John Spencer Papers, 1831-1964  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Spencer, John
John Spencer Papers
1831-1964 (inclusive)
3 containers., (1.25 linear feet of shelf space.), (55 items.)
Collection Number
Cage 581
Diaries, 1858-1881; correspondence and miscellaneous papers, 1840-1877, all related to farming on the Oregon frontier, work as a school superintendent, and service as a Methodist clergyman.
Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

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

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

John Spencer was born at Clove Creek, Huntingdon County (later Blair County) on April 17, 1802. In his journal, Spencer wrote of a conversion experience that he had in February 1823, in which he decided to become a Methodist minister. He began to preach in 1826. On February 8, 1832, Spencer married. He and his wife, Julia Ann, lived in western Pennsylvania, western Virginia, and eastern Ohio. John Spencer became Presiding Elder of the Ohio District of the Pittsburgh Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1840s. John and Julia began their family of nine children while living in the Upper Midwest. By the early 1850s Spencer yearned to cross the continent to Oregon Territory and work in his church's missionary district there. Elders, though, denied his request because of his obligations to his wife and children. Spencer eventually resigned his post in Beallsville, Ohio. He and his family and others travelled cross country to Oregon, arriving in Portland on Novmber 10, 1852. John Spencer took up his claim to land in Yamhill County, thirty miles southwest of Portland, in January 1853. There, near Lafayette, he and his boys constructed a log cabin. They sowed and harvested red and white wheat, and oats. They also planted an orchard of apple and peach trees. Spencer built a new home on his claim in 1865. He served a two- year term as superintendent of schools for Yamhill County, beginning in July 1866.

In 1872, after their children had reached adulthood, the Spencers sold their claim to their son-in-law Stephen A. Young. They moved to a new home that they built in nearby McMinnville. There, John Spencer served as postmaster from 1874 to 1880. While John Spencer was not a paid minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church's missionary district of California and Oregon, he did serve the church by occasionally conducting worship services, and performing weddings and baptisms. He was also a regular contributor to the periodical entitled "The Pacific Christian Advocate." In May 1871, John and Julia Spencer travelled by train to Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to visit friends they had not seen in nearly twenty years. They financed the trip from donations collected during lectures that John gave about life in Oregon. He and his wife returned to the Pacific Northwest in October. It appears that John and Julia Spencer lived into the 1880s. Their dates of death are unknown. Below is a list a vital statistics of the Spencer family as assembled from the daily journals.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

John Spencer's daily journals present a chronological record of the events of the lives of an Oregon pioneer and his family. They cover every year from 1857 through 1880. There is also a final entry in in the 1880 volume for New Year's Day 1881. There are a few irregularities in how Spencer arranged his entries. These are noted below in the container list. Spencer included a wide variety of types of information in his daily log. It included farm records describing crops he sowed, when he harvested them, their yields, and his income. He also wrote of his activities as a Methodist minister and his own spirituality as a Christian. He described in detail physical ailments of his family and the quality of his own health. Finally, Spencer wrote of his views on topics such as temperance, slavery, and the successes of the Republican party in the 1860s and 1870s. The remainder of the collection is miscellaneous papers and correspondence. It includes a few sermons that Spencer authored, receipts for expenses, and incoming and outgoing correspondence. In this last category, letters from the 1830s and 1840s become important additions to the journals. Also, a letter from Cose and Cooke, dated June 28, 1852, discussed how and why the Spencer family decided to settle in Oregon. There was no particular filing arrangement for the items in Series 2. These miscellaneous papers were scattered indiscriminately among the leaves of Spencer's journals. The Libraries has foldered them alphabetically by document type.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item Description]. Cage 581, John Spencer Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

John Spencer's Daily Journal, 1858-1881Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
Daily Journal
1 2
Daily Journal
1 3
Daily Journal
1860-March 3 1961
1 4
Daily Journal
March 4 to December 31 1961 (marked 1858, entries for January 1 to February 27 are from 1858)
1 5
Daily Journal
1 6
Daily Journal
1863-1864 (marked 1863)
1 7
Daily Journal
1 8
Daily Journal
2 9
Daily Journal
1867 (originally marked 1865)
2 10
Daily Journal
2 11
Daily Journal
2 12
Daily Journal
2 13
Daily Journal
2 14
Daily Journal
2 15
Daily Journal
2 16
Daily Journal
2 17
Daily Journal
1879-January 20 1880
2 18
Daily Journal
1880-January 1 1881

Miscellaneous Correspondence and PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
3 19
Campaign Square, Republican Ticket
3 20
Certificate, Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers Elwin Spencer Greer
3 21
Envelope and Calling Card, Capt. W. V. Spencer
3 22
Handbill, Republican Ticket, Pierce Co., Wa. Terr.
3 23
Handbill, Temperance Reform Ticket, [Yamhill Co. Ore.]
3 24
Leaflet, Service and Lesson Leaf
3 25
Letter, C. Black to Rev. J. Spencer
April 6 1843
3 26
Letter, W. Cose and C. Cooke to Bro. Spencer
June 28 1852
3 27
Letter, J Drummond to Rev. J. Spencer
July 1 1873
3 28
Letter, F. G. Evans to Rev. Jno. Spencer
June 16 1840
3 29
Letter, Philip Greene to John Spencer
April 3 1847
3 30
Letter, Wesley Kenney to Bro. Spencer
June 20 1831
3 31
Letter, W. Kenney to John Spencer
April 24 1872
3 32
Letter, B. C. Lippincott to John Spencer
February 6 1866
3 33
Letter, J. K. Miller to Bro. Spencer
June 12 1867
3 34
Letter, John Spencer (Grandpa) to Elwin Spencer Greer (Win)
June 29 1877
3 35
Letter, John Spencer to William Spencer [father]
November 29 1839
3 36
Letter, John Spencer to William Spencer [father]
February 4 1840
3 37
Letter, W. V. Spencer to Cornelia J. S. Greer
Feb. 12 1892
3 38
Letter, Wesley Smith to John Spencer
December 26 1839
3 39
Miscellaneous Papers
3 40
Newspaper Clipping, The Christian's Home
Feb. 9 1867
3 41
Newspaper Clipping, Francis Henry, Pioneer Bard
3 42
Newspaper Clipping, Scandalous Politics
3 43
Newspaper Clipping, A Surprise
3 44
ca. 1830s
3 45
Paper, The Difference [Union Sunday School]
3 46
Paper, Doggerel Alphabet No. 3
March 1 1860
3 47
Receipt, Knapp and Grant, Merchants
June 29 1867
3 48
Receipt, Post Office Supplies
March 2 1878
3 49
Sermon Text, 1 John 3:2
3 50
Sermon Text, 2 Peter 1:5, Olympia
March 22 1868
3 51
Tract, Shall We Have the Maine Law Am. Temperance Union

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Campaign literature -- 19th century -- Specimens
  • Diaries -- 19th century -- Archives
  • Farms -- Oregon -- Yamhill County
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Oregon -- Yamhill County
  • Sermons, American -- 19th century -- Specimens
  • Personal Names :
  • Spencer, John, 1802-1884--Archives (creator)