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Christian Lehnherr

Unveiled Memorial to Local Pioneer: Christian Lehnherr - A City Founder

Christian Lehnherr was born in Berne, Switzerland in 1816 and came to New Orleans in 1827 and from there proceeded by small boat to Randolph Co., III. In 1851, Mr. Lehnherr, wife and 2 children joined an emigrant train for the west.

In a covered wagon drawn by 3 yoke of oxen, they spent 5 months crossing the plains to Oregon where they located a donation claim a few miles north of Portland. News of the discovery of gold in southwestern Oregon reached this adventurous pioneer, "Chris" Lehnherr and again the faithful oxen hitched to the covered wagon.

Another location was settled near Roseburg, but soon the new gold mines were discovered in Coos county and again the family moved west ward. This time there were no wagon roads, so the move was made by horses and mules over the original trails made by the Indians and home established on Roland prairie. The Indians, as they retired from
the seashore and engaged in hunting elk and deer, used the present site of Myrtle Point as a concentration center and established villages then Several pioneers passed by the point but because of timber and vegetation decided not to settle here.

Ephraim Cannon Catching, a typical western pioneer, who came to Oregon before the discovery of gold in California was the first to see the beauties and natural advantages of this point of land on which Myrtle Point now stands and established a home here no later than 1854 under the Donation Act. It "became a rendezvous for pioneers, prospertors and natives." The Coquille valley was then inhabited by Indians "who had little ambition and energy." They were peace-loving and friendly to the pioneers. However, the Rogue River Indians were more savage and warlike and, for fear they would induce the Coos Indians to be unfriendly, Fort Kitchen was established one mile above the present town of Myrtle Point near the mouth of the creek named after E. C. Catching.

Established Town Here

It was not until 1861 that a town called Meyersville was laid out by Henry Meyers who had purchased the Catching place, but daunted by floods the village remained on paper only. In 1866 "Chris" Lehnherr bought this farm upon which the town was located and moved his flouring mill down from Roland prairie, which was the first flouring mill in Coos

In 1879 Mr. Lehnherr had the place re-surveyed and platted anew and gave it the name of Ott, in honor of an old friend. The name was later changed to Myrtle Point. Mr. and Mrs. Lehnherr gave to the city 3 blocks of land including
the present public square, one block to the north and one block to the south, and had them dedicated to the public. At the county clerk's office now in Coquille the chart of dedication of this land to the city is on record. Later 2 blocks on either side of the public square were sold.

Donate Cemetery

Mr. and Mrs. Lehnherr also donated a small strip of land on the south side of town for a cemetery but in 1897 it was moved to the present location a mile east of the city.

"Chris" Lehnherr was now a pioneer miller, storekeeper, hotel-keeper and postmaster in Myrtle Point.
Myrtle Lodge No. 78 AF & AM was organized in 1882 and "Chris" Lehnherr was the first worshipful master.
In Feb. 1887, the town was incorporated and Feb. 4th, 1887 an organization election was held, "Chris" Lehnherr was one of the judges of the election when 22 votes were cast. He was also one of the trustees elected.

Were Kindly Folks

Mr. and Mrs. Lehnherr were "a great help to the struggling pioneers who had taken homes with little or no capital to support their households until sustenance could be drawn from the soil and it has been repeatedly remarked that they never refused flour to the needy inhabi tants.

Mrs. Lehnherr is remembered as a kind motherly woman who opened her heart and home to many young people without homes.

Mr. and Mrs. Lehnherr had 5 children of their own, Mary, William Tell, John, Fannie and Amy. S. S. Reed of Myrtle Point is a son of Mary Lehnherr and the nearest relative now living in this community of "Chris" Lehnherr. Fanny and Amy are the only children of "Chris" Lehnherr now living, and they now reside in California.

—Myrtle Point Herald, May 25, 1939

Our thanks to John and Jennifer Shank, the volunteer " look-up " people for Coos Co., Oregon Gen Web..
for doing a search for George McKinney, who also thankfully passed this information on to us.

From Libby (Lehnherr) Jensen

My great-great-grandfather was Christian Lehnherr, and the town he founded was Myrtle Point, in Oregon. Bob said he wasn't aware of any William Tell Lehnherrs. Well, there are several: my dad, grandfather and great-grandfather are a few. 

I know so little at this time, about my grandfather and his family, so I can't tell you much, but I can tell you more about my dad. He grew up on White Earth Indian Reservation (in northern Minnesota).  You know, I'd be surprised if my dad did know any of the Minneapolis Lehnherrs, because for years, I remember him saying that we were the only Lehnherrs in that area, and I grew up in Minneapolis!  We used to look in the White Pages to see if we could find any other Lehnherrs, and we were always the only ones. We'll have to start looking them up.

