Pope, Charles Wesley – A Planned Day of Fishing Ends Tragically…

Charles Wesley Pope, born in New York City on September 26, 1833, drowned while on a fishing trip on the Clackamas River at age 43. He left behind a wife, two daughters and two sons, the youngest of whom was barely six months old.

Oregon City Enterprise, April 5, 1877


We are sorry to have to chronicle the sad news concerning the death by drowning of our respected friend and townsman, C. W. Pope. On Tuesday, March 27, Mr. Pope, L. T. Barin and Geo. Harding; accompanied by Richard Hawkins as teamster, who was taking their boat and camping outfit, went out to a point a short distance below the upper Clackamas bridge. They arrived in safety, had the boat put in to the river, and camped there that night. Mr. Hawkins returned the same day with the team, and Mr. Harding was sent for from Oregon City during the night, as his presence was required at home, thus leaving Messrs. Pope and Barin alone to make the trip down the river in the boat. The intention of the party was to descend the river and stop at eddies to fish for the magnificent mountain trout that this river is so well noted for to those who have ever cast a bait in its waters. Besides this the banks of the Clackamas affords some of the grandest primeval scenery to be found even in this State, noted as it is for its unequaled views of nature, uncontaminated by the destroying hand of man. Who then can blame them for wishing to throw off the cares of business for a few days, to enjoy such sport as they were sure to get, and to be invigorated by the bracing air of the mountains, assisted by the exercise and excitement of the trip down the river.

Coming down the river they had fine success in their sport, successfully shot the many rapids until 3 o’clock, when they came to a part of the river where it divides, forming an island. One must remember that the river at this time of the year is a raging torrent, and requires a steady nerve, strong arm and quick eye to safety guide a boat down its waters. Whilst they were deciding which fork of the river to take, the current decided the question for them; then they saw a snag right in their course ahead of them and before they could get the boat either on the one side or the other of it, it was thrown against the snag, smashed in, and notwithstanding they tried to keep it upright by holding on to the snag and bearing down on one side of it, the boat was driver under by the force of the current. Messrs. Pope and Barin, by dint of great exertion, managed to get on the snag; but even here the current was nearly strong enough to wash them off, as their feet were in the water. Mr. Pope remarked, “This is too bad.” They tried to get a plank off the boat to assist them in reaching shore, but without avail. Mr. Barin pulled off Mr. Pope’s gum boots and assisted him to partially undress. Mr. Barin then took off his own boots and a small coat. Mr. Barin then remarked that they had better find some plan by which to get away from there, as it was impossible for any one to extend them any help even if they could be seen, where they then were. We must not forget that the nearest house was probably two miles off and not even a road near them. Mr. Pope then said, “Louis, see if you can touch bottom, or find out how deep it is.” Mr. Barin accordingly lowered himself in the water, when the current wrenched him around so that he found that if he attempted to regain his place on the snag it would take all his strength and that even then he might not succeed, so he said, “Charley, I guess I had better go now,” and with the same he allowed the current to carry him down the river. He found it was useless to try to gain either shore, having first tried to reach one, and then the other. He had about given up all hopes of saving himself, when he suddenly found that he was within ten or twelve feet of the shore. This gave him strength enough to make one great effort to gain the bank, which he did. To grasp a root was the work of an instant, but alas! it broke off and the force of the current carried him under water. When he rose again, he grasped at some other roots, which held him long enough to allow him to breathe freely and get a fresh hold by which he was enabled to pull himself out of the water to the top of the bank. Here he lay down exhausted. He does not know how long, but it was probably some little time, because when he arose he was able to get up the river to where Mr. Pope was still on the snag. Mr. Barin called out to him to see if he could reach the rope (about 60 feet long) which was in the boat. He made some motions as if answering and at the same time rubbing his wrists as if preparing to go into the water. He jumped in and was borne away by the current. He, as did Mr. Barin, seemed to try to make first one shore and then the other, all without effect, as he was still borne on by the stream. Soon he was seen to sink, then appear again, swimming with the current; this happened twice more. After the last time Mr. Barin was able to see the body by its white clothing being borne along under the water for some distance, but was of course unable to render any assistance. After waiting some time to see if there was any hope of its reappearing, he sadly wended his way to a house about two miles distant. Here he arrived with bruised and bleeding feet, having had to travel barefooted through the pathless forest, and gave the alarm. A messenger was at once sent to Oregon City to carry the sad news. Early next morning means were taken by his brothers and many friends to find the body. Indian Jacob was seen in the matter, but said that if a body was in the Clackamas it was in a certain eddy two or three miles below the scene of the accident, but that the water was too high then to find the body. Many were out with boats on Thursday and Friday, as the river was falling very fast, but their efforts were unrewarded. On Saturday evening about 6 o’clock Indian Jacob brought the body of our friend with his canoe to Chase’s ferry. There it was taken in charge by Messrs. Pratt and Barclay, who brought the body down in their boat to the paper mill. These two gentlemen deserve great credit for the act, as it requires no little nerve to come down that river in the day time, certainly ten times worse when it is almost dark. Many would think it very indiscreet, as the fate that had befallen their friend was very likely to happen to them on that trip. Late that night the body was brought into town where it was received by his brethren in the Odd Fellowship.

An inquest was held before J. W. Shattuck, Justice of the Peace, and a jury, who returned a verdict in accordance with the above.

The body was in an excellent state of preservation, and the expression of the face was rather that of one who had quietly fallen asleep than of one who had met a violent death.

On Monday, April 2d, the stores and places of business were all closed as a token of the great respect in which the deceased was held. The corpse was taken from the house of his brother, Mr. W. H. Pope, by the members of the I. O. O. F. to the Baptist Church, where the funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. Day of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which the deceased was a member. The singing by the choir, under the guidance of the Rev. Mr. Sellwood, gave great effect and solemnity to the occasion. The members of Oregon Lodge No. 3, I. O. O. F, accompanied by the Fire Department, of which Mr. Pope had been a worthy and efficient member, then took charge of the body and conveyed it to the Odd Fellows’ cemetery, there to perform the last office which the living can render to the dead. Such a concourse of people meeting to express their sympathy and sorrow with the family of the deceased has not been seen since the funeral of the late Dr. Barclay. The ceremony of the I. O. O. F. at the cemetery was very impressive, and forcibly reminded all with the thought that “in the midst of life we are in death.” The grave was tastefully decorated by the hands of some kind lady friends.

Mr. C. W. Pope was born in the city of New York in 1834, being about 43 years of age. He was one of the earliest settlers in this city, and was engaged for many years in steamboating on the Upper Willamette and was familiarly known by his christian name Charley to almost everyone. For some years past he has been engaged in the hardware and tin business, and accumulated a fair proportion of earthly wealth. He was successful as a business man, kind and obliging as a friend, a good husband and a fond parent. May we all justly merit a like tribute when we are called before the Bar of God. The deceased leaves a wife and four children to mourn their loss.

Pope Hardware 1885
Pope’s Hardware, 1885,  4th and Main Streets

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