Skip to main content

James Gerrish Diaries

Identifier: MS-56

Scope and Contents

The James Gerrish diaries in this collection, dated 1854-1863, record the daily life of of an intinerant preacher on the Oregon frontier. Many of the entries are brief, listing information such as the weather, his location that day, and a devotional passage. An example from September 11, 1856 reads:

Arrose, visted my son John and returned home. Children convalesent. The day warm. Come holy spirit, warm my poor heart, fill it with thy love.

Some of the entries are longer and give greater detail about events and family relationships. For example, his entry for January 6, 1860, reads:

Frost this morning and fine sun all the day as I travelled to my Daughters Hinmans at Forest Grove whose Husband was upon the steemer Northerner which was wrecked on her way from San Francisco to Portland. He saved his life by swiming to shore but lost some 4000 Thousand dollars worth of merchandise which was upon her. He has returned home with his life [which is] most precious. Thank God for his mercyful good providence who cared for him.

The diaries were donated by George Williams, who is the descendant of another Tualatin Valley pioneer, Alanson Hinman. The Hinmans were related to the Gerrishes by marriage. George Williams' research notes and transcripts of the diaries and included at the end of the collection.


  • 1854-1863


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Pacific University owns the copyright to some, but not all, of the materials housed in its archives. Copyright for materials authored or otherwise produced as official business of Pacific University is retained by Pacific University and requires its permission for publication. Copyright status for other collection materials varies. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical Note

James Gerrish was a Methodist circuit preacher who worked in Oregon and Washington in the 1850s-1860s. He was also one of the earliest pioneers to arrive in the Pacific Northwest via the Oregon Trail, having travelled from Missouri in 1844.

A native of England, James Gerrish was born on March 14, 1799, in Frome, Somersetshire. His father was also named James, and his mother was named Ann. Gerrish moved with his wife, Mary Ann Jones, to the United States in 1825. They migrated through several states including Alabama (1820s) and Texas (1830s), before arriving in Missouri in 1842. Along with his wife and children, Gerrish joined the Cornelius Gilliam Expedition to Oregon two years later. They first settled in the Tualatin Plains, in the area of what is now Hillsboro in Washington County. There they were neighbors to John Smith Griffin, another notable early pioneer.

By 1850, Gerrish gained employment working for the Methodist Episcopal Church as a circuit preacher. He would serve in many assignments across Oregon and Washington, while his wife and family remained home on the family farm. His first assignment was in the Yamhill District of northwestern Oregon. Two years later, he was working along the Columbia River, serving The Dalles and Vancouver. He visited many other locations including Astoria, Oswego, Portland, St. Helens, McMinnville, Clatsop Plains.

James and Mary Ann Gerrish had three daughters and one son: Mary Ann, who married Henry Sewell of the Tualatin Plains; Martha, who married Alanson Hinman of Forest Grove; Ellen Texanna, who married Darling Smith of Yamhill/Washington County; and James William, who married Mary Patton.


0.5 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



James Gerrish was an Oregon pioneer of 1844, and a Methodist circuit preacher who worked in Oregon and Washington in the 1850s-1860s. His diaries, dated 1854-1863, record his daily life travelling and preaching to communities on the frontier.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by George Williams, 2012.
Guide to the James Gerrish Diaries
Eva Guggemos
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Sponsored by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Repository Details

Part of the Pacific University Archives Repository

2043 College Way
Forest Grove OR 97116 United States