Rev. Troy Shelley

Troy Shelley portrait

Lockley, Fred. "History of the Columbia River Valley, From The Dalles to the Sea." Vol. 3. Chicago, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1928. p. 348.


In the issue of September 30, 1926, Fred Lockley, one of the editors of the Portland Journal, describes as follows the experiences of a pioneer educator and minister who knew life in Oregon when it was primitive: "Not far from the Billy Sunday ranch is the farm and orchard of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Shelley. Their ranch is about seven miles south of Hood River and a mile and a half from Odell. A few days ago Mr. Shelley and myself sat in front of his old-fashioned fireplace and he told me of his experiences in Oregon during the past seventy-eight years.

"'I was born in Iowa, January 6, 1845,' said Mr. Shelley. 'My father, Michael Shelley, was born in Cumberland county, Kentucky, while my mother, whose maiden name was Sena Mays, was a native of North Carolina. They were married in Illinois in 1835 and three of their ten children were born in Oregon. On April 10, 1845, they began the journey across the plains, starting from St. Joseph, Missouri. Bolivar Walker, who settled in Spring valley, Polk county, about seven miles west of Salem, was captain of our wagon train, of which Dr. W. L. Adams, the Purvines, Blackerbys, Coffees, Bowmans, Bristows and others were members. About the only things I remember of the trip to Oregon was the fact that the oxen stampeded several times and also that my mother carried me down Laurel Hill. My father, unlike many of the emigrants, was well-to-do. He started out with two wagons, seven yoke of oxen, four cows, a riding mare, and arrived in Oregon without the loss of a single animal. Father also had two hundred dollars in money when he reached Oregon.

"The children of today have no conception of the life of the children of that day. I didn't see an oil lamp until I was twelve years old. We used candles, which my mother dipped, or we managed to get along by the light from the fireplace. My mother made all the soap we used. She also knitted the socks and stockings and made our clothes. I wore buckskin breeches until I was in my teens. My father made shoes for mother and himself and all of the children. He was resourceful and dexterious. We lived twenty-five miles from a town and when mother was suffering from toothache father made a pair of forceps and pulled the tooth, as no dentist was available in those early days.

"'Father's report of the Willamette valley was so favorable that his father, George Shelley, started across the plains in 1852. That, as you well know, was the cholera year. Grandfather Shelley died of the disease and was buried on the plains. Father took up a donation land claim at Pleasant Hill, ten miles southeast of Eugene. This was the first part of Lane county to be settled. When we located in that district it contained only three families, namely those of Elijah Bristow, who was a relative of ours, having married the sister of my father's mother; Eugene Skinner, who had taken up a place near what is now known as Skinner's Butte and whose claim was chosen for the site of Eugene, which was named in his, honor; arid a man named Briggs, who had a grist mill about where Springfield is now situated.

"'My father's uncle, Elijah Bristow, was a man of great force of character and resolution. He was born in Tazewell county, Virginia, in 1788. As a young man he had the reputation of being the best woodsman and the best shot in that part of the country. He moved to Kentucky, where he took up the trades of gunsmith and blacksmith. He served in the War of 1812 and also in the Creek Indian war. In the latter conflict he served under General Jackson and because of his ability, as a sharpshooter was detailed as a scout. Mr. Bristow moved from Kentucky to Illinois and in 1845 made the overland journey to California. In the following year he came to Oregon territory and settled in Lane county.

"'In these days you can go to the corner grocery and. get whatever supplies you need, or you can telephone and have them brought to your door. When we settled at Pleasant Hill our trading place was at Oregon. City and it took two weeks to make the trip there to get supplies. We lived in Pleasant Hill until 1857. School advantages there were not of the best, so my father decided 40 move to Monmouth, where we children could get a better education. I went to school at Monmouth for seven years. J.B. Stump was my first instructor and he was not only an excellent teacher but a fine man. Prof. John T. Outhouse was also one of my teachers. He hailed from New Brunswick, and taught the first public school in Portland. This was in the late fall of 1851. He taught in Portland until the spring of 1853. After teaching at Monmouth for some time he moved to eastern Oregon and taught school at Union I decided to be a teacher, so I went to the normal school at San Francisco. H.P. Canton was the principal of the school. I graduated in 1868 and among my classmates was Annie H. Lewis. We decided to be life mates as well as classmates and on June 20, 1871, at Rickreall, Oregon, we were married by Dr. L.L. Rowland, formerly a professor in Bethel Institute in Polk county. He was also a. minister and a physician. Elder Glen Burnett assisted in performing the marriage ceremony.

