Marriage poem for two Oregon couples, and a copy of the poem 'The Owl'


Marriage poem for two Oregon couples, and a copy of the poem 'The Owl'


A short childish poem dated October 4, 1853 about two couples being married, probably composed by Cyrus Walker when he was around 14 years old. The two married couples were: Mary Ann Butts (1836-1896) and Sanford Wilcox (1827-1886); and Nancy Jane Evans (1839-1917) and Levi Whitcomb (1830-1916). Both couples lived near Forest Grove, Oregon, where Cyrus was attending Tualatin Academy at the time. The marriage poem is written on the back of a piece of paper on which a partial copy of the poem 'The Owl' appears (an anonymous published poem from the early 1800s). Cyrus Walker was the oldest son of the early Oregon Territory missionaries Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker. He grew up at Tshimakain in the 1830s-40s, where he learned the native Spokane language. After joining the U.S. army during the Civil War and then attempting to make a living as a farmer, he became a teacher at the Warm Springs Indian Agency. A collection of his papers was donated to Pacific University by Betty Thorne, a descendant of the Walkers.

Is Part Of

Cyrus Walker Binder 2





Donated by Betty Thorn, Walker Family descendant.



Other Media

Julia Jopps
Died 2/5/1886

The most authoritative source on illnesses and deaths at the school in my opinion is the "Sanitary Record" ledger, which I believe was compiled by Dr. Coffin. The ledger entries there appear to have made on a daily basis by a medical professional, so they were less likely to have transcription errors or errors in medical diagnoses. Unfortunately, these entries only begin in the Fall of 1884 and they end in 1885. 

The "Vital Statistics" table looks like it was compiled from other sources in the Spring of 1887, and then logged periodically after that. All of the handwriting for entries 1-21 or so on the list (dated 12/1883 through 3/1887) are in the same hand, and a few are out of chronological order, indicating that this is a compilation. There are a lot of errors in the student names here, for example: Amma for Emma, Romus for Romulus, Cases for Caesar, and Hunder for Hunter. The cause of death is uniformly given as "consumption," whereas the entries in the Sanitary Record give more exact and varied diagnoses, e.g. scrofula, phthisis pulmonalis, and typho-malarial fever. These factors make this source seems a little less reliable than the Sanitary Record. There are also inconsistencies between the date of death in this record vs. other primary sources. For example, in this record Eunice Madge James' death date is given as Dec 2, 1883; but we have confirmation from both the School Roster and Mary Richardson Walker's diary that she died on June 23, 1884. On the other hand, this table includes the time of death, which would be a strange thing for someone to invent, so the author must have been copying down data from somewhere. 


“Sanitary record of sick, wounded, births, deaths, etc. at Indian Training School, Forest Grove, Oregon,” handwritten ledger (1884-1885), Records of the Chemawa Indian School, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75, National Archives and Records Administration (Seattle).

"Vital Statistics 1883-1889." [NEEDS MORE COMPLETE CITATION.] Records of the Chemawa Indian School; Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; National Archives and Records Administration (Seattle).  

Forest Grove Indian School roster - annotated transcription in Google Sheets

Maxwell Taylor, Arthur. "Tradition to Acculturation: A Case Study on the Impacts Created by Chemawa Indian School upon the Nez Perce Family Structure from 1879 to 1945." Loyola University Chicago: 2010.
This is a student thesis paper written by a descendant of alumni from the school, focusing on the experience of Nez Perce children both in Forest Grove and at the school's later location in Salem. 


There sat an owl in an old oak tree
Whooping very merrily
He was considering as well he might
Ways and means for a supper that night
[He looked?] about with a solemn scowl
Yet very happy was the owl
Tis in the hollow of that oak tree
There sat his wife and his children three

She was singing one to rest
Another under her downy breast
[Be]gan his voice to learn her song
The third (a hungry owl was he)
Peeped slyly out of the old oak tree
And peered for his dad and said 'your long'
But he hooted for joy when presently he saw
His sire with a full-grown mouse in his claw
Oh what a supper they had that night
All was feasting and delight
Who most can chatter or cram they strive
They were the merriest owls alive

What then did the old owl do
Oh not so gay was his nest 'to whoo'
It was very sadly said
For after his children had gone to bed
Strange wild fears perplexed his head
He did not sleep with his children tree
For truly a gentleman owl was he
Who would not on his wife intrude
When she was nursing his infant brood
So not to invade the nursery
He slept outside the hollow tree

So when he awoke at the fall of the dew
He called his wife with a loud 'to whoo' 
Awake dear wife it is evening gray
And our joys live from the death of day
He called once more and he shuddered when
No voice replied to his again
Yet still unwilling to believe
That evil's raven wing was spread
Hovering over his guiltless head
And shutting out joy from his hollow tree
Ha ha they play me a trick quoth he
They will not speak - well well at night
They'll talk enough, I'll take a flight
But still he went not in nor out 
But hopped uneasily about

What then did the father owl
He sat still until below
He heard cried of pain and woe
And saw his wife and children there
In a young boy's captivity
[Copy of the poem stops here; the original has 13 more verses]

Married Oct 4, 1853 Miss Mary Ann Butt to Mr Lanford Willcox, also at the same time, Miss Nancy Jane Evens to Mr Whitcomb. 

Two girls at a time
Is equal to a dime.
So says I.
For I am by. 
For Mr. Wilcox
Is worth one pox.
Mis Mary Ann Butt
Will live in a hutt
Miss Nancy Jane Evens
Will live in the heavens.
Mr. Whitcomb
Is and says He's come.