Burch Family Cemetery ~ Isaac Iddings Dempsey ~ part of the Polk County Pioneer Cemeteries of Oregon
Dempsey, Isaac Iddings
LAST: Dempsey FIRST: Isaac MID: Iddings
BORN: 21 Aug 1820 DIED: 25 Jun 1887 BURIED:  (Burch Family Cemetery)
OCCUPATION:  Carpenter; Farmer
BIRTH PLACE:  Jackson Co., Ohio
DEATH PLACE: Dixie, Polk Co., Oregon
1850 IL CENSUS - Nancy Dempsey, age 30, b. Kentucky, is enumerated with Julia, age 10, b. Illinois, Jas., age 7, b. Illinois, Chestina, age 4, b. Illinois, and Mary, age 2, b. Illinois.
[Isaac is not enumerated with the family]
1860 IL CENSUS - I. Dempsey, age 29 [sic], occupation farmer, b. Ohio, is enumerated with N. W., age 40, b. Kentucky, along with J. A., female, age 19, b. Illinois, James, age 17, farm laborer, b. Illinois, C., E, female, age 14, b. Illinois, and M. J., age 12, b. Illinois.
1880 OR CENSUS - I. Isaac Dempsey, age 59, occupation farmer, b. Ohio, is enumerated with W. Nancy, age 59, b. Kentucky. Also enumerated with the family is a boarder, Robert Kyle, age 21, occupation farm laborer, b. Ireland.

BIOGRAPHICAL (Source - Lang, Herbert O., History of Willamette Valley, Lang & Himes, 1885, pg 848):
"I. I. Dempsey. Born in Jackson County, Ohio, in August 1820; is a son of Judge Dempsey, of Ohio; from that State Mr. Dempsey went to Illinois, and there lived until 1862; in 1856 he was a candidate for the State Legislature from Knox Co., Illinois. Mr. Dempsey has lived in Polk County since his arrival in this State.  Dixie, his present place of residence, was so named because of Mr. Dempsey's strom Democratic principles, and his mill, built in 1863, was the commencement of the town; it has now one store, blacksmith shop, mill, large warehouse, church, and school house.  In 1866 Mr. Dempsey was elected to the State Legislature from Polk County, and was a canidate in 1874; in 1884 was elected county judge.  In 1840 he married Miss Nancy W. Ferguson, and they have four children - Julia A., James A., C. E., and Mary J."

BIOGRAPHICAL (Source - Lampman, Evelyn Sibley "Dempsey-Bronson Family" Historically Speaking Vol. V (Aug. 1981): 18-19):
In 1862, my great-grandfather Isaac Iddings Dempsey gathered up his family, consisting of a wife and four children and started for Oregon.  He had quite a company of his own to join with the larger wagon train.  It consisted of three four-hourse teams, a carriage and two other horses, two men for each wagon and a man to care for the loose horses.  They started from Knox County, Illinois, and the reason for their removal to Oregon was the Civil War.
It wasn't that 42-year old Isaac was opposed to fighting.  He would have liked nothing better, but he wanted to offer his services to the union side.  Naturally his wife, who was the former Nancy Woodfin Ferguson, the daughter of Major James Ferguson of Kentucky, would not hear of this. It was bad enough that she had married a Yankee, although that was tempered by the fact that he was a good Democrat, but she wasn't going to have her husband fighting against kinfolk.  The move to Oregon was a compromise.
Their departure was somewhat marred when Major Ferguson wrote saying that he wanted to give his daughter a young slave woman to take along.  Nancy and her three daughters were delighted, Isaac was not.  His anti-slavery sentiments would not permit such bondage, and this time there was no comprimise.
The slave remained in Kentucky, while Nancy and her daughters were left with the cooking and washing.  The chores cannot have been too arduous, however, for later my grandmother, who was 12 at the time, said it was the pleasantest trip she could ever remember.
Their wagon had no trouble with the Indians, but as they neared Utah, Mormons dressed up in feathers and paint ran off with some of their stock.  My grandmother never forgot or forgave.  Later she bought every anti-Mormon book she could find, and there were many printed at that time.  I still have a few of them.  She never held the same dislike for Indians and used to tell me of the time when they were low on food and a little Indian girl she encountered on the way showed her that wild rose hips were edible.  She also liked to tell of the day when and Indian brave, who was take with her long red braids, offered to trade several horses for her.
I don't think my grandfather ever took up a claim.  He must have come with a little money, for he rented land at first and finally bought some near the present site of Rickreall.  His neighbors were such people as James Nesmith, who later became one of Oregon's early senators in Washington, Colonel Nathaniel Ford and David Goff.  Before long the little community became known as Dixie.  Great-grandfather always took credit for the name, saying it was because they were all good Democrats, but I think it was more likely called that because nearly everyone living close was a southerner.  Colonial Ford, for instane, had even brought three negro slaves from Virginia to do his work, two in the fields and one for the household.  Oregon had been admitted as a free state and there were laws threatening negros who came here, but the laws were never enforced.  Today is is the popular conception that Oregon was settled by New Englanders, but that isn't true.  The new residents were equally divided between north and south.
