Morrow County Judges
by Lucile Peck

1999 Morrow County Chronicles Volume XVIII

    Morrow County became a county in 1885 and was formed out of a portion of Umatilla County.  At that time, Governor Zenas Moody appointed temporary officers to serve until general elections were held in 1887.  (It is interesting to note that Governor Moody had done much of the surveying of the south end of the new Morrow County.)  Those appointed were Judge Augustus Mallory, Sheriff George W. Harrington, Clerk S. Parker Garrigues, Treasurer W. J. Leezer, School Superintendent W.R. Ellis, Commissioners J.L. Fuller and Frank Gilliam, Surveyor Julius Keithley, and Assessor T.R. Howard.  The early judges in the county were pioneers, of course, but many later judges were from local pioneer stock.  The county judge and the commissioners  oversee many activities and services.  Among their several responsibilities are the juvenile justice system and the roads of Morrow County.  Since WW II, many changes have been mandated by federal and state governments, as well as by popular demand.

1885-1886: August Mallory
    Judge Mallory was an early settler on Balm Fork.  He arrived in about 1870.  He was a notary public, and he and O.H. Hallock located land for homesteaders.  There were several ways pioneers could obtain land, and they were eager to own land, and the government at that time were eager to get land into pioneer hands.  For this service, Hallock and Mallory were paid.  In 1883, John W. Redington arrived in Heppner, and he bought the newspaper, The Gazette.  (This paper had been started earlier with the backing of several prominent citizens.)  To make an interesting story short, Redington accused Hallock and Mallory with charging homesteaders too much.  The attack was vicious and probably was the reason that William Mitchell defeated Judge Mallory in 1887.  Mallory was re-elected in 1895.  (Redington left Heppner in 1901 and was always a thorn.)

1895-1896:  August Mallory
    Judge Mallory was re-elected and served two more years as County Judge.

1887-1890:  William Mitchell
    One of the big events in Judge Mitchell's term was the arrival of the Oregon Rail and Navigation Company Railroad (OR & N).  This was cause for celebration and had a big influence on the local economy, as farmers were able to move their crops more economically, and the train was a mode of transportation for people.  During this term, bids were let for two bridges:  one on Rhea Creek at the Hayes Ranch, and one across Butter Creek at Gallaway.

1896:  William Mitchell
    Judge Mitchell was re-elected and died in office.

1891-1895: Julius Keithley
    Another early settler was Julius Keithley, born in Missouri in 1832.  He settled near Heppner in 1878 and raised sheep.  Then, he became a partner with Parker Garrigues in a small sawmill.  He moved into Heppner in 1882.  As noted above, he was appointed the county's first surveyor.  Later, he was appointed by the governor to fill the vacancy of Judge Mitchell.
    In 1903, at the time of the Heppner Flood, his home was located on the corner of Willow and Chase Streets, about where the bowling alley is now located.  "He found himself on a part of the roof (of his home) tearing downstream on the flood.  He saw his wife in the water on some floating lumber near him, and he put out his had to her but her feet were held fast and she could not be saved." (French).  Her body was found a mile below Lexington.  Judge Keithley also drowned, and a Keithley grandson is listed as lost.

1896-1903:  A. J. Bartholomew
    Alba Bartholomew was born in Illinois in 1845.  He served in the 132nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  He and his family moved to Milton, Oregon, in 1883.  In 1886, they moved to Sand Hollow in Morrow County, where they raised livestock.  In 1896, he was elected Morrow County Judge, and the family moved to Heppner, where they bought the home owned by William Ayers.
    Two items of special interest occurred during his term.  First, the Morrow County Court House was built in 1902, and it is still one of the premier court houses in Oregon.  It is made of native basalt from a quarry on Balm Fork.  The trimming is sandstone quarried near Elgin, Oregon.  The second event was the Heppner Flood, June 14, 1903.  None of the Bartholomew family was lost, although some had harrowing experiences escaping the raging water.  Restoration and cleaning up the area and grief over all those lost consumed the community all that summer, and Judge Bartholomew died of stress and overwork, November 3, 1903.

