A Hidden Past…Dr. John E. Long and Frances Cason Long Prigg Campbell

Many early arrivals in the Oregon Territory were men, and women, starting over in a new land with opportunities to redefine who they were. Some of these emigrants left families and secrets behind, not easily discovered in their new homes given the length of time necessary for information to move from one coast to the other. One man, central to the early provisional government, was one of these. The story of the lives of Dr. John E. Long and Frances Cason Long Prigg Campbell reads like a modern mystery or romance novel…

The 31 of July, of the year 1845, after the dispensation of the publication of three bans of marriage between John Edwin Long, son of John Long and Penelope, born in England the 5 of the year 1803, on the one part, and of Francoise Caroline Marie Cason, daughter of Fendal Caesar Cason and of Rebecca Rolling, born in the United States the 21 of November of the year 1824, on the other part; nor any impediment being discovered have received their mutual consent and have given them the nuptial benediction in the presence of Fendol Caesar Cason before mentioned and Catherine Sinclair. P. DeVos, S. J.

And so begins the tale of a life bringing together two 1843 arrivals in the Oregon Territory. On the same day as their marriage Dr. John E. Long and Frances Caroline Cason were each baptized into Roman Catholic church. Adding to the family, Frances gave birth to a daughter, Marie Rebecca Long, On February 11, 1846. The baby was baptized by the Catholic priest on February 23rd, with Dr. John McLoughlin standing as her godfather. There is no further information on her life and it appears that she died young.

On May 14, 1844 Dr. Long had been elected Territorial Recorder under the Provisional Government and he was re-elected to this position in 1845 and 1846. As secretary he also served as the clerk of Legislature. A tongue-in-check article in the April 2, 1846 Oregon Spectator “reports” the following conversation:

Farmer: Well, friend, let us drop the liquor subject – I have some business to attend to in the city with the secretary of the territory. Who is Secretary?
City Gen. – Doctor L.
Far. – My neighbor Jones sent down a land claim to get recorded. Who is the recorder?
City Gent. – The doctor.
Far. – My neighbor Smith sold his oxen and farm to friend Giles, and took a mortgage. Who is the recorder of mortgages?
City Gent. – The doctor.

In spite of his rapid rise in the estimation of his neighbors, little is known about Dr. Long’s life before he came to the Oregon Territory in 1843. One source states that he was from Kentucky, which is confirmed by a Louisville newspaper article that printed the news of Dr. Long’s death half a year later. From Bancroft’s History of Oregon “Dr. John E. Long was born in England and bred to the profession of medicine. He immigrated to the United States in 1833, and to Oregon in 1843. He was a member of the Catholic church of Oregon City, but at the same time was a firm supporter of the provisional government. He was drowned or killed June 21, 1846, by a fall form his horse, which became unmanageable at a ford of the Clackamas River, throwing him into the stream (Or. Spectator, July 9, 1846.)”

So, less than a year after her marriage, 21-year-old Frances Cason Long was a widow. On July 7, 1846 she filed a statement with court declining the position of administrator of her husband’s estate and name Peter G. Stewart in her place. The probate of his estate was filed in Clackamas County on July 18, 1846. In addition to Stewart, Andrew Hood and Dr. Frederic Prigg are listed as sureties for a $2,000 bond. In October 1846 James Taylor, Medorem Crawford and Dr. Frederick Prigg were appointed appraisers by the Court and tasked with completing an inventory of Dr. Long’s estate. The final inventory covered seven pages and in addition to household goods included around 40 books, most on medical subjects and two pages listing the drugs in his dispensary.

In 1847, Frances Caroline Cason Long married Dr. Frederic Prigg, who had been Dr. Long’s deputy clerk. On July 26, 1848, Dr. Prigg was appointed the new administrator of the estate of Dr. Long, which had still not been settled.

Dr. Prigg, who was also born in England, had been appointed Territorial Secretary following the death of Dr. Long and remained in that office until he resigned in September 1848. He also apparently stepped into Dr. Long’s practice and was able to make use of the extensive inventory of medical books and medications. Unfortunately he followed in Dr. Long’s footsteps in too many ways. In October 1849 he disappeared. The only evidence was his cap which was found at the foot of the bluff along the bank of the river.

The news of the “accident” shows that Frances’ second short marriage may not have been a completely happy one. The Oregon Spectator reported Dr. Prigg’s disappearance as follows:

A painful doubt must therefore rest on the mind whether he was murdered and thrown over, or fell over accidentally or voluntarily. Be this as it may, it is our unhappy task to record this as another admonition to those who visit the groceries. The Dr. was a man of fine education, excellent mind, and a good physician, and would have stood in the front rank of any society, but for the destructive influence of Alcohol. As he had been known to be much intoxicated for some time previous to his disappearance, there remains no doubt but that rum was instrumental in hastening on a fate from which temperance would have save him.

