The following is an extract of a letter written by Newton W. O’Rear (FSN334) to Mrs. G. W. Gregg (Helen O’Rear) apparently in December, 1946. Newton W. O’Rear was grandson of Newton O’Rear who moved from Montgomery county, Kentucky to Hendrick county, Indiana about 1840.
1211 4th Avenue West
Seattle 99, Washington
Nothing could have pleased us more than the receipt of your letter of the 26th ultimo and I will try and mention a few of the things that lead up to the feeling. For myself and wife, of course, since haven came west, and we got acquainted with the finest fellow alive, and this goes for his wife whom we have known for he same length of time.
However, for me it goes back into ancient history, in a log cabin on a farm in Hendricks County, Ind. where I was born, and just about two miles north there lived by grandfather, after whom I was named.
Among the family was my boyhood chum, your father, and their home was mine for a great part of the time, even after we moved into North Salem, 4 miles away, and on till I left that country almost 63 years ago, and faded away into the great west.
since that time I have never been back but twice, and if I ever saw you, Helen and haven, it as when, on one of those trips I visited the farm to where the family, I mean Dick’s family, had moved up into Boone County somewhere near Thorntown. I don’t remember the year of this visit, nor am I sure Dick and your mother had married at that time.
Of course I could go back thru some of my records and ascertain dates, but for what I have to relate, I guess it would be useless, as I wouldn’t be certain even then.
In the meantime I had drifted out into western Kansas, at the time (1884) that the west opened or transferred from a cattle range to a farming country if it could be called that after many crop failures due to drought. However I hung on and made proof to a homestead (committed and proven after 6 months of residence) a preemption also proved after 6 months, and a timber claim on which timber had to be planted. All this put me in a sod shanty for several years, in the driest country I have ever seen.
When I went out in 1884 the covered wagons were all headed westerly. I stayed there till the opening of Oklahoma in 1889, April. 20, when with many others, as you have read, the Indian Territory, or all of it save the Cherokee strip, across the North part of the now state of Oklahoma was opened. At that time due to the droughts I have mentioned the covered wagons were headed east, excepting those that headed for the new country and there was some mob. I tell you down there but you have read of it.
To make a long story short, I was disappointed and had used all my "rights" in Western Kansas anyway. So, after a few days as a squatter in the townsite of Guthrie, I sold my squatter’s rights on two lots, three blocks from the land office, and with three others (young men) from where I had come in Kansas started out to find a country where it rained now and then.
We had lots of fun discussing whether such a country existed. Because of years of experience up to that date, we were a little uncertain as to whether it rained anywhere. Well, we arrived in Seattle in May 4, 1889, and Washington was still a territory. It was admitted Nov. 11 of that year.
The boys who came with me are all dead. Charley Reed, who became police chief of Seattle later and had married a past Cherokee girl (a fine woman) in Kansas. Jack Crabtree, my roommate, died in Yakima, Washington, several years ago, where he owned a fine apple orchard, and James Wells, the last of the three was killed in the police force here in the city by a half breed, whom he had arrested.
My business had always been clerical, and I followed abstracting till 1893, at which time, with another friend, purchased the Pt. Townshend Leader. Port Townshend is located 40 miles North of here at a point where in going out to sea you turn into the straight of Fuca.
I followed the newspaper business till 1902, when I went to St. Michael, Alaska as a customs officer. St. Michael is 112 miles from Nome, and on the trip in we were caught in the ice and drifted thru the straights into the Arctic. but we were not delayed many days because of it.
I only spent a year in Alaska, and, as I had not sold the paper at Pt. townshend, went back to work on it. I stayed with the paper till 1906, and having taken the Customs examination, in the meantime was appointed to the service. Headquarters was then in Pt. townshend, and we were there till 1913, when headquarters was moved here, and I finished 30 years service here 11 years ago. I had also reached the age limit of 70 years, and I am, with my wife of course, now living on the "Interest on what we owe".
This tirade, of course, is of little interest to you, but it was while in the service, and I do not remember the exact year that I met Haven and his wife, and I can’t tell you how fine we got well acquainted with them both. Also for a short time, Aunt Emma’s son. She married a Caldwell, was here. He also appeared to be the right sort and altho we did not see him but for a short time, as he returned to Indiana, we liked him very much. His given name skips me, but you know it.
