|John Pollard Gaines, who was born in Augusta
County, Virginia, served with General Winfield Scott in the
Mexican-American War and represented Kentucky in the United
States Congress before coming to Oregon. Appointed Territorial
Governor in 1850 by President Taylor, he held that post until
1854; during this time the first Indian war occurred in Oregon.
Born September 22, 1795 in Augusta County, Virginia to Abner
Legrand Gaines and Elizabeth Mathews Gaines. His grandfather
and great-grandfather served during the Revolutionary War.
He received an education and studied law, he volunteered in
the War of 1812. He was a lawyer with his practice in Boone
County, Kentucky. He was a state legislator in Kentucky during
the 1820's and 1830's. He volunteered and was appointed the
rank of "Major" for the War with Mexico in 1846.
He and some 80 soldiers were captured at Incarnation in January
1847. They were held captive in Mexico City until August.
After revoking his parole of honor he along with
a midshipman, escaped from Mexico City and arrived in Puebla
on August 3 or 4, 1847.
Major Gaines led the first wagon train out of Mexico headed
back to the United States. One of the travelers, Mrs. Noah
Smith died at sea on board the ship taking her and her two
small children back to the U.S., Major Gaines took her children
back to Kentucky with him and then on to relatives. In caring
for these youngsters he was late to his first session of Congress.
While a prisoner of War in Mexico, his district back in Boone
County Kentucky elected him to the 30th United States Congress.
At the end of his term as congressman he returned to Boone
County and in October of 1849 he accepted the position of
Governor of the Territory of Oregon. Abraham Lincoln refused
this position first, how different history may have been if
Honest Abe had gone to Oregon.
Gaines first wife, Elizabeth Kincaid, died the year after
their move to Oregon; two years later, in 1853, he married
Margaret B. Wands.
At the end of Governor Gaines' term in 1853 he settled on
his farm just outside Salem, Oregon. In 1854 he and two of
his sons (Archibald & Abner) drove over 200 head of cattle
from Kentucky and Arkansas across the plains to Oregon. The
herd included 35 pure bred Durham cattle. In September of
1854 his daughter Catherine was born to him and his second
wife Margaret Wands. Governor Gaines' appointment to the governorship
cost him the death of several of his family. Two daughters
(Harriet & Florella) in 1850 in Brazil, his first wife
(Elizabeth) in 1851 in a fall from a horse, at which time
his remaining children were sent back to relatives in the
east. His daughter Matilda died in Tennessee in the spring
of 1857, it was the last of several blows his poor body and
soul could not overcome. He died December 9, 1857 of Typhoid
Fever, and is interred in the Old Pioneer Cemetery at Salem,
His son Archibald went to the Clatsop Plains Cemetery in
late December of 1857 and brought back his mothers remains
so that she and his father would reside next to each other
Compiled by John Calvin Gaines, III
Bellinghausen, Frank. "Pioneer Cemetery, Nomination
for Historic Registry," Salem Parks and Recreation Department,
December 5, 1984.
John Calvin Gaines III, biographical information and photos,