by Kylie Pine

This article was originally published in the Statesman Journal newspaper on February 6, 2016.  It is republished here with citations and additional source materials for reference purposes.

Vive La France. Published in Trip Around Salem publication, WHC 1997.027.0001.

Vive La France. Published in Trip Around Salem publication, WHC 1997.027.0001.

In the spirit of the season I begrudgingly sat down to write a love-themed column. Luckily, one of the WHC’s great volunteers found and shared an interesting news item that is in itself a very mid-valley kind of love story.

In 1952, the Oregon Statesman, reported on the death of Ovid Otis Pickard, a well known cattle-breeder from Marion, Oregon. An entire paragraph of Pickard’s obituary is dedicated to the story of his 1919 grand champion Jersey cow who produced 5,332 lbs of butter in six year period and four calves who sold for $22,000. When she (the cow) died, she was honored with a burial in front of Pickard’s home and Jersey cow enthusiasts donated a granite tombstone to mark her final resting place.

It may be a bit difficult to comprehend such an action today, but dairying and Jersey breeding in Oregon was big business. In 1923, of the 80 highest records of production in Jersey cows worldwide, over a third belonged to Oregon breeders.

[1]

Pickard was the 9th child of Oliver and Rheuhama Shrum Pickard, Oregon Trail emigrants of 1846 who settled on a 680ish acre piece property near present-day Marion. Ovid was born in 1868 and lived and farmed on his family’s property for most of his 84 years. He attained national fame with a world champion at a 1927 show in upstate New York and his unorthodox breeding methods became part of the curriculum at Oregon State University (then Oregon Agricultural College). As W. L. Norton reported in a 1919 article: “Pickard Brothers have given a most remarkable example of what can be accomplished by judicious inbreeding, although inbreeding is a thing which is constantly advised against.”[2]

The burning question around the archives after the discovery of Pickard’s obituary was: does the grave still exist? A tombstone in the front yard seemed like a difficult selling point for future buyers. I started prepping for a long and arduous property search to find the exact location of the Pickard’s old homestead. Turns out the solution was much simpler.

This was not the first case of bovine appreciation expressed in granite memorials I had come across. There is a very prominent memorial on the Oregon State Fairgrounds for Vive La France, Oregon’s “Wonder Cow” between the Poultry and Livestock Buildings. Upon further investigation, it appears that the cow described in Pickard’s obituary and the wonder cow monument is one and the same. They hold the same records down to the pound of milk produced, were named champion at the same show and, to top it off, Pickard’s name appears on the contract to build the monument.

Vive la France, “ a large rugged cow, with splendid conformation and udder development”[3] was born August 8, 1913, to elegantly named sire Golden Glow’s Chief and dam Sugar in the Barrel.[4] Jersey cows were judged by the quantity of butterfat they could produce in a year. In a six year period she produced over 5,000 lbs of butter fat.[5] This was not just record breaking, but record shattering and even more impressive that her highest production level was late in her lactation period.[6] As a mother, she was also prized for her genes. We know she had at least 7 calves, also spectacularly if less creatively named (She had a son was named Vive La France’s Darling Son[7] and a Daughter named Vive La France 2d’s Glow[8]). Her registered offspring were highly sought after to improve production in Jersey herds throughout the state, one being sold as far away as New Zealand. As one of Ovid’s biographers stated: “It has been said by authoritative speakers at banquets in Salem and Portland that the famous cow Vive La France has done more to advertise Oregon throughout the country than any other one thing.”[9]

The Pickard’s reign as Jersey Breeding champions was short lived. In 1927, after falling ill and collapsing in one of his barns, his doctor told him he needed to quit, and the entire herd was sold off at auction.[10] Pickard died in 1952 and shortly thereafter the grave of Vive la France was moved to the State Fairgrounds.[11]

So no, there is not a house in Marion with a large tombstone dedicated to a Jersey cow out front. She may have moved, but she is not forgotten and can be remembered by the thousands of visitors to the State Fair every year. What’s not to love about that?

An additional photo of Vive la France and other Oregon prize winning Jerseys can be found here.

 

Original Text of Ovid Pickard’s Obituary
Found in WHC x2014.022.0009
Originally published: Oregon Statesman, Saturday, March 29, 1952 pg 14

Ovid Pickard, Marion Cattle Breeder Dies

MARION-Ovid Otis Pickard, son of pioneer residents here and widely-known cattle breeder died Friday at his home 84 years to the day after he was born, March 28, 1868.

At the time of his death, Pickard was living on part of the original claim of his parents, Oliver and Rheuhama Pickard who came to Oregon across the plains in 1846. Part of the town of Marion now stands on the original Pickard claim.

He was one of the most successfull [sic] and well-known cattle breeders in Oregon. In 1919 a Jersey cow, owned with his brother, Elzy, was grand champion at the Portland Livestock show. Four of her calves sold for $22,000, and she produced 5,332 pounds of butter. The Jersey was buried in front of the Pickard homestead under a granite tombstone donated by Jersey fanciers.

Pickard exhibit a herd of ten cows and a bull in the National Lievestock Exposition in Syracuse, N. Y., in 1927. From that herd came the world champion in the junior class, Darling’s Jolly Lassie. For many years his breeding methods were studied by students of Oregon State College.

He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Helen Pickard of Marion; a daughter, Mrs. Marjorie Mitchell of Turner; brother, Elzy Pickard of Marion, and several nieces and nephews in Portland.

Funeral services will be held in the Virgil T. Golden Chapel in Salem at 2 p.m. Monday. Internment will be at Twin Oaks Cemetery in Turner.

Sources

[1] Station Circular of the Oregon Agricultural College Experiment Station, No. 41. May 1923, page 12. Accessed via Googlebooks.

[2] The Oregon Country Man Vol XI No. 7 April 1919. Accessed via GoogleBooks.

[3] Capital Journal, 24 December 1917, page 3. Accessed via Oregon Digital Newspaper Project.

[4]

[5] Ovid Pickard.” History of the Willamette Valley, Oregon Volume II, Chicago: SJ.Clarke Publishing Company, 1927, 474.

[6] “Oregon Cow Wins World’s Record for Butter.” Capital Journal. 24 Dec 1917, pg 3. Accessed via the Oregon Digital Newspaper Project.

[7] Official Catalog and Awards of the Pacific International Live Stock Exposition, 1919, pg 63 Accessed via GoogleBooks

[8] Herd Registry, 1920. Accessed via GoogleBooks.

[9] “Ovid Pickard.” History of the Willamette Valley, Oregon Volume II, Chicago: SJ.Clarke Publishing Company, 1927, 474.

[10] Pacific Homestead April 1927.

[11] Oregonian. 27 August 1983, pg 16.