Joseph Goff Gale
- For the U.S. Tax Court judge, see Joseph H. Gale.
(April 29 1807
- December 131881
) was an American
pioneer, trapper, entrepreneur, and politician who contributed to the early settlement of the Oregon Country
. There he assisted in the construction of the first sailing vessel built in what would become the state of Oregon
, sailed the ship to California
to trade for cattle, and later served as one of three co-executives in the Provisional Government of Oregon
. Originally a sailor, he also spent time in the fur trade, as a farmer, and a gold miner in the California Gold Rush
Joseph Gale was born in Washington, D.C.
on April 29 1807
, the son of Mary Gale (nee Goff) and Joseph Gale, a sea captain from Pennsylvania
. Both of his parents died when Joseph was young, but he did receive an education and some training as a sailor. Gale arrived on the Pacific Coast as early as 1828 with the Bean-Sinclair party that had been shipwrecked off the coast of California
. From 1830 until 1839, the heyday of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, he was a well regarded trapper and an associate of western legends such as Ewing Young
, Nathaniel Wyeth
, Joe Meek
, Jim Bridger
, and Chief Joseph
of the Nez Perce
As early as 1830, Joseph Gale had traveled the Santa Fe Trail
from Missouri to Taos
and was fur trapping in the southern Rocky Mountains. Just how and when he arrived in the west is unclear. In October 1831, he departed Santa Fe
as a member of Ewing Young
's second trip to California. The goal of this expedition was to export horses and mules from California for sale in the Missouri Valley, and do some trapping of beaver and perhaps sea otter on the side. Whether Gale went all the way to California, or remained at the Colorado River to wait for the returning party is unclear. However, Gale likely accompanied David Jackson
and the California livestock back to New Mexico, arriving in July 1832.
A year later, in July 1833, Gale was at the fur trapper's Rendezvous at Green River, where he joined Joseph Walker's expedition to California.
The fur trappers traveled from the Great Salt Lake to California by way of the Humboldt River, crossing the Sierra Nevada near Yosemite Valley. Traversing the rough mountain terrain in October took a month. In November, Walker and company finally reached the Pacific Ocean.
In February 1834, the Joseph Walker party began its return trip to the Rocky Mountains, but Gale stayed behind in California. He instead joined his friend Ewing Young on his cattle drive from California to Oregon in the company of Oregon promoter, Hall Jackson Kelley. The Ewing Young party reached the Willamette Valley in October 1834.
Less than a month later, Gale and a "picked up lot" were hired by Nathaniel Wyeth and were traveling to Fort Hall.
Gale was soon leading a "spring hunt" in the Rockies north of the Great Salt Lake.
In the fall of 1835, Gale lead his party of men to the Gallatin River, where they had a bloody encounter with Blackfeet Indians. Gale and his party, Kit Carson, Joe Meek, and several others were fortunate to survive the encounter. Joseph Gale continued to work out Fort Hall for the next few years. With the sale of Fort Hall to the Hudson's Bay Company in August 1837, he began trapping for the English company.
While working for Wyeth out of Fort Hall, Joseph married a Walla Walla
Indian woman, Eliza, who was a daughter of Old Chief Joseph
) of the Wallowa Nez Perce
and a Walla Walla mother. She may have been named after Eliza Spalding
, co-founder of the Protestant mission at Lapwai. Eliza Gale was half sister to Young Chief Joseph
). Joseph Gale and Eliza's first two children (Francis Ellen and Edward) were born at Fort Hall in 1837 and 1838, three more children were born in the Oregon Territory (Susan, Margaret and Mary), and three more girls (Maria Antonia, Clara and Sabrina) were born in California during the 1850s.
In 1839, Joseph Gale and his family left Fort Hall and moved west of the Cascade mountains. Gale soon had a job working at the Methodist Mission
sawmill in Mission Bottom.
