The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume 5, Number 1, Pages 12-22
Elizabeth Redington Stewart, who now lives in Vancouver, Washington, remembers actual scenes and "legendary" elements of her father's journalistic career. Col Redington edited newspapers in the late 1800's in Heppner, Walla Walla, Puyallup, and Tacoma. He also contributed articles to The Oregonian, Sunset Magazine, and others. He was also a friend and correspondent of letters with Owen Wister, the author of The Virginian.
Johnny Redington, my father, left Salem and his girl-friend, Amney, for the third time in four years to go fight one more Indian battle. Amney, sobbing and clinging to him, told him she would not wait again, but he made a joke, rode off to Portland and called at The Oregonian city desk to promise news stories of the encounter. Then he crossed the Columbia to Vancouver to join Captain Edwin S. Farrow and the small company of soldiers and scouts Farrow was assembling to round up the Sheepeaters in Idaho.
They left Portland July 30, 1880, took a steamer up the Columbia, stopped at Wallula and Walla Walla, and then went east to Ft. Lapwai where they were armed and mounted. They set out August 4 for Camas Prairie, stopping for supplies at Payette Falls. For two months they pushed with their horses and supplies through fallen timber, tall timber, deep snow, up mountain and down valley. They camped at Buffalo Hump Mountain and then trekked on to Florence, Idaho, which had shrunk from a population of 12,000 in 1861 to a few old timers who graphically recounted the gory deaths of forty men now buried on Boot Hill. These stories Scout Redington got out to The Oregonian. But the company had seen no Indians. Just as a message was brought to them from some miners up the mountain that Indians were near, word came from General Howard that they were to quit and come home. So this was Johnny's last call to arms.
But Amney meant what she said. And that is why the four Redington girls' mother was named Nellie Frances Meacham Troop of Meacham Station in the Blue Mountains. Mabel was born in Walla Walla, Marian and Bernice in Puyallup and I, Elizabeth, in Tacoma and our birthplaces are where my father's journalistic career put him.
Papa boarded with Grandma Meacham in Salem when he returned from his last adventure in 1880 and that is how he happened to marry grandma's daughter, Nellie, my mother. Nellie was widowed when Charlie Troop, one of the Vancouver river captain family, died of TB in California as did their baby son. By this time Grandma's husband, Alfred B. Meacham, who was partially scalped while on the Peace Commission at the Lava Beds, had died in Washington, D. C. So the two widows, mother and daughter, rented a big home near Meier and Frank's present store in Portland, furnished it, and operated it as a boarding house of some elegance where railroad officials and their wives lived while the railroad plans progressed. A financial crisis ended this and the two widows moved to Walla Walla where my mother supervised art in the schools. Nellie, who graduated from Willamette University in 1877, had her paintings hung in the halls by Dr. Gatch to pay her tuition. She earned money also collecting pine resin at their toll road station in the Blue Mountains and selling it to a merchant in Salem who had it boiled down into gum. My mother used to tell me that Dr. Gatch called her in and asked her how much of more gum she was going to provide for Willamette students to chew!
Johnny Redington by now had become editor and publisher of the Heppner Gazette. Heppner was a boom town, known as wool capital of the Northwest. Johnny, who had his journeyman printer credentials from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and less than a dollar in his pockets, was offered the Gazette holdings by town leaders, including J. L. Morrow, who became one of his closest friends. A roamer by nature and life-style, he at first shied away from settling down but when they told him the town "baddies" had scared out the first publisher it was a challenge and he stayed.
With $600 collected from the town leaders, Redington ordered and set up his plant, including ink, paper and a job printing outfit. All type was set by hand, of course, and he did most of the labor, wrote the whole paper and solicited the advertising. He set himself up with a home, well furnished, a horse and a setter dog named, Dash. All that was lacking was a wife and family which he found himself missing greatly. He was very lonely in this town of saloons, miners, sheep herders, sheep, wheat and cattle. And that is where my mother came in. But let's go back to Redington's debut in Heppner.