In Bancroft’s History of Oregon the author summarizes: “I have already mentioned the accidental death of Dr. Long by drowning in the Willamette at Oregon City, he being at the time territorial secretary. He was succeeded in practice and in office by Dr. Frederick Prigg, elected by the legislature in December 1846. He also died an accidental death by falling from the rocky bluff into the river, in October 1849. He was said to be a man of fine abilities and education, but intemperate in his habits.”

Dr. Prigg’s body was not recovered from the river until late August 1850. The Oregon Spectator reported that although the body was badly decomposed, remains of clothing and “other things connected with the body” gave a positive identification. It was also reported that there was an injury to the corpse’s back that indicated foul play at the time of the doctor’s death, but there is no indication that any investigation was prompted by this discovery.

On September 12, 1850 two notices of probate were printed in the Oregon Spectator, both dated September 4, 1850 and each filed by William B. Campbell as administrator for each of the separate probates. The first notice is for the estate of Dr. Frederic Prigg. The second notice is for the still not settled estate of Dr. John E. Long, showing Campbell as administrator “de bonis non” a term for a subsequent administrator who oversees distribution of assets.

William B. Campbell, son of Probate Judge Hector Campbell, petitioned the court to move the Long probate to Washington County to avoid any appearance of judicial preference. He most likely also felt that it was important to keep everything neatly legal in finalizing Dr. Long’s estate as he had married Frances Caroline Cason Long Prigg on August 8, 1850, shortly before her second husband’s remains were discovered in the river.

And now the story becomes even more interesting. Dr. Long, upstanding community member, who as a newly baptized Catholic swore that there was no impediment to his marriage to Frances Cason, had been hiding a few secrets as shown in Campbell’s petition to the court filed September 3, 1850.

To the Hon. The Judge of Probate in and for the county of Clackamas.
Your Petitioner William B. Campbell of said county, respectfully represents unto your Honor, that administration of the Estate of John E. Long deceased has not yet been concluded and that the said deceased has no relatives in this territory either of affinity or consanguinity other than your Petitioners wife, widow of the said deceased.
And your petitioner further represents that according to the bet of his knowledge and belief the said deceased has two daughters living, who at the date of the latest intelligence which your petitioner has been able to obtain in relation to them resided in the state of Kentucky. And your petitioner further represents, that if appointed administrator de bonis non of the estate of John E. Long deceased (which he hereby prays) he will make a perfect inventory and appraisment so far as the same may not have been inventoried and appraised , and faithfully administer all the estate of the said deceased not administered, and the debts as far as the said estate will admit, and the law admit and account for and pay over all assets which shall come to his possession or knowledge.
Wm. B. Campbell

Two previously unmentioned daughters may not be that big of a shock, but as the case continued to drag out for another few years in the court in Washington County more information was revealed.

After transferring the probate to Washington County an updated inventory and appraisal was submitted, which listed only a house and lot in Oregon City valued at $3,166.00. An updated financial statement filed by William Campbell shows costs for taxes and repairs to the house and property as well as income from rent and the sale of one book. In addition to these expenses, Campbell filed the following document:

Estate of John E. Long Decd.
To Wm. B & Frances C. Campbell in for labor and services by Frances C. Campbell wife of William B. Campbell, from December 1843 to June 1846 rendered to and for John E. Long is his life time as his supposed and reputed wife – $500.00
Frances C. Campbell
Wm. B. Campbell

From the dates in this document, Frances began her relationship with Dr. Long just after her 19th birthday in 1843, shortly after they both arrived in the Oregon Territory. It appears that their baptisms and marriage as Catholics, seven months prior to the birth of their daughter, was not the beginning of what she considered their marriage. The use of the phrase “supposed and reputed wife” is explained by another document filed on September 7, 1854 in the probate case:

Territory of Oregon, Washington County, Probate Court
In the matter of Administration on the Estate of John E. Long, dec’d
To the Hon. J. Orvis Watterman Judge of said court.

The petition of John E. Long respectfully shows unto your Honor, that the said John E. Long, dec’d, died sometime in the year 1846, leaving him then surviving his wife, Elizabeth B. Long, then living in the state of Kentucky and Mary Ann, John E. your petitioner, Elizabeth and Eliza Long, children of the said John E. Long, dec’d and Mary Ann Long his first wife, being the only children & heirs at Law of the said John E. Long dec’d as will appear from the depositions in the possession of your petitioner.

