Introductory Video

Learn more about the early history of Asahel Bush in Oregon, his founding of the Oregon Statesman newspaper in 1851 and family life in the 1878 Bush House. Ross Sutherland, Bush House Museum Director, narrates this C-SPAN video, recorded in 2014, as part of C-SPAN’s Local Content Vehicles Cities Tour.

Oregon History Timeline

Primary & Secondary Online Resources

The Becoming Oregon: Letters to Asahel Bush, 1850-1863, this project provides historians, researchers and students around the world with internet access to 500 original letters written to Asahel Bush (1824-1913). Bush was founding editor of the Oregon Statesman newspaper and later became one of early Oregon’s wealthiest men by co-founding the Ladd & Bush Bank in Salem, Oregon. Bush’s Pasture Park was once the farmstead of Asahel Bush and his family. Their 1878 Italianate home, along with the Bush farmstead, was acquired by the City of Salem and is preserved and interpreted as the Bush House Museum.

The Bush Family Historic Photograph Collection includes historic photographs of the Bush Family home, early Salem and Oregon. More than half of the photographs in this online collection are portraits of family and friends taken by Sally Bush, Asahel Bush’s daughter. The collection also includes a large number of rare panoramic photographs of Oregon taken by A.N. Bush, Asahel Bush’s son, along with family snapshots by Estelle Bush, Asahel Bush’s oldest daughter.

Topical Resources

Kalapuya Tribes

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon includes 26 Tribes and Bands from western Oregon, northern California and northern Nevada that were relocated to the Grand Ronde Reservation in the 1850s. These included the Rogue River, Umpqua, Chasta, Kalapuya, Mollala, Chinook and Tillamook Indians who had lived in their traditional homelands for more than 8,000 years before the arrival of the first white visitors.

The Lane Community College Library brings together information on the traditional homelands of the Kalapuya people, their social structure, treaties and reservations along with their termination in the 1950s and tribal restoration in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Oregon Encyclopedia, a project of the Oregon Historical Society, provides an in-depth history of the Kalapuya people in Oregon.

Early Oregon Explorers – Lewis & Clark Expedition | 1804-1806

The Lewis & Clark Expedition, Wikipedia website provides an overview and a detailed timeline of the expedition including information on the expedition preparations, the journey and encounters with Native American tribes.

Fort Clatsop, on the northwest Oregon coast, was the home of Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery from late 1805 to early 1806. During the winter Lewis & Clark prepared detailed notes on newly discovered mammals, birds and plants. Today a reconstruction of the original Fort Clatsop is part of the Lewis & Clark Historical Park in Astoria, Oregon.

Lewis & Clark PBS is the companion website to the film Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery produced by Ken Burns. The high-quality website includes numerous links to original archival documents, an interactive trail map and classroom resources.

Early Oregon Settlers – Hudson Bay Company at Fort Vancouver | 1824-1845

Fort Vancouver, on the northern bank of the Columbia River, was the Northwest fur trading post for the Hudson Bay Company in the early 1800s. Dr. John McLoughlin was the Chief Factor, who oversaw the operation of the fort and later established Oregon City, Oregon. Today a reconstruction of the original Fort Vancouver is part of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Park in Vancouver, Washington.

The Fort Vancouver, Wikipedia website provides an overview of the history of the fort. There is historical information on the establishment of the fort, fur trade operations, agricultural production and the political relationship between the United States and Britain in the early 1800s.

Dr. John McLoughlin moved to his home in Oregon City after his retirement from Fort Vancouver in 1846. This white wood-frame house is where he lived with his wife Marguerite. McLoughlin became the mayor of Oregon City and later donated land for schools and churches. Among the many businesses he owned in the area were sawmills, a gristmill, a granary, a general store and a shipping concern. This website features a timeline of the life and work of Dr. John McLoughlin.

Early Willamette Valley Settlers |The Methodist Mission and Salem | 1834-1844

The Mission Bottom, Wikipedia website provides an overview of the history of the Willamette Mission established by Reverend Jason Lee, a Methodist Missionary, in 1834. Now part of the Willamette Mission State Park, the original site of the mission is marked with a metal representation of the original buildings.

Reverend Jason Lee, a Methodist Missionary,came to the Oregon Country in 1834 to establish a mission school for the Kalapuya at Mission Bottom and is credited with the American settlement of early Oregon. Lee was involved in early business ventures, such as the Willamette Cattle Company, which brought livestock to early settlers. He also participated in early political meetings which lead to the establishment of Oregon’s Territorial Government.

