Guide to the John Spencer Papers 1831-1964
Cage 581

Summary Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Spencer, John
John Spencer Papers
Cage 581
Date [inclusive]
55.0 items.
General Physical Description note
1.25 linear feet of shelf space.
Diaries, 1858-1881; correspondence and miscellaneous papers, 1840-1877, all related to farming on the Oregon frontier, work as a school superintendent, and service as a Methodist clergyman.

Preferred Citation note

[Item Description]. Cage 581, John Spencer Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

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Biographical/Historical note

John Spencer was born at Clove Creek, Huntingdon County (later Blair County) on April 17, 1802. In his journal, Spencer wrote of a conversion experience that he had in February 1823, in which he decided to become a Methodist minister. He began to preach in 1826. On February 8, 1832, Spencer married. He and his wife, Julia Ann, lived in western Pennsylvania, western Virginia, and eastern Ohio. John Spencer became Presiding Elder of the Ohio District of the Pittsburgh Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1840s. John and Julia began their family of nine children while living in the Upper Midwest. By the early 1850s Spencer yearned to cross the continent to Oregon Territory and work in his church's missionary district there. Elders, though, denied his request because of his obligations to his wife and children. Spencer eventually resigned his post in Beallsville, Ohio. He and his family and others travelled cross country to Oregon, arriving in Portland on Novmber 10, 1852. John Spencer took up his claim to land in Yamhill County, thirty miles southwest of Portland, in January 1853. There, near Lafayette, he and his boys constructed a log cabin. They sowed and harvested red and white wheat, and oats. They also planted an orchard of apple and peach trees. Spencer built a new home on his claim in 1865. He served a two- year term as superintendent of schools for Yamhill County, beginning in July 1866.

In 1872, after their children had reached adulthood, the Spencers sold their claim to their son-in-law Stephen A. Young. They moved to a new home that they built in nearby McMinnville. There, John Spencer served as postmaster from 1874 to 1880. While John Spencer was not a paid minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church's missionary district of California and Oregon, he did serve the church by occasionally conducting worship services, and performing weddings and baptisms. He was also a regular contributor to the periodical entitled "The Pacific Christian Advocate." In May 1871, John and Julia Spencer travelled by train to Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to visit friends they had not seen in nearly twenty years. They financed the trip from donations collected during lectures that John gave about life in Oregon. He and his wife returned to the Pacific Northwest in October. It appears that John and Julia Spencer lived into the 1880s. Their dates of death are unknown. Below is a list a vital statistics of the Spencer family as assembled from the daily journals.

  1. John, b. 04-17-1852 Huntingdon Co., Pennsylvania; married 02-08-1832
  2. Julia Ann, b. 02-03-1810
  3. Emeline, b. 11-15-1830; d. 03-1832, buried West Middletown, Wa. Co., Pa.
  4. Wm Valentine, b.,- 02-14-1835; married Etta 09-1869; military career; bank cashier, Portland
  5. M. Cecilia, b. 02-22-1839; married S. A. Young 1862, physician; child--Rosimond Isabella, May 1868; lived in McMinnville area
  6. Cornelia J., b. 11-29-1841; married Geo. H. Greer, 12-07-??, minister; children--Elwin, 08-10-1865; William, 06-06-1867; lived at Puget Sound, later in California
  7. Armininius, b. c.1841-45; d. c.1841-45, buried Beallsville, Wash. Co., Ohio
  8. Manlius F., b. 04-10-1845 Moundsville, Ohio; becomes a teacher; lived in McMinnville area
  9. Theodore W., b. 01-04-1848; married Kate Handley, 12-31-1870; children--Cornelia J., 07-02-1873; Walter J., 04-30-1875; Jessie, 03-09-1876
  10. Jas. Orpheus, b. 04-19-1850; studied medicine
  11. John Julius, b. 02-07-1853; Otterbrook, Yamhill Co., Oregon, druggist

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Scope and Contents note

John Spencer's daily journals present a chronological record of the events of the lives of an Oregon pioneer and his family. They cover every year from 1857 through 1880. There is also a final entry in in the 1880 volume for New Year's Day 1881. There are a few irregularities in how Spencer arranged his entries. These are noted below in the container list. Spencer included a wide variety of types of information in his daily log. It included farm records describing crops he sowed, when he harvested them, their yields, and his income. He also wrote of his activities as a Methodist minister and his own spirituality as a Christian. He described in detail physical ailments of his family and the quality of his own health. Finally, Spencer wrote of his views on topics such as temperance, slavery, and the successes of the Republican party in the 1860s and 1870s. The remainder of the collection is miscellaneous papers and correspondence. It includes a few sermons that Spencer authored, receipts for expenses, and incoming and outgoing correspondence. In this last category, letters from the 1830s and 1840s become important additions to the journals. Also, a letter from Cose and Cooke, dated June 28, 1852, discussed how and why the Spencer family decided to settle in Oregon. There was no particular filing arrangement for the items in Series 2. These miscellaneous papers were scattered indiscriminately among the leaves of Spencer's journals. The Libraries has foldered them alphabetically by document type.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries © 1992
Terrell Library
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, WA, 99164-5610

