Main Pioneer Menu  |   Profiles Index  |   Search Engine  |   PL

Dr. James McBride
-- Uncle Jim --
Circuit Riding Oregon Preacher
By Charles Dailey, Revision 5, December 2002

James McBride at a Glance:
Born: Near Nashville TN - 1802
Moved near: St. Charles, MO -1814
Schooling: Studied medicine at St. Louis
Married: Mahala Miller - 1830
Emigrated:Barlow Road - 1846
Settled: West of Carlton, OR - 1846
Family: See table or T. C. McBride list.
Preached:Northwest Oregon
Moved to: Hawaiian Island - 1863
Moved to: St. Helens, OR - 1867
Died:St. Helens, OR - 1875
Buried:St. Helens, OR

A Wikipedia article about James McBride is now in place.

Dr. James McBride descended from a line of men and women that were in the forefront of developing America.

James was born near present day Nashville, Tennessee. By 1810, John Mulkey and Thomas McBride had left the Baptist Association and were preaching the message of being Christians only - not a part of any denomination. This was the message heard constantly by James in his impressionable years.

We have more about his father Thomas in a separate profile.

Dr. James McBride - 7.8 K
Dr. James McBride
In 1814, Thomas moved his family to the vicinity of St. Charles, Missouri. James entered medical training at St. Louis. He began his practice at age 22, and also was ordained to preach the gospel. When he was 28, he married Mahala Miller. Mahala was among those marvelous pioneer mates that morally supported their mobile husbands.

Mahala may be short for Mahalaleel - praise of God, so defined by Easton's Bible Dictionary.

Dr. McBride took his family to Texas briefly, but was vexed by the lawlessness and pro-slavery views of the times. They returned to Missouri, but in 1846 joined the movement west.

One of Dr. McBride's friends, writing in the Millennial Harbinger of 1850 spoke highly of him:

I had the pleasure of an intimate acquaintance with Bro. M'Bride, from the time I settled in Missouri until he left for the distant land of Oregon. He was an excellent man, and an able minister of the New Testament, and has doubtless done much for the advancement of original and primitive Christianity in Oregon. May the Lord abundantly bless him in his work of faith and labors of love in the far west!

Mahala McBride
Mahala McBride
Photo courtesy of
Pat Linton,
a family member.

The McBrides brought nine children across the plains in 1846 and had five more after arriving west of present-day Carlton in Yamhill County. This is a few miles north of present-day McMinneville. The Glen Owen Burnett family, old friends from Missouri, was in the same wagon train. John Burris Smith and Emily had been with them until the Smiths forked off on the Applegate Trail.

There is a separate profile of J. B. Smith.

Martha Sebastian Adams
Founded McMinnville College.
John R.
U. S. Representative
Eunice Adams
Sister of Sebastian
AlviraBenjamin D. Butler
Louisa George L. Woods
Third Oregon Governor
Dr. Charles G. Caples
Developer of Columbia City
NancyWilliam B. Morse
Warden of State Penitentiary
Mary CatharineFrancis Dillard Holman
Gospel preacher in Oregon
EmilyD. J. Yeargin
JudithCharles Cooper
Thomas Allen
Oregon Supreme Court
Mary Merrill
Dr. James H.
Founded a hospital
Ella Ackley
SusanB. F. Giltner
Ellendied at 16
George W.
U. S. Senator
Laura W. Walter
What caused this family to sell nearly everything and move to a far-off land? Robert Frazier, veteran of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803, often visited the McBride home in Missouri, and related his adventures of 30 years before. He had kept a journal and read it - along with his personal recollections - to Dr. McBride. He described western Oregon Territory as "Eden on earth" with prairie and timber alternating as far as the eye could see. He insisted that for grandeur, beauty and fertility, the land had no equal. Mr. Frazier died in 1837. In less than a decade, many of the McBride's friends were leaving for "Eden."

Soon the McBride family had prepared for the 2,000 mile journey into isolation. The trip was costlier than expected and Dr. McBride used his last dollar to pay the toll on Sam Barlow's Road around Mt. Hood. Friends paid the ferry toll so they could cross the river at Oregon City. They had arrived in Eden, but with only an Indian pony, two wagons and five yoke of oxen. There were no cows for milk, no furniture, no tableware except tin plates and cups from the journey.

