“Few men were more familiar with the history of the settlement and improvement of the Pacific coast than Dr. William Geiger, Jr.” (Smith, Oregon Bios Project)
Geiger was born in Angelica, Allegany County, NY, September 15, 1816, and was a son of William Geiger, a farmer by occupation. In his native town he was reared and attended a private academy.
When he was about seventeen years of age he moved with his parents to Oakville, Monroe county, Michigan, where he remained from 1833 until 1837, when he started for Quincy, Ill. About five miles from Quincy was the Mission Institute; Geiger became a student, there. (Smith, Oregon Bios Project)
In 1838 Geiger made plans to cross the plains to the Pacific coast, accompanied by a schoolmate by the name of Benson. (Smith, Oregon Bios Project)
Geiger had been appointed a missionary teacher by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and had been instructed to go to the Pacific Coast to do missionary work among the Indians. When it came time for him to leave it was found that the association lacked the funds, with which to send him.
Having made up his mind to come to the Pacific Coast, he started out on his own account, traveling on horseback. He taught school at the Methodist Mission near Salem in 1840. (History of the Columbia River Valley)
The next spring Geiger set out for California with the plan of meeting a party of his friends who were to rendezvous at Sutter’s Fort; but, going by sea to Monterey, he was forbidden to travel in the interior without a passport, which was not procurable short of getting one in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).
So, Geiger headed to Hawaii with the intention, in part, to get a passport.
He then went to Honolulu, where he taught at the newly formed Chiefs’ Children’s School (Royal School) for about eight months, receiving $30 per month. (Smith, Oregon Bios Project and Berger)
In February 1841, having procured a passport, Geiger left Honolulu on the American ship Lausanne for Monterey, and later went in a coaster to San Francisco.
Back then San Francisco was a small place. The Hudson Bay Company had a double log house there, and there was a combined saloon and billiard hall and a partly finished hotel, containing about one hundred people, fully half of whom were transients.
After a short time at San Francisco, Geiger went across the bay and secured some cattle, and took them up the river to Sutter’s Fort, where he remained until the spring of 1842. In the meantime, he surveyed Captain Sutter’s claim for him and had charge of the fort while Sutter went to Monterey for supplies.
For his services, Sutter gave Geiger land three miles square, situated in the forks of the Yuba and Feather rivers; but in the spring of 1842 Geiger traded everything he had to Captain Sutter for horses and mules and started for the states.
Later, in August 1842, Dr. Geiger sold many of his horses and mules to the emigrants, but took the remainder down the Willamette valley and for a while he lived with Alvin T Smith, near Forest Grove.
In October of that year, in compliance with a letter from Dr Whitman, Geiger started to take charge of the Whitman mission, remaining there during a part of 1842-43, or until Dr Whitman’s return in the fall of 1843.
Before this, he had secured a donation claim where the town of Salem now stands but gave it up later because it was wanted by a Methodist mission. He next secured a donation claim of six hundred and forty acres south of what is now Cornelius.
In 1847, Geiger married Elizabeth Cornwall, a native of the south, and a sister of Rev. JA Cornwall, a Presbyterian minister located at Sodaville, Linn county, Oregon. He then engaged in farming, also further continuing, under Dr WN Griswold, the study of medicine, which he had first taken up some years before under the direction of Dr. Whitman.
Beginning as a ‘regular’ of the blood-letting, fever-starving sort, he became a convert to the virtues of the homoeopathic group, and began the practice of homeopathy in Forest Grove in 1864 and was undoubtedly the pioneer homeopathic physician of the Pacific coast. (Oregon Pioneers-com)
Dr Geiger served as clerk of Washington county while Oregon was still a territory and was afterward county surveyor for several years. He surveyed land and from the time of his arrival in the northwest took an active part in its development. He was an honored member of the State Medical Society of Oregon, in which he served as president.
Dr Geiger and his wife celebrated their golden wedding, having traveled life’s journey for a half century, in 1897. Almost four years passed before they were separated by death and then Dr. Geiger was called to his final rest, June 16, 1901.
He was a consistent Christian who held membership with the Presbyterian Church and in many ways he aided his fellow men, so that the world is better for his having lived. (Smith, Oregon Bios Project)