It was not long until this young character known as John Watermelon Redington (he always used red ink for the RED), got to know the inhabitants for miles around. His paper, certainly an original, not only circulated in Morrow county but was being quoted all around the United States. Two ads he had nailed on fence posts and sent around the country as exchanges said: "Heppner Gazette, Hell on Hog thieves and Hypocrites", and another: "Heppner Gazette makes good bustles." The former became the title for the master's thesis of Brant Ducey at the University of Oregon,* to whom I give much credit for telling me a lot about my father I never would have known except for his excellent research.
Heppner was growing fast, not only because the land was ideal for sheep grazing but there was, for a small fee of filing, free land with 33 months to settle and prove up. Jackson Morrow and Henry Heppner were two of the leading citizens whose store became a gathering place for stockmen in the Willow Creek area. They were Redington's supporters and friends.
But as predicted, where there are the good guys there are the "baddies." As Brant Ducey wrote, "Where land was free and money was being made the rough, parasitic element soon drifted in behind the westward settlers." They preyed on the inexperience and trusting natures of the new settlers and as Ducey puts it, "The code of the frontier had a slight edge over law and order." As to this, I remember my big sister telling me when we lived in Heppner as children our father never allowed us to walk on the side of the street where the saloons were and we must never look in barber shop windows.
Naturally Heppner's citizens began taking the measure of the new publisher, watching his person and his paper to see what his stance was going to be, especially since the "baddies" had scared out the first owner of the Gazette. Here is a sample of what they got, dug out by Brant Ducey from old Gazette files.
"A rumor reached the Gazette that some of its neighbors are expressing anxiety to know what its politics are. Now the Gazette knows not what their politics are and it don't care a cuss.
It believes that if a man has sense enough to vote, he ought to have sense enough to cast his ballot according to his own ideas of right and wrong, and that without any suggestions from party place-hunters or scheming whipsnappers. As far as the ordinary American is concerned, there is now really no difference between the political parties. It is a mere fight for the spoils of office - a battle between the ins and the outs.
The Gazette was started with money furnished by men who affiliate with both political parties. They did it as citizens, not as partisans. Neither political party owes the Gazette a cent. And it proposes to keep the account balanced. He don't care a continental for either party, and if he feels like it, he will scratch a name off his particular ballot as quickly as he will scratch a flea off his leg.
He proposes to run an independent paper on legitimate business principles; to labor for the division of Umatilla county and the restoration to the people of the unearned railroad lands-in short, to advocate measures which he thinks right, honest and just.
As to political argument, when the proper time comes for that sort of claptrap to be interesting to its subscribers, the Gazette has space to give both sides a hearing.
But when it sees a little ring of petty politicians try to hoist themselves into office, it will do its utmost politically to bury that little ring so deep in the soil of the Heppner Hills that the frosts of a hard winter will never reach it."
As Ducey comments: "The battle lines had been clearly drawn, the editorial career of John W. Redington, ex-indian scout, had been launched."
Soon Redington was liking Heppner and Heppner was liking Redington. The townspeople gave good support to the four-page paper; the front page containing professional advertisements and land filings; the second page editorial comment, though his personal opinions permeated the whole issue. Most national and international news was exchanges from other papers, there being no news services in the 1880's. Page 3 was local and general which included anything and everything including my father's ever present humor. Advertising took up most of page 4, though the ads were always interspersed with poking fun at things and people. Letters from readers and news from nearby towns got space too. A barber shop ad read, "Hair Cutting, Shaving, Dyeing and Shampooing Neatly Done." Natter's City Brewery proclaimed it brewed a "better beer."
A random note, one of many slipped in between ads read: "The prospective war between France and China is not liable to arouse the patriotism of Heppner Chinese enough to make them start for the front."
Another poignant comment: "At Spokane Falls a deserted damsel rushed into a ballroom the other night and threw a pan of molasses upon the shirt-front of her faithless lover. But it didn't make him stick to her any better."
