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Notable Oregonians: Dr. Elijah White - Physician, Pioneer

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Dr. Elijah White

Dr. Elijah White, 1806-1879

Elijah White was born in New York State in 1806 and educated at the medical college in Syracuse, New York. The Methodist Church appointed him to be physician to a Willamette Valley, Oregon mission in 1836. Over time his disagreements over policy with Jason Lee, who ran the mission, led to White's resignation and return to the East in 1841.


The next year he was appointed sub-Indian agent and in that capacity led the first wagon train ever to include more than 100 people to Oregon. Once back in Oregon, White established a law code for the Nez Perce Indians and sought to make peace with the Cayuse and Walla Walla Indians who were threatening to attack missions. He also conducted a census of persons living south of the Columbia River.


He was a member of the Committee of Twelve named in 1843 at the second "Wolf Meeting" to consider military and civil protections for Willamette Valley settlers. In 1845 White located a pass through the coastal mountains to the head of Yaquina Bay at present day Newport. The same year he returned East to deliver an Oregon Provisional Government memorial to the U.S. Congress. He returned to Oregon in 1850 and worked to promote Pacific City near present-day Ilwaco, Washington. Eleven years later in 1861 White was commissioned as a special Indian agent for the territory west of the Rocky Mountains and soon went to California.


He died on April 3, 1879.


(Source: Dictionary of Oregon History) Revised 1/2017


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