John Pollock

Information compiled by Roberta Emerick, Doria’s daughter through Pollock Family documents

The gravesite of early pioneer, John Pollock is on his homestead located at the southern end of the La Center Bridge. Thanks to historian, Tom Wooldridge, the grave has been well-kept and marked with permanent signage and fencing.

John’s father, Thomas Pollock at the age of 23, being a hardy young Scotsman from near Glasgow Scotland, Pollock Territory, married a lady from County Monahan of Scotch parentage. During their courtship they talked of America and began making plans that someday they would go to America.  Their eldest son, Alexander, was born in 1814 followed by Jane, Estal, Robert, Thomas and James while residing in County Monahan, Ireland.

The Pollocks, in route to America with their five children in 1824, after finally making enough money to afford the trip, had planned to have their sixth child in America.  However, four days before the ship was to sail from Belfast, Ireland, John was born. Mother and new son, during the long voyage to New York, managed very well with the help of so many family members on board.

Thomas’ brother had sailed earlier and settled in Cambridge, Ohio where he had a small farm.  John’s family lived there for several years before moving to Des Moines, Iowa.  John completed his Law School studies and started a law practice in He was an influential member of the Democratic Party and a leader in his Iowa community.

In 1848, at age 24, he was summoned to Washington by President Polk and asked to serve as a secret agent in the Oregon Territory.  His duty was to study the Indians, their problems and promote understanding between the white settlers and the Indians.  His main assignment would be the Lewis River Indian tribes.  (First cousin of John Pollock, nephew to Thomas Pollock was James Knox Polk, 11th United States President in office from 1845 to 1849.  Polk died at age 53, three months after retirement.)

In 1849, John and his brother Robert, left the east coast in a sailing vessel going south around Cape Horn, then north up the Pacific Coast to California. Landing at San Francisco, they purchased horses and supplies for a trip to Yreka where they staked out gold mining claims.  They soon grew tired of mining for gold and within the decade, proceeded north by horseback, following trails, seldom traveled except by Indians. They finally reached Vancouver several days journey through the Oregon Territory. Some time was spent exploring the Lewis River. John filed a Donation Land Claim in 1850 on 160 acres of bottom and hill land located along the river, south of La Center.

John then married Magdaline Banzer, age 15, eldest daughter of John W. Banzer who settled on the north side of the Lewis River.  Her family was members of the first wagon trains traveling the Oregon Trail to arrive in Clarke County.  In 1852 his bride of one year died in childbirth.  Grief-stricken, John at age 28, along with his brother Robert, decide to return to the Lewis River area in the newly established Washington Territory, under the governorship of Isaac I. Stevens, to continue working with the Indians, settling problems and protecting their rights.

Again, the brothers sailed down the Atlantic Coast to Cape Horn and back up the Pacific Coast, this time to Portland for John and to Yreka, California for Robert to work his gold mining claim. John returned to his homestead claim at La Center, visiting his deceased wife’s parents and family to find Eliza, a younger sister, to be a “very agreeable young lady.”

He began working on his homestead claim and in 1854, became a delegate to the first Federal Court session held in Washington Territory. John was not quite ready to settle down, so he decided to visit his bother in California traveling by horseback over the trails he had earlier traversed. John stayed in Yreka a few months then in the spring of 1855, returned to the Lewis River to start life anew.

During the 1855-1856 Oregon-Washington Indian War, the pioneers were required to suppress the Indian uprising.  His appointed job was to explain the desires of the government to the local Indians which he had befriended.  He learned the Chinook jargon and was a skilled communicator. A company of mounted rangers was formed, each member furnishing his own horse and gun along with other necessary equipment.  Captain William Bratton’s Company of Lewis River Mounted Rangers of Clark County Washington Territory Volunteers, Army of the United States, served the area from the 25th day of October,1855 to the 17th day of February 1856.

Although their tenure was short, all 47 men were ready willing and able to meet any challenge that might occur. John was a Commanding Sergeant. (Most notable is that John Pollock was a peacemaker between the Indians when Chief Umtuch was killed at Battle Ground in 1855.)

In 1857, Eliza Banzer, then 15 and John Pollock at 33, were married. They built a house and improved the homestead. Their first son, James “Jim” Alexander, was born in 1858. A daughter, Lucinda Jane, was born in 1860. Another son, John Thomas, was born in 1864.

John’s eldest son, James, settled in Jenny Creek, north of La Center on 40 acres of trees and farmland with his wife, Laura Smith from Yacolt (married in 1899). They had two daughters, Dorothy, (1901) and Doria (1905). James had several sawmill’s in the area which included View, Highland, Cedar Creek and Jenny Creek. (He was fondly remembered for his singing and violin playing.)

James and his family moved to Centralia, WA when Doria was about 4 years old. The lumber industry was thriving, and work was plentiful. He and his family settled into their new home but soon experienced tragedy in the loss of his first daughter who did not survive a vaccine shot for diphtheria. In 1935, Doria married Walter Leonard Ferguson, originally from Michigan, who came west to work in the logging camps. (Grange members prided themselves in initiating their courtship.) She and Walter, along with a four-year old daughter, returned to her birthplace of La Center in 1940. Together, after opening the old hotel and cafe through the early 40’s, (the former Matt Woodard Hotel and dancehall) they owned and operated the La Center Roller Skating R ink retiring in 1965.

During 1860, John Pollock continued to serve as an Indian agent and County Assessor. His records indicated 2,367 white people and 16 Indians. In 1862, he was appointed a Clark County Constable and served as Justice of the Peace in the Lancaster District. (His old wooden briefcase which contained legal and personal papers are in the possession of his great granddaughter, Roberta Ferguson Emerick.)

According to records dating 1866, 14 Session of the Members of the Legislature, John served with John W. Brazee and Henry M. Knapp in behalf of Clarke County. Research indicates the President Andrew Jackson Johnson, who became president after the assassination of President Lincoln, appointed John Pollock as Governor of Washington Territory during the 1868 Legislature.

It was early spring when John left Olympia to share the news with his family. Rivers were running high and fast. The nights were cold and damp. Filled with excitement of his appointment, he failed to dry off before continuing on to his wife and children. When he arrived home, he suffered a very bad cold that turned into pneumonia. He died at age 44 without ever taking the oath of office. One of his greatest accomplishments was that of Indian agent. At the time of his death in 1868, the total number of Indians in Washington and Oregon Territories was 325,000. He was honored by the Indians as “Chief White Swan.”