Cedar Mill
Community Website

Cedar Mill News
Volume 5, Issue 3


March 2007

History in the News
Life and Death in Pioneer Times
By Nancy Olson, co-author, Cedar Mill History

The Cedar Mill pioneers, like other frontier settlers, were isolated and largely unenlightened by modern science. Many home remedies were relied upon to improve and prolong life. Lots of these cures were supplied by the pioneer gardens rich in herbs both for flavoring and medicinal purposes. Other home remedies were brought with the pioneers.

William Walker crossed the Oregon Trail in 1852. In his diary can be found some good examples of various cures typical of the times.

Nerve and Bone Liniments

Take one ounce of spirits of turpentine, half a pint of brandy and one gill of neatsfoot oil. Simmer it over a fire til mixed, then bottle it for use.

Fleas, Bedbugs, etc.

A writer in the Gardener’s Chronicle recommends the use of oil of wormwood to help keep off the insects above named. Place a few drops on a handkerchief or a piece of muslin and put in the bed haunted by the enemy.

In the absence of a medical doctor, many practical remedies came from midwives. One of the first in the area was Elizabeth Constable Young, wife of JQA Young, the owner of The Cedar Mill. Mabel Young’s memoirs state:

“She was a wonderful soul. She brought fifty babies into the world (and never charged a penny of course) and the first thought among her neighbors in any sickness was “send for Mrs. Young.” She bore eleven children and raised eight of us. I was born when my oldest brother was in his twenty-fifth year. She lived to be ninety-four and a half.”

A pioneer garden including typical medicinal herbs of the period is planned as part of the restoration efforts for the JQA Young House on Cornell.

Another midwife in the area was Seatta Smith Dix. She was the daughter of pioneers Joseph and Margaret Smith who owned 320 acres just east of what became the Multnomah County line.

Home remedies and midwives’ simple expertise notwithstanding, death always came. Infant deaths were frequent, evident in the Union Cemetery’s many small headstones. The dangerous occupations of logging and farming caused many accidental deaths. Most of the adult settlers survived to middle and old age, surrounded by family, friends and neighbors.


Sign Up Now to receive
The Cedar Mill News by email each month

Cedar Mill News Subject Index
for past articles

Published monthly by Cedar Mill Advertising & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
12110 NW West Rd
Portland, OR 97229