1904-1908 Thomas W. Ayers
    Judge Ayers located on Butter Creek.  He bought lots in Heppner from Stansbury, the man who had the claim where Heppner is located, and moved to town in 1870's.  He had helped Redington finance his purchase of the newspaper.  He lived on the west side of the creek and was protected by a row of poplar trees that grew on the bank.  His home floated away in the flood of 1903. 

1908-1918:  C. C. Patterson
Cornelius Patterson was born in Pennsylvania and came west in 1895.  He spent three years in the lumber business, returned to New York, and then returned to Oregon in 1901 and was in the retail lumber business with T.C. Wells.  He was elected judge in 1908, and during his term, the Oregon State Extension Office was established in Heppner, and Morrow County enjoyed its first county fair.

1919-1924:  William Campbell
    William T. Campbell was born in Canada, and he and his wife lived in Walla Walla before moving to Morrow County.  They took up a  homestead on Social Ridge out of Lexington in 1887.  He helped organize the Social Ridge School District in 1892.  He owned the first threshing machine on Social Ridge.  He retired from farming and moved to Heppner in 1917.  He served as County Commissioner from 1908 to 1910 and was elected judge in 1919.  He was very interested in road building and attended many meetings of the State Highway Department in Portland at which time a contract for $146,493.50 was accepted by the State Highway Commission for grading the Willow Creek Highway from Heppner to the Morrow County line.  A survey of the road from the Morrow County line to the Columbia River Highway through Gilliam County was also ordered.  (This would complete the survey of this artery.)

1931-1936:  William Campbell
    Judge Campbell "wrested" the judgeship from Benge and, as both were "very diligent at road building," during the seventeen years of the Campbell-Benge tenure, the road of Morrow County continued to expand and improve (McMillan).  The Civilian Conservation Corps came into being during the 30's, established first at Tupper and then where the rodeo grounds are located in Heppner.

1925-1930: Ralph Benge
    Ralph Benge defeated Judge Campbell in 1925.  They were neighbors on Social Ridge, and both were dedicated to improving the roads in the county.  Both attended many meetings of the State Highway Commission.  Benge was born in Indiana.  His father homesteaded at Cottonwood Creek, Oregon, near Walla Walla.  When his father died, his mother moved the family to a homestead on Social Ridge.  Ralph was twenty years old when he and his partner, Theodore Cork, were awarded the contract for construction of the railroad grade between Lexington and Heppner.  Benge managed the farm on Social Ridge all his life.

1937-1948:  Bert Johnson
    Judge Bert Johnson resided in Ione.  He presided as judge during the very difficult WWII year.  The people in Morrow County "sent men, gathered scrap, sold bonds, did without sugar and other commodities, supported the Red Cross, submitted to daylight saving...all in a spirit of patriotism" (Morrow County Historical Society).  The government took land in the north end of the county as a bombing range over the protest of Judge Johnson, who said the county was losing a tax resource.  In 1940, the Columbia Basic Electric Association was formed.  Of course, because of the war, little could be done to bring electricity to the farm community at this time.  In 1941, the Morrow County Soil and Water Conservation District was formed.  Judge Johnson worked on several of these committees.

1949-1948:  Garnet Barratt
    William Barratt, Judge Garnet Barratt's father, arrived in Morrow County in 1883.  He established a homestead and became one of the most prosperous sheep and cattlemen in the county.  Judge Barratt assisted his father and then managed the Barratt properties.  In 1937, Judge Barratt served in the Oregon Legislature.  He was elected judge in 1949, and it was in 1949 that the long-awaited electricity was turned on.  Also, work was starting on the hospital on the land donated by Garnet Barratt.  Judge Barratt resigned as judge because of ill health.

1959-1964:  Oscar Peterson
    The Peterson family settled in the Valby areas of Morrow County in 1885, after coming from Sweden.  Judge Peterson was born in Morrow County and attended Reed College before coming back to farm.  He was appointed to fill out the term of Judge Barratt.  He had helped organize the Columbia Basin Electric Coop and worked to organize the Mid-Columbia Association of Counties.  He organized Port of Morrow and worked in the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association promoting navigation on the Columbia River.  Judge Peterson was also interested in building the dam on Willow Creek and made several trips to Washington, D.C. to promote that project.

