Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The when and where of Alonzo Marion Poe

The following is a chronology of the life and times of Alonzo Marion Poe who I've written about before.


The energetic Poe in Olympia
about 1855.

Poe moved around ‘Oregon Country’ where he spent most of his adult life and trying to confirm his location at different times is difficult. 

In some cases, it seems he was operating in two places at once. He certainly had assistance from his brother Americus who probably ‘managed’ his land in Bellingham, preceded him to Napa and managed his affairs after his death. 

It is possible that his youngest brother Alexander was in Thurston County in 1853 as he bought a small block on the edge of the city. If so he would have also worked for his energetic brother.

One activity that does not show up in the chronology is his apparently successful export of fruit trees to Canada. When it began and how long this 'side-line' lasted is not clear. His interest in real estate (perhaps learned from his father) continued through his adult life. His interests in 'news' and printing were strong but he was also a politician, 'lawman' and 'civil engineer'.

‘Oregon Country’ was a disputed region of the Pacific Northwest of North America, occupied by British and French-Canadian fur traders from before 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s. Its coastal areas north of the Columbia River were frequented by ships from all nations engaged in the maritime fur trade. The region was divided between the UK and US in 1846.

Map of Oregon Country by Kmusser.

Key events in Alonzo’s life

April 1826 – Born in Clay County (now part of Clinton County formed 2 January 1833), Missouri. He was the second child and first of three sons for William Romulus and Margaret Ann Po(w)e.

April 1845 – Poe leaves Missouri on the Oregon Trail employed with the Lemmon-Walden group which was aiming for the Willamette Valley.

September 1845 – The group arrives in the Oregon Country.

19 December 1845 – Lewis County created as Vancouver County changing to Lewis in 1849.

1846 – Settles in Tumwater, Lewis County (now part of Thurston County).

15 June 1846 - The Oregon Treaty establishes the British-American boundary at the 49th parallel (with the exception Vancouver Island which becomes British territory).

12 November 1846 – Poe submits a provisional land claim for property in Lewis County which he ‘intends to hold by personal occupancy’.

13 June 1847 - Elected sheriff of Lewis County.

The scorecard for the sheriff’s vote.

31 December 1846 - Submits a provisional land claim for property in Linn County.

18 April – 5 July 1848 – Enlists as a private in Captain Burnett’s Company N 1st Regiment of the Oregon Volunteers during the Cayuse War, in Thurston County.

14 August 1848 - Territory of Oregon incorporated into the United States. It includes the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and parts of Wyoming and Montana.

25 June 1850 – Listed in Lewis County census as a farmer.

1851 – Part of volunteer militia to Victoria to rescue sailors captured by the Haida Indians in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

1851 – Listed in Lewis County census of Olympia township as a single person.

June 1851 – Appointed County Clerk of Lewis County.

4 July 1851 – Olympia settler John B Chapman calls for settlers to split from Oregon Territory. Poe elected secretary of a preliminary meeting to form Washington Territory from Oregon.

29 August 1851 - One of twenty-six delegates at a meeting at Cowlitz Landing, Lewis County, to ‘take into careful consideration the present particular position of the northern portion of the territory, its wants, the best method of supplying those wants, and the propriety of an early appeal to Congress for a division of the territory’.


Memorial in Monticello celebrating participants of both the Cowlitz and Monticello conventions. The first is what lead to the creation of the new territory the second garnered popular support.

12 January 1852 – Thurston County created out of Lewis County.

7 February 1852 - A public hearing in Olympia, composed of the citizens of Thurston County and the passengers and crew of the sloop Georgianna, recently returned from Queen Charlotte's Island, elects Colonel M T Simmons as Chair, with D R Bigelow and A M Poe secretaries.

June 1852 – Elected Clerk of Thurston County.

1852 – Appointed Deputy US Marshall.

8 July 1852 - Petition by citizens meeting in Olympia demands the establishment of a newspaper to be called the Columbian and 'neutral in politics and religion, and devoted to the interests of Northern Oregon'. Poe appointed to receive funds.

11 September 1852 – First edition of the Columbian published by T F McElroy and J W Wiley in Olympia aims to create an independent territory and advocates Whig policies. The press was constructed by Adam Ramage and itself has an interesting history.

24 September 1852 – Land claim by Andrew Moses refers to an adjacent claim by Poe near Budd’s Inlet Thurston County apparently not referred to elsewhere.

25 November 1852 - Monticello Convention also produced a memorial to Congress calling for the creation of a new territory north of the Columbia, though it was received after the decision had been made.

22 December 1852 – Island County and Pierce County created out of Thurston County.

2 March 1853 – Washington Territory created with Isaac Stevens as governor.

17 September 1853 – Date of Poe's successful donation claim for 303.25 acres in Bellingham, Island County.

14 November 1853 -  Resigns as clerk of Thurston County.

1853 – Admitted to the Bar as a lawyer [Record to be located].

1853 – May have acquired land in Thurston County.

28 November 1853 - Isaac Stevens selects Olympia as capital of Washington Territory.

February 1854 – State Legislature’s first meeting.

9 March 1854 - Whatcom County created out of Island County. Poe appointed public notary in Thurston County.

September 1854 – Elected to the Territorial Legislature representing Whatcom County as a Whig candidate.

1854 – Appointed Auditor for Whatcom County.

20 October 1855 to 21 January 1856 - Lieutenant in Captain Charles H. Eaton’s Puget Sound Rangers during the Indian Wars raised in Thurston County.

October 1855 - When Lt. McAllister reports that Leschi, chief of the Nisquallies, had decided to fight for his land a small group of men, including Poe and McAllister, to bring Leschi in. McAllister is shot. Leschi is tried and hanged for 'murdering' A B Moses. Leschi was exonerated in 2004, by a special historical court.

1855 - Script Warrant Act of 1855.

11 August 1857 – Poe’s friend Captain Isaac Ebey killed and scalped at Coupeville, Whidbey Island, in Island County, as part of an Indian ‘payback attack’.

Poe’s network included the Independent Order of Oddfellows.

12 July 1858 – Elected surveyor at Whatcom County. He plats Whatcom town and quitclaims most of his land in Bellingham to his younger brother Americus.

1858 - Discontinuation of the land warrant program.

14 February 1859 - The State of Oregon admitted to the Union. The eastern portions of the Oregon Territory, including southern Idaho, portions of Wyoming west of the continental divide, and a small portion of present-day Ravalli County, Montana were annexed to the Washington Territory.

5 April 1860 - Returns Ebey’s scalp to his brother Winfred, after receiving it from Captain Charles Dodd who had purchased it from Indians.

4 June 1860 – Census shows Poe living in Thurston County as ‘Artist’ land ownership indicated.

5 November 1860 – Lincoln elected US President.

12 April 1861 – Civil War breaks out.

29 July 1861 – Founding editor of Overland Press published in Olympia, Thurston County, and its proprietor until 11 August 1862.

6 January 1862 – Elected Public Printer for Washington Territory by the Legislative Assembly. The British Colonist based in Vancouver wrote that ‘Mr Poe received 21 out of 35 votes cast on the fifth ballot. The office is worth about $7,000, and could not have fallen into better hands.’

About 1862 – Dr A G Henry, editor of rival paper The Standard assaults Poe with his cane and threatens him with a Bowie knife following a disagreement over an article. Henry shortly after joined his old friend Abraham Lincoln to become his doctor and political adviser.

Dr Henry after his spat with Poe.
Note that Lincolnesque beard!

11 August 1862 - Overland Press becomes a weekly and Poe assigns his interests to B F Kendall, who being less urbane and fleet-of-foot than Poe was murdered in the Press office the following January.

Saturday 23 August 1862 – Leaves for California to ‘recover his health’.

About 1863 – In Stockton, San Francisco as 'topographical engineer'.

19 January 1863 – Marries Emma M Hartshorn (1829-1872) daughter of Rev Chancellor Hartshorn in Napa, California. Many assume incorrectly that Emma is the daughter of Poe's associate Judge Chancellor Hartson.

21 November 1863 - Appointed enrolling officer for the Union in Napa County California under the Conscription Act.

January 1864 – Daughter Emma Agnes is born.

9 March 1864 – Elected corporal in a Cavalry Company in Napa City.

July 1864 – Tax return shows him operating a news ('intelligence') office and a real estate office in San Francisco.

3 May 1865 – ‘Baby’ Poe dies in Napa California.

9 May 1865 – Proclamation of the end of the Civil War.

1 August 1865 – Death of daughter Emma Agnes in San Francisco.

18 October 1865 – Elected one of two justices for Napa township.

29 January 1866 - Poe dies in Napa, California of ‘inflammation of the lungs’.

April 1966 – Emma returns to her father’s home in Michigan where she remains until her death without marrying again.

May 1866 – Brother Americus commences work of settling his affairs.

11 November 1889 – Washington Territory admitted to the Union as the State of Washington.


An impression of Olympia as Poe would have known it in about 1853.