Updated July 1996
THE FERGUSONS OF ASTORIA, OREGON
Albert Ferguson, born in 1821, is buried near the Oregon coast in Astoria's Ocean View Cemetery. His wife, Margaret, is buried next to him. Many historical works insure the accuracy of the words that follow. Albert and his son, Edward, were prominent enough to be included in the publication, Western Oregon. The book was a biographical sketch of civic leaders, and was released in 1904. Although Albert died 13 years before the publication of the book, the information could only have come from his own records, or the testimony of his son, Edward, born in Salem, Oregon. The 1904 work was published in Chicago by the Chapman Publishing Company, and states specifically in the preface that "Owing to the great care exercised in the preparation of biographies, the editors believe that they are giving the readers a volume containing few errors of consequence." The book is about the size of the traditional family bible, and is more than one thousand pages. While I have no doubt that the families included paid for copies of the book, it is very different from the "Who's Who," books that require no verification of data. Also corroborating the testimony offered by the book, is the approved application for membership in The Daughters Of The American Revolution, of Albert's granddaughter, Margaret Green. Margaret was my father's first cousin, and a great friend to all of us that knew her. She grew up in Astoria, next door to the house that Albert built on Grand Avenue, in the house that he had built for his only living daughter, Ada, when Ada married John Griffin, of Alexandria, Virginia. Ada was Margaret's mother. I personally spent many hours with Margaret before her death, and can testify that she was dedicated to accuracy in the passing along of family history. Also lending credibility to the information that is contained in this work, is that the Albert Ferguson Home, constructed in 1886, remained in our family's possession until 1934, forty three years after Albert's death.
Similarly helpful, was the patient advice and counsel of Shirley Ferguson Doran, of Charleston, South Carolina. Shirley is the Clan Fergusson genealogist. From her, I learned the valuable lesson of letting facts speak for themselves. At the beginning, I was out to prove what seemed to be desirable, rather than the actual events. For example, it has become apparent that our lines, besides Scottish, are French, British, and German. At the beginning, I guess I wanted it to somehow turn out that we Oregon Fergusons are pure Scots. At the end, I found the truth to be more exciting. Along the way, I also learned that there is no such thing as a Scottish race. All the wonderful people that make up Scotland are as much a result of a melting pot, as are Americans. Scots are a mix of the Scandinavians, but that is only true in recent centuries. Initially, the territory that became Scotland was populated by the Picts the Celts and the Romans. Besides family sources and the Clan Fergusson, come many works provided through genealogy groups, and the Internet. They are listed at the conclusion of this work.
The introduction of the name Ferguson to Scotland came about the eighth century when a gentleman named Fergus sailed over from Northern Ireland, subdued everyone in sight, and declared himself, 'Fergus, King of all Scotia.' He landed up in the Northern Highlands, and all the clan history emanates from that direction. Our family walked through some of the territory that Fergus claimed as his own. He would have been better advised to go farther South before staking his claim, but how could he have known that in the eighth century? As a matter of note, we learned from Sheila Ferguson, the clan genealogist in Edinburgh, that membership was a matter of protection in the beginning, and only over the centuries did a feeling of family, develop. The development of kinship may have been a result of clan children marrying one another, and Sheila mentioned that Ferguson was her family name before she married Mr. Ferguson. The growth of the clan Ferguson (Ferguson. Faquarson, etc) accelerated in the sixteenth century in the central highlands. This would be in the area including Perthshire, Pitlochery and the surrounding area.
Some of the specifics about Albert W. Ferguson reported in that 1904 publication, follow, along with data accumulated in later searches.
1. His ancestor came to Virginia after serving in the Scottish battles against the British. He fled to France, and then to America He lived in Dinwiddie county, Virginia. We have learned that the ancestor was Patrick Ferguson, captured at the battle of Preston, and exiled to Virginia aboard the Elizabeth and Anne on June 29. 1716. Patrick was exiled from Liverpool, and the part about fleeing to France has no verification. This means that Albert Ferguson was a fourth generation Virginian, although he may not have known it. The modern access to information that existed was still one hundred and sixty years away when Albert was born.
