The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., September 30, 1915, page 3
The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., October 7, 1915, page 3

(By Mrs. T.R. Coon)

     In compiling this sketch I am indebted for information to the writings of the H.C. Coe, Laurence Coe, Mrs. Elizabeth Lord, Mrs. Camilla Donnell and Mrs. E.S. Joslyn, also to the kindness of Mrs. Kittie Coe.
     Nathaniel Coe, a native of Morris county, New Jersey, was born September 12, 1788. His father, Joel Coe, was a native of England, his mother, Hulda Horton, was a native of New York city and traced her ancestry in America back five generations. Barnabas Horton built the first frame building erected on the east side of Long Island. It was built in 1660 and in June, 1873, was still in a good state of preservation. It has always been owned and occupied by a descendant of Barnabas Horton, of the Horton name.
     In 1795, when Nathaniel was seven years old, his parents moved to Scipio, New York, going by sloop to Albany in four days; from there they went with an ox team, by way of Cayuga, Wood Creek and Auburn to their destination. The entire trip required one month. We find no record of how his youthful days were passed, but we learn that early in life he was an accomplished penman and traveled through the southern states teaching penmanship, and studying the resources and conditions of the South. Later he studied law. In the war of 1812 he was captain of the company of soldiers from New York.
     He was married an Auburn, N.Y., October 5, 1827, to Mary Taylor White, daughter of Laurence Emory White and Cyria Charge. Mary White was born on Pearl street, near Broadway, New York, March 11, 1801. Of her early life we know little, but, as the wife of Nathaniel Coe we find her an educated, refined, Christian woman, an able writer of both prose and poetry, and the fitting companion to her husband. A lover's poem, , by Nathaniel Coe, to "Miss Mary White," is still in existence; the sentiments of are of the loftiest, while the penmanship, of Spencerian style, is as perfect as though made by a modern printing press.
     In 1829 they moved to Nunda, N.Y., remaining there until they came west,. There their children were born and spent their childhood; there their two girls were both laid to rest; Cornelia at the age of 10, and Susan Amelia in infancy. For the death of Cornelia the mother never ceased to grieve. Of Susan Amelia she wrote:

"To whom, like a dewdrop kissed off by the sun's mourning beam,
A beauteous existence was given,
Whose soul seemed to come down to earth in a dream,
Only to wake up where it ascended to heaven

     Nathaniel Coe possessed a thorough education and a vigorous mind. Besides his law practice he engaged in the mercantile business and in horticulture; of the latter he was passionately fond.
     A writer in "Horton's Geneaology," says, "He was an honest lawyer and an upright politician and always commanded the respect of and esteem of his fellow men. He was long a magistrate and for four years in succession represented Livingstone and Allegheny county in the legislature of New York. He was often an arbitrator, both in the church and out of it. In religion he was, what was then called by way of reproach, a Radical. He was a thoroughly anti-slavery man, and while the liberty party was in existence, he was its firm and warm supporter.
     In his autograph album are found these names: Silas Wright, Martin Van Buren, Hamilton Fish, J.C. Calhoun, Samuel Tilden, Horatio Seymour, speaker of Assembly, Millard Fillmore, Levi Chase and Horace Greely.
     In 1851, when he was 63 years of age, he received the appointment of postal agent for Oregon from President Fillmore. To accept this trust was to plunge into the wilderness with the right's of the savage were unquestioned and civilization a dream of the future. Most people of that age would shrink from such an undertaking, but Nathaniel Coe did not hesitate. Accompanied by his son, Eugene, he came by the way of the Isthmus to Portland, Ore., where he established his headquarters. From there postal routes were laid from British Columbia to California, from the Pacific ocean to the Rocky mountains. Wherever the pioneer blazed the way the postman was made to follow with his letters and papers from home.
     Postal Agent Coe traveled many long miles in canoe, on horseback or on foot, enduring hardships and fatigue that would have disheartened the majority of younger men. After two years of this work he was so well pleased with the country that he sent for his family to join him. On December 12, 1853, Mrs. Coe and her three sons, Laurence, Charles and Henry, embarked on the side wheel steamer, Georgia. Eight days later they reached the city of Aspinwall, now known as the city of Colon. The town then consisted of a few small houses, and a beach in front and a tropical forest behind.