An ad for a lost cat (his own) read: CAT LOST - SIX BITS REWARD
"Lost in Heppner, a variegated cat, outside hairs made up of yellow, grey, black and other colors, with a black nose and graceful gait - in fact, a fine haired, fine-blooded cat with velvet feet. No marks or brands; sex unknown. Return him/her or it to the Gazette office and get your six bits:'
Several felines responded in the arms of the town kids. They had to be called off.
Speaking of kids. Listen to this:
"Every boy and girl attending the Heppner public school can have his or her name published in the Gazette under the head of ROLL OF HONOR that can attend school five consecutive days without fighting, chewing gum in the schoolroom, throwing paper wads at the ceiling, whispering without permission, missing over three out of four of the questions asked in each recitation, or being reprimanded over once during the five days. Any boy or girl that can fill the above bill is good enough to make an average citizen or run for office."
Doesn't sound like today's schoolroom does it? But it would be fun to know how many kids joined that ROLL OF HONOR. My older sisters were in the school then and not long ago had some Heppner days' correspondence with O.M. Yeager, who had written many memories of the Heppner flood and Heppner life for The Oregonian. Wonder if he or my sisters ever made the honor roll?
I think our father taught us respect and courtesy and appreciation of nature and kindness and love of animals. I remember he used to build and put out among the trees a "Birds' Boarding House." We girls carried out crumbled bread and other bird goodies and I wish I could remember the wording of the sign on a poster nailed to the board table. Something about bird manners and sharing with others and keeping the place neat. Up in the Blue Mountains where we used to go camping we all had pole ponies cut according to our size, with hand-carved heads, tree-moss manes and leather bridles and ears made by my mother who did leather work as one of her art forms. Our horses waited for us in a proper corral made of small poles nailed horizontally to posts. Even had a gate. I don't remember feeling any remorse about my father shooting blue jays and drying them on a tree, their hides and feathers, that is. My sisters used them as rugs in their doll houses. I guess we called them camp robbers and they were very noisy and sassy. I had many regrets as I looked back but now realizing how they or their relatives kill baby birds and destroy nests, I feel less critical.
Those years when we went camping in a big buggy of some kind must have been during my father's second turn at publishing the Heppner Gazette. My mother told me later I slept under the jump seat as we bounced over nitty' gritty roads to find our special campsite. She said my father would take us up and set up camp, then he had to go back to get out his paper. I believe it was the Morrows that were camping with us and one of the children got sick and they had to pull up stakes and go home. This left Nellie with her four girls up in those dark pine woods when night fell. Papa had started out to join us as soon as the Morrows reported their return. But I used to get goose pimples just listening to my mother telling about how the coyotes were howling and we were too scared to go to sleep when across the deep valley from the high peek. From beyond came Papa's whistle that he produced by someway putting his fingers in his mouth. My mother had been praying and she began to cry with relief and thank God for her good husband.
To go back to the Gazette and its editor who always took an opportunity to communicate. Here were his Christmas greetings:
"The people of the Heppner Hills have had a prosperous year, and have much to be thankful for. This is the season for doing good, and the time to feel that liberty, poverty or prosperity make brothers of us all." "But the season of brotherly love in Heppner was to be a short one," to quote Brant Ducey.
Eighteen eighty four was election year and the resulting turmoil was predictable. Political offices were up for grabs and some land agents were working overtime to profit by overcharging for land filings. Redington and the Gazette answered the challenge. The land agent and politician were tied together; so were family ties of blood and marriage. As Ducey put it, "Uneasiness soon filled the town while the feud between Redington and the group he called the 'ringsters' began to grow hot." It took on the air of a brother against brother struggle.
Conflict arose over the proposed division of Umatilla county which if the new county seat would be Heppner offered plenty of plums for those in office. The opposition started a second paper to freeze out the Gazette. The battle was joined. Redington gave the newcomer no quarter and what he wrote and called the opposition was only printable in a frontier town. A sample:
"The editors of the projected political dishrag have circulated a paper asking Heppner business men to sell their souls by pledging their support to the thing they call a newspaper. These "Editors" should now ask our merchants to donate them their entire stock of canned salmon and codfish to produce enough brain power to run the shabang."
