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Who was John Day?

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Daily Morning Astorian from February 23, 1889 has the answer.


John Day, one of the finest streams of Eastern Oregon, rises in the Blue Mountains and running west and south, empties into the Columbia River some forty miles above The Dalles. John Day was so named after an old trapper, a native of Kentucky, who died at Astoria about a century ago.

Mr. Day was an employee of Mr. Crook of the Northwestern Fur company and who, in company with his employer had crossed the plains along with the first voyagers. Day becoming sick on Snake River about Fort Hall, Mr. Crook refused to leave him and remained by his side some twenty days before he was able to travel. During that time their companions had made such headway that it was impossible to overtake them.

They followed on, but snows over took them and their exposure was terrible. They finally reached Walla Walla. The Indians there treated them very kindly and assisted them on their way. At the mouth of the John Day River they were overpowered by a band of Indians, robbed, stripped and turned loose to starve.

Not even permitted to retain their flint and steel, the mountaineers match, with which the might make a fire to keep warm during the chilly March nights. In this pitiful plight they attempted to get, back to the friendly Walla Wallians and had made about eighty miles along the river, when fortunately they met Mr. Stewart and followers in canoes on their way to Astoria. They took the unfortunate men in, clothed, fed, and carried them down the river.

In June 1812, Robery Stewart was selected to carrry dispatches from Fort Astoria to New York, across the continent. This was a dangerous enterprise and he selected four trusted and well trained men as companions in the voyage. They were Ben Jones, John Day, A. Vallar and F. LeClerc.

The company left Astoria on the 29th of June and on the morning of July 2nd, John Day began to show some strange freaks and in a few days became so crazy that he several times attempted his own life. When they had proceeded as far inland as the stream that now bears his name it became evident to his companions that he would be no better and that thus burdened it would be impossible for them to proceed. They therefore contracted with some friendly Indians to convoy him back to the fort.

His frank, bravo and loyal qualities had made him a universal favorite and it was with the utmost concern and tears of regret that his comrades saw the poor fellow tied in the canoe and carried away. The Indians performed their task faithfully and turned him over to his friends at Astoria. But his mind was completely shattered and his constitution broken and he soon after died, and was laid to rest where the Columbia and Pacific join in singing his eternal requiem. Capital Journal.

The John Day River, in this county, is also named after the same individual, thus making two streams in the same state named the same, and after the same man.
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