James McBride swapped two yoke of oxen and one wagon for a piece of land. (The land he had selected was already claimed by someone else and he had to buy it from the "owner.") There were tears among the children as the new owner drove off with the faithful oxen that had brought them to the new land. So commented John Rogers McBride, one of those children.

James McBride's cabin
The cabin James McBride purchased in 1846.
Courtesy of Yahmill County Historical Society

The property had a tiny log cabin about the size of a tent and wheat had already been planted on five acres. The family moved into the cabin and also set up their own tent. Immediately the work of building a log cabin with two large rooms was started. A sawmill was just beginning operation in the area, so they secured milled wood for the floor.

The tiny log cabin pictured may have been used next as a school house.

The trading center was Oregon City and that was reached by row boat on the Yamhill and Willamette, taking a week to make the round trip. The house was up, but not completed, by the first of November. Dr. McBride launched a school in one of their rooms. The first winter was brutal in Eden, but everyone survived. One family member wrote that ice was freezing three feet from the fireplace.

James McBride divided his time between doctoring, farming, preaching and later, politics and government service. He was among those who devoted great energy to preserving the Oregon Territory for the United States.

Dr. McBride was active in gospel preaching and especially church planting. He began preaching a few weeks after arriving in Yamhill County. He rode a preaching circuit in Yamhill and Polk Counties, but went to other counties as well. It is hard to locate a church of that era where "Uncle Jim" had not preached.

The rest of the family attended the newly-formed Black Hawk congregation near Carlton. It was among the first congregations of the Stone/Campbell Movement in the Oregon Territory. Black Hawk was established just after the Amity Church was founded.

In 1850, Dr. McBride was elected a member of the Territorial Council, where he established a reputation for being a wise and conservative legislator. He was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction for Yamhill County and, in 1849, for the Oregon Territory. He served in the statewide capacity for two years.

Of their ten daughters, one died when she was about 16, the others married men of accomplishment. At least one of his daughters became a physician and another became a midwife. Of his four sons, three entered law and political life. Thomas became Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, John became a U.S. Representative from Oregon and George became a U.S. Senator from Oregon.

James McBride was vigorously opposed to slavery and became one of the founders of the Republican Party in Oregon. In this capacity, he was both a writer and a public speaker.

As a reward for faithful service. he was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as Minister to the Sandwich Islands - known today as the Hawaiian Islands. In those years, the Island kingdom was strongly influenced by Great Britain. By his wisdom and fairness, he encouraged the rulers to trust the United States. This has led to the Islands becoming our 50th State. We have much to thank Dr. McBride for in this change of allegiance.

This story is developed and documented at: link

The Ministers to the Hawaiian Islands are listed at this U. S. State Department site. Scroll down to the fourth entry to see James McBride listed.
Dr. McBride was probably busy planting churches while stationed in the Sandwich Islands. In 1880, a curious paragraph appears in the Christian Standard, published in Cincinatti, Ohio:
The late heathen people of the Sandwich Islands now contribute annually for the support of the gospel beyond their territories some $24,000. Some churches average more than four dollars per member. One church sustains five foreign missionaries.

Is this a reflection of the work of James McBride?

While living in the Islands, James McBride became acquainted with the Russian commander, Admiral Enquist. He was also stationed in Hawaii with a portion of the Russian fleet. It was the Admiral’s belief that the United States, and not Russia, should own Alaska. Dr. McBride wrote a number of letters to Secretary of State Seward urging him to purchase Alaska. He obtained from the Russians samples of gold and other valuable minerals as well as getting affidavits documenting the fishing and fur trades.

The efforts were well rewarded and the United States bought the land from Russia. It can be rightfully said that Dr. James McBride was the author of the Alaska purchase. When we travel to Hawaii or Alaska, our minds could think back to this winsome and convincing gospel preacher that had been so influenced by Barton Warren Stone.

James McBride's Grave Marker
McBride Family Marker
See photo link for
more photos
. May
load slowly.

Dr. McBride retired from government service in 1867 and settled at St. Helens, Oregon where several of his children were living.

