There has been a lot of talk recently about the Confederate flag, and whether it represents the proud history of the South or an expression of free speech for self-described rebels. But did you know that early settlers of Pendleton were veterans of the Confederate Army?
The first settlers of what is now Pendleton made their homes where Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution now stands, a place called Swift’s Crossing, when the flat where Pendleton is located was just knee-high bunchgrass, cottonwoods and a thorn thicket along the Umatilla River. The first farming attempted in the area, by William Switzler at the head of Despain Gulch, was a dismal failure.
In the fall of 1861-62 a band of miners and prospectors passing through on their way to the newly discovered gold fields in Idaho were forced to winter at the mouth of Wild Horse Creek, on the present Umatilla Indian Reservation, when they found the Blue Mountains impassable. They stayed until spring, and some, including Moses Goodwin and his wife, decided they liked the area so much they stayed put. Goodwin bought the land where Pendleton began from Abe Miller, paying a team of horses and a cow, and built the first bridge over the Umatilla (where the Main Street Bridge stands) as a toll crossing for emigrants heading west to “Oregon.”
According to a paper presented in March 1914 to the Umatilla County Historical Society by Mrs. R.N. Stanfield, a larger immigration from Missouri and Illinois settled in Umatilla County after the close of the Civil War in 1865. They were nearly all Democrats, having served in the Confederate Army. Some of the streets of Pendleton were originally named after prominent Confederate leaders: Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.
Goodwin Farm was selected as the county seat, being surrounded by a populous community, though not without some agitation from Umatilla Landing on the Columbia River. Goodwin deeded his farm to the city, which was laid out in 1869, but rejected having the town named after him. It was christened Pendleton after a prominent Ohio statesman, George Hunt Pendleton, who was the democratic candidate for vice president in 1865 and much admired by the town fathers. Pendleton probably never knew of the honor bestowed on him by his fellow Democrats, and most likely never set foot in Oregon.