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Another Classic Commemorative

Posted: 3/15/2013 8:57:48 PM | Views:754

The Story of an Oregon Pioneer

Hello Friends,

The 1926 Oregon Commemorative is another of the classic silver commemorative half dollars that I have coveted for inclusion in 'My Heritage Set". I was excited to discover an Oregon Pioneer in our family tree who traveled the Oregon California Trail between 1862 and 1864.

The Oregon Trail Memorial Association, Inc. of New York petitioned Congress to authorize the minting of the Oregon Commemorative to help fund the placement of monuments at locations along the trail. Congress approved and during a sporadic run 14 coins were issued from the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver mints between 1926 and 1939. Congress authorized that no more than 6 million be produced but by 1939 only 4% of that amount had been minted and after the remaining unsold coins were returned the mintage was set at 202,928 with the 1926 Philadelphia issue accounting for 47,955 coins. The reverse design depicting the oxen drawn wagon was originally thought to be the obverse design by engravers James Earle Fraser and wife Laura G. Fraser. James Earle Fraser is credited with the obverse design of this coin and is legendary for his design of the Buffalo Nickel while his wife gained notoriety for her designs of the 1922 Grant commemoratives.

The Hudson's Bay Company established Fort Vancouver in 1824 as the district headquarters for the company and where they hoped the eventual border between Canada and the United States would be established. They began to reconnoiter the surrounding country in 1825 and sent scouting parties to the south in 1826 thereby establishing the Siskiyou Trail which eventually linked Fort Vancouver to the Sacramento Valley in California. The first scientists and cartographers to enter the region came down the Siskiyou Trail with an overland party of the United States Exploring Expedition in 1841. With the start of the Great Migration in 1843 until the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 over 500,000 people traveled the Oregon Trail to settle in Oregon and California.

The discovery of gold in Siskiyou County at Yreka brought thousands of 49'ers over the Oregon California Trail seeking their fortunes. The Siskiyou Trail passes thru present day Redding, Dunsmuir and Yreka, California and present day Ashland, Grants Pass, Eugene and Portland, Oregon. The trail follows the valleys of the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue, Klamath, Shasta and Sacramento rivers and crosses the rugged Siskiyou Mountains before reaching the Siskiyou Summit at 4,310 feet which is the highest elevation on the trail. Eventually, in the 1860's, toll roads were cut through the Siskiyou Mountains enabling stagecoaches to travel the entire length of the trail from Fort Vancouver and the Columbia River to the Bay Area in San Francisco.

Orlando Plummer an Oregon Pioneer was born in Greenville, Pennsylvania in 1836 and as a young man worked for the telegraph company there. He continued this vocation following the work west to Pittsburg and Cleveland then Chicago ending up in Rock Island, Illinois where he lived with his uncle a local doctor. During this time he continued working for the telegraph company and apparently developed an interest in medicine from reading his uncle's medical books. He moved back to Pennsylvania to attend Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia where he graduated a Doctor of Medicine in 1857.

He returned to Illinois after graduating and practiced medicine around Moline, Illinois until 1863 when he again took up with the telegraph company working along the Oregon Trail traveling by mule team to California. He worked in a telegraph office in California during the winter of 1863 until he was promoted to manage the Portland, Oregon office of the California State Telegraph Company. He arrived in Portland by stagecoach via the Siskiyou Trail in 1864 and as the company's telegraph line was completed that same year he became the first international telegraph operator in the city of Portland. In 1891 his drug store in downtown Portland installed the first telephone in the city.

In 1868 the California State Telegraph Company was sold to Western Union and Plummer was appointed Superintendant of the Oregon District a position he held until 1875. By 1879 he was teaching medicine at Willamette University serving as the first Dean of the school which later merged with the University of Oregon's Medical School in 1913 to become the prestigious Oregon Health & Science University. In 1880, he was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives from Multnomah County as a Republican for District 41 and was reelected to a second two year term in 1882. He passed away at his home in Hillsdale, Oregon in 1913 at the age of 77 having participated in the great migration westward and for his part helped settle the Oregon country I now call home.

Please enjoy the attached collage of the coin with a photo of the good doctor and a quote from the Oregon Trail Memorial Association's petition to congress.

Happy Collecting Friends,


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