221. Obediah C. Motley
was born on 22 May 1805 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. He appeared on
the census on 5 Mar 1850 in Clatsop County, Oregon. He appeared on the census
on 18 Jun 1860 in Cornvallis, Benton County, Oregon. He died on 15 Feb 1868
in Benton County, Oregon.
The ROBINSON and MOTLEY FAMILIES
as told to Mrs. MORRIS by R. C. MOTLEY
Way back in the early part of the nineteenth century, May 22, 1805, to be exact,
Obediah C. MOTLEY was born in Spottsylvania Courthouse, Virginia. At the age
of fourteen he was apprenticed, as it was then called, to the United States Navy,
where he went to school until he was twenty-one. Here he was educated and trained
as a navigator. He served with the navy for several years and then took charge
of merchant ships. His son, Rudolph, has in his possessions a consular receipt
issued in 1838 clearing Capt. MOTLEY from the U.S.A. port of New Orleans to the
port of Galveston, Republic of Texas.
About twelve years before the birth of Captain MOTLEY, on Christmas Day, 1793,
John ROBINSON was born in Buncombe County, N.C. As was usual in those days every
man was a crack shot with a rifle, and young John was taught all the lore of
the woods, the game, and the trail, and the habits of the Indians. John was exceptionally
adept at frontier work and soon became a recognized scout. When the Territory
of Illinois was organized he was sent by the Government to help the settlers
and to guard them. In 1815 he returned to South Carolina where he had left his
sweetheart, Margaret WILSON, and in spite of the remonstrances of her people
who could not bear to have their daughter go to the unknown frontier country,
that was alive with danger of every description, they were married on Tuesday,
October 3, 1815. Taking a little bedding, a frying pan, and the ever present
rife, they mounted their horses and started west to Illinois. They were compelled
to shoot game in order to eat, as they could carry no provisions with them. We
can imagine what hardships were endured before they reached their destination.
Just a year later the oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was born, October 1, 1816.
They had three other daughters, Mary L., born March 12, 1819, who lived only
until Nov. 11, 1821; Harriet, born July 23, 1822 and Miriam, born May 21, 1824.
Obediah MOTLEY, when they started the idea that they could run boats up the Mississippi
River to the new settlements, was given charge of one of them to try and sail
as far up the river as he could get. Before he started on the unknown adventure
he decided to buy the boat he was to command. He succeeded in reaching Illinois,
we do not know at just what place. He sold his boat and decided to settle in
that country. He made the acquaintance of John ROBINSON soon after arriving,
met the daughter, Elizabeth, and the rest is soon told. He started in Hennepin
during the building of the Hennepin Canal, so it is presumed that was the town,
although the young couple were married in Peru, January 18, 1835. Miss Elizabeth
was teaching in Hennepin when they became acquainted, though possibly her home
was in Peru.
Capt. MOTLEY remained in the mercantile business for several years until the
western fever consumed both him and his father-in-law, Mr. ROBINSON. At the beginning
of the Black Hawk War in 183_, John ROBINSON was appointed Captain of the Illinois
Volunteers under General WHITESIDES. Mrs. MOTLEY and her oldest child, Clementine,
together with her mother and her sister, Miriam, were forted up at Fort Dearborn
where Chicago now stands. Capt. ROBINSON lost the sight of one eye at the Battle
of Bad Axe (a creek). General WHITESIDES let the Indians lead him into an ambush
and the white soldiers were entirely surrounded by the Indians. Captain ROBINSON
told his men to scatter and fight the Indians in the Indian way, each man for
himself. He got down behind a tree just as an Indian jumped out from the opposite
side and discharged his gun at Capt. ROBINSON, saying "swap." Capt.
ROBINSON jumped behind the tree and the Indian's bullet missed him but struck
the bark off the tree and the splinter bark struck the captain's eye, destroying
the sight. Captain ROBINSON, a large, powerful man, grabbed the Indian and killed
him with his knife. The knife was made out of a file. The knife was in the possession
of the family for years, but finally disappeared.
Early in 1846 the two men and their families decided to start west for Oregon.
