This hand-typed document bound with metal brads and missing large chunks of pages was recently donated to the Willamette Heritage Center (2015.036.0005).  It was written by Brevet Brigadier General Thomas Jones Thorp in 1914 and tells the story of Joseph William Yates (1834-1925), who came to Oregon on the Oregon Trail in 1852 and fought with Captain Jonathan Keney’s Company of Linn County Volunteers during the Rogue River Indian War of 1855.  This transcription was made by Sandy Bond, preserving original grammatical context.

Quick Facts: Joseph William Yates

Birth: 26 Feb 1834, Tennesee

Death: 12 January 1925, Linn County, Oregon

Father: Nicholas Yates

Mother: Sarah

Wife: Martha Jane Robinett (1837-1918)

Immigration to Oregon: 1852

Marriage: 25 Jan. 1856, Linn County, Oregon

Buried: Oakville Cemetery, near Shedd, Linn, Oregon


William E. Yates (1856-1924)

Calvin W. Yates (1858-1938)

Walter E. Yates (1860-1941)

Fred Yates (1866-1949)

Mina May Bell Yates McConnell (1910-1958)

A Sketch of the Life of Joseph Yates


Thomas J. Thorp, Late Colonel
1st N.Y. Dragoons and Private
Brig. Gen. U. S. Volunteers

Corvallis, Oregon
November 25, 1914

Corvallis, Benton County, Oregon
From 1834 to 1914

Mr. Joseph Yates is a descendant of heroic Revolutionary Stock, being a grand son of Hayes and Yates of English origin.  He was born in Green County, Tenn. In the year 1834 and is one of 15 children in a family of whom Nicholas and Sarah Yates were Parents.

Revolutionary ancestry gives to every American Citizen who possesses it, the most enviable celebraty he can hope to attain.  We cannot honor, we cannot exalt, the heroism of our Revolutionary sires, save by becoming in Personal character and in public as well as in private life, all that our ancestors made us capable of being as citizens and as men.

The Stock from which Mr. Yates inherited his love of country, love of liberty and law, his spiritual conception of the laws of God, constitute the bed rock of his manhood and made possible his self-development and practical education as one of the best citizens of his State.

His deathless love and devotion for the career of his ancestors who contributed their military services under Washington for the emancipation of our Colonies from the thraldom of British Imperial Rule gives to us the key to his motives which later prompted him to take up arms and give battle to the barberous tribes in Oregon when life, property, and civilization were in peril.

Mr. Yates is one of the early settlers and pioneers who helped to lay the foundation of constitution  go….(missing )... Pacific Coast when Oregon was the undeveloped rose in the …(missing) …ness.  He supplemented the work of his heroic ancestors wh….(missing)…the fury of battle for the independence of their country by ….(missing)…ing the highway for liberty and constitutional government in …(missing)… Western borderland of the British Empire, known as the Territory of Oregon.  The sentiments and principles which were inherited from the builders of the Republic gave an impulse and activity to the young Yates of ninteen summers and let him to set his beardless face towards the setting sun and join the ranks of the mighty crusade which settled for all time the boundary line of our republic on the North which was in dispute with England.  This saved three stars for our Flag, now represented by Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Mr. Yates Voyage across the trackless wilderness was undertaken in the early spring of 1852, with a large company of pioneers who met and overcame the obstacles of a wilderness two thousand miles wide, broken by mountain chains and crossed by perilous unbridged rivers, in the face of difficulties not surpassed by the hosts of Ancient Israel in their exodus from Egypt to the Land of Canan.

The dauntless courage displayed by the men night and day as they rode or walked guarding the stock from prowling bands of wild Indians seeking booty from the caravan composed of scores of loaded wagons attended by a large moving heard of stock, was a sample of personal prowess only equalled by the noble women who rendered matchless service in every branch of work, herding stock, caring for the sick, cooking rations, and not only women, ….(missing)…less than a dozen years of age filled responsible, ….(missing).…whom Miss. Martha Jane Robinnett, managed and drove a team …(missing).… with supplies and other equipment of the domestic department ….(missing)….upwards of two thousand miles,nor is that all of the interes ….(missing).… record of that fearless child.  She finally became the wife of Mr. Joseph Yates in the year 1856, a woman of rare good judgement, whose amicable and spotless life has made a heaven on earth for her devoted husband and her distinguished sons and daughter who have honored her name and made her old age as sacred as it is venerable and beloved.  Such a career of Christian motherhood is unsurpassed by the glory and splendor of the gifted examples of our Christian civilization.

