Biography of Judge LaFayette Mosher
Oregon Biographies





JUDGE LA FAYETTE MOSHER.
To know the history of a state one must know the men who have been its founders and promoters they who have shaped its destiny, who have utilized its natural resources and who have builded not only for the present but for the future. One of those who aided in laying broad and deep the foundation upon which has been erected the superstructure of Oregon's greatness was Judge La Fayette Mosher, a man of high intellectual attainments, upon whom nature bestowed splendid gifts and who always used his talents wisely and well, not only for the benefit of his own interests but for the upbuilding of the commonwealth. He came to the west full of the vigor, courage and hope of young manhood, for at that time - 1853 - he was but twenty eight years of age. He was born at Latonia Springs, Kenton county, Kentucky, on the 1st of September, 1824, a son of Dr. Stephen Mosher, who was a prominent physician and also a distinguished horticulturist, his labors in that connection resulting in the production of some new and fine varieties of pears. He married Hannah Webster of Newport, Rhode Island, a lady of English lineage and a daughter of Captain Nicholas Webster, who served with distinction in the Merchant Marines throughout the entire Revolutionary war. He was also a member of the Humane Society of Newport and his certificate of membership, issued one hundred and twenty five years ago, is still in existence, in possession of his great grandchildren in Portland. The members of this Humane Society were the original life savers. While the Webster family were among the early settlers of Rhode Island, the Mosher family was established in New York by French Huguenots who crossed the Atlantic in the early part of the seventeenth century and for generations their descendants were prominent citizens of the lake region of the Empire state.

At the usual age La Fayette Mosher became a public school pupil and afterward entered the Old Woodward Memorial College of Cincinnati as a student on the 19th of August, 1839. He pursued his studies there for four years, completing a classical course and winning his Bachelor of Arts degree June 30, 1843. He followed a family trend in the selection of his life work, for various members of the Mosher family were engaged in medical practice and La Fayette Mosher determined to pursue the same course. His studies, however, were interrupted by the war with Mexico, for he volunteered for active duty and became a second lieutenant of the Fourth Ohio Regiment under Captain George E. Pugh. Following the resignation of Captain Pugh near the close of the war, Mr. Mosher succeeded to the command of the company and directed its activities until the troops were mustered out.

Returning to his home in Cincinnati he resumed his medical studies, but during the terrible cholera scourge of 1849, when he acted as doctor's assistant and as day and night nurse, he witnessed such sufferings and horrors that he decided to give up medicine and turn his attention to the practice of law. He therefore set himself sedulously to the task of mastering the principles of jurisprudence and was admitted to the bar in Ohio in 1852. He began practice with the firm of Pugh & Pendleton, both of whom were later members of the United States senate. The opportunities of the northwest, however, attracted Mr. Mosher and he left Cincinnati on the 27th of March, 1853, in company with General Joseph Lane, under whose command he had served in the Mexican war. He arrived in Portland on the 14th of May of that year and in this connection a contemporary biographer has said: "It was not the Portland of today, though there were two landmarks that have never been effaced. Mount Hood turned its smiling face just as it does today and the beautiful Willamette flowed by the little hamlet among the firs. Portland was too young a town to need many lawyers and Mr. Mosher. failing to secure a sufficient practice to meet his expenses, remained only a short time. He turned his face to the gold fields of southern Oregon and, locating in the old town of Jacksonville, engaged in mining near that place. The accidental discharge of his pistol wounded him in his right knee, thus ending his mining venture. He was taken into Jacksonville, where he found true and loyal friends who nursed him through this misfortune that had befallen him in a strange country. Upon recovering from his wound he joined General Joseph Lane, who was in command of the troops fighting the Rogue River Indians in the war of 1853. Not being fully recovered he did not take an active part in this campaign but acted as aide to the General. After this war he returned to Jacksonville, where he engaged in the practice of law until 1855, when he was appointed register of the United States land office at Winchester, the county seat of Douglas county, Oregon. In the fall of that year he returned to Jacksonville and offered his services to fight against the Indians in the war that broke out in 1855, but his connection with the war was short, for he was compelled to return to his duties in the land office. He, however, saw much service during the wars with the Rogue River Indians."

Throughout the period of his residence in the northwest Mr. Mosher contributed in large measure toward public progress and improvement. He continued in the land office from 1855 until 1861 and then resumed his law practice, giving such demonstration of his ability as a member of the bar and of his sense of justice and his public spirit that he was elected judge of the second judicial district and by virtue of that office sat upon the supreme bench of the state, proving himself the peer of the ablest members who have graced the court of last resort in Oregon. His name is carved high on the list of eminent jurists of the northwest. He had a mind particularly free from bias or prejudice and his analytical reasoning enabled him to arrive at conclusions that were strictly fair and impartial and based upon a comprehensive knowledge of the law. When he believed himself to be right, there was in him no variableness nor shadow or turning. He was also called upon to aid in framing Oregon's laws during a term's service in the general assembly.

On the 1st of July, 1856, Mr. Mosher was united in marriage to Miss Winifred Lane, the youngest daughter of General Joseph Lane, his old commander and friend. To them were born eight children, four sons and four daughters. The eldest son, Charles Lane Mosher, was married at Phoenix, Arizona, to Miss Hattie Lount and to them was born a daughter, Julia Winifred Mosher of Leipsic, Germany. Charles Mosher, who was a journalist of ability, died in Portland in March, 1904. The second and fourth sons, John Shirley and Henry Augustine, died in infancy, and the third son, Paul Albert, died in his twenty seventh year. The eldest daughter, Miss Anna Mosher, is a successful nurse. Miss Winifred Mosher, the second daughter, is one of Portland's best known teachers. Alice K. Mosher is married to John A. Willis and resides on a farm not far from Portland. The youngest daughter, Mary Emma Mosher, is the wife of John M. Cowan, keeper of the Cape Flattery lighthouse. They are the parents of eight children: Stephen Forrest, assistant keeper of the light; Shirley, a resident of Port Angeles; and Joseph Kenneth, Mary Beatrice, Charles Theron, Vincent Pauline, Alvah Gregory and Winifred Rachel.

Mr. Mosher ever gave his political allegiance to the democratic party and was an active worker in the various campaigns in support of its principles from the time when he attained his majority until his death. In 1884 President Arthur appointed him a visitor to West Point and the trip was one of unalloyed pleasure to him, for on that occasion he met many of the army officers whom he had known in Oregon and also during his service in the Mexican war. He likewise visited Cincinnati, where he renewed acquaintance with many of the companions and friends of his youth, whom he had not seen for almost a third of a century. His fraternal connections were with the Masons and the Improved Order of Red Men. He was a consistent member of the Catholic church, a man of undoubted honesty and of kind and charitable disposition. He counted no personal effort nor sacrifice on his part too great if it would promote the welfare and happiness of his wife and children, for his interest centered at his own fireside. He was a lover of all the beauties of nature, was especially interested in flowers and was the kind and loving friend of every child he knew. They all loved him in return and at his death, which occurred March 27, 1890, they strewed his grave with flowers when he was laid to rest beneath his loved oaks. A broadminded man of kindly spirit and high ideals, the world is better for his having lived.

From:
History of Oregon Illistrated
Vol. 3
BY: Charles H. Carney
The Pioneer Historical Publishing Company
Chicago - Portland 1922


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