Clark & Tabitha Brown

In 1846, three generations of the Rev. Clark and Tabitha Brown family came west with five wagons from Missouri to settle near Salem and Forest Grove, Oregon.

Of this group of 22 relatives, aged 2 to 77, not one died on the trip. Tabitha Brown, widow of the Rev. Clark Brown, was 66 and Captain John Brown, elder brother of Rev. Clark, was 77.

Tabitha’s first son, Orus, and his second wife, Lavina Waddell, brought 9 children, ages 2 to 17. Orus acted as pilot for two wagon companies as they came across the plains. They took the main route across Idaho and northern Oregon to The Dalles and then the new Barlow Road to cross the Cascade Mountains. They settled around Forest Grove.

Tabitha’s youngest child, Pherne, was married to Virgil Pringle and they brought six children, ages 7 to 18, and a nephew. Virgil kept a diary and Pherne drew scenes of their trip. Tabitha and Capt. John Brown traveled with the Pringles. They followed the Oregon Trail as far as Fort Hall. Orus Brown’s family was about a week ahead of the Pringles and Tabitha Brown at that time, so they thought they would catch up by taking the California Trail to the Scott-Applegate Southern Emigrant Route to Oregon. They next met when Orus Brown brought relief supplies to them near Eugene two months after Orus had arrived safely at Oregon City. They reached Salem on Christmas Day.

Tabitha Brown is renowned as a founder of Pacific University at Forest Grove and the writer of an 1854 letter in two parts to relatives in Ohio. She died in 1858 and is buried in the pioneer cemetery in Salem. Captain John Brown recovered from the sickness and exhaustion that were reported in the 1854 letter. He traveled south by ship to San Francisco to visit friends in 1847 and returned to Salem at the end of the year.

Virgil Pringle’s diary has been reprinted in the Oregon Pioneer Association Transactions, Dale Morgan’s Overlandin 1846, and The Brown Family History. Pherne’s drawings illustrate the diary in The Brown Family History. The original diary was entrusted to Pacific University. The BLM’s Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Baker City, Oregon, has taken quotes from Virgil Pringle’s diary to interpret its pictures of Scott’s Bluff and Chimney Rock.

Catherine Sager, of the ill-fated Sager family of the 1844 emigration and survivor of the Whitman Massacre, married Clark Pringle, oldest son of Virgil and Pherne Pringle. Sarelia Lucia Pringle, younger sister of Clark Pringle, married the Rev. Charles H. Northup who was one of the five organizers of the Methodist Church in California. They had four children. Sarelia died in 1878 and is buried in the pioneer cemetery at San Jose. Orphaned at age 11, the Northups’ daughter Jessica went to Salem, Oregon, to live with her grandparents Pringle and then with her Aunt Emma, older sister of Sarelia. Jessica married Frank W. Waters, a son of another Oregon pioneer family.