This story has been passed along in my family. They were my gggGrandparents:
Henry William Leasy
Henry William Leasy was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1817 and died in Harney County, Oregon in 1886. He was the son of Henry W. Leasy of Germany. He married first in Columbiana County, Ohio on December 26, 1843 to Emily Moorhouse. She was the daughter of Joseph and Frances (Nevill) Moorhouse. Emily was born September 1822 in England. On November 30 1822 she was christened at Repton, Derby, England. She died in 1908 in Goldendale, Klickitat County, Washington.
Henry and Emily were apparently divorced about 1862 and Henry married, second, in Union County Oregon on December 15, 1869 to Elizabeth Mitchell who was born in Ohio about 1828. Emily married, second, in about 1862 a Civilian G. Munson who was born in Missouri in April1832 and died after June 1910 when he appeared on the census living with his Step-Granddaughter and her family.
In 1834, when he was sixteen years old, Henry Leasy came to America with his father Henry W. Leasy Sr. His father obtained naturalization papers in 1839 and Henry was told at that time that according to the existing laws he was entitled to full citizenship without having to get any papers. Henry’s father was probably the Henry Leasey, a laborer aged 86 years, that appears on the 1850 census in Hardin Township, Columbiana County, Ohio. His household included Catharine Leasey, aged 60 years, and Hannah M. Leasey, aged 25 years. All three were born in Germany.
Emily Moorhouse came to America from England with her parents, Joseph and Frances (Nevill) Moorhouse who were married on February 24, 1812 at Ashby de la Zouch in Leichester County, England. The children of Joseph and Frances were all christened at Repton Parish Church, in Derby, England and are as follows:
Thomas Moorhouse November 8, 1812
John Moorhouse July 24 1814
Joseph H. Moorhouse March 25, 1816
Hannah Moorhouse August 8, 1819
Eli Moorhouse December 22, 1821
Emily Moorhouse September 1822
Eunice Moorhouse July 23, 1826
The marriage records of Emily and her brothers and sisters suggest that the Moorhouse family came to Ohio between 1830 and 1835. They settled initially in Carroll County living there until 1838 when they moved to Columbiana County. It was in Columbiana County that Emily met and married Henry Leasy. Emily’s parents left Columbiana County before 1849 and moved to Fulton County, Illinois. Emily’s father Joseph died before 1850, possibly in Fulton County. Her mother Frances married, second, Ira Hill.
Henry and Emily lived in Salem Township in Columbiana County in 1850 with their daughter Frances. Their son, William Henry, was born in Ohio in 1851. The Leasy family stayed in Ohio until about 1852, and the they were in Illinois for a brief period of time, perhaps visiting Emily’s mother who lived there in Fulton County. They moved to Iowa about 1853 where they were listed in the 1854 and 1856 Iowa State Census. Their other four children were all born in Iowa. The Leasy family is listed on the 1860 census in Green Bay Township in Clarke County, Iowa.
In 1861 Henry and Emily along with their six children began the overland trek to Oregon arriving in the Grand Ronde Valley in present day Union County on September 5, 1861. Although the Emigrant Trail led through the Grand Ronde Valley, emigrants had not yet been tempted to settle there probably due to its isolation from a source of supplies and other settlements.
An earlier traveler, Narcissa Whitman, described the area in her journal on August 28 1836, “Grand Round is indeed a beautiful place. It is a circular plain surrounded with lofty mountains and has a beautiful stream coursing through it is delightful & the soil rich. In other places we find the white sand and sage as usual, so peculiar to this country. We nooned upon the Grand Round River. The Camas grows here in abundance & it is the principal resort of the Cayouse & many other tribes, to obtain it of which they are very fond. It resembles an onion in shape and colour, when cooked it is very sweet, tastes like a fig. Their manner of baking them is very curious. They dig a hole in the ground, throw in a heap of stones, heat them to a red heat, cover them with green grass upon which they put the Camas and cover the whole with earth. When taken out it is black. This is the chief food of many tribes during the winter.
