Pengra, Byron J.

From Lane Co Oregon

Pengra, Byron J. or Bynon John Pengra (1823-1903)

B.J. Pengra came to the area in 1853.[1] Miss Agnes Stewart lived with the Pengras during the school term of Springfield's school.

The Briggs family ran the mills smoothly until 1865, at which time they sold the operation to a local consortium of prominent businessmen, led by Byron J. Pengra. The enterprise was renamed the Springfield Manufacturing Company (Clarke 1938:10-27).

That same year, he also purchased the Springfield townsite from Elias Briggs. An attempt was made by another group of local investors to build a woolen factory at Springfield in 1865. It was to be called the Springfield Woolen Manufacturing Company. Although capital was raised and construction planned, the venture never went beyond setting up an eight-horsepower carding machine in a building once used as a cabinet shop. Farmers were invited by the owner, Charles Goodchild:

to inspect the new machinery and to patronize the proprietor for the sake of home industry and to save themselves the inconvenience of sending their wool out of the county to be carded (Lomax 1941:301-303). The two-man operation lasted only a short time before being purchased by the Pengra brothers in 1873. The machinery was sold to Drury S. Stayton, who started the woolen mill in Stayton, Oregon (Walling 1884:453).

An active Republican, Pengra established the first Republican newspaper in Oregon in 1858, and called it the People’s Press. He was appointed Surveyor General of Oregon in 1862. He initiated the building of a military wagon road up the Middle Fork of the Willamette River.

In 1870, Bynon Johns Pengra, the Surveyor General of Oregon, was brought to Central Oregon for the building of the Central Oregon Military Road. He homesteaded land northwestern corner of what was later to become the La Pine area. The intended purpose of the military road was to serve as a supply line for troops stationed in southeastern Oregon. However, miners and settlers became the most valuable function.

Charlotte and B.J. divorced on June 11, 1887. In 1897, the Rosland post office was established on Pengra’s land to accommodate the other homesteaders and squatters’ prior to the Homestead Act. The town site of Rosland was established in 1900 and took its name from the post office on the Pengra ranch. He died on September 18, 1903 in Coburg.


The Republicans, April 19, 1860, again nominated David Logan for representative in Congress, chose T. J. Dryer, B. J. Pengra and "W. H. "Watkins for presidential electors, and adopted in substance the platform of 1859, except that the Seward instructions were omitted and a strong protest against the Dred Scott decision was added. [History of Oregon By Carey, Charles Henry] p 640.


To digress a moment from consideration of the Villard activities, two other transcontinental railroad projects which claimed attention while Willamette Valley rivalries were at their height were proposed by W. W. Chapman, pioneer lawyer and surveyor-general for Oregon in President Buchanan's administration, and B. J. Pengra, an engineer who was surveyor-general during President Lincoln's term. Chapman proposed a line up the Columbia River to The Dalles and thence to a junction with the Union Pacific Railroad at Salt Lake.

Pengra had a practical scheme for a connection with the Central Pacific Railroad near Winnemucca, Nev., by way of Southeastern Oregon. This line would have crossed the Cascade range by the pass known as the "Middle Pork," of the Willamette, surveyed by Lieutenants Williamson and Abbot in 1853, connecting with the Willamette Valley Railroad system at Eugene City.

Byron J. Pengra's son was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Springfield. He was married to a "Charlotte Emily Pengra. [History of Oregon By Carey, Charles Henry] p 697.


[edit] Tombstone

On a marble pillar about a foot and a half tall were written these words:

Son of B.J. & C.E.


"Suffer little children -[to]- come unto me,

and for -[forbid]- them not, for of -[such]- is the

Kingdom of Heaven"

[edit] Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley Oregon, Illustrated, page 1294

