William J. Bailey

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William J. Bailey
Second Executive Committee
In office
Preceded by First Executive Committee
Succeeded by George Abernethy
Constituency Oregon Country
Provisional Legislature of Oregon
In office
Constituency Oregon Country
Personal details
Born January 13, 1807
Died February 5, 1876
Champoeg, Oregon
Spouse(s) 1) Margaret Jewett Smith
2) unknown

William J. Bailey (January 13, 1807 – February 5, 1876) was a British-born physician who immigrated to the United States, where he became a pioneer and politician in the Oregon Country, particularly the Willamette Valley. Bailey participated in the Champoeg Meetings that led to the creation of a provisional government in Oregon. Bailey was selected as a member of that government, first on the Executive Committee and later in the Provisional Legislature of Oregon.

Early life[edit]

William Bailey was born in Great Britain on January 13, 1807.[1] In England he was said to have studied medicine, before emigrating with his mother to the United States sometime before 1834.[1] In the U.S. he enlisted in the Navy and traveled to the West Coast as a seaman, but deserted his ship in San Francisco.[1] There is no evidence that he practiced medicine in the United States.


William Bailey moved to Oregon from California in 1835, settling in the Willamette Valley.[2] Bailey's group included John Woodward, George K. Gay, and John Turner.[2] On this journey north, the group fought with the Rogue River Indians, losing four of their eight members of the party.[2] Woodward, Gay, Bailey, and Turner were the survivors.[2] Years later, Bailey and Gay murdered a Native American youth in the same area in retaliation during a cattle drive north from California.[3] Bailey was working in the Willamette Cattle Company cattle drive from Mexican-owned California to Oregon.[3] Leading the cattle drive was Ewing Young. In 1834 his party had killed several Rogue River natives on their journey to Oregon. This prompted their retaliation against Bailey's party the following year.[3]

Marriage and family[edit]

In Oregon Bailey married Margaret Jewett Smith from the Methodist Mission.[1] The two did not have any children and divorced in 1854. Margaret Bailey wrote for the Oregon Spectator, and she also wrote literary works.[1] Bailey later remarried.


In February 1841, attempts to create a government in Oregon Country began. When the extremely wealthy Ewing Young died without a will or known heir. the Americans decided they needed a government to settle his affairs.[3] During these settler meetings, Bailey was selected as chairman of the committee to draft a constitution and laws for the region.[2] The group dd not complete their plans, but in 1843, many participated in the final Champoeg Meetings leading to the creation of a provisional government in Oregon.

During the provisional government, William Bailey served as a member of the Second Executive Committee, along with Peter G. Stewart and Osborne Russell.[1] This committee acted in place of a single executive. The second constitutional group replaced the committee with a single executive to streamline the executive branch of the government. The first governor under the new law was George Abernethy. In 1848, Bailey was elected to the provisional legislature from the Champooick district.[2]

Later life[edit]

Bailey developed his property in Champoeg. He died there on February 5, 1876.[2] He was buried at St. Paul Cemetery[1] in St. Paul, Oregon.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Corning, Howard M. Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Scott, Harvey W.; Leslie M. Scott (1924). History of the Oregon Country. The Riverside Press. Vol 2, p. 236. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Ewing Young Route". Oregon's Historic Trails. End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Retrieved 2006-12-21. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
First Executive Committee

with Alanson Beers
David Hill
Joseph Gale
Second Executive Committee
Provisional Government of Oregon

with Osborne Russell
Peter G. Stewart
Succeeded by
Governor of Provisional Government
George Abernethy