Ira Babcock

Last updated
Ira L. Babcock
Ira Babcock.jpg
1st and 3rd Supreme Judge of the Provisional Government of Oregon
In office
February 18, 1841 May 2, 1843
Preceded bynone
Succeeded by Osborne Russell
In office
June 27, 1844 November 11, 1844
Preceded byOsborne Russell
Succeeded by James Nesmith
Chairman/President of the Committee at Champoeg Meetings
In office
September 23, 1842 May 2, 1843
Preceded by David Leslie
Succeeded by First Executive Committee
Personal details
Borncirca 1808
New York
DiedMarch 21, 1888
OccupationPhysician, judge

Doctor Ira Leonard Babcock (ca. 1808 March 21, 1888) was an American pioneer and doctor in the Oregon Country. A native of New York, he was selected as the first Supreme Judge with probate powers in February 1841 in what would become the state of Oregon. [1]

Oregon Country Early 19th century US fur trade district in North America

The Oregon Country was a predominantly American term referring to a disputed region of the Pacific Northwest of North America. The region was occupied by British and French Canadian fur traders from before 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s, with its coastal areas north from the Columbia River frequented by ships from all nations engaged in the maritime fur trade, most of these from the 1790s through 1810s being Boston-based. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ended disputed joint occupancy pursuant to the Treaty of 1818 and established the British-American boundary at the 49th parallel.


Although the meeting where he was selected did not produce an acting government, he also took over the executive and legislative powers as the first person in Oregon's history. The meeting was the first of several meetings, presided by him since 1842, that led to a Provisional Government in the Willamette Valley in May 1843. [1]

Champoeg Meetings constituent assemblies of European settlers in the southern Oregon Country

The Champoeg Meetings were the first attempts at formal governance by European-American and French Canadian pioneers in the Oregon Country on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Between 1841 and 1843, a series of public councils was held at Champoeg, a settlement on the French Prairie of the Willamette River valley in present-day Marion County, Oregon, and at surrounding settlements. The meetings were organized by newly arrived settlers as well as Protestant missionaries from the Methodist Mission and Catholic Jesuit priests from Canada.

Provisional Government of Oregon

The Provisional Government of Oregon was a popularly elected settler government created in the Oregon Country, in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Its formation had been advanced at the Champoeg Meetings since February 17, 1841 and it existed from May 2, 1843 until March 3, 1849, and provided a legal system and a common defense amongst the mostly American pioneers settling an area then inhabited only by the many Indigenous Nations. Much of the region's geography and many of the Natives were not known by people of European descent until several exploratory tours were authorized at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Organic Laws of Oregon were adopted in 1843 with its preamble stating that settlers only agreed to the laws "until such time as the United States of America extend their jurisdiction over us." According to a message from the government in 1844, the rising settler population was beginning to flourish among the "savages", who were "the chief obstruction to the entrance of civilization" in a land of "ignorance and idolatry."

Willamette Valley valley in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States

The Willamette Valley is a 150-mile (240 km) long valley in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The Willamette River flows the entire length of the valley, and it is surrounded by mountains on three sides – the Cascade Range to the east, the Oregon Coast Range to the west, and the Calapooya Mountains to the south. It forms the cultural and political heart of Oregon, and is home to approximately 70 percent of its population including its six largest cities: Portland, Eugene, Salem, the state capital, and the cities of Gresham, Hillsboro and Beaverton in the Portland metropolitan area. Eight of Oregon's ten – and 16 of its 20 – largest cities are located in the Willamette Valley.

Early life

Babcock was born in the state of New York around 1808 where he received medical training. [2] He came to what was then the unorganized Oregon Country from New York while working for the Methodist Mission run by Jason Lee. [2] Babcock arrived in Oregon in 1840 aboard the ship Lausanne with his wife and one son. [3] They traveled with Jason Lee’s reinforcements for the mission that was re-located to present day Salem, Oregon. [3] The Lausanne had sailed around Cape Horn and included future governor George Abernethy and the Reverend Gustavus Hines.

Jason Lee (missionary) Canadian missionary

Jason Lee was a Canadian Methodist Episcopalian missionary and pioneer in the Pacific Northwest. He was born on a farm near Stanstead, Quebec.

Salem, Oregon State capital city in Oregon, United States

Salem is the capital of the U.S. state of Oregon, and the county seat of Marion County. It is located in the center of the Willamette Valley alongside the Willamette River, which runs north through the city. The river forms the boundary between Marion and Polk counties, and the city neighborhood of West Salem is in Polk County. Salem was founded in 1842, became the capital of the Oregon Territory in 1851, and was incorporated in 1857.

George Abernethy American merchant and politician

George Abernethy was an American politician, pioneer, notable entrepreneur, and first governor of Oregon under the provisional government based in the Willamette Valley, an area later a part of the American state of Oregon. He traveled to Oregon Country as a secular member of the Methodist mission, where he became involved in politics and helped found the first American newspaper west of the Rocky Mountains.


