Nuggets of History (Dec. 16, 2021)

The Harms Legacy: John F. and Eveline Harms

John F Harms was born in 1814 in Lancaster County, PA. He married Eveline Mitchell in Scott County, MO on Aug. 28, 1849. Eveline was born about 1831 in Kentucky.

The couple arrived in Oregon 14, 1852, and settled on their claim east of present-day Cottage Grove. They each claimed one half section of land; the south half went to John and the north half to Eveline.

This land is at the intersection of the current Rat Creek Road and Row River Road, most of it now under Dorena Lake, though Rat Creek Road was originally Harms Road and Rat Creek was originally Harms Creek.

Nearby Harms Park was named after the family.

The 1854 Lane County Agricultural Census shows the family living on 320 acres valued at $270. Among assets, they had 18 cows valued at $770, four horses or mules valued at $320 and four sheep or hogs valued at $32.

The census also shows that the family had a male child over the age of 4 at this time, though research has not revealed information on this child.

On Feb. 17, 1854, John Harms had some problems with Gordon McCauley, a neighbor.

John Harms attacked Mr. McCauley with an axe over a land dispute of some kind. Though there are court documents of the event, several pages of the documents are illegible – unfortunate, because those pages speak directly to the charges.

In any case, Mr. Harms was arrested, went to trial and was found guilty of the crime in October of 1854. 

The jury did ask for mercy:

“As the jury found the defendant John Harms guilty

Jeremiah Dodson foreman

But recommend him to the mercy of the court”

A check of the records of the Oregon State Penitentiary shows that John Harms did not go to state prison, although he may have served time at the county level.

Court records do show, however, that he was charged with two payments totaling $234.45, which may have been his punishment.

On May 20, 1861, Eveline purchased the Donation Land Claim of Absalom Alexander, a young man who died just after settling his claim.

Over the next six years, four children were born to the Harms family and by 1870, the Eugene City census showed Eveline and six children living in Eugene.

A daughter was born to the family in 1862, but their second child, Louisa, died at Coast Fork on July 9, 1864.

In total, John and Eveline had eight children.

Their first child, a male, was born after their marriage in 1849 and died before the 1860 census.

Their third child was John William Harms, born Dec. 9, 1857, in Lane County, Oregon Territory and said to be “the first white child born in Cottage Grove,” according to a 1919 Cottage Grove Sentinel obituary for the junior John Harms.

John W Harms’ life and that of his children is relatively well kept in public record.

This junior John Harms married Sarah Louise Waggoner in Cottage Grove Oct. 25, 1876. Sarah was born in Pike County Illinois in 1857. John and Sarah had six children, Orpha Louise, Dessa Aree, Harley A, Horace Horatio, Anna Dora and James R.

He and Sarah divorced after the 1900 census.

The Cottage Grove Leader reported that John W Harms and Mrs. Jennie Eastman were married at the home of the bride in Seattle, Washington on June 3, 1908. The article goes on to say that John was settling up his affairs and was planning to move to Washington.

By the 1910 census, John and Jennie were apparently divorced. The junior John Harms was living in Cottage Grove while he and Sarah (his first wife) were living three residences apart.

John reported that he was divorced and living alone while Sarah claimed she was a widow and had two children living with her.

John then married Emma Faber on July 20, 1910, in Portland.

He continued to live in the Cottage Grove area until his death on Oct. 22, 1919, and was buried at Fir Grove Cemetery in Cottage Grove.

Sarah traveled extensively in Arizona and California for health reasons but died in Eugene, Oregon on Sept. 25 1936, and was buried at Rest Haven Cemetery.

John and Sarah’s children managed to make the newspapers on a regular basis.

Orpha Louise was a cashier at the First National Bank in Cottage Grove; Dessa demonstrated how to make baking powder in Portland for a while, but died in Eugene at age 98; Harley helped build a cabin at the Helena Mines for the Capps Mining Company in 1928; Horace was well known for hybridizing camellia’s and founded the Oregon Camellia Society in 1942.

Horace was also a Portland policeman from 1911 to 1932, when he retired.

Daughter Anna lived in Washington State where she and her husband raised Percheron horses and won awards at the Clarke County Fair in 1915; and James lived in Southern California and held many jobs including truck driver, salesman and embalmer.

John and Eveline’s fourth child, James Henry, was born Apr. 24, 1858, in the Oregon Territory. The 1900 Goshen, Lane County, Oregon Census shows James as a single man, a farmer who could read and write and who owned his farm.

James died March 14, 1909, in Lane County and was buried at Fir Grove Cemetery.

John and Evaline Harms also had a son named Dudley, who was born about 1859-60 in the Oregon Territory. He is shown in the 1860 and 1870 census with his parents but no other credible information on him could be found.

Their sixth child was Eliza Belle, born in 1862, probably in Cottage Grove. Lane County Marriage Records and Thomas and Eliza’s divorce record reports that they married Oct. 21, 1883, in Goshen.

Oregon State Archives shows their divorce in 1890. She married an unknown man by the last name of Smith before 1891 and then apparently remarried Thomas L Dodson Oct. 24, 1891, in Linn County. That marriage record lists her as Eliza Belle Smith. 

Oregon Select Births, 1868-1929, shows the birth of their son Earnest Fred in 1882 in Tygh Valley, Wasco County, Oregon.

Various census records show two other children born to this family, Pearl B born about 1894 and Donna Belle born in 1896, both in Oregon.

Eliza Dodson died in Portland, Multnomah County June 29, 1941.

Next is Mary Elizabeth, said to be born in September 1867, Cottage Grove, Oregon even though she was listed as age 6 in the 1870 census.

Mary married first E P Dodson, Oct. 26, 1884, in Lane County, Oregon; next Edward B. Clements in Linn County on June 8 1892, and then Olaf F Shintaffer on Aug. 6 1899.

The 1900 Clarke County, Washington census shows Mary and Olaf with his daughter Ella M., age 8, Eva E. Dodson, age 14, and a step daughter, and Earnest F Dodson, age 17, a nephew, living in the household.

This family lived in Clarke County, Washington where Mary had an exciting experience. On Aug. 2, 1909, The Oregon Daily Journal reported that: “Hearing a thud of a falling body, Mrs. Olaf Shintaffer … rushed out of the house and near the well she found a rock. Attempting to pick it up, she burned her hands. It was a 5½-pound meteor, which had just fallen.”

Mary died Oct. 5, 1917, in Good Samaritan Hospital, Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon of pernicious anemia.

Nancy Ann, the eighth and last child of John and Eveline, is found only on the 1870 census with her family, age 3.

John F Harms died from a fall in October of 1869.

On July 24, 1870, Eveline remarried to Charles Webber, a physician, born in 1829 in Germany, but by the 1880 census, taken in June, they were divorced.

Eveline died probably before the 1880 census, possibly in Lane County. A thorough check of every 1880 census district in Lane County and did not reveal Eveline’s name and nothing more is known about her.

Source documents for this family can be found in the files of the Cottage Grove Genealogical Society Library.


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