Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Major Lee Moorhouse a Pendleton legend

One of Pendleton’s most famous and beloved residents, Major Lee Moorhouse, died of an embolism on June 1, 1926, at the age of 76.

Moorhouse was born in Iowa in 1850 and came to Oregon with his family in the Morgan train of pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The family settled first near Pendleton in 1861, and then near Walla Walla where Moorhouse lived until the age of 14. He then set out to work in the mines in Idaho and British Columbia where, despite his young age, he was quite successful.

Later he returned to the Walla Walla area, where he studied civil engineering with the Oregon & California Railroad. He was appointed county surveyor in Pendleton soon after finishing his studies. He also went into business with merchant Lot Livermore in Pendleton and John Foster in Umatilla.

Moorehouse was appointed assistant adjutant general of the Oregon state militia in 1878 during the Bannock War, with the rank of major, and held that post for four years while serving as secretary to Governor Stephen Chadwick. At the same time, he was named superintendent of Prospect Hill Farm, a 4,000-acre grain business owned by a company of Portland men 18 miles west of Pendleton.

In 1883, Moorhouse was appointed by President Harrison as Indian agent for the Umatilla Indian reservation, a post he kept for many years, and he made many friends amongst the tribes during his time representing them. During his later years he also engaged in real estate, insurance and law. He was deputy clerk of the Oregon Supreme Court for 25 years and also served as treasurer of the city of Pendleton.

But perhaps he was most famous for his amateur photography. He was best known for his photos of the Cayuse Twins, taken in 1898, but his collection of negatives featuring the native peoples of the West was the largest in the United States, and his photos were used to illustrate scores of Oregon histories. He also had a large collection of native memorabilia, and he was one of the foremost historians of Oregon and Indian lore of his time.

Moorhouse’s services were attended by scores of people from all over Oregon. He is buried at Olney Cemetery in Pendleton.

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