Babcock was selected at the Champoeg Meeting in David Leslie's home on February 18, 1841, to be the first Supreme Judge for the settlers of the region. [1] There was a need for a probate court in order to deal with the estate of Ewing Young. [1] Young had become a wealthy rancher due to his economic activities that included participation in the Willamette Cattle Company in 1837. At the same time Babcock's election had also been a compromise after French Canadians had failed to elect William J. Bailey for Governor as well as English Americans had failed to elect Babcock. [4] [5] As the settlers were not able to agree on the form of the discussed government, Babcock also received executive and in fact legislative duties because there had been no copy of the New York laws in the country that had been proposed for usage. [4] [5]

David Leslie (Oregon politician) American politician

David Leslie was an American missionary and pioneer in what became the state of Oregon. A native of New Hampshire, he joined Jason Lee as a missionary at the Methodist Mission in the Oregon Country in 1836. In that region he participated in the early movement to start a government and his home was used for some of these meetings. With the closing of the mission he became a founder of the city of Salem, Oregon, and board member of the Oregon Institute, which later became Willamette University.

Ewing Young was an American fur trapper and trader from Tennessee who traveled in what was then the northern Mexico frontier territories of Santa Fe de Nuevo México and Alta California before settling in the Oregon Country. Young traded along the Santa Fe Trail, followed parts of the Old Spanish Trail west, and established new trails. He later moved north to the Willamette Valley. As a prominent and wealthy citizen in Oregon, his death was the impetus for the assemblies that several years later established the Provisional Government of Oregon.

The Willamette Cattle Company was formed in 1837 by pioneers in the Willamette Valley of present-day Oregon, United States. The company was formed with the express purpose of purchasing cattle in Mexican California. Nearly 750 head of cattle and 40 horses were purchased in total. Ewing Young lead the overland party as they drove these animals overland north back to the Willamette Valley.

In 1842, Babcock helped to organize the Oregon Institute as a school for the children of the American settlers. [2] After holding the Supreme Judge title for two years, in which he had presided over a constitutional committee of six people at several Champoeg or so called Wolf Meetings, Babcock also was President at the discussions on May 2, 1843, when he called for a vote and the settlers thereby gave themselves a Provisional Government by narrowly accepting the committee's report with 52–50 votes. [4] Shortly after that he took his family to the Sandwich Islands for one year. [3] After returning he was elected as Supreme Judge again, but left Oregon permanently in November 1844. [3] After leaving Oregon he joined the United States Army and served as a surgeon. [2] In 1870, he returned to Oregon on a visit.

Oregon Institute

The Oregon Institute was an American school located in the Willamette Valley of the Oregon Country during the 19th century. Begun in 1842, it was the first school built for European Americans west of Missouri. Founded by members of the Methodist Mission, it was located in what is now Salem, Oregon. The school began as a pre-college institution, but by 1853 was developed as Willamette University. The school's three-story building was a prominent feature in the early days of Oregon; it served as a meeting place for the Oregon Territorial Legislature when it first moved to Salem.

Hawaiian Islands An archipelago in the North Pacific Ocean, currently administered by the US state of Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll. Formerly the group was known to Europeans and Americans as the Sandwich Islands, a name chosen by James Cook in honor of the then First Lord of the Admiralty John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. The contemporary name is derived from the name of the largest island, Hawaii Island.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

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Albert E. "A.E." Wilson was an American pioneer and merchant in Oregon Country. Raised in the United States, he moved to what would become the U.S. state of Oregon where he operated stores, was involved in politics, and was elected as the first judge of the Provisional Government of Oregon.

George K. Gay American fur trader

George Kirby Gay was an English sailor and later settler in the Oregon Country. He was a member of the Willamette Cattle Company that brought livestock to Oregon and built the first brick house in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains. Gay also participated in the Champoeg Meetings that created a provisional government in what would become the U.S. state of Oregon.

James A. O’Neil was an American businessman and politician in the Oregon Country and later Oregon Territory. A New York native, he took part in the Champoeg Meetings and helped form the Provisional Government of Oregon. Prior to the formation of a government he participated in the Willamette Cattle Company, and later served as a judge in the Provisional Government.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Horner, John B. (1929). Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature. The J.K. Gill Company:Portland, Oregon.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Corning, Howard M. (1956). Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, p 16.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Flora, Stephenie. "Emigrants to Oregon in 1840". Oregon Pioneers. Retrieved 2007-02-22.
  4. 1 2 3 DR. IRA L. BABCOCK, biography from Oregon Government, retrieved 15 May 2017
  5. 1 2 A History of Oregon, 1792-1849, retrieved 15 May 2017