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Salem Pioneer Cemetery ~ William Holden Willson ~ part of the Marion County Pioneer Cemeteries of Oregon
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William Holden Willson
BORN: 14 Apr 1805 DIED: 17 Apr 1856 BURIED:  Apr 1856
ETHNICITY:   OCCUPATION:  Carpenter; Preacher
BIRTH PLACE:  Charlestown, New Hampshire
DEATH PLACE: Salem, Marion Co., Oregon
1850 CENSUS - W. H. "Wilson", age 46. Physician, b. N.Y., is enumerated with "Orelia" Wilson, age 33, b. Illinois, and Frances, age 3, b. Oregon Territory, along with Wm Holden, age 40, carpenter b. Ohio, and Elizabeth Page, age 14. 

BIOGRAPHICAL: Came in 1840 on "Lausanne" as mission carpenter, filed Salem plat in 1850.; WILSON, Dr. W. H. died 1856: "well known pioneer; buried in cemetery at Salem." 

Willson, William Holden, Dr. (April 14 1805 - April 17, 1856), Salem town founder and first Provisional treasurer, was born in New Hampshire, and after following the trades of cooper, ship-carpenter, and whaler, studied medicine under tutelage of Dr. Elijah White while enroute to Oregon, where he arrived on the brig Diane, May 18, 1837. He practiced carpentry and medicine at Willamette Missions, was commissioned to preach and sent to Puget Sound in 1839 to establish a branch mission there. He returned and took land claim at site of present Salem; voted for organization of local civil government at Champoeg, May 2, 1845. In 1846 he platted and named Salem and donated part of a tract which still bears his name. That year he also gave land for Oregon Institute, appointed on commission to borrow or raise funds for prosecuting the Cayuse Indian War. In 1849 he was a member of the Oregon Exchange Co.; and in 1852 a candidate for Congress to succeed Samuel R. Thurston. He was trustee of Willamette University, 1855, and a commissioner for projected Oregon and California Railroad Co., 1854. In 1840 he married Chloe Aurelia Clark; they had three children. He is buried in I.O.O.F. cemetery, Salem. 

