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Thornton F. McElroy

Born: West Middletown, Pennsylvania, 1825
Died: February 4, 1885 (Buried Masonic Cemetary, Olympia)
Spouse: Sarah Elizabeth (Bates) McElroy (Married October 15, 1847, Pittsfield, Illinois)


T.F. McElroyStarted from Pittsfield, Illinois by ox team, date 1849. Arrival on coast at Oregon City, Oregon Territory in 1849. Incidents on way: The ox team “gave out,” the party divided and Mr. McElroy and another man (name unknown) came on to Oregon City. The original desitnation was California, where Mr. McElroy went by sea in a sailing vessel (Barque Diamond, Capt. Reynard) in October and November 1849. Companions in party: Norton Bates (brother-in-law), others unknown.

Mr. McElroy located in Thurston County in the fall of 1852; and with J. W. Wiley founded the first newspaper, The Columbian, in what is now the State of Washington.

Mr. McElroy was the first master of the first masonic lodge in Washington Territory. He was a member of the first Board of Trustees of the Town of Olympia (appointed by the Territorial Legislature, January 28, 1859), as well as its first treasurer (February to April 1859), and held the office of Mayor of Olympia (1875).

Information filed by Harry B. McElroy (only son of Thurston F. McElroy and Sarah E. McElroy), February, 1918.

More information: 

McElroy Family Papers (1847-1927), held by the University of Washington Special Collections, Manuscript Collection # 0027.

Biographical Note from the UW Special Collections website for the McElroy Family Papers:

Pioneer family.

  • Thorton Fleming McElroy, 1825-1885
  • Sara Collins McElroy, 1827-1894
  • Harry Bates McElroy, 1861-1928

Thornton McElroy joined the gold rush to California, journeyed overland by wagon train to Oregon City, OR, to work on the Oregon Spectator, was sent by Thomas Dryer to Olympia, Washington to establish and publish “The Columbian” in 1852; was Territorial printer (1863-1872), and was foreman of the “Pioneer and Democrat.”

Scope and Content of the McElroy Family Papers:

Family papers, including correspondence of Thornton F. McElroy, Washington Territorial Official; his wife, Sara Collins McElroy; and their son, Harry Bates McElroy; papers relate to an overland journey to California in 1849, the newspaper publishing and printing business in Oregon and Washington Territories, politics in Washington Territory, and social conditions in the Northwest during pioneer period: 1847-1927.