     In crossing the Isthmus they had several very thrilling experiences Mrs. Coe rode a mule and Henry, nine years of age, was carried on the back of the native guide. Laurence and Charles walked. Five days were consumed in going from Aspinwall to Panama, where Mrs. Coe and Henry took passage on the steamer California can San Francisco. Laurence and Charles were detained to look after the baggage until the next steamer day. Henry was very ill with Panama fever on the trip up the coast and Mrs. Coe awaited in San Francisco with him, until the arrival of the other sons, when they all took passage on the steamer Fremont for Portland, which they reached after a tempestuous voyage. Mr. Coe and Eugene were there to welcome them to the "Land of promise." They were entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Thos. J. Dryer, at their residence in Portland. Mr. Dryer was founder and editor of the Oregonian. The reunited family remained in Portland some months looking for a location.
     At one time they decided to secure land on the east side of the Willamette river, just across from the village of Portland, and an option was taken on a large number of acres. Then the grandeur and wild beauty of eastern Oregon, the glorious climate, the advantages of a location in the gorge of the great river of the west was considered, and the option was given up in favor of eastern Oregon. A bill of lumber was ordered from Bradford mill at the Cascades, the lumber to be shipped to The Dalles for the purpose of erecting a store building in that little hamlet. Mr. Coe had heard of the disastrous venture of W.C. Laughlin and Dr. Farnsworth on Dog river in the winter of 1852 and '53, but was nevertheless interested in that locality and foresaw future possibilities.
     In the spring of 1854 Mr. and Mrs. Coe and Henry made an excursion to The Dalles. They left Portland in the morning on the side wheel steamer Fashion, Van Bergan, master, and reached the Lower Cascades at night, where they were entertained at the home of the B.B. Bishop, a brother-in-law of the Bradfords.
     The portage was six miles in length. At the Upper Cascades the Bradfords had just completed a schooner of 40 tons burden which made trips to The Dalles when the wind was favorable. On this schooner they took passage and being favored with a good breezes reached Dog river at noon. They landed for a brief survey and were delighted with what they saw. Re-embarking they reached The Dalles that night. They remained over one day, returning on the little propeller Allen, Tom Gladwell captain. This was the only steamer on the river at that time.
     Their trip downstream against the wind was a rough one, and after battling all day with the elements a landing was made on the north bank at White Salmon. E.S. Joslyn, the only settler between The Dalles and Cascades, was there to meet them and with true pioneer hospitality, invited everybody, captain, crew and passengers to his home for the night. The remainder of the trip was uneventful but the Coe's agreed that Dog River was the fairest spot on earth. In June a second party composed of Nathaniel Coe, Eugene Coe, Wm. Jenkins and Nathan Benson came to Dog River and made a careful examination of the country with the result that Wm. Jenkins sent for his wife and a brother-in-law, James Benson; Mr. Coe and his lumber, which had been ordered from The Dalles, shipped to Hood River, and all went to work in earnest on their respective claims. A house twenty by forty feet, was erected near the abandoned Laughlin cabin which hereafter was known as the Coe home. Wm. Jenkins took the Farnsworth place, which already had a good house on it. Nathan Benson homesteaded and built on land across Dog river east of the Coe claim.
     Mrs. Coe and Henry came to their new home in September. At this date Mrs. Coe is 66 years of age. After a long and influential life passed in the very heart of the civilization, he comes to the wilds of Oregon and begins life over again, laying here the foundation of a home and farm where peace and plenty and good cheer soon abound, a home which became a beacon of civilization, and an example to those who come later.
     Mrs. Jenkins arrived in November and with her came her brother, James Benson located on Indian creek.
     Already the autumn leaves were falling and they a hint of winter was in the air. All were busy preparing for the cold weather, none working harder than the ten year old boy, the only child in the community.
     Most of the provisions of such as flour, beans and cured meat had been brought from Portland, but vegetables, butter and eggs were obtained from the E.S. Joslyn across the Columbia. The latter part of November brought a light fall of snow, with a little thin ice; and then the winter was gone. The grass was green and abundant, white purple flowers and buttercups covered valley and mountain. On New Year's day the Coe family ate chicken dinner with the Joslyns. "Such a glorious day and such a glorious dinner," was the exclamation of Henry. The open winter was spent in clearing land.
