Daniel R. Christian III (1818-1891) ─ Early Oregon Pioneer who settled on a land claim in Eugene
The Christian family embodies the journey West. At rest here is Daniel R. Christian III whose home is the oldest in Eugene. Now it’s an historical landmark.
The known history of the Christian family originates with Daniel R. Christian I. He was born in Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark in 1762 and immigrated to North America with his parents. At age 14, Daniel served on the American side during the War for Independence in 1776.
Captain Daniel Christian II was born in Boonsboro, Maryland in 1787. In 1810 he married, and fought in the Maryland Militia during the War of 1812. Daniel R. Christian III was born in Maryland in 1818 and spent many years traveling the world on his father’s ship as first mate. A young man, Christian III married Catherine Etnyreon August 8, 1839 and started a family. In 1848 Daniel and Catherine moved their growing family to “Locust Hill” in the Illinois Territory (near modern day Mt. Carroll.)
The next year Daniel’s two younger brothers, Jacob and Joseph, returned from the gold fields of California with the sum of three thousand dollars each. They shared stories of the Pacific Coast that intrigued Daniel. He Daniel R. Christian III’s Marker sold his farm and most of his effects and began making preparations in 1851 for the six-month trek across the plains. The Trans-Continental railway was still a decade away.
In 1852, the couple and their five children left Mt. Carroll to join a 100-wagon train in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Their eldest child was 12, the youngest was two with Catherine expecting their sixth. Behind ox team and with two milk cows doubling as draft animals, California was the intended destination. But plans changed when the caravan reached the divide. Cholera outbreaks were ravaging streams of more than 20,000 emigrants who, that year alone, trod West along the level banks of the Platte River. A gentleman in their party named Masters was on his second journey and persuaded the leaders to head to Oregon instead.
Daniel and Catherine initially lived in the area that is now Hillsboro, Oregon. In 1853 they moved to Eugene and settled a 160 acre homestead located immediately south of present-day12thAvenue and Pearl Streets. A farmer and carpenter, Daniel harvested wheat from what is now 10thAvenue in downtown Eugene to 19thAvenue.The Christian family also helped others to harvest their wheat.In an era when Eugene had no banks, Daniel loaned money person-to-personto other early pioneers so they could establisha farm or a business of their own.
“For years after the incorporation of Eugene as a town, the Christian’s great farm lay on the immediate outskirts of Downtown Eugene. The hum of the thresher was within hearing distance of the County Court House,” wrote his granddaughter Irena Dunn Williams in 1910.
Catherinepassed at age 69 on June 24, 1889. When she died, Dunn Williams recalled, “Dear Grandfather was so bereft. He was like a helpless child, but mourned silently. He lived a little less than two years after her death. We cherished their memories tenderly. Grandfather died March 17, 1891 at age 73.”
The Christians were a remarkable pioneer family whose lives reflect the history of the era. Fortunately Daniel Christian frequently recounted his early years as a pioneer to relatives. Grandson Frederick Dunn Williams wrote of a conversation he had toward the end of his grandfather’s life.
“He said: ‘The time will come when the era of the pioneer movement across the Great American Desert to the Oregon Territory will be as remote from our descendants as our pilgrim days from us. The generation of pioneers is rapidly becoming extinct. Soon it will be impossible to hear from their own lips such narratives as the resume of experiences of this family.’”
Today, the descendants of Daniel R. Christian III are among the staunchest supporters of the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery Association. Their records and financial support preserve voices from pioneer days so that current generations may appreciate all that has transpired since that time.
DEATH NOTICE -̶ Daniel R. Christian III (Eugene Daily Guard 21 March 1891)