'Open letter to Harvey W. Scott,' on prohibition and Cyrus Walker's life story
In order to bolster his case Walker provides testimony from his own biography, highlighting details that intersected with Scott's life. Some details include: their shared history as students at Tualatin Academy in Forest Grove in the 1850s; Walker leaving school to become a farmer; Scott visiting Walker's homestead in Umatilla County; Scott becoming the first graduate of Pacific University; Walker's disappointment that Clark opposed prohibition; Walker's earliest memories relating to liquor in the 1840s at his family's mission in Tshimakain contrasted with Oregon City; Walker joining the "Temple of Honor" temperance society and the Good Templars; voting for Lincoln and his thoughts on Republicans vs. Democrats; Walker being the first from his county to enlist in the Union Army in 1864; joining the federal Indian Service and working at the Warm Springs reservation in the 1870s-1890s; voting for earlier prohibition measures in Oregon; joining the Patrons of Husbandry (also known as The Grange) in 1873; his hopes for Scott to have a change of heart.
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. These letters, documents and clippings shed light on his experiences as a missionary, a soldier, a pioneer and a teacher at Warm Springs. This collection was donated to Pacific University by Betty Thorne, a descendant of the Walkers.
Is Part Of
Open letter to Harvey W. Scott
Editor in Chief of The Oregonian
Nearly 50 years ago we were students together in Tualatin Academy and Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon. I give you credit for greater mental powers, but in some things I had the advantage.
My home was near the College buildings, and my parents were very anxious I should be a college graduate and study for the ministry and though in but moderate circumstances and with other sons and a daughter to be educated, were willing to give me the best opportunities, as I was their first born.
You were wiser then than was I, for in the spring of 1859 when just ready to enter the regular college course, I foolishly gave it up and before my [marriage?] settled down to be an Oregon farmer, it being my ambition to excel in that direction. Even along this line I can now see how a college course would have been of incalculable benefit to me, for in the place of being an ordinary plodding farmer I might be in the higher ranks of scientific farming, able to do better for myself and to advise other, and with more confidence and clearness to discuss on this [illegible].
You were compelled to “carve” your own fortune, and I admired your pluck and perseverance never more so than when in the summer of 1863, you spent a few days with us at our cabin home on the upper waters of Birch Creek, Umatilla Co., this state. As you were returning to the Willamette Valley, after having spent several months in the [Pacho?] mines whipsawing lumber, in order to get means to pursue your studies.
When these were completed you graduated with highest honors and the first to graduate from Pacific University. Rec. S.H. Marsh D.D. [President of Pacific University] and Rev. Horace Lyman [a professor] were our instructors in the college [---?]. Both held [illegible]. Studying law under our former beloved teacher and the principal of Tualatin Academy, the late lamented Judge E.D. Stattuck, you prepared yourself for a journalistic career.
Through all these years I have watched your upward career with interest, often contrasting your successes with my failures, but always glad to see you rise to eminence. Gladdened when you have assailed the wrong with your powerful pen, saddened when the same was used against what I deemed necessary to promote righteousness, temperance and happiness; in no instance more so than when you have showed sympathy for the liquor traffic. The Oregonian under your editorial management is held largely responsible by the temperance advocates for the defeat of the Prohibitory amendment to our constitution in 1887, and now we find it opposing the Local Option bill. When we take into consideration the great change in public sentiment concerning the liquor traffic from what it was seventeen years ago, and that local option is not so drastic a measure as absolute prohibition, we have good reason to believe what the Oregonian says regarding this bill will not have the same effect as its arguments in 1887. You know as well as I this law will have no force until a [majority?] [many?] so oppose it as [illegible] against the American [illegible] that this majority shall rule. The temperance question is not now confined to the moral and philanthropic only, but has reached the commercial stage also.
Taking the railroads as one instance we find that out of about 1,200,000 railroad employees in the United States, near 800,000 are under absolute prohibition, being forbidden to drink liquors either on or off duty, and not to frequent gambling houses or haunts of vices. On every hand there is a fierce hate setting in against the licensed saloon, and it will find vent for itself at the ballot box in increasing force and numbers.
I am sorry to know that some of my brothers of the cabins of the Oregon Native Sons are among the leading liquor dealers, and are opposing Local Option. Loyal to them in other things I cannot be in this, and here we must be antagonists.
It is needless to say that we learn by experience. This in our lives has taught us many valuable lessons. We have grown wiser with advancing years. You have learned wisdom mainly perhaps from life’s successes, I from its failures. The ideal wisdom is given in the scripture which says “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” [James 3:17].
This kind I have earnestly desired and sought after. Whether I possess it in a larger degree than yourself must be decided by other tribunals than our own hearts. Guided by its commands I could not but oppose this liquor traffic as the greatest enemy to the home, the church, the state, and nation.
I knew not what strong drink was in the earliest years of my boyhood and not until after the Whitman Massacre in 1847 that broke up the missionary work in our several stations, among them the Spokane Mission, and my parents found a home in Oregon City in 1848 and 49, did [I] know of such an evil. What I saw in those years of its effects, made me its lifelong enemy.
