Jessie Sullivan Cummings
Jessie Sullivan Cummings

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Saints, Sinners and Snake River Secrets

A Most Interesting Book!
"Saints, Sinners and Snake River Secrets"
By Lillian Cummings Densley With art by Mel Whitney

"Oregon" was the dream, "On to Oregon" was the motto. And so the covered wagons rolled through the heat, dust, cold or storm regardless of sickness, birth, death, hunger, hardships, Indian attacks, or disaster-on they rolled.

The spring of 1879 23-year old Eugene Sullivan, a sick and bitter man, left Chetopa, Kansas with his 17-year-old wife, Luel1a and 14-month old baby son, Bernard Littleton, to join a wagon train on its way to Oregon. To Oregon, with a dream of a new and better life.
The ruts left behind by the churning wagon wheels were so deeply embedded into the soil that although more than a century had passed, those ruts remain as visible reminders of the long, dreary trail and of the hardships our pioneer loved ones endured.

Many of those ruts trail through Baker County and the Eastern Oregon dry sagebrush covered hills to where is nestled a little green valley fed by the waters of Eagle Creek. There in that valley remains the ever present reminder of those hardy pioneers who came and of their struggle to survive in this wilderness. Those pioneers grubbed sagebrush, dug ditches, homesteaded farms and eked out a living. It was they who developed that lonely place into the beautiful, fertile Eagle Valley known today.

Among the early pioneers now resting in the Eagle Valley Cemetery which is situated on high benchland overlooking the confluence of Eagle Creek and Powder River, is the Eugene Sullivan family. Found there are the graves of Eugene, his second wife, Emma, their sons, Bernard and Donald, and daughters, Nettie, Lillie, Edna, and Jessie.

The beautiful Eagle Valley Cemetery, a garden of serenity, was especially cherished by the Sullivan family. It was a tradition that the family plot must be kept perfectly groomed and decorated, particularly for Memorial Day. The youngest son, Don, assumed this responsibility with his four older sisters and their families assisting. As the years passed by, the Sullivan grandchildren and their families carried on this tradition while aiding their elderly, ailing parents, who, one by one, quietly slipped away.

The Memorial Day weekend of 1972, Jessie, the middle sister, made her final visit to the cemetery to honor her loved ones, leave a floral remembrance, and to fulfill her greatest desire: she wanted one last look at her childhood home on Sullivan Lane. There with a heavy heart, she found the old home place in ruin, as it had been neglected since Don's death but the memories were still there. Memories were rekindled of the Sullivan family's early-day life in Eagle Valley and of the family's struggle for survival, of the way life was, and the way they lived it.

These were the memories that Jessie recorded in her journals, compiling a brief account of the era of the early settlement of Eagle Valley, life as a homesteader's family, development of the communities, a country school teacher, and ranching on Snake River. These memories were of her own experiences or information passed down, and were compiled during the years of 1957 until shortly before her death in February, 1975.

Jessie, who felt she had so little in material things to leave behind, did indeed leave a very precious gift by contributing her "Memories of Yesteryears."

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Copyright 2006 by Lillian Cummings Densley
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