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As It Was: Former Slave Makes Friends with Yoncalla Pioneer

In a 1978 oral history interview, 80-year-old Addie Brant of Yoncalla, Ore., recalled a special friendship between her grandfather and a former slave named Williams Eads. Brant’s grandfather, William Wilson, and Eads were Yoncalla pioneers.

Wilson arrived in Oregon in 1843 with a wagon train led by Jesse Applegate. He filed a Donation Land Claim south of Yoncalla and married a widow. Brant said her grandfather was a short, stocky man with a Scottish complexion and red hair that later turned gray.

Eads had been a slave in the South, but arrived in Yoncalla in the town’s early days. Brant believed that the two men met when Eads came walking up the dirt road, now Highway 99, next to Wilson’s farm. Many of the other settlers spurned Eads because he was black, but Wilson formed a lifelong friendship with him. Brant said Wilson’s father had owned slaves before coming West.

Eads enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1865 and later drew a pension. He worked for the Wilsons for many years and was buried in the Wilson family cemetery south of Yoncalla.

Source: Brant, Addie. Oral history : Addie Brant, 18 September, 1978; Douglas County Museum Oral History Program. Ashland, OR: Southern Oregon University, 1978. 1-4. Southern Oregon Digital Archives. Web. 16 May 2015.

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.