Alter landing in Virginia in 1716, Patrick Ferguson married a woman named, Frances. A son, named John, was among the offsprings of Patrick and Frances Ferguson. John was likely born about 1720. and is listed as the Father of Edmond Ferguson. Edmond fought in the Revolutionary War as a member of the Virginia line. Among the children of Edmond Ferguson and Elizabeth Fuqua. was Thomas, born March 5, 1789. Thomas was Albert's Father. Thus, when Albert struck out for the West in 1850, he left behind one hundred and thirty-four years of Ferguson in Virginia history.
2. His Grandmother's maiden name was Red, according to the book, and she hailed from Prince Edward County, Virginia. She is referred to in the 1904 book as being of French descent. The book says that the marriage of Ferguson and Red produced nine children: Polly, Nancy. Judy. Joel, Benjamin, Edmond, Ryan, James, and Thomas, born in 1789.
Albert's Grandmother was indeed of French descent, but her name was Elizabeth Fuqua, born in 1762. She was, however, born in Prince Edward County, Virginia; Perhaps "Red" was a nickname. The number and names of the children were correct as stated in the 1904 book.
3. Most of the children disappeared in history, although it is known that James died as a missionary in Latin America, and that his family moved to Ohio. Albert was told that some of his great uncles returned to Scotland after the British quit searching for the Scottish combatants.
None of this information has been verified, although it may be true, if not exact. For example, Dobson's publication on early ship manifests lists the following Fergusons on the Elizabeth and Anne out of Liverpool on June 29, 1716. Patrick, Albert's great great Grandfather, was on board, along with Donald, Alexander, James, and Lawrence. The Ferguson group may have been related, or even brothers. At this writing, however, it remains part of the puzzle of history. While the Ferguson clan was never large in numbers, it is possible that the Fergusons aboard the Elizabeth and Anne were related only by name.
4. Thomas stayed in Virginia and married Elizabeth Maxey, born in 1794, a descendant of one of Virginia's oldest families. Elizabeth's line goes back to the Sampsons, Byrds, and Rogers, to British aristocracy. His sisters also stayed in Virginia. Thomas and his wife settled in Buckingham County, Virginia.
The part about Thomas' sisters remaining in Virginia does not appear anywhere except in the 1904 publication. There is no reason to doubt the statement, however, because most Fergusons stayed in Virginia. In 1995. it was still the fifth most common name in the Virginia Commonwealth. Thomas died on August 9, 1874, in Buckingham County. Elizabeth died on February 28, 1865, in the same location.
5. Thomas and his wife had six children: Lucy, Mary, Leanna, James. Thomas, and Albert born in 1821. James died at Fort Donnelson during the Civil war, as a captain In the Confederate army. His brother, Thomas, was badly wounded during the war, returned to Buckingham County, but never fully recovered from his wounds. Albert did not serve during the war for a good reason. He left for the West and became part of the famed California Gold Rush of 1849. The Civil War did not start until 1861, twelve years after Albert migrated to the West. According to the 1904 publication, he went west by oxen driven wagon train in 1849, and crossed at the Fremont pass in to California. He worked claims on the Sacramento river for about a year, but left for San Francisco when a fever broke out among the settlers that had the looks of an epidemic.
6 Before his trek West, however, Albert, at a very young age, had moved to Lewisburg, Virginia, (now West Virginia), and become an apprentice in the building trades. It was in Lewisburg that he met his wife to be, Margaret Wetzel, the daughter of George Wetzel, and a descendant of the Lewis Wetzel family. Lewis was a famous hunter and scout, and involved in some of the early Indian wars. Albert and Margaret had three sons, one of whom died at birth, while the other two died of the fever in the Isthmus of Panama when Margaret came West to join her husband. In 1852, they found themselves a childless couple, 3000 miles from home, living in a strange place called Oregon. They had no money, no friends, and no formal education beyond the early grades. They were living in an era before autos, highways, social security, welfare, available medical care, telephones, or electricity. What they apparently did have, was a great deal of self confidence, likely stemming from Albert's early training at building skills, and his experiences gained during many months on the trail, and in the prospecting camps. His skills were supplemented by Margaret's, who descended from one of the toughest families in Virginia. In other words, Albert and Margaret Ferguson were survivors.
