"Menzo and Mary Jan Olden, Pioneer Family of 1987" Morrow County Chronicles, Volume VI , 1987
Submitted by Ruth McCabe from Olden History by Charlette Lundell
Morrow County Historical Society
The Memorial Weekend Pioneer Picnic and reunion was hosted by the Olden family on Sunday, May 24, 1987, in the County Fair Pavilion.
The Olden ancestors came from England to New York, then westward through Wisconsin and Kansas to Oregon. Menzo Alfred was born March 8, 1846. He married Mary Jane More on May 31, 1869 in Bloomfield Center, Wisconsin. Their five oldest children were born at Muscotah, Kansas.
This pioneering family decided to move west when the drought and grasshopper infestation occurred in Kansas in the late 1870’s. Menzo and family made the move to Oregon in 1882. They came by train to San Francisco, then by Steamer to Portland—and again by train to Comstock, Oregon. Their sixth child, Jessie Ethel, was born in Comstock. While living there, Menzo worked mainly in logging—hauling logs down from the hills and loading them on flat railcars—using a tall spar-pole derrick about 50 feet tall and a team of horses.
Some time in 1884, Menzo, who wanted to get back to dry-land farming, and knowing there was land available for homesteading in Eastern Oregon, made the trip to Umatilla County, as this area was called in 1884. He was accompanied by his cousins, George and Alby Rugg, who were also in Douglas County at this time. Menzo located land at Fairview--ten miles south of Ione—and the Rugg brothers found land suitable for raising livestock around Nye Junction, near Pilot Rock. Menzo filed on his homestead in the Fairview area and built the first part of his homestead house. He returned to the Valley and moved his family here, sometime in 1885. Lola Eleanor was born the following year, 1886, at the Olden homestead.
In 1887, the Oldens, along with other pioneers in this area, built the Fairview Schoolhouse so that all the children of the area could continue their educations. The older boys in the family split shingles by hand from the roof of this schoolhouse. Menzo was on the Board of Directors for a number of years. Some of the teachers boarded at the Olden home.
Sometime around 1900, Menzo and his sons built the larger part of the Olden ranch house.
There was a traveling minister in those early days that would hold Bible services around the country at different places. It is remembered that one of the places where the families gathered for these services was a big flat rock on which the preacher could sit or stand. This was along the old road on the other side of Rhea Creek from where the highway is located today. Families in the area, when they didn’t meet in their homes, gathered around this rock in their buggies during good weather for Sunday services.
Menzo, wanting his sons to become farmers, helped all of them get started on each of their own farms by loaning them money and giving other assistance. Mary Jane was a caring and compassionate woman to all, especially to her family, working very hard over the years.
Olden – McCabe, ground-powered L.E. Best Jr., combine
harvester. Pulled by 26 horses, taken 1910. Lon McCabe, team driver;
Uncle Jim McCabe, header tender; Herb Olden, machine man; Cousin Charlie McCabe, sack jig; Grant Olden, sack sewer.
Sigsbee Photo, Heppner, Or.
Lola Eleanor married Alonzo McCabe May 31, 1905. Before coming to Oregon, Lon had worked on farms in many parts of the Midwest before heading west about 1903. After arriving in Portland, he was at the Lewis and Clark Exposition construction site, looking for work, when Grand and Herb Olden, sons of Menzo, needing a harvest hand hired Lon and he returned to the ranch with them. After Lon had worked there about 4 years, Menzo rented the ranch to Lon and his bride.
The Olden brothers and Lon continued to harvest together with their stationary threshing outfit and horses. Then about 1910, they bought a new combine--L.C. Best--“Junior” Model, manufactured in California. This was a ground-powered machine that required 16-32 horses to pull it. With this combine, they continued to harvest together for a number of years. Later, they established their own ranches and homes and began farming separately.
Mary Jane passed away in 1908, and Menzo passed away in 1917.
In Morrow County and elsewhere today, this pioneer couple has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family is proud of each and every one of them.
© Morrow County Chronicles 1987
Thanks to Berniece Matthews Thornton for transcribing this article.
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