Saturday, May 5, 2012

Toast Governor Geer on Champoeg Founder's Day

Today is "Founder's Day" at Champoeg and all Oregonians who bike should toast Oregon's bikiest Governor.

Founders Day celebrates the May 2nd meeting that established the Provisional Government in 1843.

As one of the first acts of the nascent Oregon Historical Society, Governor Theodore Thurston Geer agreed to locate the site of the meeting that had been so pivotal in organizing the Oregon Territory.

When on May 1st, 1900 Governor Geer visited Champoeg to meet F.X. Matthieu, believed to to have been the only remaining survivor of those meetings, he biked.

Geer in fact biked a good bit, and as Governor-elect in 1898, he and his biking was headline news.

And once in office, in February 1899 he signed into law Oregon's first Bike Bill.

A decade later, as an early adopter he'd moved on to automobiles.  But in his 1911 memoir, Fifty Years in Oregon, he wrote fondly about the May, 1900 bike ride:

I shall never forget that beautiful ride from Salem to Champoeg. It was a perfect day, with a firm north breeze, not a cloud in the sky; the roads were in good condition, the crops were growing splendidly, birds were singing everywhere, seemingly to be in harmony with Nature’s glad mood – it was, in short, just that sort of day which is known in all its wealth of joy, beauty, and inspiration only in the Willamette valley in the spring and summer months.
So as you're out and about in the lovely May sun, and admiring "Nature's glad mood," think of our first bicycling Governor!


Farmer1848 said...

Thanks for this post! wow! You, too, can bike from the Governor's house to Champoeg today. The Geer homestead, founded in 1848, is still a working farm and is managed by GeerCrest Farm & Historical Society. We operate a homestead farm on the property and you can even book a stay in our farmhouse, built in 1851. So visit for more info and get your bike ready for a fabulous ride!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Alas - and perhaps this is a quibble with your very kind note! - but the Governor's house at Macleay is no longer. It was on State Street, on the hill to the east above the Eoff Cemetery. (This is the approximate location. - the Governor's mother was an Eoff.)

Geercrest Farm is, of course, the house of his uncle, Ralph Carey Geer, and is on Sunnyview. They were close, and TT spent time on Ralph C.'s farm, but once he was an adult and had his own place, it was separate. Fortunately Geercrest remains - and we are so lucky that it has remained in the family and been actively farmed!

Governor Geer also appears to have rented a house in Salem proper that is still standing. As best I can tell, the Stratton House is the most likely starting point for his May 1st ride to Champoeg.

Geercrest Farm is a great place to ride to. I have ridden out there a few times, and it is just so lovely, and a fabulous jaunt just as you say. But unfortunately it's not the likeliest starting point for his ride to Champoeg.

Hopefully other readers will discover its charm and beauty and history as well!

Farmer1848 said...

Oh yes, if we could all go back in time to see exactly where T.T. started from! It was more of a symbolic ride I had in mind- after all Champoeg certainly isn't the bustling city it used to be either! While you are correct he had other residences than GeerCrest as an adult, he did actually live for a time at the homestead with his parents and his aunt and uncle and worked on the farm as a boy.

GeerCrest holds the history of many of our founders, T.T. is only one. Others are L.B. Geer, state commissioner of lands in 1900; Pearl Geer, former president of the Oregon State Secular Union, co-founder of the Liberal University and later a nationally recognized actor of stage and film; Musa Geer, first woman to climb Mt. Jefferson. Homer Davenport, who became a well-known political cartoonist for the Hearst papers, spent much of his early youth on the farm, then home to his maternal Grandparents. His autobiography, "The Country Boy," recounts several of his visits to the farm from the Davenport family home in Silverton. Homer also was responsible for the first direct importation of Bedouin horses to the United States and wrote the best seller, "My Quest of the Arabian Horse."
Thanks for recognizing T.T. and his biking efforts, and please keep biking to the farm - you can camp there all summer long!