John Pollard Gaines
Papers, 1832-1864


Quantity: 7 boxes (2.0 cubic ft.)
Access: Restricted: Original documents in fragile condition as a result of being extensively damaged by fire; researchers are directed to use microfilm
Alternative Formats: Available on Microfilm: MB/FM 979.503 G142 200-5117 (4 rolls)
Acquisition: Acquired prior to Capitol Fire, March 1911; accessioned June 1939
Processed By: Kathleen Barber, Manuscripts and Special Collections, June 1988

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Biographical Note:

John Pollard Gaines (September 22, 1795-December 9, 1857). Lawyer, soldier, territorial governor, born in Augusta County, Virginia, son of Abner and Elizabeth (Mathews) Gaines, and reared in Boone County, Kentucky. Thorough English education, studied law, admitted to bar, began practice in hometown of Walton. Soldier in War of 1812. June 22, 1819, married Elizabeth, daughter of Nicholas Kincaid of Versailles, Kentucky. Mexican War: commissioned major-general in Thomas Marshall’s Kentucky cavalry brigade; distinguished himself at battle of Molino de Rey; January 1847 captured at Incarnacion by Mexicans and detained some months in military prison from which he escaped; he then served as aide-de-camp on the staff of General Winfield Scott. Gaines had been a member of Kentucky legislature. During his imprisonment in Mexico, he was elected as a Whig from his district to the 30th Congress (1847-1849). President Taylor appointed him governor of Oregon Territory after Abraham Lincoln declined that office. Gaines accepted, shipped with his family on the store ship Supply around the Horn and arrived in San Francisco in July 1850. On voyage, two of his daughters died of yellow fever. From San Francisco he proceeded to Oregon on the ship of war, Falmouth, arriving August 15, 1850. There was opposition to federal officers appointed from outside the Territory, and there was also a tendency toward Democracy in politics, which made his stiff Whiggism distinctly unpopular. Within a few months he had the misfortune to see the people of the Territory factionalized, the legislature and supreme court disrupted. Principal occasion of difficulty was the question of relocating the capitol of the Territory. Oregon City and Salem were rivals for the honor. Gaines favored Oregon City, his prestige was lowered. In 1853 his term expired. Wife killed by accident in fall of 1851, and a son, Richard, died soon afterward. About 15 months after his wife’s death, Gaines married Margaret B. Wards, one of the five women teachers sent to Oregon by Governor Slade. Settled on farm near Salem, where he spent remainder of his life.

Cassius Marcellus Clay (October 19, 1810-July 22, 1903). Abolitionist, youngest son of Green Clay and Sally (Lewis) Clay, was born on his father’s estate “White Hall” in Madison County, Kentucky. Education: received instruction from Joshua Fry in Garrard County, and later under same master at Danville; attended Jesuit College of St. Joseph in Nelson County, Transylvania University, and Yale College from which he was graduated. Studied law at Transylvania. Elected to state legislature from Madison County in 1835 and in 1837 moved to Lexington; in 1840 was elected to legislature to represent Fayette County. Defeated following year on question of slavery. In June 1845 he set up, in Lexington, a newspaper, True American, later published in Cincinnati. Under name of Examiner he moved it to Louisville. In 1846 he volunteered among the first of those who were to invade Mexico. Taken prisoner at Incarnation in January 1847. After many harrowing experiences, finally set free. On return to Kentucky shared in commendation of the legislature and received a sword from his fellow citizens. Later accepted the diplomatic post at Russia.

Scope and Content Note:

Papers include: Certificate of appointment as territorial governor of Oregon; correspondence related to his service in the United States Congress as a representative from Kentucky (1847-1849) and as governor of Oregon Territory (1850-1853); diary (1850) while on board the ship Supply; letter books (1849-1855); Cayuse Indian War claims (1849-1853); accounts of Rogue River Indians and Indian trade; private receipts and account books (1822-1857); Oregon petitions, as well as materials concerning the territorial library and the Mexican War. Much of the correspondence is with Cassius M. Clay, a prominent abolitionist and political associate of Gaines.  The papers also include a considerable amount of material related to the estate of John Pollard Gaines.

Box and Folder List:

Box Folder Description
1 1 Re: Cassius Marcellus Clay
  2 Re: Oregon teachers
  3 1832-[184?]
  4 1843-1845
  5 January-September 1846
  6 October-December 1846
  7 January-September 1847
  8 October-December 1847
  9 [1848?]
  10 January 1848
2 1 February 2-14, 1848

2 February 15-28, 1848

3 March 1848

4 April 1848

5 May 1848

6 June 1848

7 July 1848
3 1 August-November 1848

2 December 1-13, 1848

3 December 14-31, 1848

4 January 1-15, 1849

5 January 16-31, 1849

6 February 1849

7 March-December 1849
4 1 1850?

2 January-August 1850

3 September-December 1850

4 January-July 1851

5 August-October 1851

6 November-December 1851

7 January-April 1852
5 1 May-July 1852

2 August-December 1852

3 1853

4 1854

5 1855-1857

6 [1858-1864]

7 Scraps

8 Envelopes
6 1 Diary, January [3]-21, 1850 on board Supply

2 Letterbook, December 5, 1849-November 5, 1855

3 Letterbook, February 8-September 28, 1851. Indian Affairs

4 Accounts of Rogue River Indians, June-July 1851

5 Cayuse War Claims, 1849-1852

6 Cayuse War Claims, 1852-1853

7 Accounts of the Board of Commissioners trading with the Indians, west of the Cascade Mountains in the Oregon Territory up to and including April 30, 1851

8 Accounts of the Board of Commissioners trading with the Indians, west of the Cascade Mountains in the Oregon Territory May 1-July 31, 1851

9 Miscellaneous papers of the Board of Commissioners, 1851
7 1 Accounts, receipts, etc., 1822-1849 (Kentucky)

2 Accounts, receipts, etc. Expenses incurred December 1849-January 1850 moving to Oregon

3 Accounts, receipts, etc., 1850-1857 (Oregon)

4 Account books, letter book, 1849-1850

5 Accounts with U.S. Treasurer

6 Territorial Library (Oregon)

7 Addresses, acts, etc. re: Oregon Territory

8 Petitions (Oregon)

9 Documents: contracts, etc.

10 A.K. Gaines, administrator of J.P. Gaines estate

11 Miscellaneous pension items

12 War with Mexico

13 Memoranda

14 Newspaper clippings, poetry, etc.

15 Index (unidentified)


Appointment of John P. Gaines as Governor of the Territory of Oregon, October 2, 1849. Z. Taylor, President of the United States (parchment)

Last Updated: May 24, 2021