Within a year, the family had settled on the Tualatin Plains
, where they were soon joined by the families of other mountain men, including Robert Newell
, George W. Ebbert
, Caleb Wilkins, William Doughty, and Joe Meek
. With the collapse of the international market for beaver furs, the fur trappers had quit the business and were settling down in the Oregon Country.
As Oregon began to attract people, the lack of a sustainable economy became a problem. Moreover, settlers were suffering from an acute livestock shortage. In 1840, a group of settlers began construction of a ship with the goal of sailing the vessel to San Francisco, and trading it for cattle to bring back north. Ship building commenced on the Star of Oregon (as it was later to be named) on Swan Island (Portland, Oregon). A year later, Joseph Gale was offered command of the ship and a share of the ownership. To raise capital and free his labor for its construction, Gale sold his Tualatin farm and moved his family to Champoeg. All summer and fall he worked on construction of the schooner at Oregon City, where it had been relocated. During the winter and spring of 1841 to 42, Gale worked for the Methodist Mission, running its sawmill.
In August 1842, the Star of Oregon - the first ocean-going vessel built in Oregon - left Oregon City for two weeks of practice runs on the Columbia River. In September, the ship left for California with a crew of five inexperienced men and an Indian boy. On reaching San Francisco, the ship was sold for 350 cows. The following spring, Gale and 42 others drove 1,250 cattle, 600 horses and mules, and 3,000 sheep back to Oregon.
Partly in recognition for his accomplishment, Joseph Gale was named to the first executive committee of Oregon. Oregon’s first form of government, as implemented by the citizens’ meeting at Champoeg on July 51843, favored an Executive Committee instead of a single executive. The Executive Committee of 1843 was made up of David Hill, Alanson Beers, and Gale.
By 1844, Joseph Gale and his family had settled on Gales Creek in Washington County, Oregon, where he established a grist mill and sawmill, perhaps using profits gained from the California cattle drive.
California and the gold rush
With news of the California Gold Rush
, Joseph Gale moved from the Oregon Territory
to California, where he lived first at Mission San Jose
and later near Fort Tejon
in Los Angeles County where he ran a sawmill. On January 91857
, Joseph Gale and family suffered the effects of the Great Fort Tejon earthquake
. "Mr. Gale, whose dwelling is situated..(approximately 1.5 miles from) the Fort experienced a severe injury during his exertions to rescue his children from the ruins of his falling house"
In August 1859, Gale received a permit to run a ferry over the Kern River (at Gordon's Ferry, Tulare County). Located on the main stage route from Los Angeles to San Francisco, this venture was potentially profitable. However, Gale's business activities were badly damaged with the demise of the Butterfield Overland Mail service in March 1861 and the closing of Fort Tejon in June 1861. In January 1862, a record flood washed away the ferry, stage station, and much of the road connecting San Francisco with Los Angeles. Gale abandoned the ferry and moved to Walla Walla.
Return to Eastern Oregon
By late 1862 Gale and his family had moved to Walla Walla
, Washington Territory, where his daughter Frances and husband Thomas Page had settled. By 1868, Gale had relocated to Eagle Valley in Eastern Oregon, where he engaged in farming and other business activities related to the gold strikes in the Eagle Cap mountains
. Before the Nez Perce War
(1877), Young Chief Joseph
and the Wallowa Nez Perce would often come and stay with Joseph and Eliza during visits to Eagle Valley, a traditional Nez Perce
hunting and fishing territory.
Joseph Gale died on his farm on December 13 1881, and is buried in the Eagle Valley cemetery, Richland, Baker County, Oregon. After Gale's death, Eliza moved to the Umatilla Indian Reservation, where she died in 1905. She is buried in the Weston Cemetery in Weston, Umatilla County, Oregon, where her tombstone reads "1819-1905 d/o Old Chief Joseph, Nez Perce Chief. w/o Joseph Gale, Provisional Governor of Oregon 1843-1844."