Most of what we know of the life and travels of Zelotes Root and his family were provided by the stories of Joseph C. Root, son of Zelotes Root, and collected by Joe’s daughter, Nellie Root White. Other details have been gleaned from official records and have been included where they can add to the story.
Zelotes Root, sometimes called Otis, born circa 1806 in New York State, told the 1880 census taker for Tillamook County, Oregon that his parents were born in Connecticut.
Otis Root, according to family lore, at an age of 12 or 13 was already away from home working on a farm. Sleeping quarters for the “hired hand” were in the loft of the family cabin. Indians attacked one night, killed the entire family, and set fire to the cabin. Otis escaped through a loft window and ran barefooted in snow across a frozen lake to the neighbor’s. When there was daylight, the neighbors found that the Indians had followed Otis’ bloody footprints half-way across the lake before giving up the chase.
The earliest record we have of Zelotes Root involves the purchase of one hundred acres of land on the first day of May 1830. The land was located in the township of LEBO, in the county of MIDDLESEX, in the district of LONDON and the province of ONTARIO, CANADA. The title states that Zelotes Root was of Sherbrook Forest, in the county of HALDIMAND, district of NIAGARA and the province of ONTARIO, CANADA. The consideration for the land was the sum of twenty pounds.
[The districts of Niagara and Haldimand are near Niagara Falls. The district of London is farther west. Evidently as the Root family emigrated to the west they crossed into Canada at Niagara Falls, perhaps to avoid a long detour to the south around Lake Erie.]
Zelotes would have been 24 in 1830, certainly old enough to be married but we have not yet discovered who and when. By the time his first known son was born Zelotes would have been thirty.
William Root was born 27 Feb 1836. Middlesex Co., Ontario, Canada mother now unknown married Bertie Johnson (2nd) died April 1900 Elizabeth City, Pasquotank Co., NC
Elizabeth (Betsy, Lizzy) Root was born — 1840. Adelaide twp., Middlesex Co., Ontario, CANADA. mother now unknown married William Davis (1st) John Downing (2nd)
The next record of Zelotes is a marriage bond dated 22 Apr 1840. The bond was provided by Charles Jasper STILE and James BOND in the sum of 200 pounds for the purpose of joining together in holy matrimony Zelotes ROOT (township of Adelaide, district of London, province of Upper Canada) and Mary COLE, probably his second wife. Her father, Benona Mason COLE, signed the request for the marriage license.
Then on 3 Mar 1840 Zelotes Root of the township Adelaide, county of Middlesex, district of London, province of ONTARIO, sold for the sum of 200 pounds the tract of land and premises being in the township of LEBO, county of Middlesex, district of London, province of ONTARIO containing one hundred acres more or less. Witnessed by Austin ROOT of the township of Adelaide District….
[Nellie Root White thinks Austin was a brother, she thinks Daniel Root was the father of Zelotes — unfortunatly early records of Haldimand County have been destroyed.) [But, note that William Root named his first son AUSTIN O. ROOT and the name Daniel is not used by recorded descendants.]
Rachel Amelia Root was born 12 August 1842 Adelaide twp., Middlesex Co., Ontario, CANADA married Jacob A. J. Campbell after 1860 died 13 November 1923 Estacada, Clackamas co., Oregon
Samuel D. Root was born 3 July 1845 Adalaide twp., Middlesex Co., Ontario, CANADA married Margaret A. Terwilliger died 19 May 1913 Lagrande, Union Co., OR
Zelotes Root again moved his family west in 1844, probably passing below Lake Huron and crossing into the United States just above Detroit. They took up residence in Macomb County, Michigan.
Joseph C. Root born 12 May 1848 Bruce twp., Macomb Co., Michigan, USA died 22 April 1931 Pierre, Hughes Co., South Dakota
In 1850, Otis (44), Mary, (27), William (14), Betsy (10), Rachel (8), Samuel (6), all born in Canada, appear in the census for Macomb County, Michigan.
Lafayette Root was born — 1854 Bruce twp., Macomb Co., Michigan, USA
Joe Root remembers moving to Chickasaw County in the NE corner of Iowa at age six (1854). About this time William Root left the family and went on his own way. The 1856 Census for Chickasaw County does not enumerate William with the Root family.
Rosanna Root was born — 1858 Chickasaw Co., Iowa, USA
[During 1858 gold was discovered at Cherry Creek in Colorado. “Pikes Peak or Bust” was the cry of many emigrants and perhaps the gold fever eventually took the Root family to Colorado. However they are still in Chickasaw County, enumerated on the 1860 census. More historical perspective can be provided by other events of the time. Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States and took office on the 4th of March, 1861. On the 12th of April, 1861, the Civil War erupted when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter.]