     About the first of February one acre was spaded up and put in garden, and no frost came to destroy. There was but one horse on the place that winter but when the spring came a trip to Portland was made by Nathaniel Coe and cows, work oxen, horses, farm implements and seeds for planting were secured. Pears, apples, peaches, cherries, plums, grapes, apricots, strawberries, goose buries, currants, rose bushes and many choice flowering shrubs were ordered.
     Some were obtained from the Lewellyn nursery at Milwaukee, Oregon, and some from Rochester, N.Y. Apple seeds were planted for nursery stock. While at the Cascades Mrs. Coe had peeled a bushel of apples for the seeds they contained; this was the beginning of their nursery. Lawrence Coe, from the first, had located at the Cascades, first as an employee, then as a partner of the Bradfords. Charles was not a rugged man and very little hard work was left to him, so that hired help from the first was a necessity at the Coe farm. The second winter, which proved to be a mild one, found them with root-house and cellars well filled with roots and vegetables of various kinds while the barn was filled with hay, grain, and corn fodder, and corn for fattening hogs. Food was provided for both the man and beast and farm improvements were progressing rapidly, but another trouble, far more serious than the lack of food, was approaching. From the north, the south and east, the savage Indians rose enmasse to drive the white man from their country.
     The Weekly Oregonian was filled with accounts of outrages perpetrated on the whites and the isolated pioneers became terror-stricken as they read. The Yakima Indians were among the most warlike of the tribes; the Klickitats, closely related to them, were friendly but an unwarranted arrest of three of the Klickitat's chief men, by the military authorities, caused this tribe to join the war party. A friendly Klickitat Indian, by the name of Sapotivei, (but later known as Johnson), warned the Joslyns. Securing a canoe Mr. and Mrs. Joslyn, their hired man, Galentine, and a boy, Woodburn Hawkes, fled in the night to the Oregon shore and took refuge with the Coe's. The friendly Indians took every boat from the north bank, secreting them beyond the reach of the hostiles. As the alarm increased Lieutenant Davidson was ordered from The Dalles with a few soldiers to protect the settlers.
     On March 2, Amos Underwood, Indian fighter, riding his cayuse down the mountain trail, in advance of the soldiers, saw the house and barn E.S. Joslyn at the White Salmon in flames. The little band of pioneers also saw the blaze and heard the beating of the tomtom and the warwhoops of the Indians. Later the soldiers came and placed a guard on duty. The whole settlement passed the night at the Coe farm with very little sleep for any. The next day the steamer Wasco was hailed as she passed, and Lieut. Davidson with his soldiers, Eugene and Charles Coe and Amos Underwood took passage on her for White Salmon, but before landing they discovered that the Indians were there in overwhelming numbers, and the lieutenant wisely changed his plans and returned to the Oregon shore. That night some of the hostile Indians secured a boat, crossed the Columbia and attacked the friendly Indians, who fled to the Coe farm for protection. A guard stationed on the hill above the house was fired on by a skulking Indian, but when morning came all was quiet and there was no more disturbance.
     The Joslyns went down the river to the Cascades and so did Amos Underwood; the soldiers returned to The Dalles and farm work was resumed. Someone looking from the Coe farm, on the morning of March 25, saw what appeared to be Indians riding single file along a trail above the White Salmon river. All day they were passing, and the watchers wondered what it could mean. On the morning of the 26th a faint halloo was heard, repeated again and again. Looking across the Columbia two figures were seen waving their blankets.
     The friendly Indians, afraid of a trap, came to Nathaniel Coe for advice. Encouraged by him they ventured over to investigate, and returned bringing an Indian and his squaw. These Indians belonged at Vancouver, and they had gone with passports to Simcoe to hunt. A brother of Chief Kamiaken had taken a fancy to the rifle owned by the Indian, and because he would not give it up, had him imprisoned. While there he learned of the plot of the hostile Indians to attacked both The Dalles and Cascades on March 26. Escaping from his captors, he and his squaw hastened to warn the white people at the Cascades. They did not dare use the trail and there was much snow in the mountains, so they came too late, for already the battle was raging, and Lawrence Coe was in the midst. This news caused the wildest excitement and distress. A council was that once called of both whites and Indians, and an Indiana runner was at once dispatched to the Cascades to bring the latest news. Then another meeting was held by the whites, alone and it was decided to seek safety in flight. The Dalles was the only place to go, and the river the only route.
