(This article appeared in Pioneer Trails, Vol 8, No. 1, Fall, 1982, and is available at Heritage Station museum)

Susan Atwood was 16 years old when her father, Colonel Buel Atwood, sent her off to school at Umatilla Landing. For two winters she lived with her sister Phoebe and husband, R. N. Stanfield.

Life was not dull in the frontier community. Dancing was the most popular form of amusement, and to balance a shortage of men, partners were drawn by lottery. The names of the men and the number of designated dances were placed in a hat. On one of these occasions, Susan Atwood drew the name of Oscar Thomson. It was not long before they were a romantic couple.

Thomson came West from Howard County, Missouri in the Gold Rush of 1849. Several years later he arrived in Umatilla Landing where he and R. N. Stanfield engaged in the freighting business, hauling supplies to the gold mines in Baker, Malheur and Grant counties.

May 21,1867, in the little log cabin of her parents on Butter Creek, Susan and Oscar Thomson were married. They moved into a four room house in Umatilla Landing. Susan was not a very good homemaker, as she had been her father's helper while crossing the plains, and at home sister, Phoebe, had helped her mother. A kindly neighbor lady, Mrs. Hays, taught Susan how to cook and keep house. She felt sorry for Oscar after Susan had washed Oscar's fine woolen socks, and they came out of the wash so small Oscar could not get his feet into them.

Susan was an excellent horsewoman, and her favorite mount was a high-spirited sorrel named Selah. Susan and Selah were a striking combination as they rode around the sand dunes of the community. Other women in the town thought they should be allowed to ride Selah, and Susan let them, although she was delighted when the horse dumped the ladies in the sand, and they had to walk home.

In 1868, the sheriff of Umatilla County was seriously injured in a gun fight, and Oscar Thomson became county sheriff. He served the county for two terms, but did not run for re-election in 1872.

In 1871, Henry Clay Thomson, Oscar's brother, came to Butter Creek and settled on some farmland 12 miles southwest of Echo. Two years later he sold his property to Oscar and Susan. Through hard work and a strong determination, the farm produced hay, cattle, horses, hogs and chickens.

There was also a beautiful orchard of apples, pears, peaches and plums; and people came for many miles to buy the Thomson's fruit. Oscar and Susan had eight children: Asa, Lucy (Jarman), Phoebe (Bartholomew), Shirley, Wallace, Allen, Aura (Allen) and David Sloan.

In the Indian uprising of 1878, many people were inconvenienced more than once when rumors spread "the Indians are coming." Traveling was difficult, and whenever word came that there was trouble, the women and children were usually taken to some fortification. On July 3, 1878, the first word of raiding Indians came to the Thomson farm. Oscar Thomson and his father-in-law (Colonel Buel Atwood) had just bought two new harvesters, and the farmers in the area had gathered to see them operated. After a long day, when everyone was preparing to return home, word was received at the Thomson farm of the imminent danger. By darkness there were 28 people at the Thomson's to spend the night. They slept as best they could with the men taking turns at guard, the children at least six to a bed, and the women sleeping where ever they could curl up. In the morning Mrs. Thomson cooked breakfast for all the people. In addition to ham and eggs, she made hot biscuits, and everyone ate heartily. An hour after breakfast at 4 a.m., everyone started for Umatilla Landing. Susan and her family were put on a gun boat and sent to The Dalles. They remained there for a month at the old Umatilla House. When they returned home a delayed harvest was begun.

In 1882, Oscar Thomson sold his cattle and went to California for his health. Susan was left on the farm with the children. The oldest was 12 years of age and the youngest six weeks old.

The family had plenty of provisions to carry them through the winter, and Oscar had left $5 to cover any emergencies.

The original home, built by Henry Thomson in 1871, was a one-room cabin. As necessity arose, other buildings were moved in and added to the main room. In 1902, Oscar built his wife and family a beautiful home. Equipped with all the modern conveniences of the times, the house was a three storied structure, with an open stairway leading from the entry hall to the second floor. To the right of the main entrance was the "parlor." and behind beautiful oak sliding doors was the dining room with plenty of space for the huge oak table. The second floor contained five bedrooms and a sun-porch with a stairway leading to the third floor where there were dormitory sleeping quarters and attic. The home, surrounded with green lawn and beautiful flower gardens was a "show place" on Butter Creek.

Oscar and Susan Thomson farmed the land for 26 years, then in 1909 Oscar (age 79) died of cancer. Oscar was a Methodist by denomination, and many camp meetings were held at his home. He left a legacy to his children of a good and kindly man who believed in being industrious no matter what the circumstances.

Susan Thomson and her heirs continued farming the land, and "Grandma" Thomson became the matriarch of the clan. She took a deep interest in her family's accomplishments, and in her community, state and nation. Many people found their way to her hospitable home for her advice. Her children and her grandchildren remember her coming down the long sidewalk leading from the front door to the yard gate, no matter the weather, to greet them with a smile and a kiss.

Susan Atwood Thomson died at the age of 82 in October, 1934. She saw the country develop from raw sagebrush to well-cultivated and productive land, knowing that her husband, her children and her grandchildren had been responsible for some of that progress. In the fall of the same year, Sloan Thomson (youngest son of Oscar and Susan) and his wife Princess (Peggy) Smith bought his father's and mother's estate from his brothers and sisters.

During the time Sloan Thomson owned the farm on Butter Creek, he had very poor health so his brother-in-law, Jewell Smith, farmed the land, providing a living for both families.

Sloan Thomson inherited the same disposition as his mother, and he was one of the most loved men of his community. He always had a smile and joke for each person he met. Sloan Thomson died of cancer in 1956.

Princess Thomson and her three daughters continued owning and living on the land for the next 12 years, with her brother, Jewel Smith, farming the land. In 1968, Mrs. Sloan sold her interest in the farm to her three daughters, who in turn leased the farm to their nephew Jerry Meyers and his wife, Nancy. Jerry Meyers, the great grandson of Oscar and Susan, bought the ranch 100 years and four months from the date that Henry Clay Thomson purchased the land from the State of Oregon. Jerry Meyers' son John, and his wife Eileen, live on the land and manage the farm. The original home is still on the property, but the home built in 1902 was sold and moved to Echo.

The famous orchards and livestock are gone, but Jerry Meyers and his son still raise hay and grain.

The Thomson farm was declared a Century Farm in 1973 by the Oregon Historical Society and Governor Tom McCall. It is a rich heritage, and one the descendants of Oscar and Susan Thomson do not take lightly.


(This article was written from material furnished the author by the late Phoebe Bartholomew, Mary Sether, Nancy Meyers and Betty Higgenbotham, descendants of Oscar and Susan Thomson with the exception of Nancy Meyers who is a great granddaughter-in-law.)


Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.