My wife's people came to America in 1634 on the ship Lion. Her mother and her mother's cousin, Major General Joe Hooker, were born in the same house. In 1869 I was ordained a minister of the Christian church. After our marriage I taught on Fifteen-Mile creek, south of The Dalles. I had charge of the first school ever taught in the Tygh valley and this was in the winter of 1863-64. In 1869 I became principal of the school at Mayfield California, now known as Palo Alto and remained there only a few months. I taught in rural schools between Independence and Dallas in Polk county, Oregon, also in schools on Three-Mile creek, and Fifteen-Mile creek in Wasco county, and during the winter of 1878-79 I was, principal of the school at Prineville. I was teaching on the Malheur reservation when the Bannock-Piute war broke out, so my wife and I forted up at a grist mill near Canyon City. When the war excitement was over we went to Prineville, where my sister and her husband, John Summerville, lived and I taught school there during that winter. Because of my knowledge of the public schools of Wasco county I was elected superintendent of the schools of that county and served from 1890 until 1896. This was before Sherman county or Hood River county were cut off from Wasco, so I had a pretty good-sized field to cover.

"'When I was a young man I used to drive four yoke of oxen. I have just returned from a trip to the coast resorts of Tillamook county and during the three weeks my wife and I were gone I did the driving. I think one thing that helps me to drive an automobile is that my eyesight is unimpaired. I read the newspapers and, in fact, small print without the use of glasses.'"

For over a half century Rev. Shelley was engaged in ministerial work throughout eastern Oregon and also preached to the Indians on the reservations in Malheur county, Oregon. By example as well as precept he pointed out to others the higher course in life and secured many converts to the faith. Having no desire for material gain, he would accept no compensation for his religious work and his record is unique in church history. As an educator he was efficient and progressive and his efforts in that connection were also of importance and value. Mrs. Shelley is highly educated and on more than one occasion ably filled, her husband's place in the pulpit. In 1866 she went to California and is also -a graduate of the normal school in San Francisco. Previous to her marriage she was engaged in educational work in California for a number of years and afterward successfully followed her profession in Oregon, teaching the first school at Odell in the Hood River valley. Mrs. Shelley is a first cousin of Hon. L. B. Hanna, who was twice governor of North Dakota, a member of the state senate and also served as a congressman from North Dakota. His uncle, Mark Hanna, was a close friend of President McKinley and nationally known as a leader of the republican party.

Mr. and Mrs. Shelley became the parents of eight children. Marguerite, the eldest, born in Wasco county, is now Mrs. 0. L. Walter, of Odell and has become the mother of three sons: Richard, Wilfred and Alfred Walter. Ralph S. Shelley, also a native of Wasco county, is married and lives in Eugene and his family numbers three children: Hope, Joan and Theodore M. Percy was born in Canyon City, Grant county, Oregon, and makes his home in Sandy, Clackamas county. He is married and has sons, John and Joseph Hooker. Pauline, the fourth in order of birth, a native of Wasco county, resides in Seattle, Washington, and is the mother of a daughter, Rosalie.

Albert B. was born in the Hood River valley and is engaged in the automobile business at The Dalles. He is married and has had three children. Troy is deceased and the others are Marguerite and Albert L. Hope, who was the sixth child, became the wife of Thomas Rathbone and has passed away. The Rev. J. M. Shelley was born in Hood River and is pastor of the Christian church at Junction City, Oregon, but lives in Eugene. He is married and has become the father of two daughters, Rachel and Jean. Ellen, who completes the family, is the widow of David Pence and resides in the Hood River valley, in which her life has been spent.

The life of Troy Shelley was purposeful and resultant and in his declining years he could review the past without regret, knowing that he performed each duty and obligation to the best of his ability, thus accomplishing something worth while. Striving toward high ideals, he used practical methods in their attainment and his many admirable qualities endeared him to all with whom he was associates. He passed away July 4, 1928.

Submitted to the OR. Bios Project in September 2006 by Jeffrey L. Elmer. Notice: These biographies were transcribed for the Oregon Biographies Project. The submitter has no further information on the individual featured in the biography.

Updated on 25 Jan 2007.