     Henry and Charles were at Rail Gulch for the day's work, and Eugene went to call them in. On his return he saw the steamer, Mary Corning, from the Cascades, and rode for the river and hailed her. The answer came back, "We have just escaped with our lives; every man on board, except the engineer is injured."
     The Indian courier returning from the Cascades, confirmed their worst fears, and hasty preparations were made for their departure. A large canoe belonging to an old Indian by the name of Waususha was secured and hid in the underbrush near what is now the foot of State street. This canoe was large enough to hold thirty or forty people, but the entire white settlement comprised only eleven souls; Nathan and James Benson, Wm. Jenkins and wife, Nathaniel Coe and wife and their three sons, Charles, Eugene and Henry, the man Galentine, and the boy Woodburn Hawkes, from the Joslyn farm. Paddles were used to propel the canoe and a blanket was raised for a sail, but as the wind was from the east, their progress was extremely slow and laborious and long before daylight came they heard the Indians on shore signaling back and forth, and knew their flight had been discovered. A little before noon, when near the mouth of the Klickitat river, they met the steamers Mary and Wasco with a barge in tow, all loaded with soldiers and cannon and horses, going to the relief of the Cascades. The blue coated soldiers with their glistening bayonets reflected in the bright sunshine, where a welcome sight to the fleeing refugees, and with lighter hearts they pushed on and reached The Dalles about three in the afternoon.
     Two days later the return of the steamer to The Dalles brought full particulars of the battle at the Cascades and the flight of the savages, also the welcome news that Lawrence Coe was unharmed.
     To enable the settlers to plant their crops, Lieut. Davidson with a guard of soldiers accompanied them to their homes. The lieutenant also took with him a band of horses, belonging to the government, to fatten on the abundant bunch grass found in the valley. Mrs. Coe and Mrs. Joslyn remained some weeks in The Dalles and while there organized the first Sabbath school ever held at that place. As fear from the Indians subsided the farm work was resumed but not until June 1858 was any record kept up the farm work.
     For the information of the Hood River farmer of today we will quote from these records: June 1, 1858 -- Finished planting potatoes. June 3 - Eugene took 19 bushels of potatoes to The Dalles which sold at $2.50 per bushel, $47.50. In October 50 bushels were shipped. In November they had 2270 bushels stored; this did not include small potatoes which were later picked up and fed to the stock. Fruit was scarce in those days and always sold for a high price. From the records we learned that more than a thousand pounds of peaches were sold that fall; also melons, apricots and plums in small lots. In November three hogs were killed whose weight aggregated 500 pounds. Two of these were sold at 14 cts. per pound. Two hired men were kept during the busy season at $30 per month. Indians were employed on special jobs and a woman or girl to help in the kitchen. This was not an unusual year. In the cold weather of 1860 they sold thirteen dozen eggs for $13 dollars, and butter at $1 per pound. A later entry reads: salted down 300 hams and shoulders. A list of the apple trees in the orchard shows 38 known varieties of trees with 31 unknown. Among these varieties we find both the Newton and Spitzenburg of today. Mr. Coe also had a large assortment of peaches, plums and so forth. From the sale of these nursery trees a large income was derived. These quotations could be continued indefinitely but the article is already too long.
     The farm was made to pay dividends almost from the beginning. Nathaniel Coe was the mastermind, overseeing and directing. Eugene attended to most of the marketing. Henry came in for the lion's share of hardship herding and handling the stock.
     In September 1858 Dr. Lausdale, Mr. Taucher, and Lieut. Mallory, accompanied by Nathaniel Coe, made a trip to the ice caves of Mt. Adams. In 1859 Alfred Townsend, Indian agent Capt. Eugene F. Coe, and some others made a trip to Mt. Adams. In August 1863 an expedition was made to the mountain. Hon. N. Coe, A.C. Phelps, H.C. Coe, Mrs. E.S. Joslyn, and Mrs. Josephine Fisher made up of the party. The guide was the Indian Johnson, the same who warned the Joslyns in 1858. Nathaniel Coe, then 75 years of age, did not attempt the climb. Mrs. Joslyn only went part way. Those who reached the summit were A.C. Phelps, H,C. Coe and Miss Josephine Fisher.