7. Albert had made the trip to Oregon from San Francisco, California, on a small steamer. According to Albert, the trip up the Pacific Coast took a month. The little ship ran in to a terrible storm at the mouth of the Columbia river, and came across the bar with, "All hands lashed to the rigging." The Columbia river bar is one of the world's most treacherous, with more than a thousand vessels listed as sunk while attempting to cross. This author has had the dubious distinction of crossing in rough seas. My trip, however, was aboard a modern fifty-two foot boat designed for the open seas. One can imagine the thoughts of early settlers being thrown about as they took the dangerous trip to the safety of the bay aboard vesse1s of those times.
8. Albert worked the following year in Astoria and Portland, then moved to the Rogue river area, where he returned to mining. He decided to move back to Northern Oregon, however, when the Rogue River Indians took to the warpath. That was to be his last mining attempt. In 1852, he started a window and door factory in Salem, and from that day on he was a successful business owner. It is likely not a coincidence, that it was In 1852 that Margaret joined him after her terrible ordeal on the way West. Both of their lives took a magical swing upwards when they were reunited. For example, during the next ten years they had six children: Hope Belt, James Ernest, Fidella Wetzel, Edward Zest, Lulu, and Ada Parrish.
Neither Albert nor Margaret had much in the way of formal education. Margaret's hand writing, and command of English, was very basic. Albert must have had better training, because he entered in to business transactions of large amounts shortly after reaching the Northwest. Because he left rural Virginia at age fifteen, it is not likely that a great deal of emphasis had been placed on Albert's education. It is reasonable to believe that Albert was diligent about continuing education because his offspring were aware of its value.
The four boys were born in Salem, while the two girls were born in The Dalles. Albert and Margaret moved to that area to open a three story planing mill in a partnership with Louis Pope. Along with his business interests, Albert served two terms as Sheriff of Wasco County. What is remarkable about Albert, is that his health started failing when he was in his early thirties, but he went on to start businesses, sire children, move to new areas of Oregon, and devote thousands of hours to the Masonic order He had to be a person of unusual tenacity. The book in 1904 says that Albert was bedridden for most of the last seven years of his life, and yet the fine home constructed in 1886 on Astoria's historic Grand Avenue, was completed only four years before his death in 1891. It is probable from the descriptions of the time, that Albert suffered from progressive Arthritis. Without any of the pain relief agents that are now plentiful, Rheumatoid Arthritis would be quick and painfully debilitating.
9. Albert moved back to Astoria from the Dalles in 1876, but as stated, was forced to retire in 1884. It appears that he and Edward were in business together, both being described as architects and developers. James Ernest, who was also listed as an architect, probably also worked with his family. Albert started life as a Baptist but became an Episcopalian along the way. He was a staunch Democrat, but obviously of the Southern wing. Two of his brothers were in the Confederate forces during the Civil War, after all. He died on Feb. 25, 1891, and was followed by Margaret, Mar. 25, 1895.
In our possession is a letter from Margaret to her family, the Wetzels in West Virginia. It was written from Lexington, Missouri in 1849, shortly before Albert began his trek to the West. In it, Margaret talks about Albert coming home at night from his labors to find her crying due to poverty, health, and loneliness. Albert had constructed the dwelling that they occupied in Lexington, Missouri, but it sounded like little more than a lean-to. She quotes him as saying, "Don't worry Meg, it won't always be like this". One can't help wondering if the classic home completed in 1886 on 17th and Grand Avenue, was not the fulfillment of Albert's promise. He was not a man to be taken lightly. During the nearly fifty years that the Grand Avenue house remained in the Ferguson family, it was the scene of weddings and gatherings. Obviously, Albert Ferguson and Margaret Wetzel produced a clan that was loyal, and family oriented. It is pleasing to report that this trait remains one hundred years later among the descendants of the Fergusons of Astoria.
Anyone who has ever started a small business knows how difficult it is to get financial backing at the beginning. This would have been particularly true in the I800's in Oregon. There can be little doubt that Albert's sincere devotion to the Masonic Order carried great weight with financial investors. It appears that they were rewarded for their confidence, because Albert, and his children, were able to get financing for many projects over the next sixty-seven years. This appears to be true whether the projects were in Salem, The Dalles, Astoria, or Portland.
