John Whiteaker

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John Whiteaker (May 4, 1820October 2, 1902) was an American politician, a Democrat, and served as the first state Governor of Oregon from 1859 until 1862. Born in Dearborn County, Indiana to farmers, Whiteaker only spent six months of formal schooling, and as a result, was almost entirely self-educated. Before moving west, he had performed odd jobs, carpentry, and volunteered for military service during the Mexican War, although his unit was never called into battle. In 1849, he joined the California Gold Rush, earning enough to move his family to a farm in Lane County, Oregon. Once in Oregon he became active in Democratic Party activities, Elected to office first as Judge of the Probate Court for Lane County (1856), then as a legislator in the Territorial Legislature in 1857.


  • While our common country has been afflicted, and still suffers, from the greatest calamity a people can experience, our own State has been visited by scourges which, though relieved from the horrors of civil war, has resulted in the loss of immense quantities of property, the depriving of many of our citizens of their homes, or the means of support, and seriously crippling, for the present, the Agricultural interests of the State. Indeed, the high waters of December last did more than destroy property, and desolate homes; and many human lives were lost, while attempting to escape the floods, or generously assisting to relieve others from their perils.
    • John Whiteaker (September 8, 1862). Governor John Whiteaker - Governor's Message, 1862. Oregon State Archives, Oregon Secretary of State. Source: House and Senate Journal, Salem, Oregon, Henry L. Pittock, State Printer, 1862: Proceedings of the House, Appendix to the House Journal, Page 3.

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