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Philomath
Saturday, November 27, 2021

Mount Union Stories: Abiathar V. Newton (1806-1892)

In a departure from past Mount Union Stories, a historical obituary for the subject of this week’s profile could not be immediately discovered. But a picture of Abiathar V. Newton’s life could be pieced together based on various historical accounts.

One of the most informational accounts involves an article written by Emery J. Newton published in 1957 in the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Emery Newton was a grandson of Abiathar Newton.

“My grandfather, Abiathar V. Newton, was the son of English parents who came from England and settled near Boston, Massachusetts, where he was born August 8, 1806; following the death of one of his parents, he left his home in Massachusetts when he was about 14 years of age and went west to Licking county, Ohio, where he grew up and married Rachel Garlinghouse, who was born January 16, 1805, in the state of New York.

“To them were born four sons and three daughters, one of whom was my father, Gamaliel G. Newton. In the spring of 1847, Abiathar and Rachel Newton joined an emigrant train and, with their seven children, started the long trek to the Oregon Country, arriving in Benton county in September of that year.

“They built a log cabin on what is now known as the William Knotts farm about three miles north of Corvallis on the west side of and adjoining the present state of highway 99W. Theirs was a one-room cabin with dirt floor and a blanket for the one door; here they spent their first winter in Benton county with their seven children.

“In the next year, they filed a claim for a homestead about four miles west of Corvallis, the north line of which is near the present reservoir of the Corvallis water department on Mount Baldy. Incidentally, in later years, Mount Baldy was a favorite place for the young people of Corvallis, Philomath and from the farms between the two towns to go coasting on home-made sleds, snow shoes, and toboggans.”

The article (Corvallis Gazette-Times, June 26, 1957, page 24) goes to outline more of that family’s history, including their contributions to public service. In fact, he wrote that “Abiathar V. Newton was the first person to serve as justice of the peace.”

Newton was also mentioned in the book, “History of Benton County, Oregon,” published in January 1885.

“This old and respected pioneer of Benton county was born in Hampton county, Massachusetts, August 8, 1816, and lived in the Eastern states until 1837, when he came west to the then territory of Iowa, where he remained until 1848, when he continued his westward journey across the plains to Oregon, and came direct to Benton county and took up his donation claim where he now resides, where he has a large and valuable farm nicely located, and is surrounded in his declining days with all that goes to make up the complement of earthly comfort and enjoyment. Mr. Newton was married in Harding county, Kentucky, to Miss Rachael Garlinghouse, and by this union, they had eight children, six of whom are living.”

You’ll notice some differing information among these accounts — Ohio vs. Iowa, or spellings of names, for example.

Elsewhere in the book, the earliest settlement of what would become Elk City is chronicled and Newton was listed as “from whom the post-office takes its name.”

About 20 years ago, the city paid for the research and writing of “Philomath, Oregon: Historic Context Statement.” Leslie Heald and Sally Wright, historic preservation consultants, put together the document, published in 2001 in Eugene.

Within its pages is a photo of a house (available to the publishers through the Benton County Historical Society) that had been built by Abiathar Newton and is shown here with this article.

“Settlers who held donation land claims in the area of the modern day Philomath UGB (urban growth boundary as of 2001) included: William Wyatt, Isaac H. Newton, Abiathar Newton, Norrice P. Newton, Edwin A. Abbey, Henry Penland, David Henderson, William Matzger and Wayman St. Clair. It was typical for family groups like the Newtons to travel to Oregon together and settle on neighboring claims. The extended family would have provided great help in building houses and barns.”

The Oregon Secretary of State’s Early Oregonian history section includes details on Abiathar Newton’s life, including the marriage date to Rachel Garlinghouse as Oct. 5, 1826, in Kentucky and marriage to a second wife, Lydia P. Dodge, on April 2, 1871, in Benton County. Newton appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses (the 1890 census was lost to fire).

Finally, the Mount Union Cemetery’s website also mentions Abiathar Newton as one of those who formally established the cemetery on May 11, 1861. Newton along with Reuben Shipley, William Wyatt and George Bethers were part of the transaction.

“Abiathar and Norrie Newton had donation land claims just north and west of the cemetery and during the first few years there were many Newtons buried there, leading some to start calling it the “Newton Cemetery.”

Abiathar Newton died Oct. 27, 1892. The grave marker, located in the first row of the Northeast section, includes inscriptions on the right for his first wife, Rachel Newton, who died in 1869, and on the left for his second wife, Lydia P. Newton, who survived him and died in 1898.

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