     The winter of '61 and '62 has never had its record equaled for long-continued cold and deep snows. The river was closed with ice and all eastern Oregon was buried under a blanket of snow. Stock on the ranges perished in large numbers. The Coe's were well provision, but lost heavily in both horses and cattle. Charles Coe was taken sick and medicine was needed. He passed on foot over the highway we talk so much about today it, but it was a very different highway then. Snow on the trail was four feet deep and Shell mountain was a veritable death trap. On their return trip over one man died on the way, others gave up until only one man remained who came through with Henry, reaching Hood River on January 9.
     The clothing Henry wore was nothing but shreds from scraping against the frozen snow, but on January 19 in company with Indian Charley he took a hand sled and went to The Dalles on the ice, returning two days later with two sacks of flour. On February 6 he made another trip to The Dalles over the ice, bringing provisions on his sled to the snow bound pioneers, and incidentally furnishing an example of endurance not often found in a youth of sixteen years.
     On May 15, 1863 a flagstaff was erected in front of the Coe home by Henry. On May 27, 1868 telegraph poles were set up and wired and messages were sent from their front door.
     At the Coe farm the Sabbath was strictly observed. A chapter in the Bible or a sermon was read. If there was a minister in the neighborhood services were held there until the time came that a school house was built.
     In 1862 Thos. M. Ramsdell moved his family to Hood River. He was a Methodist minister and although preaching almost every Sabbath, continued to work for a living with his hands. He was the ship carpenter for the O.S.N. Co.'s boats running between Cascades and The Dalles, and was at Hood River over Sunday, so will be remembered by some of our oldest pioneers as Hood River's minister. Rev. Tenny and Mr. Condon, Congregational ministers from The Dalles, also contributed to the religious welfare of the community.
     Letters written from the Coe home as early as a 1856, bore the words "Hood Vale," just as justice of the peace Mr. Coe made out his papers with the same heading, Hood Vale. To Mrs. Coe belongs the credit of changing the name of Dog River to Hood River. The first court held in Hood River was on January 2nd, 1859, and was a case of arbitration.
     In June 1868 Mr. Coe made a trip to San Francisco. There is nothing in the record to show why he went, yet I am told that his mission was to consult a doctor and that he returned knowing that his earthly race was almost finished. His writing does not appear again in the books, but the farm work moves on with the same precision and vigor.
     On October 17, 1868, we read, "Nathaniel Coe has gone to his long home, aged 80 years." The words were few and simple, but full of sadness to those who had for many years looked to him for guidance and love. He was buried on the 20th, in a little plot of land set apart for that purpose on the Coe farm. Many friends from Portland and The Dalles came to pay their last tribute of loved to their departed friend.
     In the spring Eugene and Henry, with their wives, moved to Yakima, where they engaged in stock raising. Charles took up the work of his father and became manager of the farm.
     Seed time brought its work and harvest its rewards. Mrs. Coe continued to dispense hospitality and kindness as of old.
     In December, 1872, Charles was taken sick and despite all that could be done, he passed away on his birthday, December 24, aged 38 years. His mother wrote to her friends in the East: "My heart's beloved has left me; nothing can fill the void. He not only filled his father's place on the farm, but also at the family altar, and not withstanding his youth, older men came to him for advice on matters temporal as well as religious."
     Henry and Eugene came back to Hood River and formed a partnership with the mother to carry on the farm, but the attractions of river work soon took all of Eugene's time and interest and Henry, though caring for the farm, spent much of his time on the river. The building of the railroad brought new possibilities. The town of Hood River was platted by H.C. and E.F. Coe in 1881. It consisted of four blocks, but has been added to from time to time until now recovers the entire Coe homestead, a portion of land claimed by William Jenkins, O.L. Stranahan and James Benson on the south and west. On the east side of the Hood River it is built on the Nathan Benson homestead.
     All her life Mrs. Coe took great pleasure in writing poetry and his left many poems of merit. Her grandchildren were a source of great happiness to her and many of her poems are addressed or refer to them. She lived to be nearly 92 years old, dying in Hood River January 21, 1893. Eugene died in Portland four days earlier.
     The bodies of Nathaniel Coe, his wife Mary Coe, Charles and Eugene Coe now rest in the family plot in Hood River. They have "fought the good fight and finished the course," but to us to reap the benefits of their labors, belongs a debt of gratitude. Their graves should be kept with loving care.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer