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John W. Whiteaker - Eugene Masonic Cemetery - Eugene, OR
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member thebeav69
N 44° 01.845 W 123° 04.462
10T E 494040 N 4875290
Quick Description: This crypt in the Eugene Masonic Cemetery contains the grave of John Whiteaker and family, Oregon's first governor.
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 2/5/2015 6:00:37 PM
Waymark Code: WMNBBZ
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Manville Possum Hunters
Views: 2

Long Description:
Wrap Text around ImageLocated in the heart of Eugene Masonic Cemetery is a large crypt containing the grave of John W. Whiteaker and family, Oregon's first governor. There is a small placard that stands near the crypt and reads:

John W. Whiteaker - First Governor of Oregon - 1820-1902

John Whiteaker moved his family west to Oregon in 1853 and settled on a donation land claim in Lane County. Legend has it that the Whiteaker crypt is in the shape of a Conestoga covered wagon. This could well be since our first governor was also a captain for his wagon train. The crypt is likely of brick construction, but was altered with a stucco coating.

Remembered by his friends as an "honest farmer," Whiteaker actually devoted most of his life to public service. Before being elected governor of the state of Oregon in 1858, he had served as a Lane County judge and as its representative to the territorial legislature. He was not nominated for a second term as governor, possibly due to his pro-slavery views. However, he served in the state legislature and in 1878, was elected to the U.S. Congress.

His most newsworthy accomplishment while serving in Congress was to make the fastest trip across the United States on record. In his Eugene home on March 7, 1879, Whiteaker received a summons to travel immediately to Washington D.C. to assure the election of the Democrats' nominee for Speaker of the House. Known as "John Whiteaker's Ride," he took a train to Portland, a steamship to San Francisco, and a special train from Oakland to the nation's capital, arriving there five days later.

Whiteaker's family was noteworthy for their own accomplishments. John C. and Ann were members of the University's first graduating classes. He became a medical doctor and she an educator. James wrote a book on zoology. Ben was blind and cared for by Ann.

The cemetery has a PDF document on their website that further highlights Whiteaker's life and reads:

John Whiteaker(1820-1902) was Oregon’s first governor. He originally came west to California as one of the “Forty-niners” searching for gold. With his earnings from there he returned east, then brought his family over the Oregon Trail in 1852 and settled in Lane County. Soon active in the Democratic party, he was elected to the Territorial Legislature in 1857, and then governor when Oregon was admitted to the Union in 1859. His nickname was “Honest John.”

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Whiteaker’s pro-slavery position alienated him from a number of Oregonians, and he was not nominated for a second term. But he didn’t retire from politics. He went on to serve in the Oregon Legislature and Senate, and in 1878 was elected to the U.S. Congress. A year later, he capured nationwide attention with what would come to be known as “John Whiteaker’s Ride."

On the night of March 7, 1879, Whiteaker was awakened in his Eugene home by an urgent message from Democratic congressional leaders in the nation’s capital. He was needed immediately in Washington, they said, for his vote to assure election of their nominee for Speaker of the House. He took a train to Portland, a steamship to San Francisco, and then a special train from Oakland to Washington, D.C. He crossed the country in five days — the fastest train trip recorded to that date.

Ironically, it turned out his vote was not essential, as the Speaker had already been elected in a caucus the night before. “The country was safe,” said the New York Times a short time later. “And everything went on just as though he had not spanned the continent in five days, five hours, and eleven minutes.”

But irony was not unfamiliar to Honest John — according to Lane County pioneer son Cal Young, who related this anecdote of 1860s Oregon politics:

When the Legislature adjourned, the senators and representatives would carry away from the building nearly every piece of furniture that wasn’t bolted down. One time, a senator came into a room to find the governor sitting very close to the heating stove. He asked why the governor was sitting there and why he didn’t go home.

“You gentlemen have carried away almost everything from the State House,” the governor replied. “And I am waiting for this stove to cool off so I can take it home with me."

Please read above.

Date of birth: 5/4/1820

Date of death: 10/2/1902

Area of notoriety: Politics

Marker Type: Crypt (below ground)

Setting: Outdoor

Fee required?: No

Web site: [Web Link]

Visiting Hours/Restrictions: Not listed

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