Thursday, October 14, 2010

Searching for Daniel Pumpelly

Note: This entry was first posted in my Embryo blog 10/14/08

A few weeks ago I had never heard of Eola, Oregon. And, judging from the responses of my friends, neither had anyone else around here. So I was surprised to learn that during pioneer days an effort was made to establish the state capital in Eola.

Since moving to Oregon City a year and a half ago, I have been on a quest to determine if any of my relatives made it across the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. One possibility was brought to my attention by my brother Ray. A pioneer by the name of Daniel George Pumpelly left Missouri with his wife and children in 1862 headed for Oregon. According to the 1870 census, they made it to Eola in Polk County.

I have written elsewhere about my ancestors, specifically the Pumpellys, but my focus right now is on Daniel, his wife Julia Sears Pumpelly, and their eight children: Zanetta, James, Barnard, Amanda, Marcellus, Jemima, Emma and Selena. I am trying to determine when they arrived in Eola as well as where and when they died.

I started by doing what any diligent 21st century researcher would do: I googled Eola. It still exists, six miles west of Salem, near a ninety degree turn in the Willamette River known as Eola Bend. The current population is 61, up from 47 in 2000. I checked mapquest and downloaded a satellite image. It looks like a trailer park. Wait a minute! Did they have trailer parks in 125 years ago, or maybe the covered wagon equivalent?

My first question concerned the origin of the name of the town. I have heard the story of a place called Enola, in Clackamas County, which lies just north of Zigzag River and west of Devil Canyon. The name Enola was made by spelling Alone backward, named by a homesteader who had a home that was quite isolated. I wondered whether Eola was Aloe in reverse.

Actually, the village of Eola was founded in 1851 by A.C.R. Shaw, famous for moving the first flock of sheep across the Oregon Trail. But he didn’t call it Eola. He called it Cincinnati. Apparently, the town’s appearance on the bend of the river resembled, in his mind, the city by that name in Ohio. Another famous pioneer, Abigail Scott Duniway, taught school in Cincinnati in 1853.

The town was platted in 1855 and the name changed to Eola when it was incorporated by the territorial legislature on January 17, 1856. The name comes from Aeolus, god of the winds in Greek mythology. An influential local music enthusiast, Lindsay Robbins, disliked the name Cincinnati and offered the new name because he was fond of the Aeolian harp. As plans were being made for Oregon statehood in 1859, an effort was made by local residents to establish the state capital in Eola.

Source: Oregon Geographic Names, 4th edition (updated 1974, original 1928), by Lewis A. McArthur.

For an interesting article on the Aeolian harp, go here:

Click here to hear an Aeolean wind harp:

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