William Holden Willson came out as a layman in the first reinforcement for the Methodist Mission from Boston by was of Honolulu, arriving on the brig Diana on May 18, 1837. 
He was born in New Hampshire in 1801, where he had been a ship carpenter and cooper, and has sailed out of New Bedford on more than one Whaling Voyage.  On the long voyage to Oregon he applied himself to the study of medicine under Dr. Elijah White, who was at the head of the Mission force.  Afterward he was given the title of doctor to distinguish from the others of the same name.  He was a tall man of cheerful temper, affectionate disposition, and kind alike to animals and children.  Possessing such wualities, he was always a general favorite.
Active and efficient in all departments, William H. Willson was licensed as a local preacher, and in 1839 was sent with the Reverend David Leslie to establish a branch mission on Puget sound, near the present city of Tacoma.  Here, the next year, he was married by Dr. Richmond to Miss Chloe Clark, a member of the great reinforcement, assigned to the same post, who became in 1842 the first teacher of the Oregon Institute.
Willson was elected to the board of the Oregon Institute in 1843, and acted as secretary in 1845.  AT that time he was agent for the property which comprised, with the holding of four of the trustees, the entire town site of Salem, and was empowered by the board to sell lots, (retaining a small commission), and to donate twenty lots to deserving people and organizations.  This board was responsible for laying out and apportioning tracts in the town of Salem.  Some of the land was sold for $12 an acre.
At the Champoeg meeting in May, 1843, Willson was chosen as one of three secretaries, and later in the day as the first treasurer of the provisional government.  At the July meeting called by the executive committee to oroganize military forces for defensive measures after the conflict with Indians at Oregon City, in March, 1844.  This resulted in the formation of the first military organization in the new territory, know as the Oregon Rangers, never used, however, for active service.
After the Whitman massacre, a real army was an imperative need, and various companies were hastily assembled.  Then came the appalling problem of defraying the costs of the army.  The Hudson's Bay Company refused to advance a loan to the government, and from the United States no aid could be obtained.  Commissioners had been appointed to secure funds, but were unsuccessful in procuring suffient amounts, and resigned.  A new board of three commissioners was appointed by the legislature, one of whom was W.H. Willson.  Appeals were made to the people for contributions, and nobly the citizens and volunteers themselves gave of their private resources.  Difficult it was to supply equipment, food and clothing, and almost impossible to obtain cash to pay for clearing roads, and for military operations.  Orders on stores and private loans were the measures resorted to in order to get the volunteers in the field.  Willson was designated as commissary agent in the records of this Cayuse War, which contunued from December, 1847, until August, 1848.  All the fighting and marching of the was was executed by the colonists without aid from any source, and by the time the United States Government answered the appeal for help, the war was over.  It was only in 1854 that Congress completed the payment of $150,000 as a reimbursement for the cost of the war to the provisional government.  The Cayuse War marked and closed the existence of the provisional government.
At the time the medium of exchange had been largely beaver skins and wheat, until gold dust was introduced late in 1848.  After that, pouches of gold dust were carried about; a pinch of gold dust was counted as a dollar.  Stores were equipped iwth scales for weighing this valuable mineral.  This was son unsatifactory that the legislature of that year passed an act on February 16, 1849, authorizing the installation of a mint at Oregon City, and elected W.H. Willson as melter and coiner.  The act was signed by Governor Abernathy; however, before the plans could be carried out, Joseph Lane, the new territorial governor, arrived and he forbade the proceeding as illegal.
Willson then, with seven other men, formed a company called the Oregon Exchange Company.  They started a mint, melted the gold dust, removed the impurities and minted $5 and $10 coins bearing the stamp of a beaver instead of an eagle.  Hence this has always been known as beaver money.  On the coins were the initials of the surnames of each man in the company.  They were K.M.T.A.W.R.C.S., two standing for Abernathy and Willson.  About $58,000 was coined and later most of it found its way to the San Fransisco mint where the high gold content of the coins gave them a special value and to the owners a real profit.
Willson ran as an unsuccessful candidate against Lane for Congress in 1851, both being on the Democratic ticket.  He acted as county commissioner in 1853.  He died suddenly on April 17, 1865, and is buried in the I.O.O.F. cemetery at Salem, Oregon.

WILSON, Dr. W. H., Oregon Journal, 6-5-1915 which published an article titled: "The Oregon Country in Early Days by Fred Lockley". 

SEE Also: "Marion County History", Vol. 15  
SEE also:

PHOTOGRAPH NOTE: Description which accompanies the picture reads as follows: "Dr. W. H. Willson, 1805 - 1856, donor of Willson PArk in Salem, Oregon.  Willson Park is that protion of the capitol building grounds west of the capitol.
On Thursday last, between the hours of 12 and 1 o'clock, while Dr. Willson was sitting in the drug store of Messrs. W. E. Smith & Co. talking to several persons, he instantly fell from his chair insensible, and in less than an hour the vital spark had fled. He rode down on horseback from his house, and appeared as lively and well as he had been for some time past. Medical aid was immediately procured, but all efforts to restore him failed--death had done its work. He had been very unwell for the last six months, and the fatal issue was anticipated, although the precise nature of his disease was not fully known by his physician. There was a post mortem examination made upon the body, and it was diagnosed that he had been laboring under enlargement of the liver, which was of long standing; but the immediate cause of his death was from heavy congestion of the lungs, heart and spleen, and in all probability there was congestion of the brain. In his lungs were found a number of small particles resembling pebbles, and the right lung had strongly adhered to the walls of the thorax. Obituary notice next week. 
Pacific Christian Advocate 21 April 1856 2:1 

Mr. Editor--Your last issue contained the melancholy assessment of the death of Bro. Wm. H. Willson, formerly a member of the Oregon Mission. As you have already given a circumstantial account of his death, I need not repeat it here; but from personal acquaintance and reliable information, I present the following for publication: Brother Wm. H. Willson was born in Charlestown, N.H., April 14, 1805. His early conversion he attributed to the blessing of God on the prayers and counsels of his pious mother, through whose influence he was led to the knowledge of the Saviour, and brought within the pale of the M.E. Church. His early acquaintance with the discipline and usage of the Church, laid the foundation for the sacred regard and strong attachment which he felt and manifested toward all her rules and institutions, especially the class and prayer meeting. But his nearest approaches to heaven seemed to be in the closet and family circle. My first acquaintance with Bro. Willson was in the year 1835, when stationed at Fairhaven, Massachusetts, to which place he returned after a three years' sea voyage. He entered the port on Saturday--came to love feast Sabbath morning, and bore testimony to the goodness of God to him amid the perils of the ocean and in distant lands. He remained a member of my charge in Fairhaven until the spring of 1836, when an urgent call from Oregon for helpers in the work of the Mission was responded to by the Board--Bro. Willson was one of the seven who came at that time, in the capacity of physician, mechanics and teachers. I had the privilege of renewing my acquaintance with Bro. Willson a few months after his arrival in Oregon, where I found him actively and usefully employed in the mechanical department. In the winter of 1838-39, we were favored with a gracious outpouring of the spirit of God, which resulted in the conversion of about twenty of the Indian youth and children at the school, and a few Americans gathered around the Mission. In this good work, Bro. Willson engaged with all his heart, and his prayers were answered in the conversion of the poor heathen. In the spring of 1839, a Mission was opened among the Indians at Puget Sound. Bro. Willson was charged with the commencement of this work, and he applied himself with zeal and fidelity to ameliorate the physical and moral condition of those Indians. It was here that Bro. Willson was united in marriage to Miss C. A. Clark, who accompanied Dr. Richmond's family in the capacity of teacher in 1840. Shortly after this, the work of the Mission no longer requiring the employment of laymen, Bro. Willson, with other gentlemen, was discharged. His relation to the Mission thus dissolved, he at once became active and efficient in assisting to lay the foundations of the civil institutions of Oregon on the principles of intelligence and virtue. He was elected to offices of honor and trust under both the provisional and organic forms of our Territorial Government. His position as proprietor of the town of Salem enabled him to manifest a public and catholic spirit on a liberal scale, by donations for public, literary and religious purpose. He has ever been a liberal supporter of all the institutions of this church at home and abroad--has long sustained the office of lender, steward, and local preacher among us, and also of a trustee of Wallamet University. As superintendent of the Sabbath school, Bro. Willson has for the few past years directed his efforts to this most interesting field of labor. For several months prior to his decease, the classroom, the prayer meeting, and especially the domestic altar, have borne witness to his growth in piety, his strength of faith and increase of spirituality. He was evidently ripening for heaven--As the time of his departure drew nigh, he felt ready for the event. The church and community are destined long to feel the loss of our departed brother from our sides. But the domestic circle was his paradise --where he loved and was beloved. There is a volume of truth and meaning in the expression of his heart-stricken widow, to the writer of this article,--- Whatever Mr. Willson was abroad he was a Christian, a Husband and father at home. This deeply afflicted widow, together with three daughters, all of a tender age, are left to feel how desolate is that once happy home. D. Leslie, April 24, 1856. 
Pacific Christian Advocate 28 April 1856 3:3
Dr. W. H. Willson died 17 Apr 1856 aged 51 years
DAR pg 39
1850 Oregon Territory Census (Marion Co., FA #112) 
DOH pg .271 
PCA 21 April 1856 2:6 
PCA 28 April 1856 3:3 
Dobbs, Caroline. MEN OF CHAMPOEG: A RECORD OF THE LIVES OF THE PIONEERS WHO FOUNDED THE OREGON GOVERNMENT. Metropolitan Press, Portland, Oregon, 1932. pgs. 56-59.

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