– by Steven Waltz Morrison
William Mellinger is believed to have been born in the state of Pennsylvania in the year 1836.(1&2) Unfortunately, there is no confirmation as to the exact date or place on his death certificate(1), although one source reports that he was “a native of Ohio”(3). His newspaper obituary indicated an Ohio birth, but was reportedly off by one day on both the death date and age.(4) There is no information about either of his parents.
William Mellinger married Sarah Ann Beeghley on August 25, 1861.(2&3) The marriage probably occurred in Ohio, and possibly in Cincinnati, as that is the reported birth place of their first child. This again conflicts with the same newspaper obituary which indicates that “in early life he moved to Indiana.(4) To William and Sarah were born 10 children of which all but Elma lived to be adults.(2) They included Laura Bell, Charles, Elizabeth, Elma, Uriah Samuel, William J., Eva, Winnie E., Perry Orcelus, and Grover Cleveland.(2) William is described as having learned “the carpenter, gunsmith, and blacksmith trades”.(3)
The family appears to have moved during the middle of the Civil War (between 1862 and 1864) to Peru, Maimi County, Indiana. Six of the children were born in Indiana being from Charles to Eva.(5)
“In 1872 he started with his family for Oregon, traveling by railroad to San Francisco, California, thence by steamship to Victoria, British Columbia, from which point he re-embarked for Tacoma, thence went by rail to Kalama, Washington, and by boat to Portland, where he took the train for Albany, Oregon. Locating near Albany, he was employed as a carpenter and blacksmith until 1876, when he came to the Nehalem Valley. He built a log house and began clearing the land with the help of his two eldest sons. Most of the land was eventually cleared, a good orchard planted and in the early days he also gave much attention to raising cattle, hogs, and chickens”.(3)
“At that time it was necessary for him to pack his supplies from in Cornelius, Washington County, a distance of thirty miles, there being no wagon roads in the Nehalem Valley. He donated many days work to the building of the first road to St. Helens, thirty miles away, helped to build the first log schoolhouse at Vernonia, and also donated the land and material for the second schoolhouse at that place and for a cemetery. He serve on the school board for many years and always showed an interest in the welfare of his community”.(3)
William Mellinger is said to have homesteaded the property now known as the Bergerson place (6) and originally included 160 acres.(3) During the winter of 1880 William Mellinger and his son Charles spent 18 and 19 days, respectively, building the Beaver Creek Road to Forest Grove, where he and Doc Beeghley had charge of the powder works.(7) While his occupation in the 1880 census was listed as a “carpenter” (5), William later established a store in Vernonia at an unknown date.(8) William is reported to have been the second postmaster of Vernonia, from June 29, 1886 to July 17, 1887.(7)
At the second meeting of the local cemetery association, on February 17, 1900, William Mellinger offered to donate the piece of ground.(6) This is now the lower southwest corner of the present cemetery and was paid a token fee of $1.00 for the deed to the property.(6) “In 1904, Mellinger sold the remainder of his place to Charles Bergerson who originally had homesteaded in the Kist area”.(6)
William Mellinger died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon on July 9, 1906 (1) although the Mellinger family bible and the newspaper obituary indicate July 8th.(2 & 3) He was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Vernonia beside his wife on July 11, 1906. “Thus has gone from the Nehalem another of our pioneers”.(3)
Prepared by: Steven Waltz Morrison
Prepared : 7 August 1993
Modified: 27 January 1998
(1) Death Certificate: William Mellinger July 9, 1906.
(2) Mellinger Family Bible. In possession of Oliver Mellinger
(3) They Lived Along the Columbia – The Dalles to the Pacific Ocean. Vol. III. S.J. Clark Publishing Co., Chicago 1928. (reference on pages 223 & 224 to G. C. Mellinger and pages 457 & 458 to Charles W. Mellinger)
(4) Obituary. St. Helens Oregon Mist. July 20, 1906.
(5) 1880 Census. Columbia County, Oregon. (reference to family on page 4)
(6) Columbia County History – Volume 20. Columbia County Historical Society, Vernonia, Oregon, 1981. (reference on pages 53 & 54)
(7) 75 Years of Nehalem Valley History … Supplement to Vernonia Eagle. Vernonia Eagle, 20 July 1966. (reference on pages 46 & 49)
(8) Columbia County History – Volume 5. Columbia County Historical Society, Vernonia, Oregon, 1966. (reference on page 21)