In 1857 before I was 19 years of age I [rented?] at Forest Grove, Ore. with a temperance society known as “The Temple of Honor”, the only one organized in Oregon, [like?] the Odd Fellows and kindred organizations, & [our?] membership was composed of men only but with a lodge for women like to the Rebecca degree or Eastern Star [i.e. the women’s counterpart to the Masonic Temple].
Mainly out of the Temple of Honor grew the Good Templars, who gave women the same rights and [illegible] as the men. Of this order I soon became a member and an active worker. So I very naturally fell into line in later years with the Prohibition Party.
In my later boyhood I was told that the Democratic Party was the whiskey party, and for a time I believed it. Hence it was easy to follow the example of my father and vote the Republican ticket. The first ballot I cast was in Washington County this state in June 1860. My vote helped to elect Hon. Addison C. Gibbs, known to history as Oregon’s War Governor. I twice voted for Lincoln and am a Lincoln Republican yet, and firmly believe were he alive he would be a prohibitionist.
When the call was made for volunteers in the fall of 1864, I was the first to enlist in Washington Co. Was mustered in as 1st Lieut. Co. B., 1 Oregon Infty. at Salem, Dec 26, 1864. What I saw of drinking while in the army only intensified my hatred for intoxicating liquors.
Being mustered out July 23, 1866, I returned to civil life and took up the fight for temperance under the Good Templar banner. Under its teaching, I fast unlearned the lesson I had been taught regarding the Democratic Party [section crossed out: was any more one of whiskey than was the Republican, so that], and by 1870 I scratched my ticket preferring to vote for a temperance Democrat [scratched out: in preference to] rather than a whiskey Republican. This practice, I kept up; at one time in the 80s voting for a Democratic nominee for Governor.
I seemed to inherit a missionary spirit, so when called in 1877 to the Indian Service at Warm Springs Agency, that noble man under Captain John Smith who for about 18 years was Indian Agent, I gladly helped him and others that succeeded him in the missionary work, though done by a church denomination to which I did not belong [i.e. Presbyterian; Cyrus was a Congregationalist]. The Indians’ love for fire water is proverbial. I [illegible] every opportunity to warn them against it. During the 15 years of my sojourn I [illegible] that Agency, most of the time employed in the Government Service, either as clerk, teacher or as in the last three years, as Supt. of the Agency Boarding School, I kept constantly in mind the councils of my par[ents?], and especially of my heroic mother; I could not do wrong with her [illegible] virtues ever in mind. I tried then and during these later years to make amends as much as possible for the disappointment I brought to them in [crossed out: abandoning the college course] not following their wishes regarding [my?] education [illegible].
For many years I have studied the liquor problem, looking at it in all its phases, calmly and [crossed out: as dispassionately as possible] as impartially as possible and believe prohibition as set forth in our party platform is the only certain and practical solution of this far-reaching question. Moral suasion has not done it. License high or low has not and cannot do it. As I look back through the years, I call to mind many a number [of] men with high attainments, heroes of the pioneer days, [crossed out: and otherwise of excellent character] whose minds became clouded and who went down to an early death through strong drink. So have fallen some of my comrades in arms and also school mates, some yours as well as mine. I would gladly avenge their deeath upon this cruel monster, and shall continue to battle against [liquor?] as long as life lasts, though I hope to see national prohibition secure before I die.
In 1887 I voted in Crook Co. for the constitutional prohibition amendment. It seemed strange to see that county and Linn, both largely Democratic, give a majority for the amendment. Linn giving over 900, while the adjoining county of Marion, largely Republican gave about 800 against it. The then Republican leaders can tell better than I why it was so. [Crossed out: I have been told the reasons but will not give them now only] Wondering when I see some leading Democratic papers favoring the Local Option law, while some leading Republican [newspapers] are opposing it. Whether or no the same threat that then is said to have paralyzed the last-named party, again brings it into submission.
When I left the Indian Service in 1892, I all the more gladly found a home in Linn County, because of its magnificent record regarding prohibition. Here for six successive biennial campaigns, this year being the last, I have been a nominee at the hand of the Linn Co Prohibition Party, for some high office, willingly accepting the nomination, though knowing I was going down to certain defeat, [while?] by standing by either of the old parties I would most certainly have been elected to honorable, also lucrative, positions.
Joining the Patrons of Husbandry in 1873, I gladly rejoined them in this Co. and for 12 years have found the greatest of pleasure and satisfaction in being ann earnest worker in this grand order. Proud I am to know that our granges at this crisis favor Local Option. It is always a pleasure to work for the uplifting of humanity and in this case to help my fellow farmers to brighter and more prosperous lives.
Much of what I have written of, you were personally knowing to the [illegible], but I give it to refreshen memory, and for helpfulness to others. We have both crossed the summit of life’s mountains and are slowly travelling on down toward that boundless sea, whose surges we can now almost hear. Soon our names will pass into history, yours as a great Oregon journalist, mine as Oregon’s oldest native white born son. Though far from being great I would love to have the thought as I approach the end that I was leaving:
Footprints on the sands of time
Footprints that perhaps another
Sailing oer life’s solemn main
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother
Seeing may take heart again.
May this pleasant thought also be yours.