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Washington State University acquired the John Spencer daily journals and miscellaneous papers in November 1990 (MS 90-67). It received the accession from the author's great-grandson, John Spencer, a retired Washington State University faculty member residing at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

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Related Materials

In 1950 the State College of Washington acquired a typescript copy of a journal that Spencer wrote while on his trip from Ohio to Oregon in 1852. It is catalogued separately as Cage 4140.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Spencer, John, 1802-1884--Archives


  • Campaign literature -- 19th century -- Specimens
  • Diaries
  • Diaries -- 19th century -- Archives
  • Farms -- Oregon -- Yamhill County
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Oregon -- Yamhill County
  • Home and Family
  • Oregon
  • Pioneers
  • Religion
  • Sermons, American -- 19th century -- Specimens

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Collection Inventory

John Spencer's Daily Journal 1858-1881 

Box Folder

Daily Journal 1857-1858 

1 1

Daily Journal 1859 

1 2

Daily Journal 1860-March 3 1961 

1 3

Daily Journal March 4 to December 31 1961 (marked 1858, entries for January 1 to February 27 are from 1858) 

1 4

Daily Journal 1862 

1 5

Daily Journal 1863-1864 (marked 1863) 

1 6

Daily Journal 1865 

1 7

Daily Journal 1866 

1 8

Daily Journal 1867 (originally marked 1865) 

2 9

Daily Journal 1868 

2 10

Daily Journal 1869-1871 

2 11

Daily Journal 1872 

2 12

Daily Journal 1873-1874 

2 13

Daily Journal 1875 

2 14

Daily Journal 1876 

2 15

Daily Journal 1877-1878 

2 16

Daily Journal 1879-January 20 1880 

2 17

Daily Journal 1880-January 1 1881 

2 18

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Miscellaneous Correspondence and Papers 

Box Folder

Campaign Square, Republican Ticket [1876] 

3 19

Certificate, Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers Elwin Spencer Greer 1921 

3 20

Envelope and Calling Card, Capt. W. V. Spencer 

3 21

Handbill, Republican Ticket, Pierce Co., Wa. Terr. 1878 

3 22

Handbill, Temperance Reform Ticket, [Yamhill Co. Ore.] 1876 

3 23

Leaflet, Service and Lesson Leaf 1930 

3 24

Letter, C. Black to Rev. J. Spencer April 6 1843 

3 25

Letter, W. Cose and C. Cooke to Bro. Spencer June 28 1852 

3 26

Letter, J Drummond to Rev. J. Spencer July 1 1873 

3 27

Letter, F. G. Evans to Rev. Jno. Spencer June 16 1840 

3 28

Letter, Philip Greene to John Spencer April 3 1847 

3 29

Letter, Wesley Kenney to Bro. Spencer June 20 1831 

3 30

Letter, W. Kenney to John Spencer April 24 1872 

3 31

Letter, B. C. Lippincott to John Spencer February 6 1866 

3 32

Letter, J. K. Miller to Bro. Spencer June 12 1867 

3 33

Letter, John Spencer (Grandpa) to Elwin Spencer Greer (Win) June 29 1877 

3 34

Letter, John Spencer to William Spencer [father] November 29 1839 

3 35

Letter, John Spencer to William Spencer [father] February 4 1840 

3 36

Letter, W. V. Spencer to Cornelia J. S. Greer Feb. 12 1892 

3 37

Letter, Wesley Smith to John Spencer December 26 1839 

3 38

Miscellaneous Papers 

3 39

Newspaper Clipping, The Christian's Home Feb. 9 1867 

3 40

Newspaper Clipping, Francis Henry, Pioneer Bard 1964 

3 41

Newspaper Clipping, Scandalous Politics 1870s 

3 42

Newspaper Clipping, A Surprise 1884 

3 43

Notebooklet ca. 1830s 

3 44

Paper, The Difference [Union Sunday School] 1870s 

3 45

Paper, Doggerel Alphabet No. 3 March 1 1860 

3 46

Receipt, Knapp and Grant, Merchants June 29 1867 

3 47

Receipt, Post Office Supplies March 2 1878 

3 48

Sermon Text, 1 John 3:2 

3 49

Sermon Text, 2 Peter 1:5, Olympia March 22 1868 

3 50

Tract, Shall We Have the Maine Law Am. Temperance Union 

3 51

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