Redington said in one of his fiery denouncements: "There is a libel law in this state which protects even such things as [here he names the opposition] when they are lied about. And if they think anything the Gazette has said about them is untrue, they can get the majesty of the state law to swoop down on the Gazette, and if we don't prove everything we have said about them, and more too, we are the biggest liar on seven sections of government dirt."
From the continuing and relentless barage of accusations and name-calling my father heaped upon the opposition, I have been certain all these years no libel laws could have existed; but the country editor threw down the challenge and the opposition realized it had a tiger by the tail. He even ran "short stories" about his enemies, always playing up the villains with scorn. "Hogthieves, hypocrites, land swindlers" are not gentle words.
The new opposition paper that planned to freeze out my father contained a front page and a back page printed in Portland with local news on the two center pages. Now the town had a newspaper for every 200 citizens, so Brant Ducey reckoned. This was Redington's rejoinder:
THE HEN IS OFF THE NEST "Sound the spew-gag! Blow the fish horn! Hit the slick-ear beef barrel!
The dung-hill has labored and brought forth half a dish-rag. In other words, the rotten egg that Bantam B...has been sitting on has hatched out a sick half-breed chicken called the Weekly Times."
I only knew my father after I was six or seven for about a year when our family tried once more to become a whole family, but I must have gotten a lot of his qualities by inheritance or osmosis. I knew very little of what he wrote in the Gazette until Brant Ducey did his thesis on his life about ten years ago. But now I realize why I loved to champion what I believed right and denigrated what I considered wrong, unethical or lacking in integrity. But my mother was also a champion of causes all her life and, of course, her father gave his life to try to right the wrongs of the Indians.
I probably absorbed my enjoyment of poking fun at people from my three big sisters who used to make up what to them were hilarious slogans and poems about people or things-in-people they didn't go along with. When I was eight or nine my mother sent my sister, Bernice, and me down to stay with papa in Pasadena while she pursued her painting career in San Francisco. Papa had rented a dear little house for us and had not only a blue enameled watch for Bernice and a green one for me hid under our pillows but two Indian ponies were waiting in the stable for us. We had never been on riding horses before but we saddled up and jumped on, holding the horn for dear life. We galloped with bobbed hair blowing, all the way down Orange Grove Avenue and back. When my pony, Popcorn, got a few blocks from home he reared up, determined to dump me off and head for the barn and some hay. I can still feel myself, Western to the bone, hanging onto the horn and whipping his rear until he conceded and we continued our ride.
The next morning our dear next door neighbor came over to see how the children were doing and we were crying with big skinless spots on our fannies and every bone aching. She prescribed a good hot soaking bath and next day we were out galloping again. But when my two sisters arrived and all shared the horse assigned to Bernice, it must have been too much for the poor little mare. Its owner protested and my sisters produced the following:
I had a little pony, her name was Strawberry Rone.
I leant her to some gir-ruls to ride a block from home.
They whipped her, they lashed her, they even made her sweat.
wouldn't lend my pony now, no, by golly, you bet.
Someway at this age my sympathies are with the horse and its owner.
But let's got back to Heppner and how my father happened to marry my mother. Having worked long, long hours getting the paper going, my father took off with Mr. Morrow for a vacation to Yellowstone, where as a scout he had covered much of that ground. On the way back he stopped to visit Grandma Meacham, who he loved, as did everyone who knew her. He found her about to die of cancer, with Nellie taking care of her in a small rented house. Papa, with his New England background, insisted on buying them a home and paying all their debts as befitted anyone he loved. While making all these arrangements, it involved that Johnny was lonely and wanted a wife and family; Nellie would be alone in the world when she had lost her mother, and her mother could not bear to leave her daughter with her flaming red hair and black widow's weeds alone in the world. So Nellie Meacham Troop became Mrs. John W. Redington.