Great-grandfather Dempsey called himself a carpenter, and perhaps he was, but he did other things as well.  He liked to poke his fingers in as many pies as possible.  As soon as he arrived in Oregon, he plowed and put in winter wheat.  Before it could come up, however, someone told him there was still gold to be found in California.  Telling Nancy he would bring back gold to wear on her fingers, he headed south.
Nancy, meanwhile was left with the children to take care of - luckily they were nearly grown - and the crop to harvest.  It she had once been a southern belle (and her pictures don't show her as a great beauty) she learned quickly.  When Isaac returned, late in the fall, bringing one gold nugget which he had made as a ring for his wife, everything was runnig smoothly.  Isaac began building a gristmill on the banks of the LaCreole in cooperation with a Mr. Thorpe, and that kept him busy for quite a while.
My grandmother used to say that her mother never knew how many would sit down at the table for their noonday meal.  Travelers between Salem and Dallas found Dixie a convenient stopping place at dinner time.  From all accounts, Isaac was a hosptiable soul, and friends and strangers alike were always welcome.  He died before I was born, but those who remembered him said he was a great story teller and had a fine baritone singing voice.  Apparently he loved an audience.
In Illinois he had run unsuccessfully for the state legislature, but in Oregon he was luckier.  He was elected to that body from Polk County in 1866, and in 1884 he was elected county judge.  Hedied at his home in Dixie in 1889, and Nancy in 1894."

BIOGRAPHICAL (Source - Childress, Sarah, Polk County Pioneer Sketches,  1927, "My Trip Across the Plains", by Mary J. Dempsey Bronsin (1915) via www.genealobytrails.com/ore/polk/):
"In the spring of 1862 I left my home in Knox County Illinois to come to the Western State of Oregon. We had quite a company of our own, my father I.I. Dempsey, having three four-horse teams, a carriage and two other horses, two men for each wagon, besides my father and a man to care for the loose horses; making in all twelve persons with my parents, two sisters and one brother. I often wonder how my mother and sisters ever managed to cook for so many on such a long journey. The man who cared for the two horses was a baker by trade and he was to do all the baking, but he made such a complete failure with his first baking, he was never asked to bake any more. We thought he had an object in doing it so he would not have any more to do.
We crossed the Missouri River at Omaha where we met with many other travelers coming to the west. They formed into a company and elected my father captain of the train. I do not remember how many wagons there were with us, but there was quite a large company. We kept close together for fear of the Indians, stopping before night to let our horses feed on the green grass. Our wagons were all formed in a circle to make a corral at night for the horsed to be placed in, and men stood guard all night. In the morning they were taken out to feed again. One night a young man who was standing guard got sleepy, got into our carriage, and was found fast asleep. I had a cage of canaries in there, and he was laughed at more than he liked, about guarding my birds instead of the horses.
Oh, the long dreary, hot days we had traveling up the Platte River; through the deep sand we would travel for miles and miles without see-have to carry our wood with us to do our cooking. Some people used buffalo chips, but we never did. We brought a small iron cookstove with us; the only one in the train. When we would stop for a few days to rest our horses, our stove would never be idle.
We had some musicians with us; my uncle and cousin both played the violin, and another young man rattled the bones. Some evenings they would smooth down the sand and dance for a while. It was the first dancing I ever saw. One Irish woman in the train came bare-foot all the way. Some of the boys said she could strike fire with her heels. Another one wore bloomers; a very sensible way of dressing for such a trip. They called her “the wild goose”. One family had a small child; they brought their cow with them; the only one on the train; she came all the way through; would take the lead in the morning as if she knew where she was going.
We passed through several different tribes of Indians and many Indian villages, but did not have any trouble with them. Many thought the most of the murdering was done by the Mormons. One morning a company of Cheyennes came to us all dressed in their war paint and feathers which created quite a little excitement. Our little baker got frightened and was found giving away all our bread to keep on the good side of them. They were not hostile with us, but were warring with the Pawnees across the river, and came to us to inquire if we had seen their enemies.
We saw deer, bear, buffalo, antelope and wolves and many a lonely grave by the side of the road where some one had left a loved one. I suppose we had had as pleasant a trip as most any other travelers making so long a journey. We had no serious illness and our company was very agreeable. Sometimes when the dogs would get into a fight the men would lost their tempers.
When we got to where there was no danger of Indians, our company began to scatter out to different places. Quite a number stopped at the beautiful valley situated in the Blue Mountains called Grand Ronde. It is said that two thousand located in that valley in 1862, while eight thousand passed on down the Columbia.
We arrived at the Willamette, the land of red apples, the first of October, and thought we had got to paradise, after being without fresh fruit all summer. The first year we lived on David Whiteacre’s farm three miles north of Monmouth. The next year we lived on Dr. Boyle’s farm three miles east of Dallas, and in 1865 my father moved the Thorp Flouring Mill from Falls City to Rickreall for half of it. Mr. Thorp and he were partners for some time.
