Slavery on trial in the oregon territory

Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake

Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake

Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake was a central figure in an 1852 slavery case in which her father, a former slave, successfully sued his former owner, Nathaniel Ford, for the freedom of his three children, including Mary Jane. It was the only slavery case ever adjudicated in Oregon courts. Mary Jane married another former slave from Missouri, Reuben Shipley, in 1857. The photo was taken in 1924, two years before her death. (Benton County Historical Museum)

Nathaniel and Lucinda Ford

Nathaniel Ford and his wife, Lucinda. The Fords brought six slaves from Missouri to Oregon in 1844 and established a farm near present-day Rickreall in Polk County. Ford was sued by former slave Robin Holmes, seeking freedom for his children. (Oregon Historical Society)

George Washington and his dog

Washington was a former slave, who came to the Oregon Territory with his former owner in 1850, established a farm and later founded Centralia, Washington. (Oregon Historical Society)




The Bogle family

Missouri-born America Waldo Bogle, third from right, was brought to Oregon as a small child about 1856 along with her mother, both believed to be slaves of a member of the Waldo family. America was raised near Salem by Daniel Waldo, thought for many years to be her father. Recent research points to Daniel’s brother, Joseph Waldo, as her father. She married Richard Bogle, a free black from Jamaica in 1863. The couple is seen with five of their eight children about 1884. (Oregon Historical Society)


AMEA gravesite in Corvallis of a slave known only as Ame, brought to Oregon in 1847 from Missouri. (R. Gregory Nokes photo)

The Ford home at Ellendale with slave quarters

Ford Housue, Ellendale with slave quarters. Polk County.  361-p-

The slave quarters are visible in the trees behind the home. Built in the early 1850s, this would have been the second home for the Fords, who initially lived on their land claim at nearby Rickreall. (Oregon Historical Society).

Marion County Courthouse

OrHi 3486

The Marion County Courthouse where the Oregon Constitutional Convention was held in 1857. Descriptions of the building mention four doric columns in front, so this may show the rear of the building with an entrance for carriages and wagons. It was built in 1854. (Oregon Historical Society).

Louis Southworth with fiddle

CN 009197Louis Southworth was brought to Oregon as a slave in the 1850s and worked as a gold miner and played his fiddle at dancing schools to raise money to buy his freedom. Southworth Creek in Lincoln County is named for him. (Oregon Historical Society)

The Prosecuting Attorney

OrHi 53381Reuben Boise, the prosecuting attorney who handled former slave Robin Holmes’ case against Nathaniel Ford. Boise later became chief justice of Oregon’s Supreme Court. (Oregon Historical Society)

The Witness

OrHi 819Joseph Lane, a witness for Ford in the only slavery case brought in Oregon courts. Lane was Oregon’s first territorial governor and a U.S. senator. He was pro-slavery and ran for vice president on a secessionist ticket with John Breckinridge of South Carolina in 1860. (Oregon Historical Society)

The Judge

OrHi 230 George H. Williams, the chief judge of Oregon’s Territorial Supreme Court, who ruled in Robin Holmes’ favor in his suit to free his children from Nathaniel Ford. Williams later became a U.S. senator and the U.S. attorney general. (Oregon Historical Society)