Mount Union Stories: William M. Wyatt (1816-1904)

Published as it appeared on Feb. 13, 1904, in the Corvallis Times, Page 2, Columns 1-2.

William Wyatt obituary

FOUNDER OF PHILOMATH

Philomath College–William Wyatt, Pioneer, is Dead

The founder of the town of Philomath, and the chief benefactor of Philomath College is dead. In life he was William Wyatt. He was one of the oldest residents, one of the heaviest taxpayers, and, in his time one of the most prominent citizens of Benton County. With appropriate ceremonies and in the presence of a large assemblage of sorrowing neighbors, relatives and friends, his mortal remains were laid to rest in Newton cemetery yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Wyatt died at his home, a mile north of Philomath, at four o’clock Wednesday morning, after an illness of about three weeks. The malady that brought death, was the only serious ailment with which the deceased had ever suffered. It is said to have been the only occasion on which a physician had ever attended him in his home. At rare intervals, he had sought medical advice, but it was always at such times as he was able to consult with medical men in their offices. The excellence of his health, and the physical strength that he enjoyed after rounding out his four score and more of years was always a matter of pride with the rugged and hale old pioneer, and was a matter to which he frequently recurred in conversation. The malady that finally removed him, was inflammation of the bladder. He was aged 87 years, three months and 29 days.

ARRIVAL IN BENTON.

For forty-six years, Mr. Wyatt resided in the house in which he died. The building was erected in 1857, Mr. Wyatt had then been a resident of the vicinity for 10 years. He arrived on the spot where Corvallis now stands on the 1st day of November 1847. Unlike most of the pioneer immigrants, he came from the southward, having entered the territory of Oregon by the Applegate, or Southern Oregon route. When he reached Mary’s river, the stream was so swollen from a freshet, that he was unable to cross it. With his family, consisting of his wife and three children, he remained encamped on the south side until the steam subsided. After four days he was able to effect a crossing, and thereafter he went westward, stopping in the vicinity of what is now Philomath. That winter, he spent on the farm of Eldridge Hartless, where he was employed a portion of the time at labor about the place. In the spring he occupied the place that is now owned by James Robinson near Wren, the following winter he spent on the farm of Wayman StClair, and in November 1850, he filed on the donation claim a mile north of what is now Philomath, and which formed the nucleus of the large landed estate that he subsequently acquired.

BUILDING A HOME.

Of the privations endured by pioneer residents in these early years the new population has but an inadequate idea. From the first, Mr. Wyatt’s idea was stock raising as a means of livelihood. With his first available money, he purchased a hog. Wild animals were abundant in the border forests, and one day a panther appeared almost in the door yard in the evident effort to size this only hog. Mr. Wyatt was working for the day at a farm house, several miles distant. Thither Mrs. Wyatt travelled in great anxiety, and hastened the husband home to save the pig from the clutches of the marauder.

So the years, and so the toil and hardships went on. Little by little flocks multiplied in the Wyatt pastures. Within seven years, the cabin gave place to the comfortable farm house that remained the shelter of Mr. Wyatt until his death. With increasing flocks and herds there was a greater income, and with this lands were added. The place was managed with unerring judgment, and in time, the Wyatt possessions, digged out of the wilderness, embraced over 4,000 acres of land, with abounding herds of fine cattle aggregating into one of the principal estates in the county.

FOUNDING PHILOMATH.

The town of Philomath, and the colleges there, are monuments of the philanthropy of the dead pioneer. He was the founder of the town, as well as the colleges. Not many weeks before his death, Mr. Wyatt made the statement to a friend, that not less than $10,000 of his money was spent, from beginning to end, in college building and maintenance in the town to the westward.

The inspiration for the founding of Philomath College was furnished by T.J. Connor, well known in the early time as Deacon Connor. He was a United Brethren preacher, of that time, and Mr. Wyatt was a chief pillar in the church. The place of worship was called Bethel Chapel. After the founding of Philomath, it became a grange hall, but is now Plymouth church, owned by the Congregational people of the neighborhood. It is told of Deacon Connor that he was a good man and true, but that he fell from grace by being caught in a three card monte game, to the facts of which he promptly and fully confessed.

WYATT BOUGHT THE SITE.

Deacon Connor, after conceiving the idea of establishing a college under the management of the church, went, of course to Mr. Wyatt, and unfolded the scheme. The latter was found to be a ready listener, and a willing promoter. It was out of this fact that Philomath had a beginning, and now exists, one of the pretty rural towns of the great valley of the Willamette.

Mr. Wyatt went at once, after receiving the inspiration from Deacon Connor to Eldridge Hartless and George Bethers. He proposed that each of the three should give $1,500 and that what was necessary of the $4,500 should be devoted to the purchase of 320 acres of land owned by David Henderson, which it was proposed to use as a site for the college. To the proposition Mr. Hartless gave a favorable reply and Mr. Bethers was equally favorable in his endorsement save that he preferred to make his donation $1,000 due to the fact that his farm was more remote from the proposed site than were the homes of the other two. The arrangement thus perfected, was carried out. Wyatt bought the Henderson half section, borrowing of Thomas Read, the money for the purpose. Foundation for the college was laid, and a town site surveyed. A donation of $1,500 was made by Mr. Wyatt for the college, and to this he added an additional $300 and $300 in labor. Mrs. Wyatt also contributed $500, along with other members of the church and citizens in the vicinity. That was in 1865, and in 1866, the new college was opened to students. In the division of the church that subsequently happened, Mr. Wyatt joined with the radical faction, and when the brick college went to the liberal faction, his purse again opened for the founding of the College of Philomath, of which he remained a faithful promoter and maintainer until his death.

WAS OF ENGLISH NATIVITY.

William Wyatt was of English birth. He was born in Buckinghamshire, October 24th, 1816, and resided on a farm there until he came with his parents to America in 1836. He first settled in Orange county, New York, but two years afterward moved to Adams county, in the same state. Later, he went to Henderson county, Illinois, where he resided until April 1847. At that time, accompanied by his wife and three children, he started across the plains by ox team, to Oregon, arriving in Benton on November 1st, of the same year, as above related.

April 19, 1838, in Orange county, New York, Mr. Wyatt was united in marriage to Miss Mary T. End, a native of England, who still survives. The surviving children are, Mrs. A.J. Williams, John E. Wyatt, Samuel T. Wyatt, Miss Eva Wyatt and Frank Wyatt, all of whom reside in Benton county.

Philomath
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