A Family Dynasty

The Geer Family in Oregon 1847 - 1902

This exhibit explores the Geer Family in 19th and the early years of the 20th century in Oregon. The exhibit is the culmination of a two year collaboration between GeerCrest Farm and Historical Society and Aurora Colony Historical Society. ACHS secured two grants from the Helen E. Austin Pioneer Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation to fund this collaboration. This exhibit describes just some of the unique and fascinating stories from this family’s long history in this state. Do bring your friends and family to enjoy this exhibit this summer!

The Family Patriarch

Joseph Cary Geer (1795-1881) was born in Chaplin, Connecticut. After deciding that farming in Connecticut was no longer feasible, he moved his family to Ohio and eventually settled in Illinois. In 1845, his son Joseph Cary Jr., caught the Oregon fever and travelled west. In 1846 Frederick Wolcott Geer and his wife and children crossed the trail. The following year, Joseph Cary Geer Sr. and his remaining eight children crossed the trail to join the two brothers. The family settled in the French Prairie and became renowned Oregon Pioneers. Come see an octagon shaped table that came across the Oregon Trail with the Geer family in 1847.

Turned By War

Members of the Geer Family, and all of the men who married into it, were involved in politics. Before coming across the Oregon Trail, the family members were predominately Democratic. However, the outbreak of the Civil War and the question of slavery turned the views of all to the Republican Party.

Robert Short, husband of Mary Geer, participated in the Oregon Constitutional Convention.

R.C. Geer was one of the first County Clerks for Marion County.

Frederick W. Geer was a Justice of the Peace.

John W. Grim, husband of Frances E. Geer, served in the first Territorial Legislature.

T.T. Geer became Oregon’s tenth Governor.

Homer Davenport, a political cartoonist, was a Democrat until he met Teddy Roosevelt, which changed his mind.

All of these men were registered Republicans. Ironically, the patriarch of the family, Joseph Cary, had minimal interest in politics.

Hops in the French Prairie

The Geers were farmers. Joseph Cary, Ralph Cary, Arch, Heman, Frederick, and Joel all had farms where they cultivated hops, wheat, and fruit. After crossing the Oregon Trail in 1846, Frederick Wolcott Geer (1817-1896) settled in the French Prairie with his family. This property was formally recognized as a Donation Land Claim after 1850. After 16 years in the mercantile industry in Butteville, Frederick was one of the first farmers to cultivate hops. His land was perfect for growing hops and his farm became a lucrative venture.