Monday, August 26, 2013

Steele Lemoyne Moorhead (1852-1948)

From the August 15, 1900 edition of the Morning Oregonian.


   Interestingly named Oregon political figure Steele Lemoyne Moorhead receives a write up today, and although he was born a Pennsylvanian, Moorhead became a notable figure in Lane County, Oregon, making a name for himself as a newspaper publisher, city recorder, mayor and state legislator. During a long life that extended 95 years, Moorhead resided in a number of different states, and during that time left an imprint in each of them.
  Steele Lemoyne Moorhead's birth occurred in the small town of Indiana, Pennsylvania on May 11, 1852, a son of Joseph McCloud and Margaret MacFarland Moorhead. The Moorhead family later removed from Pennsylvania to Missouri, where Steele began learning the trade of printing at the Atchison County Journal in the village of Rockport. Moorhead rose to become both business manager and editor of the Journal for several years and married in Missouri to May Rebecca Bonham (1864-1930) with whom he would have later have the following children: Harriett May (1885-1977), Josephine Bird (1886-), Bishop Thompson (1892-1959), Steele Lemoyne Jr. (1898-1975) and Verneita (born June 1902).
   In 1888 the Moorhead family relocated to Ness City, Kansas, where Steele founded the Ness City Times. He managed the affairs of this paper for three years until removing once again, this time to Junction City, Oregon. Within a short time Moorhead had established roots in the community and founded the Junction City Times, the first newspaper to be published in the city. In 1892 he won election as recorder for Junction City and in the following year was elected as the city's Mayor "with only three votes against him, and one of those his own." Prior to his tenure as mayor Moorhead had served as a Junction City councilman and school director, his dates of service in those offices being unknown at this time.
   Moorhead served a one year term as Junction City mayor and continued his political ascent in 1894, when he was elected as a Republican to the Oregon State House of Representatives. As a one of Lane County's legislators, Moorhead is recorded by the 1895 Official Directory of Oregon as being "a jolly good fellow, ''all wool and 60 inches wide"", and helped to introduce two important pieces of legislation, the first being a measure "providing for a majority verdict of nine on juries in civil cases" as well as a bill "to prevent corporations (especially railroads) from blacklisting employees." Moorhead chaired the house committee on Mileage and Per Diem and was later appointed as chairman of a special committee that was to revise correct and publish the Oregon Legislature's 18th Biennial Session Journal and Calender. After the conclusion of his term Moorhead continued to serve the Oregon legislature in a slightly different fashion, holding the post of Chief Clerk of the Oregon Senate for a decade.
   In addition to his involvement in politics and journalism, Moorhead maintained memberships in many local fraternal organizations, being a longstanding member of the Junction City Lodge #58 of Free and Accepted Masons, as well as the Knights of Pythias. While Steele Moorhead gained a reputation as one of Junction City's premier men of affairs, May Rebecca Moorhead also made a name for herself in local women's groups, being elected as President of the Women's Improvement Club of Junction City in November 1914. A portrait/article on her election appeared in the November 8, 1914 edition of the Morning Oregonian and is shown below.

May Rebecca Moorhead as she appeared in the Nov. 8, 1914 Morning Oregonian.

   After many years of residence in Junction City the Moorhead family removed to Washington in late 1915, where Steele "assumed the business and editorial management of the Mount St. Helens Mist." After some years of being connected with this paper Moorhead purchased the Cowlitz County Advocate, and resided with his family in the city of Castle Rock. 
  In 1930 May Rebecca Moorhead died in Castle Rock at age 66 and sometime afterward Steele Moorhead removed back to Oregon, settling in Marion County. A 1940 census listing notes that at age 88, Moorhead was residing with his daughter Josephine and her husband Frank Lilburn. Steele Lemoyne Moorhead celebrated his 90th birthday in 1942 and died six years later on February 15, 1948, three months short of his 96th birthday. He and his wife were interred at the Rest Lawn Memorial Park in Junction City, Oregon following their deaths, as were Hattie Moorhead and Steele L. Moorhead Jr. after their respective deaths in 1977 and 1975.

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