The Hood River News, Hood River, OR., June 11, 1943, page 1
PIONEER WM. ODELL, FOR WHOM TOWN IN NAMED, CAMED TO HOOD RIVER IN 1861
By Arline Winchell Moore
According to M.D. Odell, the oldest and only living son
of Uncle William Odell, his father was almost a superman in the matter of
self discipline. Any man who could drive an ox team from Missouri to the
goldfields of California over those hot, dusty, roadless plains of the early
1850's, and never utter an oath was truly a man of iron will. Upon occasion,
Uncle Odell stated he has accomplished just that.
I have a lively memory of the few ox teams seen at work in the days of my childhood, and recall that it took more than the "Patience of Job" to urge a yoke of oxen to "Gee and Haw" properly on any kind of work. They were more stubborn than any army mule, and never at any time as willing as Mr. mule can sometimes be.
I distinctly recall coming upon one of the Harbison boys prodding, coaxing, urging a yoke of oxen toward home with a load of huge yellow pine logs one very hot summer day long ago.
My sister and I had been sent to Uncle Dave Turner's place on some errand by our mother. As much at home on the trails as on the main road we had taken a shortcut and came upon the scene just in time to hear Mr. Harbison tell those oxen just what he thought of them in language usually reserved for other ears than those of children. It was nearing the noon hour, and Mr. Harbison was anxious to get home to his dinner. The oxen had decided their dinner hour was at hand and were determinedly grazing in the grassy glade beside the road. We wanted to stay and see the fun, but Mr. Harbison verbally hustled us on our way, by pointing out that our mother certainly did not expect us to linger on our journey. Evidently the oxen won, for on our way home about the middle of the afternoon, we passed them ambling slowly along in the direction of the Harbison home, and we knew enough about the rate of ox travel to know they were not making a second trip home since we last saw them. Practically exhausted, Mr. Harbison sat on the tail end of his load, with his goad stick across his knees, and let the oxen go their own gait.
Now the Harbison boys just didn't talk that way. That is what our mother said when we reported to her in minutest detail the one-way conversation between Mr. Harbison and his oxen. Therefore, I know that Uncle Odell was, indeed, a patient man, else he never could have brought a loaded ox team to California without the help of some "language."
I am told that Uncle Odell didn't find any great fortune in the gold fields, but that he did meet David A. Turner, and those two men became fast friends and, eventually here in Hood River, brothers-in-law. Soon after their friendship was formed, they decided to come north to the Oregon country, and arrived in Hood River, where both men lived until Gabriel checked them in.
Uncle Odell was born November 30, 1883, during the great shower of meteorites. That puts his age at about 28 years when he first came to Hood River in 1861.
Very soon after buying the Butler relinquishment of 80 acres, on which a part of the present Odell town is built, he became acquainted with Aunt Diona Neal. She was only 14 years of age when they were married. In 1862, Milton came to bring joy to the new home. In the years that followed, four more boys and two girls came along. Milton, the first born, now past four score of years, is the only direct member of the family left. He lives at Odell, on land that was once part of his father's holdings, with his daughter, Mrs. John Wirrick.
Dr. Odell, of the staff of The Dalles tuberculosis hospital, is a cousin of Milton Odell. He is the son of Jim Odell, a brother of William Odell, who settled near Baker, Oregon.
During the years that William Odell labored to raise his family, he gave willingly of his time and materials toward civic growth. Desirous that his children should have educational advantages, he gave land upon which to build the permanent school building. The grade school is today on his land. He served many years as school director and worked all his life to improve the schools.
Many, many hours of labor with teams and plow were donated toward road building. When roads became something of a reality he served one term as road commissioner.
He was a Justice of the Peace for some time. In those early days, the Justice of the Peace was about the only "arm of the law" in Hood River. Once, during his period of service in that capacity, he was called upon to settle a dispute between two men over a cowbell. Animals grazed at will over the timbered areas then. If a farmer had anything to protect, he fenced the animal out -- rather than in, as we must do today. A stockman always hung a bell around the necks of certain lead animals in his herd to make easier the task of locating the stock in the dense timber growth. There were large bells and small bells, calf bells, bells with high tones, and bells with low tones, but the prize bell of bells was the extra large one on the neck of oxen.
One old ox belonging to one of these men had managed to rub his bell off, and the other man had found it. The finder claimed the bell because he had found it, and the other man claimed it because his ox had lost it. They argued and fussed around over the matter until they became so angry that one of the men pulled his gun. Someone stopped a "killing" but could not settle the argument. The man on whom the gun was pulled decided that he needed the protection of "the law" and brought the case before Justice of the Peace Odell. Uncle Odell called in the other man and tried to talk some sense into their angry head. Finally, not making any progress toward an applicable settlement, he offered each man a cow from his rather extensive herd if they would shake hands and forget the matter.
By this time, his anger cooled, and somewhat calmed by the offer of the cow, the man who had pulled the gun was willing to back up, but the man on whom the gun was drawn was more determined than ever "to make something of it," and carried the matter to the circuit court at The Dalles. The case dragged along for many months and cost both men a considerable sum of money for those times, and never was really settled.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer