Captain John T. Apperson

32135065_126477940731One of the most interesting “residents” of Mountain View Cemetery is Captain John T. Apperson – veteran of the 1st Oregon Cavalry, failed gold miner, successful steamboat captain, politician, member of several fraternal orders and a founding board member and benefactor of the Oregon Agricultural College (Oregon State University)

Captain John T. Apperson (December 23, 1834 – April 3, 1917) was the fifth of ten children born to Beverly Apperson and Jane Gilbert Tubbs. In 1847 the family left Missouri and traveled the Oregon Trail to a new home in the west. His father died near Ham’s Fork, in Wyoming, and was buried in an unmarked grave. After her husband’s death, Jane Apperson continued on to Oregon, with her nine children. The family stayed for a short time with a relative of his mother’s near Sandy and then moved to Portland where Jane

Jane Boarding House
1850 advertisement for Jane G. Apperson’s boarding house, Sunday Oregonian

kept a boarding house. Jane and Beverly’s youngest child, Milton M. Apperson, died in Portland in 1848. On December 18, 1851, Jane Apperson married Robert Moore, founder of Linn City, and she moved to Linn City with her younger children. Moore, a widower with six grown children, was eighteen years older than Jane and an established businessman, who offered a better life to the family. But her new life would last only a few years, as Robert Moore died September 2, 1857 and two years later Jane Gilbert Tubbs Apperson Moore died, on February 28, 1859. Jane is buried in the Masonic section of Mountain View Cemetery, in the same plot as her son, John T. Apperson and John’s wife, Mary Ann Elliott Apperson.

One of Captain John T. Apperson’s obituaries tells of his having wanted to visit the area in Wyoming where his father was buried in an unmarked grave. Oddly, the location of his step-father’s grave is also unknown. Robert Moore was possibly buried on his property in Linn City, in an area that was washed away by a flood in 1861. Although Jane was buried at Mountain View Cemetery two years later, no record of the actual location of Robert Moore’s burial has been found.

Following are Captain Apperson’s obituaries as well as a biography and newspaper articles on the bequest he left to the Oregon Agricultural College.

Oregon City Enterprise, Friday, April 6, 1917


J T AppersonCaptain J. T. Apperson, one of the most widely known and highly esteemed residents of Oregon, died at the family home at Parkplace, about one mile from this city, Tuesday at 4 o’clock, after an illness of several month. The remains are at the Holman undertaking parlors in this city, and on Thursday will be removed to the Masonic Temple, where the funeral services will be conducted at 1:20 o’clock with the Masonic order in charge of the services. The interment will be in the Masonic plat, Mountain View cemetery.

Captain Apperson was born near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, December 23, 1834. With his parents he crossed the plains by ox team in 1847, and has resided in the state since, except for a short time in California. He first made his home at what is now Fairview, and at that time there was but one settler besides the Apperson family. From Fairview he went to Portland in 1848, remaining there until 1849, and then left for California, where he resided until 1855, returning to Oregon and making his home in Clackamas county until 1860 when he went to Walla Walla. Residing there for about one year he returned to take up his residence here, and engaged in farming on a small scale. During his residence in Clackamas county he held many public offices. He was state senator of Oregon from 1878 until 1880, and representative from 1889 until 1893. Previous to that time he was sheriff of Clackamas county from 1874 until 1878, serving two terms. He was a member of the board of regents of the Oregon Agricultural college, and took an active interest in the institution’s affairs. Until his death he was interested in the college, having recently visited the same. He has always taken an active interest in the Oregon state fair, and was a visitor each year to the fair grounds. For some time he was president of the state board of agriculture.

Mr. Apperson was probably the oldest Mason in the northwest, also the oldest member of the I. O. O. F. lodge No. 3 and was recently presented with a handsome medal from the latter lodge for the membership of the longest standing.

He was a master of Multnomah Lodge A. F. & A. M. at Oregon City and was also a member of the Masonic Veteran association, the latter association with headquarters at San Francisco, he became a member of that organization about three years ago.

Mr. Apperson was also interested in grange work, and was a member of Abernethy Grange at the time of his death. He was master of the grange for some time. Mr. Apperson has always been a “booster” for the Northwest, and has been instrumental in promoting industries in the state of Oregon.

Deceased is survived by his wife, Mary A. Apperson, of Parkplace; one sister, Mrs. Elvira Fellows, who has made her home with her brother in Parkplace, for a number of years; one brother, Jacob Apperson.

Oregon City Courier, Thursday, April 5, 1917

Unmarked Grave on Wyoming Plain was Object of Pilgrimage he Hoped to Make

Visions of the happy day when he could go back to the old homestead in Kentucky, when he could even go back part way over the trail of ’47 to that sadly sacred spot where his father gave his life in a sacrifice to the star of hope, went glimmering with a thousand other dreams that Captain John T. Apperson held dear to his heart. Captain Apperson answered the last bugle call, a summons to the final trail of mortal man, early on Tuesday morning. Today he rests in a grave shrouded in the memory of countless friends.

Of Clackamas county’s best-known pioneer citizens there is a life story that reads not unlike fiction. Thrilling with action, it reflects the deep intelligence of the man. It combines a tribute to the pure red blood in the veins of the hero with the calm recital of how a pioneer boy gained an envied place in the ranks of citizenship.

It was in Christian county, Kentucky, that Captain Apperson was born. The eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Beverly Apperson. That was on December 23, 1834. The following year the family went to Missouri. There Captain Apperson spent his boyhood and from there he took up the long journey across the plains toward Oregon with his family in 1847.

Bear river, Wyoming. It is a forgotten waterhole except to those hardy souls who traveled the long trail of the pioneers. But Captain Apperson never forgot Bear river. To his dying day he wanted to return to that little stream on the Wyoming plain. His most sacred memories were there – it was there that his father gave way to death. Holding a glimmering lantern that others of the emigrant train could see to dig from parched soil a grave for his brave father, John T. Apperson watched the pioneer companions of Beverly Apperson lower their comrade into the grave. And John joined his weeping mother and her children to continue onward toward the promised land – Oregon.

A pilgrimage to his father’s shrine was one of the dreams of John T. Apperson, during the last years of his life. It went with other fond hopes when death called.

Little John learned from the pioneers the way of life. He knew the pangs of their sorrow for he had suffered them all himself. He knew the brave fight they had made to conquer a practical wilderness. He was fitted for the life he was to live when he reached Oregon Cit with is mother and her little family. The family reached Oregon in November of 1847, and located with friends on the banks of the Sandy river. When spring came they moved to Portland. Mrs. Apperson, the mother, conducted a boarding house while John worked in a nearby tannery.

The gold rush came! John Apperson, a pioneer to the day of his death, was lured to the gold fields of California. His search for gold was, withal, a vain one. He returned to Oregon in 1855, a man, and became a river steamboat operator. First as a mere employee, later as an owner of one of the early day lines on the Willamette.

And then came the Civil war. Another dramatic feature of the life of Captain Apperson. The north called this southern born youth to the colors as a member of the 1st Oregon Cavalry. He gained promotion from the ranks rapidly and before he was mustered out of the service was a captain. He also became a captain during the steamboat days. The cavalry in which John Apperson was enlisted was a home guard, but it gave the pioneer youth the brand of the soldier – the broad shoulders, the clear eye, the quick thinking capacity that stood him in good stand in later years.

Twice did the people of Oregon send Captain Apperson to the state legislature. They also sent him on a futile mission to the republican convention of 1884, when he cast a vote and the energy of his labor in behalf of James G. Blaine. Once the hardy citizen was elected sheriff of Clackamas county, and for four years he was registrar of the land office in this city. Twenty votes were cast for Captain Apperson in the convention which nominated Moody for governor.

And other honors were heaped upon Clackamas county’s sterling citizen. He was one of the first regents of the Oregon Agricultural college and held that position until the day of his death, always a leader, a pioneer, in educational work. He was a president of the Oregon Pioneer society, in addition to holding high offices in the Masonic, Odd Fellows and Elks lodges.

Captain Apperson’s life enriched the history of Oregon. In that respect there have been few citizens his superior in this county, and many stories of his manly worth are on the tongues of hundreds of Oregonians as he is laid at his final rest.

Today a mound in the Masonic plot of Mountain View cemetery was moulded over the sleeping body by the loving hands of lodge brothers. And beneath the sod that covers Captain John T. Apperson there lies but one regret. That is a regret that such a mound as now covers the son could not have been built over the father, who gave his life in the search for the land of hope, and whose burial place on the plains of Wyoming is lost under the same sands of time that counted the score of the Oregon pioneer ’47 who rests today at Mountain View, his wish to find the grave of his father resting with him – a task that the least wanted Captain Apperson to do – a task that must forever by undone.


The Sunday Oregonian, March 11, 1923

Gift to Agricultural College First of Kind
Money to Be Invested
Income Only Will be Used in Making Loans to Worthy Young Men and Women.

OREGON AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE, Corvallis, March 10. – (Special.) – The John T. Apperson bequest of the residue of his $100,000 estate, after deduction of individual bequests, is the first of its kind ever made to Oregon Agricultural college. The entire residue, the exact amount of which will be known when the will is probated in the Clackamas county courts, will be turned over to the Oregon state land board to be invested in securities for the benefit of young men and women of Oregon who need financial assistance to complete their college courses.

The college already has a permanent loan fund of more than $22,000 consisting of bequests by students and friends of the college for accommodation of deserving students, a number of personal and society scholarships, and is a joint beneficiary with the state university of the Bernard Daly Lake county scholarship fund. But the bequest of an entire estate, less the stated private benefactions, is an event in the life of this institution and a brilliant example of bestowal of wealth for educational needs.

Mother’s Devotion Cited.

Captain Apperson early learned the value of education from the example set by his mother, who worked in a tannery to support and educate her family. He continued the furtherance of education until his death. Born in Kentucky, December 24, 1834, John T. Apperson crossed the plains with a wagon train when he was 12 years old. Before the party reached the coast his father died and was buried in Wyoming. The widow and nine children came on and settled at Sandy. Later they moved to Portland.

Through days of gold hunting in California, operating a steamboat line, fighting in the civil war, serving as state representative and as sheriff of Clackamas county, Captain Apperson kept education foremost in his life, and served on the board of regents from the time Oregon Agricultural college was established in 1885 to his death.

apperson hall 1900
Apperson Hall (Mechanical Hall) 1900

Apperson hall, formerly called mechanical hall, was named for Captain Apperson. Tradition has it that he walked out in a cabbage patch on the campus and said: “Here is a good place for the building,” and there the hall was erected. No campus plans or driveways had been planned then.

Gift Typical of Giver.

“His gift is typical of the man,” said President Kerr. “It is constructive, far-seeing and helpful rather than lavish. It aims at self-development rather than self-satisfaction, and involves both in its management and service to the individual student a careful husband of resources.”

“Captain Apperson was rich in experience that made for essential success, and knew how to make these experiences count by helping others. His estate by his own conservative estimate was worth from $80,000 to $100,000.”

In administering the college bequest, President Kerr and J. A. Churchhill, superintendent of public instruction will be the persons to whom the students make application for loans. Their recommendations will be accepted by the state land board, trustees of the fund.

Loans Often Helpful.

More than 75 percent of the students in the college are in part self-supporting. Some of them are forced to drop their college work in the spring and go to work. A loan of $50 to $75 has often been the deciding factor in helping young men and women to remain the full year. The Oregon Agricultural college student loan fund is now aiding 312 students. Nearly $68,000 has been loaned since the fund was established 12 years ago. Originating from a private bequest, the loan fund has been built up entirely by students, faculty members and friends of the college. Some profits from student affairs have been added. The latest addition was nearly $500 in profits from the women’s stunt show.

The Apperson loan fund will never be reduced, as only the interest will be lent. As payments come in, with accrued interest, the fund will grow. If any part of the income is not lent it is added to the principal.

Morning Oregonian, March 20, 1923

Court Takes Action on Provision Made for Benefit of Agricultural College Student.

OREGON CITY, Or. March 19 –
Final steps toward turning over the residue of the John T. Apperson estate to the state land board to be held in trust as a loan fund for students at Oregon Agricultural college were taken today by County Judge Gross when he authorized the executors of the estate to pay all other bequests.

Under the terms of the will the widow received $10,000; a sister, Mrs. Elvira D. Fellows, $1,000, and a brother, Jacob R. Apperson, $1,000. These bequests were paid and the executors, Edwin Clyde Apperson and Roswell L. Conner, both nephews of the pioneer, administered the estate during the lifetime of the widow. The will provides that following the death of Mrs. Apperson, which occurred March 7, the following bequests should be made: Albert B. Apperson, nephew, $2,000; Elvie E. Apperson, niece, $1,000; Laura L. Harrington, niece, $500; Myrtle A. Conner, niece, $500; Myrtle A. Conner, niece, $500; Hattie M. Lacey, niece, $500. Nine other nephews and nieces are to receive $100 each.

Following filing of vouchers showing payment of the bequests an order for carrying out the last provision of the will, that the residue of the estate be turned over to the land board to be held in trust as “The J. T. Apperson Agricultural College Education Fund,” will be issued. It is believed the fund will be about $80,000.


Containing Original Sketches of many well known Citizens of the Past and Present

CAPT. JOHN T. APPERSON. It is seldom throughout the incipient stages of growth, down to a period covering many years in the development of a progressive commonwealth, that to any one man is accorded a foremost place by general consent. New countries in these latter days of steam and electricity develop often with rapidity; new issues are met by new leaders, while those who laid the foundation of society rarely retain their hold on affairs for any extended period of time. In this, however, Oregon has been an exception to the rule, and the career of Capt. John T. Apperson is a conspicuous example of the exception. Coming to Oregon when the country was an undeveloped wilderness, no settled social, political or business order, he has exerted a continually increasing influence in the various lines of development which have added to the wealth and greatness of the state. Apart from his business life, he has been one of the foremost builders of our state. The results of his high integrity and of his efforts to elevate the tone of society and keep pure the moral sentiment of the community, make a double claim upon our respect and recognition. Fortunate, indeed, has it been for the state, that its political leaders, like our subject, have been men whose social, religious and domestic relations have stimulated and honored the highest of her people. The lessons of such lives are the best inheritance of a state or people.

John T. Apperson was born in Christian county, Ky., December 24, 1834, a son of Beverly Apperson, who was born in the vicinity of Jamestown on the banks of the James river, and was united in marriage with Jane Gilbert Tubbs, a native of Tennessee. Ten children were born of this union, as follows : Beverly, who died when young ; Sarah : Matilda Jane ; John T. ; Harriett Rebecca ; Albert A. ; Donna Elvira ; Jacob R. ; Susan H. ; and Milton M., who died in childhood. Beverly Apperson was a planter and farmer, and after his marriage removed to Kentucky. In 1835 he took up his residence in Missouri, living for a time near Springfield, and later locating near Neosha, Newton county. This father was ambitious for his family and in order to better their conditions joined an expedition bound for the coast, in which there were one hundred wagons and much live stock. The journey was a tedious one and much trouble was experienced with the Indians, especially so with those at Umatilla, who were afterward connected with the Whitman massacre. Little did the hopeful band think that ere their journey’s end was reached, death would take from their midst one of its most stalwart and hardy members, but the grim messenger strikes where least expected and at Ham Fork, Beverly Apperson died of an attack of fever and was buried in a lonely grave, remote from home and kindred. Heartbroken, the mother and nine children continued on their way to the new Eldorado, which to them was Oregon City, where a cousin and son-in-law resided. The first winter in Oregon, however, was spent near Portland, at the mouth of the Sandy, where the cattle were wintered and where the mother took up a claim afterward abandoned. In the spring of 1848 the family removed to Lawnsdale, where the mother found employment in a tannery owned by the cousin. Here this brave woman labored for her flock and gave to them the few advantages then obtainable.

John T. Apperson, of whom we are writing, remembers well the long journey across the plains, and although but thirteen years of age, he did his share of the labors incident to the life of the pioneers. He remained at home and worked to assist in the maintenance of the family. With the breaking out of the gold excitement in California in 1849, the family came to Portland, and John T. departed for the Golden state. For a time he mined on the Yuba river and Deer creek, meeting with considerable success, but owing to the state of his health he was obliged to seek other employment, and two years were spent in ranching and cattle raising. At the expiration of this time, Mr. Apperson returned to Oregon and for three years was in the employment of the Milling and Transportation Company, and thereafter engaged in steamboating, his first boat being the Rival, its course being between Oregon City and Portland. Being possessed of an economic nature he saved from his earnings and in time was able to purchase an interest in the boats Clinton and Union, freight and passenger carriers plying between Oregon City and Dayton. He continued in this line of business until 1861, when the breaking out of the Civil war offered

an opportunity for every citizen to display his patriotism. Mr. Apperson was among the first to lay down the business duties of life, and as a private he enlisted in the First Oregon Cavalry from which position he was later promoted to first lieutenant. Instead of following out the original intention to join the Army of the Potomac, the government sent them into eastern Oregon, Washington territory and Idaho, where they were engaged in fighting Indians and bushwhacking. Mr. Apperson continued in the service until 1865, in which year he obtained his honorable discharge. He at once took up his old occupation, that of steamboating. which he followed for the next five years.

During these years spent on the river and in the army Mr. Apperson had gained an acquaintance which extended over a large territory. In those days it was hard to find men who were capable to handle the reins of government. Those were the days when the state was being made and it needed men of unquestioned ability, of honesty and integrity. A Republican in politics, Mr. Apperson had always been found thoroughly abreast of the times and a firm supporter of the principles of his party. Recognizing his worth and ability his party made their first call upon him in 1870, in which year he was elected to the state legislature. He served his constituents well and in 1874 he was selected to fill the office of sheriff, to which position he was later elected. His administration was so satisfactory that his party determined to keep him in public office, and in 1878 he was elected to the state senate, where he served from 1878 to 1882. No member was more active than he. Bills that were calculated to be of benefit to the state always had his active and hearty support, farther political honors came to Mr. Apperson in 1884. when he was sent as a delegate to the National Convention held in Chicago, at which time he labored earnestly for the nomination of James G. Blaine. Four years later, in 1888, he was again called upon to serve in the legislature, and in 1889 he was appointed registrar of the United States land office at Oregon City, which position he held for the succeeding four years. Since retiring from the latter position he has lived in retirement from public office. Twenty-four years of his life have been given to his state. His record is an honorable one over which there falls no shadow of shame or dishonor.

Fraternally Mr. Apperson is one of the most prominent Masons in the state and is the oldest on the Pacific coast, having joined Multnomah Lodge in 1858, of which he is past master. He is also identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, has passed the chairs in both branches of the order, and has been grand representative of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the United States and attended the convention held in the city of Cincinnati in 1882. In 1872 he served as grand master of the state of Oregon.

All his life Captain Apperson has been a stanch supporter of educational matters and has done all in his power to better the conditions of the schools in the state. In 1885 a law was enacted creating a Board of Regents of the State Agricultural College at Corvallis. In the same year Captain Apperson was appointed a member of the Board by Governor Moody, and at this time he is still serving. For seven years he was president of the board and during that time he won the appreciation of all. On his retirement from the office of president the board passed resolutions of thanks and praise for the manner in which he had conducted the affairs of the office. In addition to other matters Mr. Apperson has been greatly interested in the agricultural conditions of Oregon and for many years was a member of the state board, while for ten years he served as president of the same.

In Walla Walla, Wash., Mr. Apperson was united in marriage with Miss Mary A. Elliott, a native of Missouri and a daughter of William Elliott, who was born in Vincennes, Ind., and a farmer during his active life. Mr. Elliott crossed the plains to Oregon in 1846, and has lived for many years with his daughter, Mrs. Apperson. To his credit is courageous service in the Indian wars and a life of devotion to his family.

If space permitted the writer could say much more of the life and deeds of Captain Apperson. There is no man in the Willamette Valley more deserving of the esteem and confidence of his fellow-men than he. His life is like an open book — open to all. He has lived a life of high purpose.

His interest in the growth and development of his adopted state has been sincere, and by example he has endeavored to elevate the standard of morality and progress in all of the avenues of his activity. It is to such men the present generation owes a debt of gratitude that will never be paid. Too much cannot be said or done in their honor. They are the men that have made Oregon one of the greatest of states and their lives are well worthy of emulation.


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