The Village of Portland was the Mecca to the pilgrims whos weary feet could take little or no rest as their money and domestic resources were exhausted they must seek employment among those who had preceeded them and secured a foothold on the public domain and made a beginning in the wilderness.

Mr. Yates, without a dollar or a dime, accepted work at once for whatever consideration was offered and by wise plans and good judgement he commenced to lay the foundation for his future home and family in the Territory of Oregon in the year of 1852.

It is well to remember that the advent of the early settlers of Oregon was at a period when the brutal materialism of the native barbarians was as dense and dark as the midnight of Roman despotism in Ancient Gaul.  The five years following 1852 are the years which developed the true character and tested the moral fortitude and valor of Young Yates, who found himself surrounded by a new environment, new social and political conditions …(missing)… and development of which he must now take an active …(missing)… people who, like himself, are struggling to secure and build homes two thousand miles from the seat of that civilization…(missing)… gave them birth and the protection of an established government.

Henceforth they must create and furnish, not only local regulations for primative society, not yet organized as a State, but they must be prepared at all times to defend their homes, Hamlets and Towns from the threatened recurrence of the perils that gave the distinguishing die of savagery and barbarism inflicted upon the first settlers, known as the Cyuse Indian War prior to 1950.

Let it be remembered that the whole Territory of Oregon was infested with roving bands of Indians armed with guns, the tomahawk and scalping knife and such other destructive weapons as they were able to pillage and plunder from the defenseless homes and hamlets which they had sacked with all the horrors of barberous war against a people living in this region remote from and beyond the reach of the strong arm of a protecting government.  Add to these threatining perils the constant struggle to acquire means to build a home upon the first land which Young Yates had been able to pay for by the ceaseless industry of his naked hands, employed at common labor during all seasons of the years 1853 and 1854 and we have a comprehensive view of his heroic life from 1852 to 1854.

It was the good judgement of Mr. Yates that resulted in the exchange of one horse and three head of cattle for 80 acres of land in 1854.  Although the land was without improvements or timber with which to fence or build a home upon it, nevertheless it was good land in what was known as Linn County and served …(missing)… for other and more important real estate transactions …(missing)… followed and laid the foundation for his success as a citizen and ranchman of Oregon.

Mr Yates built his first home on lands located near the present village of Brownsville, lands which he had taken in exchange for his 80 acre purchase, paying a considerable margin of difference in the value of his new location, upon which he commenced to develop the surroundings of a substantial settler and citizen of responsibility.

It is doubtful if there was a citizen of Linn County who knew as many of the early settlers as Mr. Yates.  His cordiality, his frank, out-spoken sentiments, his generous hospitality, have him the friendships and confidence of all the people, many of whom he had either assisted in their struggles or worked for them for wages as his only means of securing money with which to pay for the lands he had purchased and for their improvement.

At 80 year of age, Mr. Yates can without a record to prompt his vivid memory, call the roll of all the early settlers of the great central portion of the Willamette Valley.

His honesty and integrity was known of all men and constituted a passport to the ranks of homes of the best citizens of Oregon.

For a score of years Mr. Yates had taught music to classes organized during certain portions of the year when ranch work could be laid aside without loss to the people.

The personal qualities and characteristics of Mr. Joseph Yates were the determining factors which led to his selection as a Lieutenant by the territorial Governor and assigned him to duty with Captain Jonathan Keney’s Company of Linn County Volunteers for the Rogue River Indian War of 1855.

The Rogue River Tribe was as powerful as the were …(missing)… and destructive.  They had swept the region, killed …(missing)… and burned every home between the Rogue River Valley and …(missing)… Valley of the Umpqua, leaving only the stockade standing at …(missing)…, which was heroically defended by the small garrison of …(missing)… settlers to whose rescue and support the volunteers were hastening in the Autumn of 1855.

The first encounter and battle with the barbarians was fought with great sutbbornness at Hungry Hill by the volunteer forces aided by the regular U. S. Troops.  The Indians were driven with many killed and wounded from their position at Hungry Hill which is eight or ten miles from the field Headquarters and stockade on Grave Creek.  As soon as the wounded volunteers were removed from the scent of the battle, the troops pursued the indians who had secured a defensive position at Big Meadows some 40 miles southwest from the Grave Cre4ek stockade and general headquarters.  The Battle of Big Meadows was a sever trial of the strength and courage of all the parties engaged and resulted in the complete rout of the Rogue river warriors who fled followed by the U. S. Troops to the Pacific Ocean along whose shore they disbursed in the direction of their natural strongholds in the Rogue River regions.

