Old Settlers' Stories, this one by Edward Pedigo

Shorewoodplace Footprints & Odysseys


This One By Edward Pedigo [#136-19]

(An uncited story from the papers of William Bruce Pedigo)

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to set forth their travels and experiences in pioneer life, it seems proper for me to have something to say also, for my experience reaches farther back in this Palouse country than any others that have written before me of their pioneer life in the Palouse country. [Editor's note: This is in the state of Washington]

I will go back to the place and time of my birth, at the foot of the Blue Ridge, in Patrick County, Virginia, April 15, 1805, for the starting point. But I am so forgetful I cannot remember whether the day of my birth was clear or cloudy. But I will try and write some of the . . . [Editor's note:  A line of type must have been omitted here.]

In September, 1805, my father with all of his children, set out on their long journey to the wilderness of Kentucky. We crossed the Allegheny Mountains without an accident, but afterwards when we camped near a farmhouse there was a large flock of sheep, an old gentleman of the party was unharnessing the horses and while hanging up the harnesses a buck ran up behind him and gave him such a dab that it knocked his trotters from under him. When the old man arose from the ground, the buck had backed off to give him another bumper, but the old man dodged him and caught him by the wool saying, "You old rascal, I'll gouge your natarnal [sic] old eyes out!"  The old buck got such a gouging that he was then willing to go off and mind his business. The next morning the old farmer came out through his flock of sheep to the emigrants' camp and, noticing how red and swollen his old buck's eyes were, said he wondered what was the matter with his old sheep's eyes, but the whole company was mum, so they got off without any fuss.

An incident worthy of note was when we camped in the Cumberland mountains. A company of Indians kept up such a "hillabelloo" of laughter that some of the whites concluded to go and see what tickled them so. One of the Indians, afraid that some of the whites would steal his pony, tied the halter around his body and laid down to sleep. Toward day, after the fire had burned down, the pony blew his breath in the Indian's face, which scared him so bad that he jumped over the fire. That scared the pony and he jumped back and drew the Indian back through the fire. The other Indians would point at him and laugh, but he looked very sullen. This much I learned of my father.

Well, we at length landed safe in Kentucky and there I was brought up, and there I found my true-love, Miss Lettie Gill, one of Kentucky's best women, and that state is famed for good women, you know. We got married in the year 1826, and she proved to be a faithful helpmate to me, standing by my side through prosperity and adversity for over fifty years. In 1830 we bade farewell to friends relatives and left Barren County, with three children, bound for the rich prairies of Illinois.  We got along very well with the help of a young man by the name of Cyrus Renick, until we got into Green County, Ill., and there we met with a scare.  Our wagon turned over with my family in it, and I saw the blood and brains of our baby washed out, as I thought.  Oh, what a shock it gave me!  But you can imagine what relief it gave me when I found out that there was no one seriously hurt.  We had had some sassafras tea for breakfast that morning and we had some of it left, which my wife poured into the coffeepot and set it in the wagon to have it for dinner.  It was the tea and sassafras bark that I thought was the blood and brains of our dear infant.

I was so thankful that I shed tears of joy.  We went on our way to Sangamon county, and there we took our abode for five years. After the Blackhawk War we moved to what was then called the Blackhawk purchase, now Iowa. It became a territory, I think, in the year 1838, and we lived there until after it became a state. I was in Iowa when it became a state, in Oregon when it became a state, and in Washington when it became a state.

In the year 1854 we started to the "promised land" in the far West, with all our children but one. She and her husband had preceded us by two years. I said "promised land" because Uncle Sam had promised to give land to all that would migrate thither within a certain length of time.

I will now go with a skip and a bound over the hills, prairies, and mountains. Inasmuch as my son-in-law, J. S. Fisher, in his article, has given the time of our starting from Iowa in wagons with ox teams in April.  We passed through the long and perilous journey without any deaths, and but little sickness.

We left the last mountains behind us and landed safely at Phillip Foster's in the Willamette valley. Mr. Foster said the best thing we could do was go into the fruit raising business, for Gen. McCarver of Oregon City sold his apples that Fall for 12$ per bushel, in the orchard. I took his advice and bought a claim in the timber eight miles from Oregon City and cleared off ten acres as soon as I could and planted it in orchard, but nearly everyone else did the same thing, and when I got apples to sell the price had come down and in a short time they would scarcely pay for gathering and hauling to market.

In 1871 I and two of my sons-in-law, J. S. Fisher, and S. P. Gilliland, moved up to the Palouse country. At that time there was only two counties in eastern Washington east of the Columbia River. They were Walla Walla on the south side of Snake river, and Stephens on the north. 

There was not a store nor grist mill in Stephens county at that time so we had to go to Walla Walla for our groceries and everything we stood in need of, even our cats and chickens.

When we got to where Colfax now stands, James Perkins, H. S. Hollingsworth, and Mr. Reynolds were at work building a sawmill. There we stopped, looked around, and took claims five miles above that place, where we found plenty of timber, water, and bunchgrass. They came here to raise stock and here they found here the place they wanted.

That was rather a hard winter and their cattle and those of Mr. Chase would come home off the bunchgrass, kick up their heels, and fall to rise no more, until there were but a few left.

We built our cabins on the river side, broke ground, and put in our crops, but in August it came a hard frost and killed all our gardens. Then Fisher and I became dissatisfied and left our places and moved six miles farther up, and a mile out from the river, and settled in a small valley which afterwards was called by Mr. Chase, Eden Valley. At that time there was not a trail of any kind to be seen until we made them, and not a house between mine and the mountains.

Well, I am spinning my yarn too long, so I will quit without saying anything about the crops, scarcity of money and hard times, for we all know something about that.  -- E. P.

The writer of the old settler story in this issue, Mr. Edward Pedigo, is 89 years old but in spite of his advanced age he still retains his mental vigor and to remarkable degree his physical activity. His manuscript would do credit to any young man. It is neat, legible, and practically correct as to orthography and punctuation. Mr. Pedigo comes from a family that is remarkable for its longevity. His father lived to the age of 103 and his grandfather reached 105. We trust that Mr. Pedigo may live to break the record.  -- Editor.

Reprint from paper unknown, but likely eastern Washington as he lived in Palouse country until his death in 1894, age 89, 4 months, 20 days.

Note:  Error - His father Joseph died at age 71.   Blackhawk War (1831-32 between U.S. and the Sac and Fox Indians under Chief Blackhawk.

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2nd Edition - 15 July 1999