So my father sold the Gazette, his hill land and his furnishings and home and left Heppner saying it was no place to bring a wife - not his wife anyway. This was after he had helped defeat the "baddies" in the elections, and Heppner had become quite proper and law-abiding. No longer a challenge.
My sister, Mabel, was born in Walla Walla; then my father found a paper in Puyallup, Washington, to his liking. He went on ahead and wife, Nellie, and little Mabel were to follow. The penciled letter on copy paper which my sister Mabel has kept these more than 80 years became my treasure and what it tells of my father's tenderness and devotion, and also what it tells about moving and traveling in the 1880's is too priceless to omit. It says in my father's clear hand:
Puy., Jan. 26, '9
I am very sorry indeed to learn that our poor little Mabel is suffering from a sore face and I wish I could do something to relieve her. It is too bad that the dear little innocent should have suffering inflicted on her so soon, when she has never done anything to deserve such afflictions and has to face the world without knowing what is in store for her. But I hope we may be able to turn trouble out of her path until she is big enough to contend against it. It makes me almost cry when I think of the poor little sufferer and I can bear no part in her trouble.
Yesterday by xpress I sent you a check, which I hope you got all right. If you need more let me know (by telegraph if actually necessary) and I will send it. If you sell some of the furniture and get a two months rent in advance (as I have to pay here) you will have plenty. Pay what I owe Sutherland - you know what plumbing work was done and I don't - and get his receipt. That and store and pasture bills is I guess all I owe - pay them. I will pay freight here. And anything that you or dear little Mabel need for the journey, be sure to get it, for I want you to be comfortable. If you can, you had better secure your berth in the sleeper before you leave Walla Wa. but I doubt if you can. Take time to find out - don't hurry.
Telegraph me the day you start and also when you leave Pasco. But you must send it so I can get it before evening, so I can be up to meet you next morning. Train gets here about 6 A.M. if on time. I will be at rear step of sleeper looking for you and Mabel, but if anything should happen that I should miss the train, walk back 1/2 block to Puyallup hotel and get rooms there. I will probably have rooms there with a fire when you come, so you can sleep all day if you want to, and as soon as possible we can fix up the rented house.
If you ship horse and cow I will know as soon as they arrive here and will put them in livery stable temporarily. As to Dash, I don't know what you had better do. If you take him with you will have to keep him right close up on the chair and put him in baggage car. If you can you had better perhaps express him to me at once so as to save you so much bother.
Hire someone to do the packing and lifting. If you needlessly make yourself or little Mable sick I will not soon forget it. And about the cow - don't pasture her as you say. If I have to pay pasture on her let it be done here, where you can at least get some milk in return; it will cost as much to take her over in spring as now and "taking the calf" means taking it at their own price, which is too often too low. If you have already sent cow to pasture, you can send Clem or someone after her. If you don't sell her, better have her and horse shipped together.
Your loving husband Rx
My father had been a bachelor until he was thirty-six, and an Indian scout, printer and newspaper reporter since he was seventeen, when he left Massachusetts for adventure out West. Doubtless he had some hang-ups that would bother a widow of twenty-seven. But what a kind, devoted, adoring father and husband he had become. From all I learned later, he chopped and carried up the wood to keep the kitchen range going. He loved Boston baked beans and brown bread, which my mother learned to cook a la Boston: soak them overnight and bake them most of the day, the beans that is with molasses and salt pork. They would bake while you used the range top to keep the sad irons hot to iron endless ruffled petticoats for four little girls. But his special hang-up was that the teakettle had to be filled in installments as the water heated. My mother, hurried and probably harried too, and always wanting to get through with the housework and cooking to do her painting, preferred to fill the kettle all at once, even if it, according to papa, took longer. They say it is the little things that dissolve marriages. I think my mother, red-haired and volatile, would explode at the constant interference. This would penetrate my father's thin skin, hurt him horrible when he loved us all so much. Instead of retaliating, he would hitch up the buggy and go down to the print shop and not come home for days and nights. Of such are broken homes.
But to go back. My mother always told us my father was worth $10,000 when she married him in Walla Walla. Part of it was earned from printing land claims. Advertising ran 55% to 65% of the paper, so Brant Ducey learned in his research. As a notary public, one of five or six in the town, Papa earned extra money. Land filing receipts he sent to U. S. Land Offices at La Grande and The Dalles averaged over $5,000 a year in 1884-5-6. He had helped to stimulate interest in Heppner as a place to settle and had inquiries from all over the country. A man in Iowa asked if there were any investment opportunities. Papa loved writing letters and having fun with people all his life. To that man he wrote, "You want to know what you could do with $1,000 in Eastern Oregon, do you? Well, you might buy 500 sheep; you might buy a good stallion; or you might pay in advance 400 years on the Heppner Gazette."
Humorous essays, serials and poetry increased in the Gazette as it became better known. A poem of some kind was in nearly every issue. One was by Joaquin Miller who Papa knew and liked very much. Papa must have written some himself. He accompanied the serials and many of the poems and news stories with original wood cuts, most of which my sister Bernice gave to the University of Washington. Papa had quite a style, a flair really for these little art pieces. I have one of them I am saving for posterity. Brant Ducey reproduced a small group of them interspersed between the verses of a pat little poem about sheep-herders encroaching on one other's land; the last two verses read:
Upon a ridge a mile away
Where coyotes nightly howl
He spies a crowding neighbor's band
And both sheep-herders growl.
But they will meet again some day
The time perhaps is near
When each shall swear eternal troth
And both will treat to beer.
I wondered where I got that early inclination toward Iambic Tetrameter! But I envy the graphic and expressive wood blocks which require a special discernment and talent. Too bad there isn't space to quote a classic which takes a whole column of the Gazette to tell "How to hug."
Brant Ducey remarks in his thesis that Redington, the publisher, never let facts or advertising crowd out people and humor from the Gazette. Under a heading "Advice to Brides" would appear such counsel as "Love is blind, but love is not deaf. So don't snore." And "Do not threaten to go home to your mother oftener than five times a week. As you don't go he may begin to doubt your sincerity."
On frontier fashions under "What is worn and not worn in the Heppner Hills," he writes, "Cows' tails will this winter be worn hanging down as usual, but will not have that lively switching so fashionable when flies are ripe and hungry." Or this one, "Pants are sometimes kept inside the boots in the ballroom. Spurs are equally ornamental in the waltz, but are apt to become entangled in your partner's train."
Figures show Gazette circulation increased from 640 copies for a population of 200 in 1885 to 900 copies in 1886-87, double the town population. One of the editors flyers says: "It never stole hogs. Still owns its own soul, has its flannel shirt nailed to the ridge pole and continues to be borrowed by the neighbors. It is neither a clam or a mountain oyster, it never sucks eggs and sample copies cost ten cents with no discount to the clergy. Grab early and avoid the rush."
A strange paradox: I never knew my mother to be out of debt or my father to be in debt any longer than necessary to payoff a mortgage. When Johnny Redington visited my mother and grandmother in Walla WalIa he found them deeply in debt with Nelly struggling to payoff the debts my poor grandmother probably accrued with Grandpa Meacham off in Washington, D. C., making 900 speeches for the cause of the Indians. My father paid off all the debts and married my mother before my grandmother died.
Heppner had gotten too well behaved and responsible now for the Indian fighter with adventure in his blood and so after five years of building up the Gazette he planned to leave, quoting Mr. Ducey, "The re-acquaintance with Nellie and her mother had stirred sympathy and emotion in a man who had known only fighting and loneliness for ten years. He suddenly found himself tired of Heppner and tired of fighting battles of principle for others." "He would not stay in Heppner, for he felt it was not a place for a decent man to bring a wife to live, not his wife anyway." He was thirty-six, tired of being a bachelor.
Both loved home life. Besides being an elegant cook, well-organized home keeper and creative artist, Nellie, who graduated valedictorian of her 1877 class at Willamette University, was a good mother. She also was successful in selling advertising for papa's paper. Neille had learned to enjoy people from the time she was a little girl at Meacham Station where the packers arranged their journeys to stop and enjoy the famous Meacham food that Grandma served. Nellie by her own admission was badly spoiled by having the rare amount of butter which was brought in saved for her and she says in her unpublished manuscript that she never sat on a chair, but in someone's lap for the first six years of her life.
Though Johnny Redington had ridden away from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while still a youth because his parents were "narrow-minded and Puritanical," his tastes for life's beauties and comforts must have been established early. Nellie not only made a beautiful home but soon they had little auburn-haired Mabel to love. From the Walla Walla Statesman, October 12, 1888 we read:
REDINGTON HAS A DAUGHTER - Our old friend, Col. J. W. Redington is today the happiest man in the whole United States and the reason therefore is that his beloved wife has presented him with a darling daughter. Now then Johnny will have something to take an interest in and bring up in the way she should go and under his vine and fig tree can relate to her his old time experiences in flood and field during the Indian wars.
My father must have poked around for awhile looking for a good location while my mother and little Mabel remained in their house in Walla Walla. They had been married New Years Day, 1887. The date on the hand-written letter of loving advice about the trip to Puyallup is 1889. The paper Papa bought in Puyallup was the Puyallup Commerce. The town's population was six hundred. The town was devoted to hop and fruit growing. My sister Mabel wrote me lately that Papa really started the berry industry there with his fine big raspberries. I can remember when I must have been in the first grade there how the whole family turned to and picked the raspberries and they were crated and I rode with my father the few blocks to the railroad station and watched the berries put aboard. Sad to say that big batch did not move through fast enough to their destination with little or no refrigeration and they all spoiled.
However, the paper did very well, with my mother selling advertising which amounted to over 70% of the paper. They say my father cleared as much as $700 a month in good months and that was MONEY for that day. I still don't figure it out about the moving around. My parents must have stayed there in Puyallup to have Marian and Bernice, but five years later when I was about to be born they moved to a big house with a cupola on north G Street in Tacoma. One reason was that the hops became infested with some bug and caused a local depression. My mother told me she couldn't get help in Puyallup. There is no evidence of any racey political fights like in Heppner and maybe papa found it dull. He became an all-out Republican and boosted Garfield, a change from his Heppner politics. His dog, Dash, marched in all the political parades with photographs of Garfield and funny slogans on each side.
In May, 1898, papa was a reporter on The Oregonian, roaming through Oregon and Washington writing articles on the growth and progress of the cities he had known and how they looked 20 years later-The Dalles, Salem, Pendleton, WalIa Walla. My mother became very ill and I think had seven operations in a Portland hospital. She talked many times of how Dr. Nichols saved her life. My father and three older sisters lived in a boarding house on the east side and I, too young to go to school, stayed with Aunt Molly Crocker and her family in a lovely home somewhere near where Temple Beth Israel is now. Mr. Crocker was a railroad official but what I especially remember was they wouldn't let me eat pickles, as they weren't good for children. I think it must have been the first time I was ever denied anything! Our near relative feeling for the Crockers was through my mother filling out a year of teaching for "Aunt Molly" at Aurora, Oregon, about 1878.
When my mother was well enough to take over again, we returned to Heppner. We lived on Willow Creek and all I remember was hanging by my neck on our white picket fence and someone rescued me. And being waked up late at night and carried onto the train when we left Heppner forever.