Lieutenant Yates and the other officers of Captain Keneys Company, brought back their wounded comrads 40 miles through the snow, over mountains and over Indian trails to the Headquarters at Grave Creek stockade.  This campaign against a race of savages closing with the year 1855 gave some assurances that hostilities from the Rogue river indians would not be repeated.  The suffering of the volunteer troops was gery great, from exposure and heavy burdens for want of transportation, long march …(missing)… limited clothing and at times without rations or …(missing)… kind.  The Regular troops, equipped by the government of the …(missing)… States were better supplied with transportation, pack animals …(missing)… better and more equipment than the territorial government would furnish, but with all these hardships and privations the soldiers of the pioneer class in the days that tried the souls and hearts of men made a record that compares well with the heroic spririt of the patriots who fought the battle for liberty and Independence at Lexington.

Returning from the battlefields to their homes and hamlets in the valley the volunteers were hailed with a royal welcome for the great services they had rendered where duty called and honor was won as the defenders of the homes and lives of the pioneers of Oregon.

The government of the United States in after years recognized the great value of the military services of the volunteers under the territorial government and by acts of Congress provided suitable pensions for all the survivors of the Indian wars.  These Acts of Congress providing for the veterans of these wars give character and dignity to that service which laid and defended the foundation of Civil Government and made possible the development of this splendid commonwealth.  The character and fiber of the pioneers of Oregon have been tested by vicissitudes and hardships not surpassed by the early settlers of any other State in the Union.

The year 1856 was the most important and eventful of all the years of the varied and eventful life of Joseph Yates who was married January 24 of that year at the home of the brides parents, Mr. William and Mrs. Hannah Robinett, who owned and …(missing)… their large ranch near Crawfordsville, Oregon.  It will be remembered that Miss Martha Jane Robinnett came to Oregon with her Father and Mother in 1847, and therefore won the honorable distinction of being recognized as among the early settlers of the Territory of Oregon.

Mr. yates was most fortunate in the selection of his bride who belonged to a family of sterling qualities, with a reputation for integrity, thrift and industry not surpassed by the true and tried of Oregon.  The domestic equipment of Mr. Yates was greatly aided by the resolute efforts of his young wife, whose father, Mr. William Robinnett, extended to them the use of such stock as enabled them to make butter and thus secure more domestic comforts from the sale of a surplus that gave courage and hope to these young people who have demonstrated that they were the very salt of the earth.

The home of Mr. Yates near Brownsville was exchanged for a larger and a more valuable farm lands near the villiage of Halsey in the year 1857.  These exchanges of Real estate mark the business qualities of Mr. Yates who saw the future prospects of the surrounding country and did not hesitate to undertake to pay large and even burdensome obligations in cash for lands which he and his industrious wife made productive in grain and such other farm products as commanded a price in the market, especially the wheat product.

While the progress was slow and at times attended with great difficulties, nevertheless there was a preceptable growth and development of a substantial character founded upon the exercise of the rarest good judgement of Mr. Yates, who always aided by the untiring efforts of his wife, who contributed to the building of their fortune and home as important mate …(missing)… entered into the nobelest structure made by human hands.

During more than a score of years the only transportation in all the country was an ox team and not every settler was able to own even such means of reaching the distant market.  It was for years necessary to go to Oregon City to get wheat ground into flour for several years it was 20 miles to the nearest trading point where farm products could be sold or exchanged for merchandise, and trips for such purposes must be made by ox teams.

Posterity will never fully realize the magnitude of the undertaking to build a home in the wilderness, and make it blossom as the rose.  Transportation by river steamers preceeded the construction of the railroads from Oregon City up the river to Corvallis and gave activity to commerce which aided the ranchmen in the development of their farms, giving improved markets for the products of the valley and therefor increased profits to the ranchmen.

Mr. Yates became well acquainted with nearly every section of Linn County, his experience and observation as a ranchman gave him a thorough insight and knowledge as to the quality and productful character of the whole county and enabled him to make a wise selection of land as his final choice for a permanent home for his young and growing family.  With this end in view, he negotiated and perfected and exchange of his property near Halsey for 256 ½ acres of the richest and most productive land in Oregon three miles from Corvallis, situated on the east side and in the heart of the Valley of the Willamette River.