James McBride may have helped one of his sons-in-law by minding the store because the 1870 census lists him as a merchant while his son James was a teacher that year.

He planted a church in St. Helens (Columbia City) and one at Scapoose, Oregon. Their daughter Lucinda married Dr. Charles Green Caples and lived at Columbia City, just north of St. Helens. Their home, now called the Caples House Museum, is open for public tours. The phone there is 503-397-5390.

Always busy, James died in 1875, just a few days before he was to perform a wedding. His obituary appeared in the Vancouver Independent of Saturday, December 25, 1875. It was written by an unidentified friend and summarizes his life with dignity:

At St. Helens, Oregon, on the morning of the 18th instant, Dr. James McBride, in the 74th year of his age. Dr. McBride was born in Tennessee, and emigrated with his father to Springfield, Green County, Missouri. Here he grew to manhood, and remained until he came to Oregon in 1848.

In 1863, through the influence of his son, Hon. John R. McBride, then a member of Congress, he was appointed by President Lincoln as U.S. Minister to the Hawaiian Islands, where he remained for nearly four years, discharging the duties of the office with credit and dignity to himself and to the country he represented. He has been in feeble health for many years past and has not taken hand in public concerns.

From our early boyhood we have been most intimately acquainted with Dr. McBride, and as the result of those years of friendship there is very much that we could say in praise of his most estimable character. “Uncle Jim”, as he was familiarly called in the pioneer days of Oregon, was always noted in the community where he lived as a man of rigid virtue, fervent piety, and discreet wisdom. As a husband and father he always merited, as he received the respect and love of a faithful wife and a large family of sons and daughters.

As a teacher in the Christian Church he was tried and faithful even unto the end of his useful life. He will be sadly missed by his family and St. Helens friends, and they have the deepest sympathy of all who know them. On the day of the funeral all business was suspended at St. Helens and Columbia City, in respect to the memory of their departed father and friend.
- From the Trail Breakers, Clark County Genealogical Society, Vancouver, WA. Spring 2000.

This obituary was probably written by L. L. Rowland.

In just over a year, Mahala McBride also passed from this life.

Died At St Helens, Oregon, February 23d, 1877, Mrs. Mahala McBride, aged 65 years. Mrs. McBride was the wife of the late Dr. James McBride, who died about fourteen months ago.

She was one of the pioneer women of Oregon, having immigrated to the state with her husband in the year 1847, where she has ever since resided. She was the mother of fourteen children, thirteen of whom are now living and are honored members of society in the communities where they live.

Mrs. McBride was a woman of more than ordinary intellectual abilities, not showy or pretentious, but plain and matter-of-fact, and a great lover of simplicity and truth. She was a member of the Christian Church, and all her life was a faithful co- worker with her husband in the course of Christianity.

In the early days of Oregon, when church facilities were few, her house was Sunday after Sunday, thrown open for the neighborhood to gather in and hear the earnest reasoning of righteousness, temperance and a judgment to come - so often spoken by that earnest minister, her husband. Her hands were ever ready to assist in all good works, and her generous hospitality in those days of primitive living will always be gratefully remembered by her neighbors and friends.

For many years she had been an invalid, but bore her sufferings with a Christian patience, indicative of a firm and abiding faith in the over ruling providence of God and the final triumph of the good. In her last hours she was conscious of the near approach of death, and after speaking words of advice and cheer to her weeping family, she bade them farewell and passed peacefully away.

She was buried last Saturday by the side of her faithful husband, in the cemetery at Germany Hill, and a large number of relations and friends followed her to the grave.

The funeral services were conducted by Rev. L. L. Rowland, of Salem, an old friend of the family. In his discourse he paid a just and beautiful tribute to the memory of the departed mother, selecting as his texts the blessed promises of Revelation - "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Rev XXII: 13-14. "Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out." - Rev 11:12
- From the Trail Breakers, Clark County Genealogical Society, Vancouver, WA. Fall 2002.

See the family structure in the Thomas Crawford McBride listing.


History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington, 2 volumes [ Portland, OR: North Pacific History Co., 1889], 2:445-447.

Christians on the Oregon Trail by Jerry Rushford, 1997. College Press, Joplin, Missouri.

Main Pioneer Menu  |   Profiles Index  |   Search Engine