Minto was born in England and arrived in Oregon in 1844,
settling south of Salem where he was a pioneer in the sheep
industry. He served four terms in the State Legislature, organized
the first Oregon State Fair, and helped survey the Minto and
Santiam mountain passes.
Minto Island is named for John Minto who purchased a 247
acre island in 1867 in the Willamette river near Salem. Minto
turned the island was into productive farm land. A neighboring
island was owned by Isaac "Whiskey" Brown who had
purchased his 10 years earlier was used for livestock grazing
and raising tobacco. Today, the islands aren't separate or
true islands due to the changed the course of the Willamette
River. It is now a city park of 833 acres featuring walking
paths, picnic areas, and wildlife viewing - all within 2 ½
miles of downtown Salem.
John Mintos own story of Salems history in his
own words, written around 1902:
The writer came to this locality before the City was born,
so to speak. It was known as the "Institute,"
the school founded by the Methodist Missionaries which I
believe was conceived in the mind of Rev. Jason Lee as he
began to see the probable failure of his mission to the
Indians: 1st - Because the condition of the natives of Northwestern
Oregon was below the reach of religious effort at the time;
2nd - Because the choice of the first location for a mission
was perhaps the most unsuitable to be found in the Willamette
Valley. By the time these facts were fully realized the
certainty of the needs of the white race was plainly indicated.
The writer has good reasons for the belief that the Oregon
Institute, now styled Willamette University, was born as
a human enterprise on board the ship Lausanne, in which
were the last most numerous contingent coming as Missionaries,
sent by the M. E. Board of foreign missions which landed
in Oregon in May 1840.
The commencement of building a saw and grist mill at Chemeketa
was the beginning of the abandonment of the mission to the
Indians, and the original mission site was left a wreck
by an act of God, if we assume he controls floods of rivers
such as that of the Willamette river December 3, 1844. The
writer was the first to enter the premises as owner in 1845.
All else except six or eight peach trees; a rose bush, some
gooseberry and currant bushes and a bed of rhubarb, or pie
plant, was carried away by the river or human agency. Most
of the fencing was lodged in drift piles in the timber one-half
to one mile east from the buildings. They were of logs much
like those of a well-to-do frontier settler in timbered
portions of western states at that time. At the mills in
North Salem a plain frame house stood large enough to shelter
two families. It was near if not on the site of Judge R.
P. Boises present residence, 100 yards north, Geo.
Winslow, a Negro, had a brick yard. The Indian village was
east a short distance on the north side of the creek at
that time. About the northeast corner of the old opera house
now occupied by J. Meyers & Sons was an unfinished balloon
frame house in which Mr. L. H. Judson lived in the edge
of the wheat field about the spot on which the building
now used as a bindery stands. Mr. Judson was threshing wheat
by tramping out with oxen. Near the southeast corner of
the same block now surveyed, Capt. Charles Bennett had or
did build a log house and later a roomy frame house, many
years used as a hotel. The Parsonage in a grove of noble
oaks, on ground now covered by offices and store houses
of the woolen mill north of that building and the Institute
were the only other buildings at that time. Rev. David Lesley
lived in the parsonage. W. H. Willson and W. W. Raymonds
families lived in the Institute, of which Mrs. Willson was
teacher and Mrs. Raymond was boarding house keeper.
At this date an idea that had prevailed amongst the Missionaries
that the mission and school would received the aid of Congress
in a liberal land grant, began to give way, and that land
would only be given as encouragement for settled family
life. This was the prevailing opinion of the home builders
themselves, and under this view as a strong probability
the plan was adopted to secure the location of the Institute
by Messrs. Leslie on the south; Waller on the east; J. L.
Parrish and J. B. McClane on the north so making their claims
as to surround a 640 acre tract for W. H. Willson to hold
as his claim for the protection of the Institute foundation.
There was some friction in carrying out these plans at first
between the heads of the Willson and Raymond families. Mr.
Raymond for a time being inclined to assert his prior right
as a settler on the land on which the Institute yet unfinished
stood, and went so far in this as to propose letting the
contract for finishing it to Joseph Watt and giving the
latter a lien on the building as security for his labor.
This information the writer had from Mr. Watt himself, while
he was on his way from Oregon City to examine the Institute
and surroundings, legal and financial.
At this date, August 1845 the Institute as a building was
the most important and best used building west of the Rocky
Mountains. Entering it from the north the first rooms on
the ground floor were used as school rooms; the second door
on the right was the main entrance to the Willson family
residence, and the second on the left was that of the Raymond
family and kitchen and dining room for students. The room
on the second floor over the east school room was used for
church purposes from the time it was finished in 1842 or
43 till the first church building was fit to occupy
in 1852, I think. Between these dates the first legislative
assembly meeting at Salem beginning its session at Oregon
City finished it in the Oregon Institute and the first court
held in the upper Willamette Valley under United States
auspices met in west school room.
Joseph Holman built the first family residence on the corner
of State and Church Sts. Opposite the present M. E. Church,
which is on the site the wooden church building , now used
as a steam laundry, was placed in 1852-53.
If my recollection serves, Salem was surveyed and named
in 1846 and Joseph Holman began his first frame residence
soon after the survey was made. At which date W. H. Willson
told the writer he was ready and willing to give any mechanic
desirous of pursuing his trade a lot for his residence and
another for his business.
The trouble between Messrs.Willson and Raymond was quietly
settled in 1846 and the latter moved to Clatsop Plains shortly
after July 4, 1846.
Capt. Charles Bennett came to Salem in 1845 and built a
keel boat for freighting on the Willamette river which was
soon found unsuitable for that kind of navigation. The boat
was used as a wharf boat and the Capt. became commander
of one of the first; if not the first steamboat put on the
Willamette river, as well as the first company of volunteers
formed in this country which drilled in Salem July 4, 1846.
Compiled by Monica Mersinger
Edited by Katherine Wallig
"Minto Island." Salem Public Parks History on OregonLink.com.
C. 1994-2004. <http://www.oregonlink.com/salem_parks.html#minto>
July 28, 2004.
"Minto, John." Salem Pioneer Cemetery online. March
3, 2004. <http://www.open.org/~pioneerc/pg30.html#MintJohn4537>
July 28, 2004.
Salem, Oregon--Past and Present, an Historical Sketch. Salem:
Schaefer Print Company, 1902. [Salem Public Library]