Your petitioner further showeth unto your Honor that the said Elizabeth B. Long, widow of the said John E. Long dec’d as aforesaid died at Pleasant Hill, Mercer County in the State of Kentucky, sometime in the month of February in the year 1851, leaving no children the issue of her marriage with the said John E. Long dec’d and that there was no issue of said last mentioned marriage – so that at this time the said John E. your petitioner, Mary Ann, Elizabeth and Eliza Long are the only surviving children and heirs at law of the said John E. Long dec’d – and that said heirs are all of full age, being over the age of 21 years. And your petitioner further shows that he is fully empowered and authorized as the attorney of the said Mary Ann, Elizabeth & Eliza Long to receive & settle for their interests respectively in the said estate and to do all other matters and things in their behalf pertaining to said estate – That your petitioner has been to great expense in coming from the state of California to this Territory to receive the estate of his father & has been delayed & detained for a long time, to wit, the space of ten months or more in the fruitless endeavor to settle for the said estate, at great expense and to the neglect of his business in California.

Your petitioner therefore prays, in consideration of the premises and that the said estate has been administered on for a long time and that further administration is unnecessary the said heirs being of full age to receive the same, that the administrator on the said estate may be compelled by the process of this Hon. Court, to render a final account on oath of his doings thereon – as to what monies property and effects have come into his hands as such administrator as aforesaid, also what monies property & effects still remain in his hands – and that he may be ordered to pay over & deliver to your petitioner as well in his own right, as of Attorney as aforesaid, all money property and effects which may have come into his hands as such administrator as aforesaid – and your petitioner will ever pray.
John E. Long

The final distribution of the assets of Dr. Long’s estate are not recorded in the digitized file, but it is assumed that after the sale of the house and distribution to the legal heirs, Frances was done with her association with the Long family. After two short marriages, cut tragically short, and the news that her first marriage was not actually legal no matter when it commenced, Frances finally appears to have found happiness. She remained married to William B. Campbell for over 28 years, until his death on March 3, 1879. Frances (or Francois) Caroline Mary (or Marie) Cason Long Prigg Campbell died on October 13, 1883 and is buried beside William in Lone Pine Cemetery in Portland, OR.

The Campbells were the parents of three children, an unnamed daughter who died in infancy, William Ellis Campbell and Ellen Virginia Campbell Campbell Raser. William and his wife Sarah Angell were the parents of 11 children. Ellen was first married to her cousin Horace Guy Campbell and they were the parents of one daughter. They divorced and both later remarried. Ellen married Oliver B. Raser, Sr. in 1884 and they were just short of their fiftieth anniversary when Oliver died. They were the parents of two sons, Oliver Jr. and William.

But what about Dr. Long and his mysterious family? There is no explanation of how Frances became aware of these children. Perhaps the Bible and prayer book in Dr. Long’s estate, or correspondence found in his office led to the discovery and eventual contact with the younger John. Searches through Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and newspapers have revealed very little other than confirmation that Dr. John E. Long was living in Kentucky before coming to Oregon and confirmation of his baptism and the christenings of three of his four children:.

  • Dr. John Edwin Long was born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England February 25, 1803 per his 1845 baptism record.
  • From England births and Christenings: John Edwin Long, Christened April 14, 1826, St. James (Anglican), Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England. Born February 24, 1803.
  • Dr. John Edwin Long listed his parents as John and Penelope Long when baptized in Oregon City. A John Long, who died 1863 and Penelope Long, who died 1846, are buried in the St. James, Trowbridge, church cemetery.
  • John Edwin Long and Mary Ann Long are listed as parents in the following baptisms in England:
    • John Edwin Long, born December 4, 1830, baptized August 19, 1831, Saint James, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England.
    • Elizabeth Long, born March 17, 1829, christened August 19, 1831, Saint James, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England.
    • Mary Ann Long, born December 21, 1827, baptized August 19, 1831, St. James, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England
  • Eliza Long (daughter), No baptism record found. Possibly born after arrival in America in 1833?
  • No record of Mary Ann Long’s death has been located in England or America. As the family emigrated to America with three children under the age of 6 in 1833 it appears most likely that she died after arriving in America.
  • Possible Kentucky confirmations:
    • Elizabeth Long, age 21, and John Long age 20, both born in England, are shown in the District 1, Mercer County, KY 1850 Census. Neither a Mary Ann or an Eliza of the right age appear in the census.
    • Eliza Long age 39, born England, is shown in the District 1, Mercer County, KY 1850 Census but not on the same page and Elizabeth and John – Possibly the 2nd wife?
  • After searching multiple ships lists I have not found a record of the family’s trip to America, 1833 per Bancroft.

From these records, when Dr. John E. Long left Kentucky in 1843, he abandoned his 2nd wife and his four children: 13 year-old John, 14 year-old Elizabeth and 16 year-old Mary Ann, as well as Eliza who was possibly only 10. He entered into a marriage with Frances Cason shortly after his arrival in the Oregon Territory, possibly having met her on the trip over the Oregon Trail. (The Casons, Dr. Prigg and Dr. Long are all listed as 1843 arrivals. The existing lists are not broken down into individual companies and leave it unclear who actually traveled together.) Dr. Long’s place in the history of the Oregon Territory might have been a great deal different if he had survived until his first family made an appearance in the Oregon Territory and revealed his true past.