Until Havens arrived there were none of the name in the west where I had gone, but since, while not of the same name, yet no doubt, you will know some of them, a number of relatives have arrived. One distant relation from Missouri, who spell the name with the small "r" (Orear): Milfred Orear. he is a successful businessman here. He has a son whom we admire very much. He was in the late unpleasantness, and was shot down from an airplane in Germany. Managed to land with little damage, except a couple of fingers missing. He is a credit to the name, no matter how they spell it.
Also, two sisters of Milford who live at Snoqualime, a mill in town in the cascades, near the pass. We see them sometimes and are very fond of them. They are descendants from the Kentucky O’Rears who migrated into Missouri.
Also just lately as I have found out, and have been to see them at their home, is Fred Adair and family. He was Aunt Sallie’s son, and they always lived on a part of the old farm, if you know about the old place. They have two very beautiful daughters, married a short time ago, an heir has arrived in each case. Fred came in and took us out to their home for a visit and we had a very pleasant time. I can’t tell you exactly what he does, but he has a nice home at Puyallip, 16823-35th Avenue South, Washington.
Puyallip is an Indian name and, like a great many of the names out here may seem odd to you. When I say they lived on a part of the "old farm" I mean the farm down near where I was born. I don’t know whether they followed to the farm up near Thorntown, perhaps not.
I was married in 1893 to a Miss Ruby Shaw, of Pt. Townshend. We had two sons: Clyde who resides in this city, but no prospect of an heir. Merle was killed in France during the first war. So I am the last of the Robert O’Rear family and I am 81 and have rheumatism. When I say this I mean there is not likely to be a continuance of this arm of the family andy further than I have listed above. My brothers and sisters are all gone, but John O’rear living in Everett, Washington, a son Carl, my brother, no deceased. Carl died a few years ago in Pt. Townshend. He came west at my suggestion and was married in Pt. Townshend. He was a dentist.
My life has been spent, a great deal, chasing about the worked. Two trips thru all parts of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado and some time spent in Yellowstone national park. These trips were after marriage and were very wonderful.
We had our Golden Wedding Anniversary here at the home May 15, 1943 and had the pleasure of having Haven with us. he was returning from a trip somewhere and Kathleen was not with him for which we were very sorry.
We have pictures of your home which you sent to us in a previous letter, but the pictures you enclosed with your letter of the 26th were just exactly what we wished. You are both youngsters yet, I mean you and your husband, and I must compliment you both on your looks. The youngsters are beautiful. But what I started to say: it would be great pleasure to us if we could have you all out with us for a visit. I am wondering if you ever think of wandering out into this section. We have lots of room, and while we have no car, and I doubt if I will ever get another one, yet there are many things of interest that we could show you. Give us a chance if you can.
Speaking of the climate, we seldom have overly cold weather here, altho we had here on the hill seven miles of snow which lasted two days in December. The thermometer registers 45 degrees today and it has varied little from that the past month. The coldest was 38 degrees. There has been a little freezing in the shady spots. This is about the winter so far and I hope it gets no worse. The next three weeks will tell. February is usually a good month here, but March, as a rule, is not so good.
I am now sending a few pictures: The old house is on Queen Anne Hill 400 feet above seal level. Since this picture was taken we have had the house covered with imitation brick siding, and we don’t like it as well as we did at the time this picture was taken. It is now a red brick finish.
The picture of me alone is about as I look today and doesn’t show my rheumatism, expect the cane, which is suggestive.
Had no picture of the wife excepting this one with a third party. I think it is a pretty good picture of her, but she doesn’t. The gentleman with us, an old friend since 1889, and a banker till retirement, is 85 years old and doesn’t look it in or out of a picture.
I am sure you will say to yourself anyway: "Why is he writing all this uninteresting chatter?" My wife says I never know when to stop but I must for this time, so again expressing the hope that you may wander out this way sometime, I am
P.S. Found a picture of Clyde and wife Marie taken some time ago, but they look just the same so I am sending it too.
The above letter was written by Newton W. O’Rear (no. 334) to Mrs. G.W. Gregg (Helen O’Rear, no. 348) 8 Glenn St. Courtland, N.Y. Letter apparently written Dec. 1946. (E.C. O’Rear II -- 31 January 1947)