The obituary in the Santa Rosa Daily Republican of February 25, 1890 called him a “full handed” man. The description is apt and his name was William H. Rector. What makes this relevant for the Corban College community is that our land was homesteaded by Rector and his wife Ann in the year 1846. Their deed for 639.12 acres of free land was secured by the Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850.
Just imagine it. The Rectors and their children running up our hillside tending cattle, sheep and hogs 160 ago. Ludwell, Benjamin, John, Volney and Casius helping their father remove Oregon White Oak and then plant, cultivate and harvest wheat on the land headed down towards Mill Creek. Do you think they were kind to the few remaining Kalapuya Indians who had survived decades of illness and would still camp along the creek?
Where do you think the family home that William mentions in his memoirs was built? Was the cabin over near Turner Road on that Oak covered hillside that slopes towards the creek, or do you think it was here – right where Schimmel Hall now sits?
Adwilda, Casius’s two year old twin sister, died in 1849 and eleven year old Casius died in 1858. Do you think they buried the children back in the woods in a quiet shady spot or did they take the time to locate a cemetery that would have been some miles away?
Rector was a very important man during Oregon territorial and early statehood days. Here are some proofs that he was full handed with courage, innovation, determination and calculated risk-taking.
Rector helped Samuel Barlow blaze the original pioneer path from the Tygh Valley to Oregon City in the fall of 1845. What became the Barlow Trail was completed over the next several months and then opened as a toll road.
Rector served in the Third Provisional Legislature in Oregon City where the delegates debated what to do in response to the Whitman Massacre of November, 1847. He also participated in the first few months of the California Gold Rush of 1848.
By 1849, Rector was back up here in Oregon and made the rolling machines and press to mint what was called Beaver Money. These coins were minted because in Oregon there was some two million dollars in gold dust and nuggets that required minting into a tangible and fungible form.
Rector also led in the construction of Salem’s first state capitol building which burned to the ground in the winter of 1855. This was less than a year after the building was completed and it may have been arson fomented by jealous folk from Corvallis who wanted their town to be the state capital.
Consider Oregon’s early wool industry and note the following comment by Judge Matthew P. Deady: “Rector was no ordinary man. Amid the sneers and indifference of the community, he projected and established in 1857 the pioneer woolen mill of the Pacific Coast in Salem.”
The Rectors left Oregon for California following a difficult and acrimonious time after William had served as the Oregon Superintendant of Indian Affairs for the first Lincoln administration. He accused men of ineptitude and unjust and cruel treatment of Indians on the Oregon Coast Reservation and, in turn, others accused Rector of misuse of government money. This subject requires more research, but considering Rector’s reputation and record for diligent work, one can speculate that he was probably more sinned against than sinned.
And so Oregon has turned 150 years old. The sesquicentennial has some real meaning for us here at Corban. The man who homesteaded our land was noteworthy for his drive, determination, mechanical abilities, and true pioneer grit. It seems appropriate to show honor to whom honor is due.