Albert and Margaret's offspring are recorded as follows:
1. Lulu, born in the Dalles, died at an early age. History records such events casually, but one can imagine the continuing heartbreaks of Albert and Margaret Ferguson, who lost four children during their married lives.
2. Hope Belt, in 1904, was mining in Alaska. That would have certainly met the approval of his father, Albert, who prospected for gold on both the Sacramento and Rogue rivers. Hope married Elmira Montgomery, and they had sons, Roy of Fairbanks, Alaska, Hope Belt Jr. (Jack), of Coos Bay, Oregon, Ernest, and one daughter, Margaret. Margaret was married in 1917 at the home of her aunt Ada Ferguson Griffin in Astoria to a Mr. Hayes of American Lake, near Tacoma, Washington. The home that Ada owned in 1917, was the 1886 Albert Ferguson house. The habit of returning to their roots possessed by the descendants of Albert and Margaret Ferguson may be the most enduring legacy of that courageous couple. As stated, it continues to this writing.
Hope Belt Ferguson's adventures in the Gold Rush of Alaska were chronicled in a diary he kept faithfully during his long struggle with the elements. While he made it back to the Pacific Northwest safely, Hope would only live for a couple of years after his return. The daily entrees, when viewed in their entirety, show a tenacity and determination that was typical of his Father and Mother. A copy of Hope's diary is included in this work, thanks to Sharon Neem of Blaine, Washington.
3. Fidella Wetzel. was a printer in San Diego California in 1904, but died in Portland, Oregon in September of 1944. He was a resident of Gresham, and was survived by sons, James E. of Portland, and Thomas Abbott. Fidella was married to Elizabeth Bannon. Before his death, Fidella was the subject of a 1940's feature article in a Portland newspaper. The author wisely chronicled some of Oregon's early history from those who lived it. Few people could qualify better than one of the Fergusons of Astoria.
4. James Ernest, as noted, was listed as an architect and builder in Astoria in the 1904 publication. He died in Hood River, Oregon on Jan. 4, 1924. His daughter, Martha P. McKeown is the author of a best selling book entitled, The Trail Led North. The book is in my possession, and is the story of a young man who goes to Alaska for the gold rush around the turn of the century. It is the actual tale of Martha's uncle, Mont Hawthorne, and told to her during his 83rd year. According to the Hood River News, dated January 11, 1924. James Ernest Ferguson a prominent fruit grower and rancher. In addition to Martha, he was survived by a son, Almont H., and his wife, Almira E. Hawthorne Ferguson.
5. Ada Parrish was living in Astoria as the wife of John Griffin. She died in Astoria on September 4, 1937. Her daughter, Margaret, is the source of much of the evidence presented in this piece. Margaret married Garnet Green, a native of Virginia, who became a prominent Astoria attorney. She spent the majority of her life a few blocks from her childhood home. Margaret's daughter, Carolyn Green ApRoberts, lives in that house at this writing. Carolyn not only returned to her Astoria roots, but volunteered in the historical library efforts in Astoria.
6. Edward Zest Ferguson was known to all as "E.Z." and will be referred to as such hereafter in this work. Because he was the grandfather of the author of this work, he will get the largest coverage, which in no way diminishes the importance of the interesting lives led by his siblings. E.Z. was born on May 15, 1859, in Salem. He was the youngest of Albert's seven sons, followed by his two sisters. He attended school until he was twenty years old, and in 1879 started to work for his father as an apprentice in the Astoria family business. A year later, however, he went to Pomeroy, Washington, to work for his brother as deputy county auditor. The 1904 book on civic leaders does not say which brother, but by process of elimination we assume it was, James Ernest, the architect. When Albert was in business in The Dalles, he became sheriff. It would follow that if the Fergusons had a development in Washington, they would want someone able to protect their interests. Five years later, EZ was back in Astoria, and shortly thereafter entered the title and abstract business, the equivalent of the title insurance of modern days. Between 1885, when he returned to Astoria, and the 1904 publication, EZ acquired large amounts of valuable real estate in and about Astoria," and became active in timber dealing.