It seems strange that we would leave a good home, many friends and relatives to come to Oregon, but we came to be away from civil war. We lived in the north; our sympathies were with the south. Oregon was so far away, they did not hear much about the war; no railroads across the plains; you had to go around by Panama or travel the long dreary road we came over. If we sent a letter back to our friends, it was a long time in getting there and cost us ten cents. Polk County had then but five towns that I remember: Dallas, Independence, Eola, Rickreall and Monmouth. Dallas had but two stores, run by W. C. Brown and John Waymire, who had also a flouring mill. Dry goods and groceries were all sold over the same counter. Mr. Robb had a Drug Store and William Clinghan a saloon. Mr. T.J. Lovelady ran the only hotel, which stood where Stafrin’s Drug Store now stands. There were two churches, the Methodist and Baptist. The Baptist is the same as they use it now, only remodeled. The Methodists have built a new one. The old jail is the same as when we came here. The merchants had to bring their goods with teams from Portland or have them come to Independence by boat and then bring them here. Not many buildings are standing today that were here when we came, and not many people living today that lived here then.
My first picnic in Oregon was a May Day Picnic on Mt. Pisgah. Miss Roxy Moore was crowned queen of May. Her crown was a wreath of apple blossoms. My first watch meeting was at the Baptist church. When they thought it was about time for the New Year to come, they inquired if any one had a watch. There was none in the house and they had to send out and borrow one. Very few people possessed a watch in those days. A.C. Gibbs was Governor of Oregon. The population of Oregon in 1860 was only 52, 405. She had been admitted into the union only one year before. In 1869 the railroad was completed from the east to San Francisco. In 1869 they commenced building a railroad on each side of the Willamette. Five years later the east side road was furnished to Roseburg. The roads were both completed 19 years later. The Northern Pacific was built in 1883. Portland, when we came, had about as many inhabitants as Dallas has today.
Hon. Isaac I. Dempsey departed this life at his home in Dixie at 10:30 of the morning of the 25th of June, 1887. The deceased was born in Jackson county, Ohio, June 4, 1820. In 1837 he removed with his parents to Knox county, Illinois, where he was married in 1839 to Nancy W. Ferguson, the bereaved relict who survives to mourn his departure. In August of the same year he was married in he and his wife joined the M.E. church, a devout member of which he has ever been since. Before leaving Illinois in 1862, his son and three daughters had grown to man and womanhood. The family crossed the plains by the old overland route in ’62, coming down Snake river to The Dalles, from which place they came direct to Polk county, where they have continuously lived since. In 1865, the deceased, with T.C. Tharp, now living in old town Independence, built the Dixie flouring mill, laying, as now can be seen, the foundation for one of the finest mills in the Willamette Valley. In 1866 the lamented one was elected to the legislature on the democratic ticket. He was elected judge of Polk county in 1884 for a four year term, but, on account of failing health, resigned his office in May, 1887, Gov Pennoyer appointing Hon N.L. Butler to fill the unexpired term. The funeral occurred on Sunday afternoon, Revs Quimby and Judy conducting the services. The remains were interred in the Burch graveyard, southeast of Derry. His funeral (fifty carriages and buggies followed him to the grave), without pageantry or display, was an appropriate tribute of honor to the distinguished dead. It was attended by all the representative men of the county. His children are living to mourn his departure. They are Mrs W.E. Goodell, Dixie; J.A. Dempsey, Dixie; Mrs I.N. Davidson, Buena Vista; Mrs D.O. Bronson, Lewisville. Full of years, full of good deeds, Isaac I. Dempsey died without pain. To complain at the close of such a life is to complain that the ripened fruit drops from the overloaded boughs, that the golden harvest bends to the sickle; it is to complain of the law of our existence, and to accuse the Creator that He did not make man immortal on the earth. In the discharge of his official duties he was always practical, and true to his charge. No breath of detraction ever tarnished the luster of his well-earned public name. Honor has followed merit, and the laurel bears no blighted leaf. The burden has been laid down. The weary body is at rest. The busy mind has transferred sits activity to another sphere of being. The spirit is with its God. To him the wondrous portals of the unseen world have opened; and perhaps the mysteries of death, revealing “what was and is and is to come,” have solved the mysteries of life. Faith may disclose to our grateful eyes glimpses of heaven’s beautitudes, yet when his associates here realize that we shall see his face again no more forever, “one human tear shall fall and be forgiven.” 
Unidentified clipping (probably from Dallas Itemizer), biography files, Polk County Museum
I. I. Dempsey
Aug. 21, 1820
June 25, 1887
Call not back the dear departed
Anchored safe where storms are o'er
On the border land we left him
Soon to meet and part no more
Branigar Survey
Saucy Survey & Photographs
1850 IL CENSUS (Knox Co., FA #277)
1860 IL CENSUS (Knox Co., Knox, FA #1965)
1880 OR CENSUS (Polk Co., Derry, ED 104, pg 4D)
Genealogy Trails (www.genealogytrails.com/ore/polk/)
Historically Speaking, Vol. V, pp 18-19
Lang, pg 848
Biography files, Polk County Museum