A General History of the Monteith House
The Monteith House stands today as a carefully restored memorial to our pioneer ancestors and the spirit that brought them to Oregon. This structure carries the intriguing story of how one family fashioned a new city in Oregon's land of milk and honey. Brothers Walter and Thomas Monteith traveled to Oregon by ox team in 1847 over the Oregon Trail. Close to the confluence of the Calapooia and the Willamette Rivers, the Monteith brothers found a wide, open, prairie – a perfect setting for their envisioned city. For $400 they were able to purchase 320 acres of land along the Willamette River from Hiram Smead.
With the acquisition of another 320 acres of adjacent land, the brothers were able to plot out a 60 acre townsite. They named this new town after Albany, New York, the capital of the state of their birth. These enterprising brothers began to construct a house which straddled the dividing line between their claims, fulfilling the requirement that each man sleep on his claim. This was one of the first homes in Oregon to be constructed from sawed lumber, and was the Albany area's first frame home. With the assistance of friend Samuel Althouse, the Monteith House was basically complete by 1849.
In 1849 California's Gold Rush caught the Monteith brothers attention. An apparently successful venture to the goldfields provided resources to enter several business ventures which helped establish Albany as the hub of the Willamette Valley. In 1854, Thomas traveled to Iowa to fulfill his matrimonial promise to Christine Dunbar. The newlyweds purchased the parlor furnishings displayed in the house prior to their voyage to Oregon via the isthmus of Panama. Stopping in San Francisco, they acquired goods for a store which had originated in the parlor of the Monteith House.
Walter Monteith took Margaret Smith as his bride in 1855. Walter constructed his family home on Elm Street, at the then western edge of Albany.
Albany’s Monteith House not only served as a home, but became a hospitable community center for the emerging City of Albany. The Monteith family generously allowed their home to be used as a meeting place for religious, political and other activities.
Among the many claims to fame for this historically significant home are:
- 1850: Albany's first sermon was delivered by Dr. Kendal in the home.
- 1853: Albany's first congregation, United Presbyterian, was united and met for three years at the house.
- 1856: The Monteith's hosted a meeting of the Free State Men in their home to discuss State formation.
- 1857: Built upon the Free State Men meetings, Oregon's Republican Party was founded at the house.
Captain Archibald Monteith (son of William J. Monteith, brother of Walter and Thomas served on the battlefields of the Civil War, to find out more visit: http://www.28thwisconsin.com/veterans/a_monteith.html