The lush grass of the valley provided good grazing for their tired stock so the Leasys set up camp near the river about where the city of LaGrande is now located. Here they came into contact with the Indians from across the Blue Mountains who were coming to harvest the camas root which grew in great abundance on the watery flats of the valley. The Indians were very friendly to the Leasy family and the squaws took a great interest in the white children, bringing to them each night bundles of the camas which had been harvested during the day.
After a few weeks the Leasys started out again heading for the Willamette Valley where they had intended to settle. On the way they met three men who were heading from the government post at Umatilla to the Grande Ronde with a load of supplies they intended to sell to hungry emigrants. These men persuaded the Leasys to return with them to the Grande Ronde Valley were they intended to build a permanent settlement. The promise of enough supplies to last them through the winter as well as thoughts of the long trek to the Willamette Valley so late in the season helped Henry Leasy decide to return to the Grande Ronde Valley with the men.
A small settlement sprang up--the fist permanent settlement in the Grand Ronde Valley. Five log houses were built. One was occupied by Ben Brown, his wife, and two daughters. Ben kept a diary from May 1860 to May 1862 and most of the following story of the Leasys first few months in Oregon is taken from that diary. Another cabin was occupied by Henry Leasy along with his wife and six children--Frances, Caroline, Will, John, Christopher Columbus, Joseph, and James. Two brothers, Richard and William Marks, shared a cabin with a third single man, Job Fisher. The other two cabins were occupied by other men without families. The site of the initial settlement was in an area now known as the Mount Glen district of LaGrande, Oregon. It was a bit off the main trail used by travelers passing through the valley, so the group later decided to move the settlement to a better area across the river to the main route of travel. The first winter, however, was spent in the original settlement called “Brown’s Fort”. The group had planned to build a log stockade around the colony but so many gold miners were continually passing through the Grand Ronde Valley on their way to the gold deposits just discovered in Baker County. Plus, emigrants, fur traders and others, the plan for a stockade was dropped.
Although the winter of 1861-1862 was “one of the longest, coldest and snowiest winters on record in the valley” the settlers at Brown Fort suffered no great hardship. Timber was available for building construction and firewood. Richard and William Marks had a whipsaw they used to cut boards for all the cabin doors. There was sufficient fresh beef from a herd brought into the valley by Job Fisher. A communal outdoor baking oven was constructed for use by the entire community.
The long winter evenings were enlivened by simple entertainments. Music and dancing were popular, and made possible by two violins made that winter by Dick Marks. The tops and backs were made of alder wood, the strings from beef sinews, and the bows from Indian arrow wood. The hair for the bowstrings was provided from horses’ tails and glue used to put them together was made from beef hoofs. Ben Brown reported in his diary that the ”jollifications”, “fandangoes”, and “balls” frequently lasted into the small hours of the morning or until the fiddler gave out.
Debates were organized by the men. Dividing themselves into two groups with a President to decide the winner they argued such questions as: whether the whites or the Indians had the most right in this country, whether Love or Anger was the strongest passion, and which caused the most misery, War or Intemperance.
Mt. Emily, the great mountain which dominates the northern end of the Grand Ronde Valley in Union County, was named in honor of Emily Leasy. Two photographs of Emily at the Union County Museum in Union, Oregon are captioned with the explanation that the mountain was named for her because she was the first white woman to reach its top in 1862. The summit of Mt. Emily rises more than 3,000 feet above the valley floor. The Oregon Centennial Books quote two stories regarding Mt. Emily:
There is a story to the effect that a family named Leasy lived at the foot of this mountain in pioneer days. Leasy weighed about 100 pounds and his wife 300. It is said the mountain is named after Emily because of her size.
There is another history of the name to the effect that a very popular young lady named Emily lived on the slopes of the mountain in early times. She was often visited by the young men of LaGrande who christened the mountain because they so frequently went up to Mt. Emily.
