Samuel Slayton helped tame the Central Oregon frontier

Samuel Slayton

By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian

Samuel R. Slayton was among the earliest settlers in the Ochoco Valley and was a pioneer in Oregon. He was born in South Woodstock, Vermont on August 27, 1830. He grew up in that vicinity and in 1852 decided to head west by ox team to California. He soon migrated north to the Rogue River area of Oregon territory. He enlisted for a short term as a volunteer in the Rogue River Indian War of 1856.

While living in southern Oregon he met Eliza Jane Savery, who had come to Oregon with her widowed mother in 1853. They soon became smitten with each other and married on July 1, 1858. They operated a small farm and raised stock in Douglas County, Oregon.

Samuel hoped to find better grazing opportunities in Central Oregon and came to the Ochoco Valley in 1868 and squatted on a land claim along Ochoco Creek. He returned to southwestern Oregon and brought his family to his claim in August of 1869. They came over the Cascade Mountains in a wagon and brought sixty cattle with them. They had four children that came with them. Once the region was surveyed he filed a homestead claim on his land. Two more children were born after they moved to the Ochoco Valley.

There was only one building in the small village of Prine when they first moved to the region. Most goods had to be freighted in from The Dalles or from the Willamette Valley. They developed a livestock ranch and harvested grain. Samuel also taught school in one of the first schools in Prineville. They lived for many years at the ranch then in 1889 turned over management of the farm to their son Edgar and moved into Prineville.

Eliza tragically was killed in a freak accident in 1901 when she and Samuel were traveling over the Cascades to the Willamette Valley on the old wagon road. Their wagon had met another wagon traveling in the opposite direction on a steep hillside. Samuel hopped out of the wagon to help back the other wagon to the side when a tree fell near the Slayton wagon and spooked the horses and the horses backed over a cliff and Eliza fell to her death.

Samuel was devastated by the death of his wife and he moved to Eugene to live with his daughter. He lived with his daughter until his death in 1906. Edgar continued to operate the farm until his death in 1938. It was later operated by his daughter, Mabel, and her husband Ray Graffenberger. The farm was declared a Century Farm in 1969, but has since been sold by the family.

Samuel had helped tame the Central Oregon frontier and was one of the original settlers of the Ochoco Valley.