This princly ranch was purchased in the year 186…(missing)… been made into the magnificient home of the Yates family, which Mr. Joseph Yates still owns, without a cloud to his title, he …(missing…) having paid every dollar of indebtedness for the same years ago by the joint efforts of those young heroic people.  It was on this splendid ranch that their family of 5 children were raised and educated as rural citizens of the state.  No part of their domestic, moral, and civic education was neglected.  There was not a branch of farm work left unmastered by the four sons of the family and the only daughter was skilled in all the household duties and her relations and attachment to her mother were not surpassed by the love which Ruth cherished for Naomi in the days of Ancient Israel.  It was during the active years of Joseph Yates’ life that the heavy financial obligations incurred in the purchase of the farm were all paid and fully discharged.

This final homestead of the Yates family was made as prolific and important to them as the stock in a National Bank without a hazard or danger of failure for the ranch never failed to yield an abundant harvest under the wise management and thorough culture of Mr. Yates and his industrious sons.

During al these years since 1868 the ranch has been and still is like an inexhaustable gold mine.  It is a conservative estimate to state that during the last forty years Mr. Yates has produced upwards of fifty thousand bushels of grain of all classes besides sending to the markets large quantities of various other farm products including wool, fatted cattle, sheep, swine, poultry and dairy products, which enabled him to meet all of his financial obligations without a single default of any kind.  Mr. Yates is neither a miser, nor sordid in his sentiment …(missing)… manhood before money and God before mammon in all of his dealing with his fellow citizens.

The education of his children has been the mainspring of his motive to struggle for his family, exclaiming in the joy of his noble heart “That he would aid his children to obtain an education if he died a pauper”.

His daughter and every son acquired a liberal education, tow of his sons becoming eminent lawyers, distinguished for their services rendered at the Bar, on the Bench, and in other conspicuous stations committed to their care by the citizens of the State.

The Ranch home of Joseph Yates is a model of comfort, the dwelling and all other buildings and improvements are of the best modern equipments including the abundance of all kinds of fruit that the human heard could wish—all of which gives the evidence that no man excelled Joseph Yates in his generous provision for the home comforts and domestic wants of his family.  During all of his active life he has been diligent in business, therefore in harmony with the Divine Maxim, “He shall stand before Kings”.

During the last 50 years, Mr. Yates and his generous wife have contributed large sums of money for building churches in each of the localities where they have lived.  These gifts in money and labor to the M. E$. Church of which they are honored members would purchase a good farm in Oregon.  They have given hearty support to every great reform measure, including prohibition and the bestowal of full and equal citizenship upon the women of the State.

The political sentiment and principles of the whole family is Republican, therefore devoted advocates of …(missing)… of the States from 1861 to 1865 and heroic followers of our immortal Lincoln, whose life and character they hold in veneration and esteem only second to their homage for Washington, the founder and builder of this republic.

No personal interest, however great, prevented Mr. Yates from taking an active part in public matters.  No convocation of the people to consider matters for the general wellfare found Mr. Yates absent.  No gathering of the people to take action for the commemoration of any great event found Mr. Yates absent or idle.  The people not only expected his presence but requested him to entertain the audience with music from his sweet violin of which he is no ordinary master, and the first or last he must make a speech of the Yates Character, distinguished for that natural eloquence which was enjoyed exc3edingly by all the people who know the history of Oregon with which Mr. Yates is the best informed citizen now living in the State.

For several years last passed, Mr. Yates has rented his ranch for a cash income sufficient to give him and his wife every comfort that heart could wish.

The rollcall of the household of Joseph Yates is interesting and discloses the remarkable fact that they are all living and surrounded with all the evidences of prosperous conditions as the result and fruit of the matchless career of the members of this renowned family.

Miss Mina May-Bell Yates.

Mr. Calvin W. yates

Mr. Walter E. Yates

Hon. William E. Yates

Hon. J. Fred Yates.

This brief sketch of the life of Joseph Yates leaves him and his beloved wife living in the City of Corvallis, in a beautiful home next to and in the shadow of the stately hospitable residence of his son Judge Yates and from whose beautiful wife Mrs. Lucy Yates, they receive that tender care and solicitude for their wellfare, composing a masterpiece of domestic splendor not excelled by the glory of an Autumnal Sunset.