EZ married Josephine Bryce about 1890. She graduated from the Astoria public school system in 1886, and would have been approximately ten years his junior. Between 1890 and 1899, they had three children. They were: Lanette (b. Oct. 12 1893), Vance (b. circa 1896), and Russell. (b. Dec. 12, 1899)
Josephine Bryce (Josie to her friends) was a talented poet, and was publishing her efforts while still in high school. Some of her efforts are in the records of the writer. Her father, John, was listed as a bookkeeper for the Flavel estate in 1904, but later records show him as the owner of the, Bryce Packing Company. As late as 1916, John Bryce was writing weekly to his grandson, Russell, who was working in Alaska for the summer. His script was strong, and the letters long, even though he was well into his 70's. John lived his last years in the home of EZ, and Josephine, in Portland's Alameda area.
About 1910 EZ moved his family to Portland from Astoria, and was the developer of the Alameda district, he was quite successful in the venture, and eighty years later it is still one of Portland's higher quality areas. The children attended private grade schools, and then entered Jefferson high school. Vance, who stood about six feet three inches tall was an outstanding football player, and eventually played at Stanford University. Lanette was very stately in her manner, and was popular and sought after wherever she went. She was also tenacious, and when her husband, David Clay, became ill, Lanette entered the real estate business in Seattle, and was successful in to her seventies. Russell was small in stature, but was a noteworthy athlete, competing in high platform diving, gymnastics, and wrestling. He stood five feet five inches high, and weighed 115 pounds. He graduated from the University of Washington in Forestry Engineering.
In July of 1917, Russell was in Alaska for his second summer, working in the Ketchikan, canneries for the Collinson family. Letters to him from his father, EZ, are in my possession. They are warm, confident, newsy, and topical. For example, The First World War was ragng, and EZ talks proudly of the successful war bond sale just completed in Portland. His letter of July 22 talks about the July heat and how Josephine, Lanette, and the Clays, have gone to the beach, "...like rats leaving a sinking ship... I am no sinking ship, and it would be impolite to call the rest of you, rats". One week later, at 9:20 am., Vance Ferguson sent a telegram to the Collinson Packing company in Alaska that said 'Tell Russell Father passed away suddenly. Come home."
The weekend after his July 22 letter to Russell, EZ had joined the family at their home in Seaside. Edward Zest Ferguson died suddenly, in the arms of Lanette, while dancing at a Saturday afternoon tea dance. This event was either at the hotel on the prom, or the pavilion. Imagine the shock to a sixteen year old boy more than two thousand miles from home. He had undoubtedly received the July 22 letter only a day or two before the telegram. This was long before the existence of air mail service, and the only path to Ketchikan was the water. To my knowledge, my father never spoke to any one of the traumatic circumstances surrounding his father's death. What an ordeal it must have been to make that long trip home, alone, and with a heavy heart.
It is unclear what unfolded in the year that followed EZ's death, except that all the wealth seems to have disappeared. This could be explained by an untimely passing during a period when current developments were highly leveraged, or the family lore of 'skullduggery' could be the answer. The most likely scenario is the former, because E.Z. was just starting the initial stage of developing the Tualitin area, South of Portland, when he died. He had used options in the past, and he may well have had his capital tied up in property whose value depended upon improvements he would not live to complete. It does not really matter, because EZ's offspring were successful and happy in their own lives. I never heard any of them ever complain about lost fortunes. A short summary of the lives of Josephine and EZs children follows:
I. Lanette was born on Oct. 12. 1893 and died in July of 1975. She was preceded in death by her husband David Clay. I remember her as warm, loving, intelligent, and strong. Her entire life reflected those qualities. Their three children were
a) David (Sonny) Clay. He was born on Dec.25 1916. and died at sea in 1943. Sonny had joined the Royal Canadian Air force before the 2nd World War started, but did not have good enough vision to fly. He returned to the states, and was commissioned as an officer in the US. Merchant Marines. He survived two torpedo incidents, but not the third.
b) Virginia Griffith. Ginny was born on Nov. 16, 1920. Her husband, Miller, was the long time operator of the Griffith Steamship Company. He died in Oct. of 1993. They have one son, Miller Jr. Ginny inherited from her mother the easy warmth that causes all in her presence to feel welcome. We all felt she was prettier than most movie stars, and much more accessible.
c) Betty Hix. She was born on Aug. 16, 1923 and died in July of 1987. Betty had a way of getting up close to a person, looking right in to the eyes, and concentrating totally on whatever was being said. She made everyone feel very important and loved to laugh. When she passed away, the little Episcopalian church in Seattle, that all of us came to know well, was overflowing for the service. Betty and Sam Hix have one son, Jamie.
