Two pieces of Oregon’s judicial history were delivered to Salem when Astoria Mayor Arline LaMear presented Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Balmer with two volumes of the original journal from the Territorial Court of Clatsop County from 1849-1853.
“These are a remarkable piece of history, and we will hold them in a special collection in the State of Oregon Law Library,” Balmer said. “We are grateful to Mayor LaMear, the Astoria Public Library, and the citizens of Astoria for this wonderful gift.” “We are delighted to give these journals to the Oregon Supreme Court for its legal collection, where we know they will be treasured and preserved as part of Oregon’s legal history,” LaMear said.
The journals are the court’s official record of cases from territorial days, starting with a family law case appointing a guardian for “a lad,” and continuing with property disputes between two prominent Astoria property developers. Later disputes between John Q.A. Bowlby and Charles W. Shively eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1894.
The 1848 congressional act establishing Oregon’s territorial government established a supreme court with three justices, and three territorial courts that were presided over by one of the justices. The judge of the Territorial Court at the time of these journals was Orville C. Pratt. He went on to attain some distinction as the sole dissenter in the Oregon Supreme Court decision to locate the Oregon Territorial Capitol in Salem instead of Oregon City, and presided over Oregon’s first death penalty case, which involved the murder of missionary Marcus Whitman, his wife Narcissa, and 11 others at the Whitman Mission near Walla Walla.
The Judicial Department will make electronic and bound copies for the City, as well as for study by historians and scholars, and preserve the original in its collection of historical legal references. Joining Mayor LaMear in presenting the journals were City Councilor Cindy Price, City Manager Brett Estes, and library director Jimmy Pearson.