My dad, for years, refused to tell us anything about his experiences while growing up.   It wasn't until I was older that I finallly found out that he had a rough childhood.  His mom died when he was VERY young (seven years old) and when his dad remarried within months, he and his two (older) sisters hated their stepmom.  I think for years my dad resented the fact that his dad "erased" the memory of his mother.  From what I've been told, his mother's death had a serious impact on my dad.

But, when he does open up and tell us stories, it's fasinating!  He was friends with a boy named Half Step.  He was named that because he was born with polio, so he couldn't take a full step.  My dad has told me stories about having to hunt for food for his existence, during the summer months.  I guess my grandfather and his wife didn't really take very good care of the kids (especially my dad, since he was a boy and they figured he could take care of himself), so dad ran with the Indian boys and they formed their own version of a gang, but it was for survival purposes.

They hunted deer and squirrel and fished during the summer, so they could eat. To this day, my dad won't touch deer or fish if it's offered.  He said he ate enough of that to last him a life time!

He also told me stories about the Pow Wows they had at the end of the summer. No dog was safe on the reservation because they used them during the ceremony. He told me about his pet dog that he loved dearly and every year, he made sure that dog was safe in the house so no one would get him!

I also have a VERY vivid memory of one of our trips back to the reservation. I was very young, my mom and dad think it was when I was five, and it was our last trip back to visit.  It wasn't safe any longer for white people to go back to the reservation, so it was the last time we went.  My dad and I went off on our own and the one place my dad took me to was a graveyard.

I remember seeing several of what looked like dog houses. I asked my dad what they were and he told me they were the houses for the spirits to live in; the spirits of the dead.   He told me they put food and personal belongings in the houses so the spirit of the dead person would have something to sustain them
until they crossed into the spirit world.  It was also an honor for the poor people to eat the food left in the houses.

I have a powerful memory of looking around and seeing many, many small houses. I remember looking at them and asking my dad what the small houses were. To this day, I clearly remember the tone of his voice when he said "Those are the graves of the babies."  Even as a young child, I remember being horrified and saying, "Those are BABIES?"  I remember looking up and seeing my dad cry.  One of the two times in my whole life that I've seen my father cry, and that was one of them.   A very sad memory for him.

He went into the Army in '46 and served a term there.  After that, he was called up and served in Korea. He rode shot gun on a supply truck on the front and was almost captured by rioting North Koreans, who had broken out of a prisoner of war camp!

After serving 13 months, he and my mom settled down in Minneapolis and my dad ended   up working at a local company for many, many years.  He is now retired from that company and has started one of his own. My dad is quite an accomplished wood carver, a skill he taught himself, and, for many years, an avid photographer.  Now he prefers playing on his computer and carving.

As an interesting side note, on his maternal side, he and his sisters (he has two of them, both out west-one in Washington and one in Oregon), traced their family back to the Donner Pass. My sister and I both live close to them.  I live in Brooklyn Center, and my sister lives in St. Louis Park.  I have two children and Laurel, my sister, has three girls. 

I have my own business that I operate out of my house. For seven years, I did Records Management for two local corporate law firms. Then, last year, after my daughter was born, it became really hard for me to deal with two children in day care, plus working full time outside of the house.  The last straw came when both kids ended up contracting Rotavirus (a horrible virus!) a few weeks apart.   My husband and I were exhausted and the new company I had started working for was not terribly supportive.  We decided I would stay at home and do records work part time and take care of the kids full time. What a great decision!

I have two kids: Ryan, who turned seven on Saturday, and Kirsten who is now 17 months old.   I am remarried and living in Brooklyn Center with my husband, who is a Deputy for Ramsey County.

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Other family names include Andersen, Arbogast, Ashler, Bartell, Baumgartner, Baussan, Benerotte, Berger, Bevit, Blain, Bouslog, Blumer, Briggs, Broderson, Buehler, Caflisch, Case, Chapman, Cofield, Collingham, Davis, Drackley, Edds, Ely, Granger, Gurtner, Hager, Hickmon, Hoeft, Holmes, Huff, Huffman, Johnson, Karsten, Kleve, Kuehne, Leeder, Lord, Lutz, Marmet, Mendez, Meismer, Melrose, Mills, Mitchell, Muhler, Mullinix, Neumann, Olson, Palmer, Ponson, Quattlebaum, Schuetz, Stewart, Sutton, Suyama, Thornton, Valek, Wallace, Waslager, Wittwer, Zahler, Zahner, Zimbelman.

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