2. Vance Ferguson was born circa 1896. and died in June of 1959. He was good at everything that he ever did, including athletics, academics, and social activities. Sadly, Vance was a victim of poison gas during the First World War, and lived in constant pain for the remainder of his life. My Father, Russell, once told me that Vance would sometimes consume an entire bottle of aspirin in a day. In spite of the pain, Vance was a successful father and business man. He married Anna Munly of Portland circa 1919. She died in the 1960's. They had three sons:
a) Edward Michael. He was born on April 20, 1920 and died on Oct. 22 1993. Edward was the intellectual of the family, and was the first member to earn advanced degrees in an academic setting. Like the two generations before him, Edward found his way to the insurance business, and Democratic politics, he married Katherine Niedermeyer of Portland. Their children are: Michael, Patrick. Thomas, Kathleen, Margaret, Mary, and Kieran.
b) Vance, Jr. He was born on Feb. 27 1923 and died on Jan. 19 1992. Vance would have loved knowing his grandmother Josie, because all of his life he was a poet. His works are spread throughout the family. Margaret Green once said that EZ Ferguson was the kindest man she ever met. I think that statement may also apply to Vance, Jr. He married Betty Sharp of Portland, and spent his working life as a successful salesman. Like his father before him Vance, Jr. went to war. He served aboard a small Coast Guard vessel off the Aleutian Islands for up to three years. As a result, Vance suffered from claustrophobia the remainder of his life. He was always an outside salesman, and avoided large buildings, he suffered in silence. Their children are: Vance, David, Janet, and Anne.
c) James. He was born on June 17, 1932, and died on Feb. 6, 1963. Jim died of Hodgkin's disease, after a lengthy and painful period. His courage and good humor were such that a priest once said that those who came to minister to him, went away sanctified. I personally spent many hours with my good friend, and cousin, until just before his death, and I have used his courage as an inspiration in my own life. He married Mary Lou Dyer of Portland. Their children are: Sally Ferguson, Jill Nesbitt, and Susan Walton.
3. Russell Edward. He was born on Dec. 12 1899, and died on June 30, 1963. He loved the woods, and the way of life of the Fergusons who went before him. It was natural that he would get his degree in forestry engineering. Because of the times, he never got to practice those skills, but was highly successful as the long time head of the Pacific Maritime Association in Oregon. He remains a model of integrity and kindness for all who knew him well. He married Marion Mathisen of Portland. Their children are:
a) Russell E. He was born on Dec. 10. 1930 and lives in Anaheim Hills, California. Like nearly all of his predecessors, Russ tended toward financial services, and real estate. He retired as a banker, but maintains his brokers license in real property at this writing. He is noted for his quick wit and engaging personality. He married Marian Watchie of Seattle. Their children are Laurie, Caya, Elizabeth Stafford, and Russell.
b) Harvey Joseph. He was born on Feb. 8, 1934 and lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon. He spent his working life first, as a stock broker, and later as an owner of an investment management firm. He married Laurie Goodell of Portland. Their children; Mary, Andrew, Jean, and Edward.
c) Dennis B. He was born on Oct 10 1937 and lives in Portland. Known for his tremendous enthusiasm for everything he engages in, Denny is President of JBL&K, an Insurance brokerage firm in Portland. He married Rose Marie Zenner of Portland. Their children are: Dennis B., Mathew, Roseanne, and John.
The thread through history that led from the young Jacobite fighter, Patrick Ferguson, exiled in June of 1716, from Liverpool, England, aboard the Elizabeth and Anne, to the Ferguson's of Astoria, Oregon, has no doubt been repeated thousands of times. We are just grateful to have discovered enough documentation to put the experiences of our clan in print.