A company was organized with Capt. ROBINSON as captain of the train. I will repeat
in Mr. MOTLEY's own words the account of the crossing as he remembers hearing
it told to him.
"The three things that impressed me most in my mother's description of crossing
the plains were, first, the Indians collecting toll; second, the Indians trying
to trade for, and then to steal my sister Margaret; and third, a scalp and war
dance near Green River, Wyoming.
"Somewhere near the head of the Platte River a large bank of Indians, Sioux,
I think, met the train and directed them to halt in a circle, a renegade white
man acting as an interpreter. The Indians spread four buffalo robes on the ground
and told the immigrants they must pay a toll for crossing their country or territory.
It was, I think, a quart of flour, a pint of sugar for each person in the train,
and a certain amount of tobacco, bullets, and powder for each yoke of oxen. The
flour was placed on one robe, the sugar on another, tea and coffee on a third,
and the powder and bullets on the fourth.
"Near Green River one day an Indian rode along the line of wagons. Mother
had washed sister Margaret's hair and told her to hold her head out of the side
of the wagon in the sun to let her hair dry. Margaret had a beautiful head of
hair. The Indian rode up and looked at sister a long time, then wheeled his horse
and galloped away, presently returning with a fine large beaded and embroidered
buffalo robe. He thrust the robe into the wagon, and by signs made mother know
he wanted to exchange it for Margaret. Mother pushed the robe out of the wagon.
The Siwash pushed the robe back and grabbed sister by the hair and one arm. Mother
grabbed her by the feet and each pulled. Of course Margaret screamed. It was
very dusty and none of the men who were driving the oxen noticed for some time
anything amiss. Finally David CLAYPOOL (who by the way is my wife's grandfather)
saw the situation. He came back popping his ox-whip and laid it on the Indian
and his horse, good and hard. The Indian let go and fled. That night the Indians
came and set up camp near the emigrant encampment, fixed the ground, and held
a scalp and war dance.
"Grandfather, who was captain of the train, had the wagons form in the usual
circle, kept the stock all inside, and told every anther man to stand on guard,
as he believed the Indians would attack, as it was a bright moonlight night.
The Indians danced and occasionally a chief or a warrior would harangue them.
Then they would wave their scalps and the dance would wax more fast and furious
until daylight. An Indian messenger came in from the east, all at once the dancing
ceased, and the Indians hastily left. The next afternoon a detachment of soldiers
from Fort Hall met the emigrants and it was supposed that the messenger bringing
word of the approach of the soldiers was what kept the Indians from attacking
the train. Among the scalps on the poles were several with light hair.
"The train crossed the Snake River at the mouth of the Boise River. A young
man, for $2.50, took a bed cord tied to him across the river. He swam and by
the cord pulled a cable across. They caulked the cracks of the wagon boxes and
ferried the bedding, food, women and children in the boxes by holding to the
cable. The oxen swam and pulled the running gear of the wagons across. The young
man who took the cable was William ELLIOT. He afterwards came to Oregon and took
a claim near us in Benton County, north of town about four miles. He died years
ago and some of his grandchildren live on the old ELLIOT place yet.
"The ROBINSON and MOTLEY families first settled near Astoria on the Clatsop
Plains, which is now known as Gearhart Park. The Flathead (?) Indians were in
control of most of the surrounding country, and in order to fish and hunt they
had to buy the privilege from these Indians. Whenever they caught any salmon
an Indian came home with them, cut the heart out of the fish, and burned it.
No one was allowed to have a fish unless they could be sure the heart was burned.
If the heart of the salmon was not burned the spirit of the fish would go back
to the ocean where it had lived and tell the other fish how it was caught, and
the next year there would be no fishing.
"While the Indians seemed friendly enough, the settlers had to be very careful
not to interfere with any of the Indian rites or customs. On one occasion Mr.
ROBINSON saw a procession of Indians filing along to the Indian burial grounds.
The favorite wife of the chief was dead and they were taking the body for burial.
Behind the procession two Indian girls were crying bitterly. Mrs. MOTLEY, who
could speak the Indian jargon by this time, (it might have been Mrs. ROBINSON)
asked what was the matter. She found out that the two girls were to be buried
alive to act as servants for the chief's wife in the next world. The women wanted
to interfere, but were told by Sol SMITH, a squaw man who had been with the Indians
for years, that it would be impossible. They could not interfere with royalty.