1965-1978:  Paul Jones
    Judge Paul Jones's father arrived in Morrow County in 1904 and homesteaded a claim in the Blue Mountains.  In 1941, Paul Jones and a brother took over the farm operation.  He was elected judge in 1964, and this was the beginning of much change.  During his administration, he was chairman of the newly formed Eastern Central Oregon Association of Counties.   With the advent of circular irrigation systems, many new acres were brought under cultivation, and the sale of Bureau of Land Management acres increased these acres.  Also, during his tenure, General Electric built a coal-fired generating facility near Boardman.  Boeing, which owned several thousands of acres of land in the desert, released much of this land, which is now farmed, and still retained some of their land for the Boeing Bombing Range.  Judge Jones resigned in 1978.

1978-1979:  Delwin O. Nelson
    Judge D.O. Nelson was one of the pioneers in irrigation that brought the growing of potatoes to Morrow County.  In 1969, he successfully put in circles of irrigation near the Base Line, after drilling deep wells.  Governor Straub appointed him judge after the resignation of Judge Paul Jones.  He served on the Governor's Task Force on Juvenile Corrections and was elected chairman of the East Central Oregon Association of Counties.  He resigned in 1980 for personal reasons.

1980-1986:  Donald C. McElligott
    Judge McElligott is a third-generation Morrow County resident.  His grandfather settled in the Eightmile Canyon area in 1888.  Governor Vic Atiyeh appoint Judge McElligott after the resignation of Judge Nelson.  It was during his time in office that an IBM computer system was installed to serve all departments in the county.  New road department shops and offices were constructed in both north and south Morrow  County, and enough equipment was obtained to maintain almost 1,100 miles of county roads, including 350 miles of paved road.  By contracting the rock crushing (milling), the cost-per-yard of gravel was reduced from $7 to $3.51.  "Requiring boys to spend several Saturdays chopping wood for seniors seemed to solve some of the minor juvenile problems," said Judge McElligott.  A BIG event was the completion of the Willow Creek Dam.  Senator Mark Hatfield attended the dedication ceremony in 1984.  Judge McElligott served a County Commissioner from 1992 to 1994.

1997-1998:  Louis Carlson
    The Carlson family homesteaded in the Gooseberry area in 1883, after arriving from Sweden in 1880.  Judge Carlson represents the third generation.  He was elected in 1987.  Juvenile justice problems have become most important and time consuming, and Judge Carlson said "I think they took up one-quarter of my  time."  Judge Carlson endeavored to provide equal services to the north and south of Morrow County.  (This is one of the most contentious issues in Morrow County.)  He helped develop the Emergency Management System for this area, in the event of  a chemical leak at the Umatilla Chemical Depot or other emergency.  In 1987, the railroad to Heppner was dismantled, the rails were taken up to be used elsewhere, the ties were sold locally, and the land was put up for sale.

1999:  Terry Tallman
    Judge Tallman is the first Judge in Morrow County to reside in Boardman.  He is a self-employed farmer and came to Morrow County in 1974.  He grew up in Adrian, Oregon.  This is a time of many changes in the county.  The Kinzua Mill was recently shut down with the loss of many jobs.  The great of dam breaching caries an image of economic ruin for the Port of Morrow and the agricultural community.  A proposed road from Ione to Boardman is a long-standing project, and the road easements are being acquired.  The plan to incinerate chemicals at the Umatilla Army Depot will have a big impact as more people move into the area, putting a bigger burden on the schools, police, housing and medical facilities.  A new regionalization study is being made to more closely unify the Northeastern Oregon counties.  Judge Tallman works as one of three members of the Morrow County Court as it addresses these many issues and works toward resolutions that will enhance Morrow County.

French, Giles, Homesteads and Heritages: A History of Morrow County, Oregon.   Portland: Binfords and Morts, 1971.
Gazette-Times files.  Morrow County Museum
Morrow County Historical Society. The History of Morrow County, Oregon.  Taylor Publishing Company, 1983.
McMillan, Sam G. The Bunchgrassers.  Irwin-Hodson Company, 1974.
Parsons, Colonel W. and W. S. Shiach.  An Illustrated History of Umatilla and Morrow Counties Oregon.  W. H. Lever 1902.
Sether, Mary.  The Judge's Family.  Private Publication

Copyright 1999 Morrow County Historical Society 

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