Justin Chenoweth papers, 1848-1898  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Chenoweth, Justin, 1825-1898
Justin Chenoweth papers
1848-1898 (inclusive)
0.45 cubic feet (1 document case)
Collection Number
Mss 237
Handwritten diary, letterbooks, and documents relating to Justin Chenoweth's travel to Oregon and work as a surveyor, mail carrier, and justice of the peace in Oregon and Washington Territory, primarily from the years 1848 to 1862. Includes family correspondence.
Oregon Historical Society Research Library
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Born in Clark County, Illinois, in 1825, Justin Chenoweth received an education in civil engineering, and employed his skill as a surveyor for public and private purposes in the Oregon Country. Chenoweth worked officially along the West Coast as a United States surveyor for the Vancouver land office, and also surveyed land in Portland, and in Wasco County, where Chenoweth Creek bears his name.

Justin Chenoweth traveled to The Dalles, Oregon in 1849 as a civilian member of the First U.S. Mounted Rifles, and found work in Linn City as a teacher. In Oregon City, he served as clerk of the Oregon Territory, as territorial librarian, and as a schoolteacher. His diary and first letterbook recount some of that time.

Chenoweth settled on a claim west of The Dalles, where he married Mary H. Vickers in 1852. He served as justice of the peace, superintendent of schools for Skamania County, Washington Territory, and as a mail carrier, ferrying mail across the Columbia River between The Dalles and Cascades. The Chenoweths had four children. His wife Mary passed away in 1862. Justin Chenoweth died in Portland in 1898, where he had made his home for some years. He and his wife are buried at Pleasant Hill cemetery, near Sherwood.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection includes the diary and early Oregon correspondence of Justin Chenoweth (both originals and transcripts), pioneer and surveyor, and chronicles his work and family life during the years 1848-1860. Included in the diary and in additional pieces are accounts and receipts. Legal documents feature Chenoweth's work as a justice of the peace, and family land claims and transactions. A file containing microfilm of Wasco County land plats and townships was later added to the collection.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library before any publication use. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Justin Chenoweth Papers, MSS 237, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The collection is divided into the following series:

  • Series A: Diary, 1848-1852
  • Series B: Correspondence, 1849-1860
  • Series C: Documents and general materials, 1850-1898

Acquisition Information

Gift of Clyde B. Aitchison, 1946.

Processing Note

Typescripts of letterbook correspondence are arranged and filed separately to provide reference copies of originals. Documents and general materials are now sorted by subject.


Genealogy- Chenoweth Family Vertical File, Oregon Historical Society Research Library McArthur, Lewis A. and Lewis L. McArthur, Oregon Geographic Names, seventh edition. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 2003.

Related Materials

Overland Passages: a guide to overland documents in the Oregon Historical Society, entry 36

Chenoweth, Justin. Wasco County, Oregon Land Survey of 1872. Cartographic atlas, maps collection, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Chenoweth, Justin Papers, 1832-1948. Ax 123. Special Collections, Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene.

Genealogy- Chenoweth Family Vertical File, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series A:  Diary, 1848-1852Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Handscript leather bound diary of Justin Chenoweth includes financial accounts. It commences with a narrative account of a trading trip from Darwin, Clark County, Illinois down the Wabash, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers with brothers Robert and Charles and continues with a very brief account of travel from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (June 4, 1849) with the U. S. Mounted Rifles, to Oregon City, Oregon (November 15, 1849). The diary concludes with Chenoweth's early experiences in Oregon, including work as a school teacher, mail carrier and surveyor in Linn City, Oregon City, Cascades, and The Dalles.
Diary (typescript)

Series B:  Correspondence, 1849-1860Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Bluegreen print wallpaper-covered compilation of handscript letters. Follows Justin Chenoweth's journey from to Oregon. Correspondents include Wilson P. Blain, C. M. Chenoweth, John Chenoweth, Maria Drake, Virginia Drake, James Durham, W. B. Hudson, A. L. Lovejoy, B. C. Pratt, Major R. B. Reynolds, Albert Shaw, and Thomas Smith. Ends with poem, "Hail! all hail! the plow!" by Justin Chenoweth, July 1850.
Restricted due to condition-- please use typescript copies.
1849 March 29-1850 July 23
Letterbook (typescript)
1849 March 29-1850 July 23
Brown paper-covered handscript letterbook on blue paper. Correspondents include M. H. Barnhart, Nathan Benson, D. P. Bradford, Emily Chenoweth, John Chenoweth, L. P. Chenoweth, Nathaniel Coe, C. B. Culver, John Ferguson, Mary A. Friar, G. G. Johnson, W. S. Ladd, Sarah Perry, D. J. Schuebely, Albert Shaw, S. R. Thurston, Captain J. O. VanBergen, William Welch, W. B. Wells, and Angeline White. Includes several sonnets to Mary [Friar], 1851, and letters to the editor. Restricted due to condition-- please use typescript copies.
1850 August 13-1860 February 9
Letterbook (typescript)
Typescripts -- Typescript copies of letters from the 1850-1860 letterbook.
1850 August 13-1860 February 9
Letters to Justin Chenoweth
Correspondents include M. R. Hathaway, G. W. Johnson, A. Lee Lewes, Dan F. Radford, and J. Quinn Thornton on topics ranging from surveying to matters relating to Chenoweth's civil duties.
Letters to Justin Chenoweth (typescripts)

Series C:  Documents and general materials, 1850-1898Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Accounts and receipts
Accounts and receipts (typescripts)
Docket of cases handled by Justin Chenoweth as Justice of the Peace, Territory of Oregon, Clackamas County. Includes case of the alleged murder of an Indian at The Dalles by George Mace.
Docket (typescript)
Land claim documentation
Documentation submitted by Justin Chenoweth regarding his land claim in The Dalles, Oregon (1860) and his father's (John Chenoweth) Bounty Land Claim for service in the War of 1812. Typescript and photocopies of documents from the National Archives.
1860; 1897-1898
Land claim documentation (typescript copies)
1860; 1897-1898
Memorandum of agreement
Memorandum of agreement between F. A. Chenoweth and Cornelius J. Palmer, and other papers relating to property in Cascade, Washington Territory, "destroyed by Indians."
Memorandum of agreement (typescript)
Notice: Skamania school district boundary
Given by Justin Chenoweth as Superintendent of Schools, Skamania County, Washington Territory, for School District Number 3.
Notice: Skamania school district boundary (typescript)
Miscellaneous: notes, recipes, draft of love letter
Miscellaneous: notes, recipes, draft of love letter (typescripts)
Contains two reels - one of Wasco County plats, and one of a Wasco County township atlas.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Oregon
  • Oregon National Historic Trail
  • Overland journeys to the Pacific
  • Pioneers -- Oregon -- Correspondence
  • Pioneers -- Oregon -- Diaries
  • United States - History -- War of 1812 -- Land grants

Personal Names

  • Chenoweth, Forrest A., 1858-1926
  • Chenoweth, John
  • Chenoweth, Charles
  • Chenoweth, Justin, 1825-1898 - Correspondence (creator)
  • Chenoweth, Justin, 1825-1898 - Diaries (creator)
  • Chenoweth, Robert
  • Palmer, Cornelius J.

Family Names

  • Chenoweth family

Geographical Names

  • Skamania County (Wash.) -- School District #3 -- Boundaries - 1862
  • West (U.S.) -- Description and travel
  • West (U.S.) -- History -- 1848-1860

Form or Genre Terms

  • Bookkeeping records
  • Diaries
  • Dockets
  • Legal documents
  • Letters
  • Microfilms
  • Poems
  • Receipts
  • Recipes