In the summer of 1861, the family moved from Iowa and settled in the Colorado Springs area near the site of Old Colorado City. Joe, now 13, drove their cattle herd on foot all the way from Iowa to Colorado even though he had whooping cough that summer.
Daughter Rachel would have been 19 the summer of 1861 and she must have married Jacob Campbell about this time. The Campbells were known to be in Minnesota during the 1860 census for Olmsted County.
Zelotes Root claimed 160 acres In El Paso County, near Colorado City for the purpose of farming, dated 13 Nov 1861.
Armada (Mady) Ida May Root was born 13 November 1861 Colorado City, El Paso Co., Colorado, USA
According to Joe, Mary Cole Root was very religious. In Colorado, Mary gave birth to another son but the child died before baptism could be performed. The minister (believed to be a Methodist) preached a long sermon saying that the baby would burn in Hell because it had not been baptized. The effect that all this had on young Joseph was one of revulsion. Joe avoided any contact with churches throughout the rest of his life.
Daughter Elizabeth probably met and married William Davis during the stay at Colorado City. She had a son, William (Billy) Davis, born 1862 in Colorado.
Zelotes Root quit-claimed his 160 acres near Colorado City to one Winchester Massey in consideration for $100, dated 11 February 1863.
[The Rocky Mountains were a formidable barrier to the Root’s emigration path toward the West. We can only guess they went north to Cheyenne and the used the Oregon trail. What happened to Elizabeth’s husband William is not known but from family stories we know the Root family went to Salt Lake City. As the story is told Elizabeth was relentlessly pursued by a marriage minded Mormon and to escape his attention she hid in a false bottomed wagon until they were safely out of town.]
Elizabeth married John Downing and they lived at Ruby, Nevada where several of their children were born. The rest of the Root family continued to Sacramento.
In later years, Joseph Root often spoke of the Old Colorado City area even though the family soon was on the move again. They went to the Sacramento Valley in California for a while and then on to Salem, Oregon.
[General Lee surrendered to General Grant, 9 April 1865, effectively ending the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, 14 April, 1865.]
One of Joe’s first jobs in Oregon was a land clearing projectin which the land owner offered to pay half money and half land or a straight $25 per acre. Joe chose the latter.
While at or near home in Salem, Joe learned the trade of blacksmithing. One of the jobs in the shop that made a lasting impression was making and putting a leg iron on a prisoner. The prisoner had been convicted of murder but maintained his innocence even as the iron was applied. The prisoner was to be transported down river to Portland. He told Joe that they would never get him there, he did not want to disgrace his family. True to his word, he jumped off the boat on the way and drowned in the Willamette River.
[In 1866 the State Prison moved from Portland to Salem.]
With some money accumulated, Joseph and his brother Samuel started their own blacksmith shop. This proved to be disastrous and they soon found themselves $5,000 in debt.
Joe Root became estranged from his family as a result of an incident involving a $20 gold piece that he had sent home to his mother via his brother Samuel. Later, when Joe heard from his mother she talked only of what a good son Samuel was for bringing a $20 gold piece to her !
By 1870 Zelotes Root made his way to Tillamook, Oregon. He settled on a homestead. Zelotes, Mary, Lafayette, Rosanna, and Armada are on the 1870 federal census for Tillamook Co., OR. Samuel went to Lagrande and Joe moved to Boise.
Tillamook must have seemed like the edge of the world. Pacific ocean to the west, an Indian reservation to the south, the coast range formed nearly an impenetrable barrier to the east. Leaving the county is still referred to by locals as going “outside”.
From the memory of a pioneer in Tillamook county: Zelotes Root and his wife, Mary Melinda Root, were here by 1866, when we came in 1870, they were the family farthest out on the Trask trail and kept travelers. Mr. and Mrs. Root had brought their younger children with them; the older ones were grown and gone. The boy died in an epidemic brought by travelers who stopped at the Roots; Armada Root married Tillman McCormick about 1877. Her second husband was John Pesterfield…
The boy Lafayette contracted the measles [or small pox], seemingly recovered, then after going for a swim in the river, took a chill and died of pneumonia in a matter of a couple days.
