Mrs. Neil Niven was interviewed in Canyon City, Oregon, by a Federal Writer's Project worker during the 1930s. In the following excerpt, from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, she recalls a story about the town bully of Granite, Oregon--one Jack Long. How does Mrs. Niven's story relate to the Civil War?
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Granite was first named Independence. On July 4, 1862, the notorious Jack Long discovered gold here and this precipitated a rush. The town was named in honor of Independence Day; on which it was founded. Later, when the Granite townspeople petitioned the United States government for a post office the government insisted they change the name of Independence. In accordance with the government edict the townspeople voted for the name granite.
Jack Long was working as a miner on the Gordon claim. The other miners desiring some liquor, sent Jack out with a pack mule to pack in some whiskey. On his way back the heavily loaded Betsey, mired down in a swampy, muddy flat.
When Jack pulled her out he noticed her mud caked feet had gold on them. Immediately he sunk a prospect hole that panned 25 cents to the hand. Jubilantly he filed a claim on the land and when the news traveled a gold rush was started. This was on the fourth day of July, 1862. Between $50,000 and $60,000 was taken out of the claims filed. . . .
Hate flamed to a new heat in the mining camp during the second election of Abraham Lincoln . Granite citizens, almost to a man were southern democrats. The ugliest name they could call a man was "Lincolnite". The worthless Jack Long was no exception. His hate for Lincoln was the most eloquent thing about him. When the dreaded news came that Lincoln had been elected bitterness burned deeply in all Democratic hearts. The few votes he received in Granite cast the finger of black Republican suspicion on many people.
Jack Long, on one of his glorious sprees, decided he had the courage to find the man who dared to vote for Lincoln . Arming himself with a revolver and knife, he set out on his self-appointed mission. Each man he met an the street he questioned boldly, threateningly. His voice could be heard booming up and down the street.
"Did you dare to vote for Abraham Lincoln ?" Most everyone answered, "No." A man riding by on his horse reined in and said to Jack: "I dared to vote for Lincoln. What are you going to do about it?" Dead silence fell on the crowd that had quickly gathered. Jack Long broke the silence with "Well, that makes one. Where's another?"
Someone in the crowd yelled, "thought you was gong to shoot the first black Republican you met, Jack?"
"Well," he answered, "you can't shoot a man on his horse."
"Accused of being a coward, Jack countered, "I'd rather be called a coward than be dead." Republicans were safe after that."
View the entire interview with Mrs. Niven from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.