Mr. Pengra was born in Genessee county, N. Y. February 14, 1823, and after his father's death removed with his mother to Eric county, Pa., remaining there until after her death. From Illinois he crossed the plains in 1853 locating on a claim seven miles east of Springfield, Ore., where he farmed and raised stock for several years. A man of broad education and journalistic ability, he established the first Republican newspaper in the State of Oregon at Eugene in 1860, and which was known as the Oregon State Journal. He was a presidential elector at the time of Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 and served as surveyor-general during the administration of the martyred president. In 1866 Mr. Pengra moved to the site of Springfield. He was one of the pioneer developers of the town, opening flour and saw-mills, and purchasing surrounding farm-lands on a large scale. After a number of years of successful operating he bought a large stock ranch where he remained several years, and died at the home of his son near Coburg, Ore., September 18, 1903, at the age of eighty years. Seven children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Pengra, of whom Stella M. is the wife of George W. Larson [sic; should be Larison], of Reading, Cal.; Avery W. died in infancy; Ella V. is the widow of James Walker of Hazeldale, Lane county, Ore.; W.J. and G.B., twins, the former living near Coburg, Ore., and the latter died at the age of ten years; Bell, the wife of S.T. Black, a farmer of Grass Valley, Sherman county, eastern Oregon; and Anna, the wife of Rev. C.M. Hill, pastor or the Baptist Church at Oakland, Cal. Mrs. Pengra has contributed to local papers and is a woman of superior culture and refinement. She is prominent in the Baptist Church, is a teacher of the bible class in the Sunday school, and has always given generously to church and charitable organizations. She is living on the old family homestead, in Springfield, which has been the family home since 1866.

[edit] Daily Eugene Guard, Saturday Evening, September 19, 1903


B.J. Pengra Died This Morning Near Coburg

Prominent in Politics and Famous for Trying to Promote Railroad Schemes in Oregon

B.J. Pengra, well known throughout Oregon as a politician of the early days, railroad promoter, and businessman, died near Coburg this morning.

He passed away at 12:30 o'clock at the home of his son, who resides near Coburg. He was 80 years, 7 months and three days old.

The funeral will be held tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock from the residence of his son. Brief ceremonies by Rec. J.C. Richardson will be conducted. Interment will be made in Laurel Hill cemetery near Springfield.

B.J. Pengra came west to Oregon with the 1853 arrival of immigrants. He became prominent in politics in the late '50s and is famous as the first Republican in the state. County Judge H.R. Kincade, ex-secretary of state, was associated with Mr. Pengra in politics and to a Guard reporter this morning he outlined the ambitions and achievements of the old pioneer.

"Pengra drew attention when in 1858 he was an elector for Lincoln and Hamlin, the Republican for president and vice-president. He was a thorough Lincoln Republican and was the first speaker to canvas the state for the Republican ticket. He was successful in his vigorous work and was elected elector and carried the vote of Oregon to Washington, and helped elect Lincoln. He then returned to Oregon and engaged in the political senatorial fight when Col. Baker of California, was a candidate from Oregon. He was practically boss of the state politics and it was his influence which elected Baker. As the regard Baker gave him the office of Surveyor-General. Joel Ware was one of his clerks at the time. This office he held for a term and them went to the legislature.

"In Salem, Pengra was the moving spirit of the movement to unite the Douglas Democrats and the Republicans. It was a fine bit of work and kept him in the lead. In the legislature he was a dominant spirit, stubborn and immobile, ready to fight any and all kinds of opposition and generally triumphed, as long as he kept his endeavors confined to Oregon.

"But Pengra wanted greater things. In 1870, when the transcontinental railway had been finished, he saw that the state of Oregon was soon to have a railway extending from San Francisco to Portland. It was already built as far as Salem. Pengra secured the military road grant from Eugene south through Southeastern Oregon and it was his ambition to direct the railway over his route. But the Oregon and California company had their own route and fought Pengra to the bitter end, and finally securing the vote of congress to establish the route as it stands at present.

"The news almost made Pengra crazy and he wrote a terrible letter for publication, challenging Senator Williams to a duel, and making all kinds of threats against his opponents. He brought it to the Oregon State Journal for me to print, but I refused. He would not speak to me for seven years.

"Later on Collis Huntington had a quarrel with the O. & C. and was on the point of aiding Pengra with a competitive road, and even went so far as to build a road from Woodburn to Natron. He then sold out for a million and a half and quit. The blow upset Pengra and he was committed to the insane asylum for a year.

"Pengra was a forceful character and has done great good to his chosen state."

[edit] Daily Eugene Guard, Saturday Evening, September 19, 1903 page 1

Funeral Largely Attended

The funeral of B.J. Pengra, the deceased pioneer, was held this morning at 10 o'clock from the residence of his son near Coburg. Rev. J.C. Richardson conducted the brief ceremony and the burial took place in Laurel Hill cemetery, near Springfield. A large concourse of friends of the deceased attended the funeral and followed the remains to their last resting place.

[edit] Related Articles

William J. Pengra v. J.F. Munz

[1] Dr. Silvy Kraus. Lane County Historian. "The Saga of Springfield." Lane County Historical Society. Vol. XV, No. 2, Summer 1970, printed in Eugene, Oregon. p. 23.

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