Paul F. Brattain (1801-1883) ─ The Primary Author of Oregon’s Constitution
During his lifetime, from Indiana to Oregon, Paul Brattain left a unique literary thumbprint everywhere he moved: he drafted four state constitutions.
Through his interest in –and talent for –establishing foundations for new governments, during the 1800s Brattain became a familiar face in the settlement of the West. He filled many prominent official positions including the Constitutional Committees of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Oregon.
A farmer, Brattain was described as “a congenial and honest man, a true neighbor.” He also held the position of County Auditor of Lane County when Oregon was still a territory. In addition, he served as County Agent for Lane County for many years.
Born in North Carolina, Brattain was drawn to the frontier at an early age. As a young boy he migrated to Tennessee when it was a wilderness. By 1816 he had moved toIndiana and helped write that state’s original constitution.In the 1830’s he moved further west to Illinois when it was inhabited largely by Native Americans. At some point, Brattain was asked to help write the Illinois State Constitution, which he did.
Most at home when living was on the edge of civilization, in the 1840’s Brattain and family moved to the broad prairie east of Kensoqua, Iowa. Then in 1852, the Brattains re-located further west and claimed land in Lane County and built a farm in Springfield.
By 1857 Brattain was again drafting a state constitution, this time for the Oregon Territory. That version became official when Oregon obtained statehood two years later in 1859. Interestingly, a full third of it is word-for-word identical to the state constitution Brattain wrote years earlier for Indiana.
Little is known about Brattain’s education or origins. What can be said is that he consistently played a part in the development of the Western Territories in which he lived. He was a man of letters with a penchant for being on the forefront of things.
A sentence from Brattain’s obituary after he died on his farm in Springfield at the age of 92 reads:
“The pioneers of the great Northwest are falling from the ranks of the living one by one, and soon they will be covered from our sight by the green turf, and then we will know them only by their noble deeds.”