Fremont Street, Corvallis View entire page
|John Fremont and his assistant, Kit Carson|
It's rare to find an older monument in Corvallis which is dedicated to someone of character. For the most part, only city street names were used for such purposes. So long as the presidents of the U.S. reflected the proslavery views of Joe Avery (click here), Johnson Mulkey and Green Berry Smith, the streets were named after successive presidents.
After the Civil War, there was a half-hearted attempt to continue the practice and it was eventually abandoned altogether. Thus we have Circle where we would reasonably expect Roosevelt or McKinley. The heart of the Council simply was no longer in it, and rightly so since many of these men were not altogether admirable.
Yet, in the midst of a series of presidents who most viciously pursued the interests of slavers, lies a street named after the one person who in the nineteenth century mind, next to John Brown, most personified an unrelenting opposition to slavery: John Charles Fremont.
Perhaps the lane was occupied at one time by one of our equally fierce antislavery citizens - E.G. Hovey (for whom Hovey Hall is named at UO, where he became a Board member), or the Reverends Milton Starr (for whom Starr's Point in Monroe is named) and T.J. Connor (who helped found Philomath College, now the Benton County Historical Museum), or a member of the Jerry Hinkle family. Perhaps because it lay on the Dixon claim rather than Avery's, it was allowed to go unchanged.
Perhaps it was because Fremont's reports of his Oregon journeys played such a role in immigration, or because his wife Jessie played so important a role in the literature of the West - the street may even be named for Jessie. Perhaps it was because Fremont's father in law was Thomas Hart Benton, for whom the County is named - in fact a bullet, in the Benton shootout with Andrew Jackson (click here) narrowly missed Fremont's crib. Perhaps it was because the efforts of Fremont to prevent slavers from carving out huge plantations for themselves on the frontier, led to the Oregon Land Donation Act, whereby Avery and Dixon were able to make their claims for a pittance.
Perhaps some family in the city has an oral tradition which could cast light on a topic mentioned in no history of the area.
Meantime, we can only pass the street with a certain sense of gratification. Fremont, imperfect as he was, represented the earnest hope of men and women in that era, that the practice of human bondage would not see the light of another day, despite the best efforts of the City's rulers to sustain it perpetually. Until 100000 soldiers of Billy Sherman's command walked from Atlanta to Wilmington carrying pine torches to guide their way, burning every whipping post and killing every slave-hunting bloodhound, singing John Brown's Body, the songs at left - Fremont campaign songs - for some carried the same power and optimism that Easter hymns carried for others.