An Oregon Surveyor

I was recently contacted by Jerry Olson, the owner of an engineering firm and a man who has a deep interest in the history of surveying and surveyors of the Pacific Northwest.  Jerry was asking about Daniel S. Herren, a son of John and Theodoshia (Robbins) Herren, who, and this was new information to me, was an early Oregon surveyor.  We were able to provide new information to each other.

We have an eclectic mix of documentation about the life of Daniel but no photographs of him have been identified to date.  He died when most of his children were still young and, as frequently happens, after his death his children began to lose contact with the rest of their father’s family.  In compiling my family history, The Oregon Trail Families, I only found a couple of correspondents among Daniel’s descendants.

Daniel S Herren signature

Daniel S. Herren was born in 1829 in Decatur County, Indiana.  His middle name has been given in family records as “Simpson” and according to his obituary he was called “Sim.”  The Herren family left Indiana for Platte County, Missouri, where they resided for a few years before coming across the Oregon Trail in 1845.  They were the family that took the ill-fated Meek Cutoff that wandered without direction or food across Central Oregon.

In the 1850 census, at the age of 21, Daniel was listed in the household of his parents in Marion County, Oregon, and it was noted that he attended school during the year.  This was unusual for most 21-year old’s living on their parents farm in the days when most students ended their formal education by age sixteen.  Perhaps Daniel was receiving training in surveying.

The following year Daniel was married to Susan Sabina Caton.  Susan was the sister of Nathan Thomas Caton who later married Daniel’s sister Martha Herren.  Daniel and Susan had at least ten children:  Mary Catherine, Ulysses, Marcellus, Oliver Perry, John R., Ruby Y., Thomas, Susan Lavina, Jennie, and one unnamed child.

Daniel, a Democrat, served as the Sergeant-At-Arms for the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 1858, a position that was dependent on being a member of the majority party, with the Surveyor General being a Democrat.

survey map note

Note on 1860s era survey map, indicating previous survey done by Daniel S. Herren

By 1859 Daniel Herren was working under contract to the Oregon Surveyor General’s Office and in 1860 was the surveyor for the Calvin Hale donation land claim in Lane County, Oregon, apparently the only claim that Herren was responsible for laying out.  The location of this claim is interesting as it lays along highway 126, the route between Florence and Eugene, a route that I take frequently driving between the coast and the valley!  In addition, two of his brothers, Noah and James, were employed as land office surveyor crewman, performing “ax” duty, in the 1850s.

The family lived in Marion County until about 1868.  By 1870 they were established in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, a huge change from the now well-settled Willamette Valley they came from.  Within a few years the family had moved further east to Granite County, settling near the community of New Chicago, and living a few miles east at the Perkins Ranch near Pioneer in Powell County.  This area was the location of gold placer mining activity.

Montana newspapers of the era had a number of details about Daniel and his family’s activities.  In 1874 it was noted:  “For the bridge over the Big Blackfoot, D. S. Herren put in a bid to build a new bridge and repair grade for $2,500.”  In 1876:  “It is reported that D.S. Herren has discovered a copper lode on Woodchuck creek that is sixty per cent. pure copper.”  In 1877 Daniel was mentioned peripherally:  “Richard Childs, of Missoula, formerly Probate Judge of that country, died at the residence of Mr. D. S. Herron, at the Perkins ranch on Saturday last.  Mr. Childs, accompanied by his family, were on their road home from Helena, and on Wednesday last, reaching Mr. Herron’s, was unable to travel further.  He was there but three days when he died.”

Then there was this advertisement in the Deer Lodge New North-west in March of 1878, reporting that the Herrens’ were throwing a party:

Herren ball ad

In 1878 the local newspaper reported a census of the Deer Lodge County schools and reported that Oliver, Ruby, John and Thomas Herron moved from the Pioneer school to the New Chicago school.  In 1881 it was reported that Daniel Herren had “bought T. H. Morse’s blacksmith shop at Pioneer and leased it to T. H. Hunsuscker, a skillful workman.”  It was around this time that Daniel Herren and his oldest son Oliver Perry Herren edited a newspaper for a very short time in Washington.  At his death, a newspaper reported sardonically that Daniel “…edited a marvelous paper at Spokane Falls for a few days…”

One of the strangest newspaper mentions of Daniel Herren occurred in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in February of 1883.  As he died only a couple of months later, one cannot help but feel this story about a tapeworm was related to his cause of death.  Note that his surname is spelled two different ways within the same article.

“On Monday Dr. Blalock set his trap the second time and catching hold of the snake worm relieved D. S. Herrin of twenty feet of the critter, making 101 at two hauls.  Mr. Herren had previously given up thirty-six feet and eight inches of the varmint and thinks there are 100 feet left.”

Herren tapeworm article

A few months later, while visiting his family back in Oregon, Daniel Herren died at his brother’s home.  One descendant had heard the story that he had died during a train robbery near Salem, but the real story was more mundane except perhaps that a tapeworm was involved.

Daniel is buried in the Herren family cemetery near Turner, Oregon.  His widow Susan was married two more times before disappearing so far from the historical record after 1910.  Two of his children that survived to adulthood married and have many descendants, but the majority of his children either died in infancy, childhood, or as adults without issue.

Daniel S. Herren – farmer, politician, miner, newspaper editor – and a surveyor.

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Theodoshia (Robbins) Herren-Daniel S. Herren)

2 thoughts on “An Oregon Surveyor

  1. So is Jerry only connected because of the surveying or is he related? Why did the PI pick up that story? Was he in Seattle or was it monumental to have that size tape worm? Not a lot of skeletons in our cliset, but we’ve got tapeworms!!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android


    • He’s not related – he’s written a book and compiled a database of Oregon and Washington surveyors. The old newspapers always re-ran stories from other newspapers. It made for good filler.


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