The Leasy marriage was not a happy one. Emily wanted to divorce Henry and brought a complaint against him with the group at the settlement. She claimed that he had treated her badly though out their married life, and had accused her of infidelity on the Platt River and again in the Grand Ronde Valley. There were no courts of law in the valley, so the settlers formed what the called the “Supreme Court of Grand Ronde” and appointed Ben Brown as judge. They met on November 22 1861 to try the case. Emily testified that Henry had “treated her like a dog, had taken Caroline’s shoes off in the winter time and forbidden her to wear them.” She said that Henry “had been threatened with Tar and Feathering in Clarke County, Iowa“, for his bad treatment of her. In his defense, Henry pleaded that his wife “misunderstood him”, and claimed that he provided for his family the best that he could. Having delayed his judgement until the following day, Ben Brown announced that Henry should return to his family and get along with them the best way he could. Ben wrote in his diary that after “living with him 15 or 16 years she had but little to complain on and it was almost out of the question to think of them parting here in this lonely valley with a large family and no one to take care of or provide for them.” Furthermore, Ben wrote “Henry did not want to go away and we did not have the power to make him go if we wanted to.”
Emily was not happy with the decision and swore she would not live with him. She refused to speak to Henry and would not cook or wash for him. On December 11, 1861 Henry took his team and went off saying he couldn’t stand it any longer the way Emily was treating him. He build himself a new cabin across the river.
Henry’s new cabin across the river has been honored as the first patented homestead in Union County. The homestead was settled in 1861, surveyed in 1868, and patented in 1869. A five feet tall granite monument bearing a bronze plaque with this information was erected by the Union County Historical Society in 1957 on the county fairgrounds in LaGrande to mark the site. Henry added 40 more acres to his160 acre homestead in 1871, then sold the entire 200 acres to W. J. Snodgrass in 1872. In 1871 Henry Leasy claimed 160 acres in Section 28 Township No. 2 South of Range No. 38 East. He settled on that land on January 11 1871, built a house, and ploughed, fenced, and cultivated about 80 acres of the land. He added a stable and other outhouses on the property.
Henry married, second, Elizabeth Mitchell at the house of E. Woodworth on December 15, 1869. They were married by Reverend Luther Woodward, and the witnesses were Mr. And Mrs. E. Woodworth and others. Elizabeth was probably a widow--she had a daughter, C. Mitchell, who was born about 1861 in Michigan and a son F. Mitchell who was born about 1865 in Idaho Territory. In 1870 Henry and Elizabeth lived near LaGrande at Cove with Henry’s five sons by his first marriage to Emily along with Elizabeth’s two children. In 1880 Henry was living in Island City, Union County. He shared his home with his wife, his youngest son, Joseph, as well as his oldest son, William, and William’s young wife, Hester. Elizabeth died after the 1880 census and before March 3 1883 when Henry is described as a widower in a deed of sale. Henry sold his property in Union County and moved to Harney County where he is said to have died in 1886.
Emily married, second, Civilian G. Munson about 1862 and had two more children. Their daughter, Costella Munson was born in Washington Territory about 1863, and their son Isaac Aaron Munson, was born in Oregon about 1864. The Munson family lived in Rainier, Columbia, Oregon about 1870 neighbors of Emily’s son-in-law and daughter William and Frances Caroline (Leasy) Marks. Civilian worked as a farm laborer there. In 1880 the Munson’s lived in Klickitat County, Washington Territory, where Civilian worked in timber. Their son Aaron was still living at home Emily’s granddaughter, Emily Marks was staying with them. The Munson’s daughter, Costella, was also living in Klickitat County in 1880 with her husband Benjamin Martin. Costella was sixteen years old and her husband was forty. In 1900 Civilian and Emily were still living in Klickitat County. Civilian was a farmer. Emily was illiterate, having never learned to read and write. She was the mother of eight children, but one was no longer living. Joseph Leasy died in 1896. Emily died in Goldendale in Klickitat County in 1908 according to her oldest son, William Henry Leasy, and is buried there in Pleasant Valley.