By Pat Edwards
First in a series titled “Early Lane County, Oregon Families with Lorane Connections”
In researching the Bailey family of Bailey Hill, I became enamored with the strength of character and thread of family bonding that ran through their midst. When I began my project, it was with the intention of profiling 4-6 families in one book, but once I got into my detailed research, I knew that there was much more to the family than I expected.
The history of the Bailey family of Bailey Hill has proven to be rich and interesting. Arriving in the late 1840s and through the 1850s, they were early pioneers to Benton and Lane Counties in Oregon and, although their major connection was not with the Lorane area, they had a strong presence in the Siuslaw Valley and other parts of Lane County, Oregon as well.
Bailey Hill, the area where several family members settled that eventually took on their name, lies southwest of what was then Eugene City. In the 1850s, it was described as being 5 or 6 miles from Eugene City. Today, there really is a Bailey Hill, and Bailey Hill Road runs north and south, over the top of the hill, where it later connects with Lorane Highway to the south and West 11th to the north.
There used to be a Bailey Hill School District #7 and the Bailey Hill Elementary School building still stands today on the corner of Bailey Hill Road and Four Oaks Grange Road, but it is no longer used as a school. The land it sits on was donated by Bailey family members and is still owned by the Eugene School District #4. It’s very possible that the adjoining property where Churchill High School is located was part of their property, too, although it came much later.
Several of the Bailey family members came through Oregon on their way to the gold fields of California. The gold that one brother found in turn helped to finance the family’s movement across the plains from Missouri.
According to Harry Bailey’s obituary, published on November 6, 1929, when his grandfather, John Bailey, Jr., arrived in Lane County, “the Skinner cabin was the only building here.”
Several brothers volunteered to serve in the Rogue River Indian Wars that took place in Jackson, Josephine and Douglas Counties to our south from 1855-1856. In the aftermath of the war, in skirmishes with the tribes, two of the brothers lost their lives and one was wounded in separate incidents.
The family also had a strong presence besides just a strength of character. A unique family characteristic they shared tended to call attention to them whenever they were in a group, especially. John and Sally’s adult children were extraordinarily tall for their generation. The shortest of the siblings was Elizabeth, standing at 6’ in height. The sons ranged from 6’ 2” to 6’ 71/2”.
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