Joseph, Cowboy Veritas

Joseph is born in Clark County, Iowa on September 7, 1849 and travels to Oregon in 1853. He survives the Yakima Indian Wars and life with his not overly fatherly father to become a successful and noted member of Oregon pioneers. My father, Victor La Porte, enjoyed the memories of his grandfather in Unity Oregon and life on the family ranch. As a family we traveled in a rented RV to see our history. The trip was a while ago but certain memories stick out. One was the absolute barren nature of Eastern Oregon. Located in the rain shadow of the Cascades, the area is parched and an unlikely place for cattle ranching. When we finally approached the hamlet of Unity (Population 71 in 2010), I was a bit underwhelmed.

The store in Unity. The LaPorte's were involved in its operation for decades.

The store in Unity. The LaPorte’s were involved in its operation for decades.

It was a short trip to the burial place of my great-grandfather, Joseph. It took quite a while to locate the grave despite the smallness of the graveyard. After clearing the over growth, we found it.

Grave in Unity, Oregon

Grave in Unity, Oregon

The kids were not overly impressed but my father’s eyes were misting over. We then proceeded to drive through the ranch pausing at locations where my father lived in a shack with his mother and brother, Maxwell, waiting for his gold prospecting father to return. We are getting ahead of the family tale. We need to enjoy the full life of Joseph before being diverted.

Joseph’s dad, Samuel finally settled down near Jackson in southern Oregon. Meanwhile Joseph starts his own career. He makes the first cattle drive from Oregon to eastern markets. He and his companions drive 636 head of cattle from the Grande Ronde Valley over the Rockies spending the winter near the Little Snake River. Since this was during the winter of 1875-76, I guess they were lucky to not encounter Custer’s welcoming reception. By the way, Cadiz is also Custer’s and Clark Gable’s birthplace. Back to the drive. 300 cattle are shipped to Chicago and fifty more are sent to New York. According the Oregon Centennial History, fifty more were sent to Liverpool, England. How many miles is that? Eat your heart out John Wayne.

Joseph returns to Oregon in the fall of 1876 and remains there until 1880. Time to settle down. Joseph marries a local gal, Malona Miller in 1879. She had been Oregon born and raised. Her family farm was located on Butte Creek near Jackson  in 1859 to James and Verlinda Miller. James and Verlinda were married in Lee, Indiana in 1852. As we did research in the Southern Oregon Genealogy Library, I met one my distant Miller relatives who volunteered there. He helped us locate Verlinda’s beautiful gravesite under an oak tree on the family farm near Butte Creek.

The newly weds soon relocated in Eastern Oregon in the Burnt River District near the Blue Mountains. Sounds inviting. Actually the region was great for cattle and even greater for sheep. But before he gets serious about cattle again, he will spend six years in the Pocahontas Mines in Baker County and finally started his cattle ranch in Unity in 1886. He was “numbered among the substantial and esteemed citizens of his county.” He will remain on his ranch raising cattle, alfafa and sheep until his death in 1931. His mother Lucinda moves to the ranch in 1894 and lives there until her death in 1901. Oh yes, after Samuel’s death in 1877, she remarried and had another child.

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