Catharine Paine Blaine
Following the attack on Seattle during the Puget Sound Indian War, the Methodist Church posted the Blaine family to Portland, Oregon by March, 1856.
In May, 1856, Catharine wrote home from Portland that they had settled there and acquired a cow but still had not named their baby. Reverend Blaine was serving in the “Taylor Street” Church during a vacancy of another minister. They found very commodious housing, which allowed hired help for sewing and an assistant who also went to school.1 The sudden change from Seattle was evidenced in Blaine’s more frequent mention of homesickness, as well as descriptions of her first son. Among the larger congregation and population, the Blaines attended numerous Methodist gatherings, including camp meetings, and often hosted visiting church people. While in Oregon, they changed location nearly every two years as the Oregon Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church responded to growing settlement.
Oregon City, 1856-1858
Oregon City, 1857, copy of pen and pencil sketch made by E. deGirardin, in April, 1857, Oregon Historical Society, OrHi 35857.
By October, 1856 the Blaines had moved to Oregon City, Oregon which had a relatively large congregation and secure funding from town leaders including former territorial governor Alexander Abernethy. In contrast to Seattle, Oregon City in the 1850s boasted many hotels, stores, mills, and substantial homes." While in Oregon City, the Blaines ministered to a congregation of approximately 30 full members, receiving $700 in support in 1856 and $511 in 1857. Reverend Blaine was charged with moving the church to a new lot, expanding the Sunday school and library, and serving as secretary for quarterly conference meetings.2
The thrifty Mrs. Blaine noted that the family’s support included a house, four lots, and garden space. The Blaines supplemented their income through the sale of fruit from their garden for about $100.00 each year. Western housekeeping and hospitality practices continued to dismay Catharine, noting that some outlying members of the congregation did not use sheets on their beds at home, only “Indian blankets.”3 At the same time, fashionably late evening dinner parties were held by more influential and wealthy members of the Methodist Church in Oregon City.
Catharine continued her to share her strong anti-slavery feelings in letters home, noting with concern that it appeared that Oregon, which entered the Union in 1859, would enter as a slave state (Oregon entered the Union as a free state). She wrote, “I sometimes think that perhaps it is well women are excluded as much as they are from politics. I fear I should go too deep in them it if were otherwise.”4 Although the Blaines assured their families that they would not stay in Oregon if it became a slave state, they bought eight lots in Oregon City in early 1857.5 They shared with their family the account of a witness of the 1831 Nat Turner slave insurrection who lived near them in Oregon City. Catharine Blaine also continued to share her thoughts on New York and national news, writing home in March, 1857 that New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley’s published statements about the undesirability of Oregon were inaccurate.
In 1858, the Blaines were assigned to Corvallis, Oregon, for a short appointment where he ministered to 24 church members and received $481 in salary.
Santiam Academy, Lebanon, Oregon, 1859-1862
In 1859, the Oregon Methodist Conference assigned Reverend Blaine to the Santiam Academy in Lebanon, Oregon, where he held the position as head of the Academy.6 Perhaps Blaine was assigned to this position because of his experience as a tutor at Hamilton College in New York.7 Reverend Blaine was especially pleased that the town “had no grog shops” and the people were “nearly all Methodists.”8 In this new posting, the Blaines were offered a small shed for living space, measuring 12 by 18 feet, smaller than their Seattle home. The Blaines earned $480 in 1859, with about $225 in school fees supplementing their income. Catharine Blaine helped at the school. She described assisting with the final “exhibit,” or exhibition that was the culminating school year activity.9 She had also continued to work as a Sabbath School teacher for the church. In 1860, the Blaines disposed of some their Seattle property, perhaps thinking that they would not return there.10 Late in 1861, the family finally moved into a house built for them on the grounds of the Academy where they had female boarders, including female teachers.
In 1860, Reverend Blaine began to travel a wide circuit, sometimes gone most of the week to serve the Albany-Lebanon area churches of 143 persons. The Blaines earned $346.75 from the Methodist Church that year.11 In early 1861, mail was disrupted, and Catharine’s loneliness for her family was revealed in letters home. Later that year, Reverend Blaine became Presiding Elder of the Upper Willamette District, earning $434.90.12 The Blaines’ second son, Edward Linn, was born in Lebanon in April, 1862.
Oregon was not immune to the rising tide of tension that finally resulted in the Civil War. In 1861, Methodist ministers in Oregon passed and signed a loyalty resolution.13 Catharine wrote her family that several of the Southern Methodist clergy were about the leave the area.14 Catharine Blaine recounted attending a Union rally at Lebanon, where their colleague from the Santiam Academy Elizabeth Thurston Odell raised the Union flag on behalf of the ladies of Lebanon. Reverend Blaine also attended Union rallies. When she learned that her younger brother John wanted to join the Union Army, Catharine wrote “now I feel that if the cause of right, which I cannot help feeling the part our government is having in the present struggle most certainly is, needs them, I could heartily say to them go. . . .”15 The dislocations of the war continued to draw her comments in letters home in 1861-62.
Through the generosity of Blaine descendants, who returned to Washington State after the 1880s, the letters cited above provide historians with a rich resource for understanding the motivations of early woman’s rights advocates like Catharine Blaine, whose letters home bristle with insight into political activities and social reform opportunities in the “new country” of the Pacific Northwest. While it seems unlikely that Catharine and David Blaine stopped writing home after April 28, 1862, no further letters were archived at the University of Washington by Blaine relatives. Information about Catharine and David Blaine after April 28, 1862 comes from Methodist archives, newspaper accounts, property records, and other local history sources in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Through these records, the Blaines of the letters are dimly seen. The reform impulses and desires for a more civilized nation are evidenced in their actions, rather than their words.
Oregon and Washington, 1862-1864
Portland Academy, from “Pioneer Seat of Learning,” in The Oregon Native Son Volume 2, By Native Sons of Oregon, Oregon Pioneer Association, Indian War Veterans and Historical Society. Oregon Historical Society Collections.
In 1862, the Blaines returned to Portland, Oregon where Reverend Blaine served as the principal of the Portland Academy and Female Seminary. Though likely, no records confirm Catharine Blaine’s involvement in the educational work of the Female Seminary. The Academy was begun in by the Methodist Church in 1851 for coeducation. Both women and men taught at the Seminary.
At the 1862 Oregon Annual Conference, Blaine asked for and was given a leave of absence for one year.16 The family retraced their route of 1853 via the Isthmus of Panama.17 According to Oregon Methodist Church records, Reverend Blaine had appointments in Callapooia in Oregon in 1863 and a nominal appointment in 1864 in Olympia, Washington. It is unclear whether the family immediately returned to the Northwest with him, as census and other records show that their daughter, Martha, was born March 8, 1864 in Seneca Falls.
In 1865, Reverend Blaine ministered to the Jacksonville, Oregon, Methodist Church. The 1866 Conference Minutes record that Blaine was located at his own request — leaving the Oregon Conference.18
Women's Suffrage in Oregon
To learn more about the struggle for women’s right to vote in Oregon, which was finally achieved in 1912, see Century of Action: Oregon Women Vote, 1912-2012 and a biography of one of its leaders, Abigail Scott Duniway.