But the story was another experience for my father of the "goodies" and the "baddies." A man we always called "Mr. Shutt" was the villain of our lives. He was running the opposition paper and again there were the bitter battles with printer's ink. It was when my father became personal and brought up an incident that involved the other editor with a young woman that the man retaliated by having my father slugged in a dark alley as he went alone, his two hands and arms burdened with all his weekly Gazettes for the post office, beat my father up and nearly killed him. My dramatic mother assailed Mr. Shutt with something like these words, "If my husband dies and I am a widow and my children are orphans, you will hang on the gallows and your wife will be a widow and your children will be orphans." Mr. Shutt, however, beat my parents to the courthouse, admitted his offence, paid a small fine and that was it. We read in the paper many years later with a date line somewhere in California how the poor man had shot his blind son and taken his own life.
Later we returned to Puyallup where I remember running home crying from school because one of the many loose running cows chased me. Then we went back to Tacoma to live in a four story rather elegant house that was built by a mayor of New York and therefore shaped as though others were to be built attached to it. As always we were no more than settled when my father had a complete set of play equipment built - big swings for my sisters, little swing for me, whirley-gig and teeter totter. My sisters used to push me so fast around on the whirley-gig with my feet clinging as tightly as I later clung to my horse Popcorn, and I can remember shrieking, "Stop, stop, the blooder-rust to my head." I had heard my mother tell my big sisters to slow down or the blood would rush to my head.
How my father loved his family, played jokes on everybody! He would take us down to Wright park pond when it was frozen and help us discover nickels and dimes frozen into the ice. He would dig them out with his jack knife as we discovered them and tell us the fairies must have dropped them when they were skating the night before.
Then the blow fell. What irony that a boy who had left home because his New England parents were "narrow minded and Puritanical" should suddenly find his wife a religious zealot who spent most of her days and nights at a meeting house over a bakery with all her children obeying when told to attend.
So our papa was given his choice of leaving his family to be raised by their mother or having her leave us for him to raise. So he bid us goodbye and left for California. All I remember of that is going down in the basement where he was packing a little leather trunk and having him hand me my savings in a little purse. I think it amounted to two or three dollars. I must have shown it to all my friends in the second grade at Emerson school and they followed me to the drug store where I spent the whole thing on carefully chosen candy and distributed it among them.
I still remember the smirk on the faces of Tacoma ladies who must have known the sad story when they would ask, "Elizabeth, where did your father go?" and I, quoting my mother would say, "He has gone to California. He couldn't stand the rain in Tacoma."
Papa spent the rest of his lonely years first in Nevada, then in Southern California, selling real estate, working as a city editor, and finally living at and running the print shop at the old soldiers' home in Sawtelle, with vacations for change of scene with one or the other of my sisters in California. He cherished his grandchildren and they him. One of my nephews told me recently Grandpa Redington was his idol and hearing him tell tales of his scouting days was his greatest excitement. Papa wrote continually of his adventures and philosophies, and old friends like Owen Wister and General Howard were his regular correspondents. Owen Wister had trekked with him through much of the Heppner country where papa would recount to him where the battles were joined and who was involved. They corresponded for the rest of their lives.
With printer's ink always in his blood, he prepared for publication and sent out to magazines and newspapers thousands of words of copy, some of which was published in Sunset Magazine, a very different type of publication in those days. General Howard, who always kept in touch with him, named him "The Original Boy Scout." Papa also wrote to everyone in the U. S. Government who had any possible connection, trying to get a pension such as he would have had were he an enlisted soldier or an officer. But even though it went to Congress, they did not see fit to pension him because he was considered a civilian employee of the army. Had he received it I feel sure, knowing his life pattern, he would have given it all to his grown children who were suffering through the depression.
However, he had the satisfaction of being made Adjutant General of Oregon when he came home to Salem at the end of his scouting career and was given a hero's welcome. And he was given the rank of Lt. Col. in the National Guard, which made him the happiest of anything, for through all the rest of his life he enjoyed being called colonel - Col. John Watermelon Redington my papa.
*"John Watermelon Redington, Hell on Hogthieves and Hypocrites" by Brant Ducey. Master of Arts Thesis, University of Oregon School of Journalism, June, 1963.