Rosanna married William Hiram THACKER, 12 October 1873 Tillamook, OR. She died 8 June 1933 Mitchell, Wheeler Co., Oregon
Armada married Tillman McCORMICK, 30 June 1877, Tillamook, OR married second John Pesterfield She died 5 March 1935 Tillamook, Tillamook Co., Oregon
On the 1880 census for Tillamook County, the elderly Root couple, Zelotes and Mary, were enumerated by the census taker as living in the South Prairie precinct. They had gone as far west as land would allow for they were living on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, at the present site of Oceanside.
A story in “Tillamook Memories” relates an event that happened to the elder Root couple: A resident of the Tillamook area who as a child had moved to Tillamook with his parents in 1875, (they settled in the Netarts area near Oceanside), remembered an old couple named Root. “The Roots had built a house near the beach, of drift lumber and had a few sheep as did a neighbor. Mr. Root was old and crippled and the neighbors it seems tried to run him out by tearing down his corrals and driving his sheep off over the bluffs. This continued until Root used a shot gun. At the trial that resulted Root was fined $5 for not shooting with both barrels.”
Zelotes Root died 3 June 1885 at Tillamook, Tillamook Co., OR. He is buried in an unmarked grave on the Northeast corner of his homestead, in Oceanside, approximately opposite the community center, where the fire station is located now. Nellie Root White refers to this as “unofficial” property for in the parlance they were “squatters” on that parcel of land, their only claim was by possession. His official homestead was near the present site of Tillamook and was sold soon after he “proved up” on the acreage.
[It is unclear what happened to Mary after Zelotes died. She would have been 62. It is even possible that she remarried. An interval of nearly 17 years occurred before we hear more of her story provided by family oral traditions. The reference to the train at Seaside dates the event to sometime after 1898.]
Mary Cole Root, wife of Zelotes Root, hiked up the Indian trail along the coast north of Tillamook until she got to where the train came to Seaside. She had to ford three major coastal rivers, the Kilchis, the Miami, and the Nehalem. She had to negotiate the treacherous hillsides of Neahkanie Mountain and hike a distance of nearly fifty miles to get to Seaside. In places the beach is suitable for walking but near the headlands are rocky outcrops and cliffs that are impassible. At night she would take shelter by crawling under the side of a log where it was relatively dry and she could sleep. She liked to relate the story about the bear that came up during the night and sniffed her. She said she smelled so bad the bear ran away.
After reaching the railroad tracks at Seaside she had nearly another hundred miles to walk to reach St. Helens. While walking up the railroad tracks she came into contact with a section crew. She told them she was trying to find her daughter, “Lizzie” (Elizabeth Root Davis Downing). [The Downings had emigrated from Ruby, Nevada and settled in Columbia County, in the precinct called Oak Point (near Clatskanie). One of their children was born there 27 July 1876 and the family can be found on the 1880 census for Columbia County.]
They put Mary aboard the train, everybody knew about the boarding house at Houlton run by Rachel Amelia Root CAMPBELL. She and her husband had emigated to Houlton from Nebraska about 1890. Her husband, Jacob Andrew Jackson CAMPBELL, was a shoemaker and had a shop in Houlton. So they brought Mary Cole Root to her daughter’s boarding house in Houlton.
Mother (Violet Cecile PINE) used to talk about it; it was so traumatic for her. She was eleven at the time of her great grandmother’s death. This was in Feb 1902.
Louville Campbell PINE was living with her mother, Rachel Amelia Root CAMPBELL, and Violet helped care for her great- grandmother. Mary Root asked Violet for a glass of water. She got the glass of water and as Violet came around the foot of the bed she heard a strange gurgling noise. When she got to the head of the bed her great grandmother was dead. [Story related by Paulyne Zimmerman Rea]
Rachel A. Root CAMPBELL wrote the following letter to her brother, Joseph C. Root on 27 February 1905 from Houlton, Columbia County, Oregon informing him their mother (Mary Cole ROOT) died on 4 Jan 1902: [original spelling, capitalization, and punctuation retained.]
” Dear brother Joseph i will write to you again this eavening and see if i can hear from you. We are all well and hop this will find you all well. It is so long sine i got a letter from yo i hardly know how to write but walter saw a man in the loging camp that helped you thrash and he tolde him whar to direct a letter so you would get it. We have move so much it is hard to keep track of each other i have lost track of sam If you know where he is I wish you would let me know where he is Lizzy is in Marbel Washington I dont know where Rosy and Mady is they never have written to me Mother died here with me Jan the 4 1902 she died with parilesses she was sick three weeks. if you come to the fair be sure to come and see us i will close now and dos better next time write soon from your loving sister R A Campbell”
[The fair she referenced would have been the Lewis and Clark Exposition held in Portland 1905.]