Nesmith, James Willis, 1820-1885

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1820-07-23
Death 1885-06-17

Biographical notes:

James Willis Nesmith was born July 23, 1820 in New Brunswick, Canada. He arrived in Oregon in 1843 with pioneer missionary Dr. Marcus Whitman. Nesmith held several public offices, including provisional government supreme court judge, state legislator, captain in the Cayuse, Rogue River, and Yakima Indian Wars, U.S. marshall, superintendent of Indian affairs, and U.S. senator.

From the description of James Willis Nesmith papers, 1845-1885. (Oregon Historical Society Research Library). WorldCat record id: 32652354

Documents concerning a proposal to create a new county in Oregon called Nesmith County, 1911. James Willis Nesmith was the second US Senator elected from Oregon, serving 1861 -1867. He was also elected to the US Congress in 1873 and served until 1875. He served both houses of the legislature as a Democrat.

From the guide to the Proposals of Nesmith County, Oregon, 1911, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

United States senator from Oregon.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Washington, to James Speed, Attorney General, 1865 Dec. 23. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270611443

James Willis Nesmith was the second US Senator elected from Oregon, serving 1861 -1867. He was also elected to the US Congress in 1873 and served until 1875. He served both houses of the legislature as a Democrat.

From the guide to the James Willis Nesmith correspondence, 1867-1874, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

From the guide to the James Willis Nesmith legal document, August 7, 1865, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

From the guide to the James Willis Nesmith account book, 1867-1871, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

From the guide to the James Willis Nesmith print block and broadside, circa 1820-1885, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

James Willis Nesmith, a lawyer, rancher, and important Democratic political figure in Oregon, was born July 23, 1820 in New Brunswick, Canada. He grew up in Maine, the son of Irish immigrants who suffered financial misfortunes. He attended school in Ohio, lived for a time in Iowa, then came to Oregon with the Applegate wagon train in 1843. Settling at first in Oregon City, he served as a judge under the provisional government from 1845-1846, and member of the Provisional Legislature in 1845. He married Pauline Coff in 1846 and took a donation land claim on the Rickreall River in Polk County. He served in the Yakima Indian war of 1855 and was promoted to Colonel. He held the office of U.S. Marshall, 1855-1856, and Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1856-1859. In 1860 he was elected U.S. Senator and served in Washington from 1861 to 1867. He was a "war Democrat," although he later opposed the Republican program for reconstruction. After returning to Oregon, he was elected to Congress in 1873 to fill the remainder of the late Joseph Wilson's term. Serving until 1875, he retired to his Polk County ranch. After suffering a debilitating stroke in 1884, he was committed to the state asylum in Salem and died at his ranch the following year.

From the guide to the James Willis Nesmith papers., 1845-1961, 1845-1885, (Oregon Historical Society)

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Subjects:

  • Government and Politics
  • Indians of North America--Government relations
  • Indians of North America--Wars
  • Yakama Indians--Wars, 1855-1859
  • Pacific Coast Indians, Wars with, 1847-1865
  • Pioneers--Diaries
  • Flour mills
  • Agriculture
  • Politics and politicians
  • Politics and government--Oregon Territory
  • Military
  • Oregon
  • Political Campaigns
  • Overland journeys to the Pacific
  • Indians--Warfare
  • Rogue River Indian War, 1855-1856
  • Indians of North America
  • Bannock Indians--Wars, 1878
  • Politics and government
  • Indians of North America--Oregon--Wars
  • Pioneers
  • Overland Journeys to the Northwestern United States
  • Agriculture--Oregon
  • Ranches--Management

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • Oregon Territory (as recorded)
  • Polk County (Or.) (as recorded)
  • Oregon--Ellendale (as recorded)
  • Polk County (Or.) (as recorded)
  • West (U.S.) (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • Oregon--Polk County (as recorded)
  • Ellendale (Or.) (as recorded)
  • Oregon National Historic Trail (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • Oregon Territory (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • Rickreall (Or.) (as recorded)
  • Oregon Territory (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)