers 1882

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