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Abraham Lincoln And The Oregon Connection

| February 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

Part 2: Oregon Friends and Legislation

By Ann Koppy


abraham_lincolnAbraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Abraham Lincoln is likely the most studied, quoted, written about, portrayed, and respected president in all of American history. The man who “belongs to the ages”1 is linked to our state in several important ways. In part 1 last month, we saw how he rejected the Oregon Territorial governorship and continued friendships with long-time Illinois colleagues who went on to state politics. In our final Lincoln segment, we’ll meet more of his closest friends as well as see how he established legislation that greatly affected Oregon.















Dr. Anson G. Henry (1804-1865)
Dr. Henry began a strong friendship and political alliance with Lincoln in 1834 in Illinois which would last the rest of their lives. Both were very active in the Whigs Party where the doctor was noted for his oratorical skills. Lincoln asked Henry for professional and personal support when he suffered from depression after Mary Todd broke off their first engagement. He eventually became the Lincolns’ personal physician.

With a surplus of doctors (and politicians!) in Springfield, Illinois, Dr. Henry chose to relocate to the Oregon Territory with his wife and five children in 1852. They settled near Lafayette in Yamhill County where other families from Springfield were living.

The doctor established a medical and surgical practice while continuing political activism as a member of the Territorial Legislature, deputy surveyor of Yamhill County, and City Surveyor for Portland. In addition, he was appointed Physician and Surgeon to the Grande Ronde Indian Reservation. During all of these years he and Lincoln continued a steady correspondence. When Lincoln took office in 1861, one of his first appointments gave Dr. Henry the position of Surveyor-General of the Washington Territory.

He moved his family to Olympia, the Territorial capital at the time, and made several trips to visit Lincoln at the capital, staying at the White House. He was in Virginia in April 1865 when the heard the terrible news of Lincoln’s death. Henry consoled Mary Todd, rode in the funeral procession, and accompanied the widow to Chicago.

On his return home to the Washington Territory unfortunately, the steamship on which he was a passenger, the Brother Jonathan, wrecked off the northern California coast. His body was not recovered.


simeon_francisSimeon Francis (1796-1872)
Another good friend of Lincoln founded and edited the Sangamo Journal not long after his arrival in Springfield, Illinois in 1831. It was the most influential Whig publication in the state making the relationship between himself, the publisher and Lincoln, the lawyer mutually beneficial. Lincoln helped promote Francis’ interests while the paper advanced Lincoln’s political aspirations.

His wife Eliza was socially prominent in Springfield and as a cherished friend to the Lincolns, she and Dr. Anson Henry played key roles in reconciling the couple after their engagement broke up in 1841. The Lincolns had, in fact, planned to marry at the Francis home until relatives insisted otherwise.
After his application for Secretary of the Oregon Territory was rejected by President Zachary Taylor in 1849 (despite Lincoln’s ardent support), the Francis’s in 1859 moved to Oregon where he published the Oregon Farmer, edited The Oregonian, and served as president of the Oregon State Agricultural Society. Lincoln appointed him Paymaster in the U.S. Army at Fort Vancouver in Washington Territory in 1861, a position he kept until retiring in 1870. He is buried at Riverview Cemetery in Portland.






Legislation that Changed Oregon’s Development:
Lincoln signed three crucial pieces of legislation in 1862 that affected life in Oregon.

The first was the Homestead Act, giving ownership of 160 acres of government land to each qualified applicant. The giveaway encouraged westward migration by delivering new opportunities to help populate the Far West.

Lincoln also passed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 which provided Federal support to build a transcontinental railroad and telegraph. The government could now issue bonds and grant public lands to private companies to fund construction, a move that opened the West to development.

Lastly was the Morrill Act which established Land grant colleges. Every state was given federal land to support college education in agriculture, engineering, and military science. Oregon State University (formerly Oregon Agricultural College) is located on land allocated by these grants.

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