That was one of their funeral rites, sacred to them, and were there interference,
the Whites in the whole settlement would be massacred. So better judgement prevailed
and the girls were left to their fate.
"Farming was not Capt. MOTLEY's calling and when gold was discovered in
California in '49, the ocean again called him. With Robert MCEWIN as a partner
he built a schooner and made three trips to California before they sold the boat.
In the meantime negotiations had been made to sell their homesteads, and in 1850
they both sold to Philip GEARHART. The two families then came to Benton County,
where Captain ROBINSON procured a donation land claim just west of William KNOTT'S
place, the MOTLEYs settling just beyond.
"In THE HISTORY OF BENTON COUNTY by Fagan, he speaks of a Methodist church
being organized in September, 1848, by Rev. Leander BELIEU, on the donation claim
of Mr. MOTLEY, about three and one half miles from town. Either this class and
camp-meeting was held on ground (that was) afterwards Mr. MOTLEY's claim and
so became known as that spot, or the date was later, as Mr. MOTLEY did not come
to Benton County until two years later.
"When the districts were legally organized, Mr. MOTLEY's daughter, Clementine,
taught the first legally organized school in the county. This was in district
No. 1, which schoolhouse was on the north side of John ROBINSON's donation land
claim. Mr. KNOTT and Haman LEWIS were the first directors and had been instrumental
in its organization. There had been other schools in the county but all were
kept up by private subscription. Any one who wished could start a school, many
of them being taught by people who knew almost nothing about teaching. Elisha
VINEYARD taught this little school when Miss MOTLEY resigned.
"In those days every bit of clothing was woven and spun by the women at
home. In the evenings the boys were put to work picking the wool which later
was taken to a little carding mill on Oak Creek. The wool was then dyed with
alder bark, which makes a dark brown, or with dogwood which makes a bright yellow.
"All 'bought provisions' - mostly sugar and coffee, about everything else
was grown or shot, - had to come from Oregon City. They carried beans, wheat,
dried apples, bacon and a little wool to the markets and returned with their
store supplies. What extra room they had in their wagons was filled with freight
for the neighbors or some of the stores.
"In 1851 or 52 a brother of Mr. ROBINSON, Beriah, came from the east and
settled here. In speaking of the town of Corvallis Mr. MOTLEY said: "The
first hotel built in Corvallis was erected just south of Wilhelm's garage on
Second Street. It was a two-story affair with a long porch or veranda along its
entire length. It was built and owned by a blacksmith named BRIGGS. His shop
was on the opposite side of the street. Mrs. BRIGGS ran the hotel. A man by the
name of Philip GEORGE killed his partner during a quarrel in front of the blacksmith
shop. Mrs. BRIGGS was the only witness to the killing.
"Colonel KINDLE and a man by the name of RILEY had a saloon on the corner
where HECKART has his planing mill (Second and Jefferson). Peter KONGLER had
a blacksmith shop just north of the saloon. The AVERY store at the east end of
the McCREADY lumber yard was washed away during the flood of 1861. The second
hotel was the Eagle House, built and owned by John MURRAY. He was burned to death
when the hotel burned in 1877. Hamen LEWIS has a packing house on the river bank
just east of the Heckart building.
"The scaffold or gibbet on which Philip GEORGE was hung stood for years
at the end of Second Street, about where the car tracks cross the lumber yard.
"The two persons who impressed me most as a child were Elder FISHER who
used to visit my grandfather and Lieutenant SHERIDAN. Lt. SHERIDAN stuck in my
memory, perhaps, on account of the candy he gave me, or maybe the memory of his
bright blue uniform with its brass buttons. He came to see my sister, Margaret,
but father would have none of him. He had no use for a squaw man.
"From the first settlement of Oregon until 1850 times were hard - very little
money. Nearly all kinds of business were carried on by barter. Wages for a good
man for a day of twelve to fourteen hours were fifty cents. Times got better
after the gold discovery of 1849 in California, but were not good until the discovery
of gold in eastern Oregon in 1860 and 1861. Then wages advanced to $25.00 per
month of 26 days, or $1.50 per day in harvest. This meant a day from six in the
morning until six at night with one hour off for noon.
"All had to work from the smallest six year old up. As an urchin my work
during daylight hours was to carry water in two small pails or camp kettles from
the spring at the foot of the hill to the house, a distance of about two hundred
yards, enough for the housework during the day, after which I had to keep the
wild pigeons out of the grain. There used to be countless thousands of them in
this country but I believe they are now extinct. I was also expected to keep
the geese out of the garden and during berry season to pick enough berries for
the table. Then of an evening I had to shell corn or peel apples to dry, cut
squash for drying, or stem tobacco for making twists. The latter work I cordially
hated as the smell and fine dust used to hurt me until I learned to use it.
"The pioneers were a hospitable people. The stranger was always invited
to eat if near a meal time, or if near nightfall was requested to put up his
horse and stay all night.
"Clothing was scarce and hard to get. Until I was sixteen I was clad in
the made-over cast-offs of my older brothers. For an overcoat I cut a hole in
the center of a blanket and stuck my head through the hole. A great many of the
men had that kind of overcoat. They were called 'sarappes'. They were of all
colors known and of a busy day the main street of Corvallis looked quite gay.
To watch the ladies passing in their present day bright dresses brings back to
memory the days of the 'sarappe.'
"The first travelling correspondent I ever read the pieces of was a man
named J. Ross BROWN. His pieces were published in Harper's Monthly. He had good
descriptive powers. He traveled all over Oregon and California describing the
country, its resources, and the various people he came in contact with. He told
of the abundance of game and of the easy-going habits of lots of the men. He
gave as a final summary of them that from Humboldt Bay in California, on the
south, to British Columbia on the north, as being a "paradise for men and
dogs, but hard on women and horses," and I think he was about right.
"I have known men who lived in a small log cabin with large families to
keep from six to thirty lop-eared hounds. John KESSEE, a near neighbor, used
to keep about twelve dogs and each day he cooked a small wash tub full of fried
cakes to feed them. The average value he placed on each hound was about one hundred
dollars, and he often sold them for that figure. I used to look on it as a great
pleasure to sneak out of bed, climb out the window and down the logs to the ground,
and go hunting with John and his hounds, fox or coon hunting. We often got drenched
by the wet brush or by falling into the creeks. At the end of the chase we usually
repaired to John's cabin and had a feast of beans, bacon, hot but heavy sour
dough bread, and strong black coffee. For some reason I never felt very good
the next day."
John ROBINSON died September 15, 1876, and his wife passed away September 25,
1878. They are both buried in the old Locke Cemetery north of Corvallis. Mr.
MOTLEY died February 15, 1858, but Mrs. MOTLEY lived to be eighty-seven, dying
Sept. 29, 1903. The MOTLEYs had eight children: Clementine (Mrs. Alex H. McEWEN),
Margaret (Mrs. Charles LOGSDEN), John, Cephas, Obediah, Mary (Mrs. ERFORT), Henderson,
Rudolph and Harriet.
He was married to Elizabeth W. Robinson (daughter of
John Robinson and Margaret C. Wilson) on 18 Jan 1835 in
Peru, LaSalle County, Illinois. Elizabeth W. Robinson
was born on 1 Oct 1816. She died on 29 Sep 1903 in Oregon. Obediah C. Motley
and Elizabeth W. Robinson had the following children:
Clementine Motley was born on 4 Apr 1838 in Illinois.
Margaret Motley was born on 3 Jul 1840 in Illinois.
John Robinson Motley was born on 31 Mar 1843 in Illinois.
Cephas Motley was born on 20 Nov 1845 in Illinois.
Obediah V. Motley was born in 1848 in Oregon.
Mary E. Motley was born on 6 Apr 1852 in Cornvallis, Benton County, Oregon.
Rudolph T. Motley was born on 7 Feb 1854 in Cornvallis, Benton County,
Harriett Asanath Motley was born on 25 Aug 1857 in Cornvallis, Benton