February 16th, 2020, Mt. Tabor park attendees are shocked to find that the statue of Harvey W. Scott that sits atop the dormant volcano had been defaced. A can of spray paint was all it took to blemish the history, and insinuate controversy in the leading influence of Oregon’s past. The words “F**** a racist” covered the plate that reinforced his status as the “Molder of opinions in Oregon and the Nation”, and symbols of anarchy were plastered upon the sides of the stone upon which Scott stands .
The question on many minds, however, is whether or not the claims hold any weight. Is this the work of some misguided youth lashing out, fueled by misinformation? Or does the ex-editor in chief of The Oregonian have some racially misguided skeletons in his closet. To determine this, one must look into his past. Harvey Whitefield Scott was born in a rural county in Illinois. Tazewell county wasn’t his home for long, as his family bounced around quite a bit. For a while he and his 8 sisters resided in Yamhill county, before the Oregon trail started picking up heat, and 80,000 pioneers, including the Scott family, made the trip from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. Along the way, Harvey Scott lost his mother, Ann Roelefson Scott, to cholera. Finally the Scott family arrived at their destination, which was quite a bit past Oregon City, Oregon, and well into Washington Territory, ultimately settling in Mason County.
During his time in Washington, Harvey Scott fought in the Puget Sound War, which was a conflict between many factions such as, the local militia, Eaton’s Rangers, The United States Army, The United States Navy, and the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup,
and Klickitat tribes. While the root of the conflict isn’t quite clear, there were 2 very impactful events that were definite factors. The Treaty of Medicine Creek, and the Attack on Chief Leschi. The treaty granted 2.24 million acres of land to the United States in exchange for the establishment of three reservations, cash payments over a 20 year period, and recognition of tribal fishing rights. These were not upheld by the United States, which caused unrest in the Native Nations. The attack on Chief Leschi and his brother by Eaton’s Rangers started the war. It was prompted by Eaton’s Rangers awareness of the unrest in Native tribes. Leschi and his brother had been farming peacefully when a group of the Rangers moved in. Leschi had been previously aware of the attack, so he and his brother fled. This caused the Rangers to start attacking peaceful Natives and terrorizing the local tribes. These acts were known as the “skirmishes” of the Puget Sound War. The Natives’ eventual retaliation came when they raided a small settlement and killed 9 men, taking 3 children hostage. The children were later dropped off unharmed at a nearby settlement. This was known as the White River Massacre.
Now that the stage is set, Harvey W. Scott’s role can be determined. He was recognized as a volunteer soldier for a local militia. It is unconfirmed whether this militia was Eaton’s Rangers, however Scott did participate in the ransacking of local peaceful tribes. While this could have contributed to the racist accusations, it should also be noted that his peers didn’t think too highly of him either. Alfred Powers went so far as to say that Scott “held to outworn social theories” and that he was “lacking in sympathy and humanity.” So at least a few people agree that Scott was, if not racist, at least racially insensitive and cruel in his writings.
Scott was incredibly influential in Oregon, and he built the opinions of several people. He was considered a leader and a figure to look up to, so much so that a statue was erected of him to forever look down upon Oregon. His history, which was far from innocent, drove someone to mark said statue and bring attention to his faults. Given the facts, the indication that he was racially insensitive can be easily seen. It’s up to the people themselves to reach a definitive conclusion.
Harvey W. Scott – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_W._Scott
The Puget Sound War – http://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/996
The Treaty of Medicine creek – https://www.historylink.org/File/5253