Unless more records appear, the full story behind Frances’ two dead husbands and her three marriages will remain a mystery. In a good mystery novel we would learn that she found out about John’s abandoned family and conspired with his deputy clerk to do away with John, and then staged another accidental death when Frederic began to drink to excess, either from his basic nature or out of remorse for what he had done. But this was real life and all we are left considering her the innocent victim of circumstances and the all too common early deaths that happened in the new territory. No matter what the truth, this tale adds to the early history of the Oregon Territory, bringing life back to the real people – most of them upstanding citizens who, like all of us, also had a few secrets.

One footnote to the story…Noyes Smith’s name appears on several of the documents in both estates, either as a surety or as an appraiser. Mr. Smith was another early arrival in Oregon City. He had an excellent reputation and was a member of the Pioneer Lyceum and Literary Club in Oregon City in 1843. But, although Mr. Smith was a very well off merchant, he was also hiding a secret. Eventually he was recognized by someone and identified as Egbert Olcott, a former bank employee in New York City, who had fled the city after his accounts were found to be short. Olcott arrived in the west with a new name hoping for a fresh start., yet another early pioneer who depended too much on the news not reaching across the growing country.

Life in the Oregon Territory circa 1850
The inventory of household goods found in Dr. Prigg’s probate gives a glimpse into a late 1840s home in Oregon City. Each year since 1842 had seen new merchants and an increasing number of ships from all parts of the world bringing goods to the Northwest. Before the end of Oregon City’s first decade the residents were able to furnish their homes in the manner closer to what they had been accustomed to in the more “civilized” East.

As Dr. Prigg’s only known family, aside from his wife, were a father and five siblings in England, Frances was deemed to be the sole heir to the estate which was valued at more than $6,000. In addition to payments on loans he had made and outstanding debts owed to him, the estate included all household furnishings, medical equipment and personal belongings. Dr. Prigg had also owned several lots as well as two dwelling houses in or near Oregon City and these are included in the value of the estate*.

Included in the household furnishings were:
2 Bureaus, $50: 2 Brass Clocks, $15; 6 Wooden Chairs, $10; 1 Rocking Chair; $10; 1 Velvet Chair, $10; 1 Wash Stand, $5; 1 Bedstead, $15,00; 1 Bed Quilt, $5; 1 Pair Sheets, $3; 5 Blankets, $20; 1 Setter? Tick (mattress), $5; 2 Wash Bowls.

The inventory goes on for another page and a half listing kitchen items including 2 tea pots, 4 cups and saucers; 1 coffee pot, 16 Plates, a sugar bowl, a mustard pot and various pots, pans, bowls and glassware. Also included are men’s and women’s clothing, including several fancy cravats for the doctor, sewing pins, needles, dress patterns, and three jewelry boxes valued at $25.00.

Several scraps of silk and satin as well as bonnet satin also appear in the inventory. Frances appears to have lived well as shown by a bill from Andrew Hood, local merchant, for purchases amde by Frances after her husband’s disappearance. The bill, which was paid out of the estate, gives an interesting insight into a “city” lady’s shopping habits:
May 3: 8 yards white Muslin, 1 bunch artificial flowers, 4 yards ribbon.
June 1: 6 yards black silk gingham, 1 pair fine black stockings
July 2: 1 pair shoes, 1 pair silk stockings, 2 pair of gloves, 5 yards white satin ribbon, 4 yards silk lace, 11 yards bleached muslin, tea, butter, peaches, berries, peas, potatoes and sundries.

*The 1850 tax roll shows Lot 3, Block 5 as part of the Prigg estate and Lot 7, Block 5 as part of Long estate. Lot 3 faced Main Street, the second lot north of 6th Street and Lot 7 was on the river side facing Water Street, the second lot south of 7th Street, between a lot owned by Frances Pettygrove and Lot 6 where Ermatinger’s house stood. In 1862 Lot 3 was sold to Joseph Ralston and John Myers by William B. Campbell. The firm of Ralston & Myers also purchased lot 4 and erected a commercial building that still stands today. It is the oldest commercial building remaining in Oregon City.

The Long house on Lot 7 was maintained as a rental while Dr. Long’s estate was being settled. By 1862 it was owned by Dr. Alden Hatch Steele who had arrived in Oregon City in 1849. It is likely that Dr. Steele also purchased the remaining medical equipment and supplies from the estates of Drs. Long and Prigg, closing out Frances’ life as a doctor’s wife and allowing her to move on with her life with William Brackett Campbell. By 1870, William, Frances and their children were making their home on a farm near The Dalles.


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