Salem, Oregon was founded in 1842by the Methodist Missionaries who first made their home at Mission Bottom. Originally a gathering place for the Kalapuya tribe, known as Chemeketa, Salem was the site of the Methodist’s Oregon Institute, which later became Willamette University. In the 1850s Salem became Oregon’s capital which prompted Asahel Bush to move his Oregon Statesman newspaper from its original location in Oregon City, Oregon.,_Oregon

Early Willamette Valley Settlers |The Oregon Trail | 1843-1869

The Oregon Trail began as a footpath which was also used for horse travel. In the early 1830s the trail was cleared for wagon traffic from Independence, Missouri to Fort Hall, Idaho. Later wagon trails were extended to Oregon and wagon routes to other territories and states were developed. From the early 1840s to the 1860s the Oregon Trail was the main transportation route to the West until the transcontinental railroads were established in the late 1860s and early 1870s.

The Oregon Trail, Oregon Encyclopedia provides a detailed overview on the history of the Oregon Trail, life on the Oregon Trail in Oregon and the impact of western migration on the United States.

The Oregon Trail is now a National Historic Trail which winds over 2,000 miles through six states. The Oregon Trail is an important reminder of the early settlers, from diverse backgrounds, who have made Oregon the state it is today.

Asahel Bush Travels to Oregon via Panama |1850

The Other Trail to Oregon: Crossing the Isthmus of Panama in the Early 1850s provides an introduction to Asahel Bush’s journey to Oregon in the summer of 1850 to establish the Oregon Statesman newspaper in Oregon City. Bush was invited by Samuel Thurston, the Oregon Territory’s first delegate to Congress, to establish a Democratic newspaper in the Oregon Territory. While no description of Bush’s journey is known to exist, the memoir of Mary A. Gray McLench’s voyage to Oregon with Samuel Thurston, via Panama, describes the difficulties of the trip.

Excerpt from Mary A. Gray McLench’s Memoir

Bush Family History

Asahel Bush (1824-1913)
​Eugenia Bush (1833-1863)

In 1860, Asahel Bush (1824-1913), and his wife Eugenia Zieber Bush (1833-1863), purchased 100 acres of land from Reverend David Leslie (1787-1869), on the ancestral lands of the Kalapuya. The gently rolling farmland, on the southern edge of Salem, contained a simple frame house, several apple and pear orchards, and pastures of native grass and wildflowers. Bush was the state printer and editor of the Oregon Statesman newspaper, which he began publishing in 1851.

Eugenia Bush died from tuberculosis in 1863 and left the 39 year old widower with four young children: Estelle (1856-1942), Asahel Nesmith or A.N. (1858-1953), Sally (1860-1946) and Eugenia (1862-1932). That same year Bush sold the Oregon Statesman and in 1869 established Salem’s Ladd and Bush Bank, with William Ladd of Portland. In 1877 Bush had the original Leslie house moved across Mission Street and construction began on a two-story, Italianate style farmhouse which was completed in 1878. His daughter Sally, now 18 and away at school, helped her father select wallpaper and furnishings for the house. In addition to the farmhouse, there was an early Barn and later a Conservatory and Root House on this gentleman farm.

Estelle Bush Thayer (1856-1942)
​A. N. Bush (1858-1953)
Sally Bush (1860-1946) 
​Eugenia “Genie” Bush (1862-1932)

Having completed her education, Sally returned to Bush House and lived with her father until his death in 1913. To honor their father, the Bush Family donated 57 acres east of the house to the City of Salem for a municipal park in 1917. The park was to be named Bush’s Pasture Park and ownership would transfer to the city upon the death of Sally and A.N. In 1944, A. N. Bush arranged for the City to purchase the remaining 43 acres for $175,000. With the failure of a bond measure to fund the purchase, A.N. sold 9.5acres to Willamette University for McCullough Stadium and the City was able to acquire the remaining 33.5 acres for Bush’s Pasture Park. Sally remained living in the house until her passing in 1946 and in 1948 A.N. Bush moved back into the family home. 

With A.N.’s passing in 1953, full use of the house was transferred to the City of Salem. The contents of the house, purchased by the Salem Art Association in 1948, were reinstalled and Bush House Museum opened for tours and art exhibitions in October 1953. In 1963 the Bush Barn was gutted by fire. The Salem Art Association remodeled this historic structure into an art gallery and teaching facility which opened in 1965. Since that time the Bush House Museum, Bush Barn Art Center and Bush’s Pasture Park have welcomed thousands of Salem residents and visitors each year.

The Bush Family’s Home | 1860-1953

Asahel Bush (1824-1913), the influential editor of the Oregon Statesman newspaper, married Eugenia Zieber (1833-1863) in the fall of 1854. Over the next few years their children Estelle (1856-1942) and A.N. (1858-1953) were born. In 1860 the Bush Family purchased a wood-frame house and barn, on 100 acres, from Reverend David Leslie, one of the original Methodist Missionaries to Oregon. Daughters Sally (1860-1946) and Eugenia (1862-1932) were born in this house which was located on the southern edge of Salem.

In 1863 Eugenia Zieber Bush passed away from tuberculosis and Bush sold the Oregon Statesman to attend to the needs of his four children. He invested in a dry goods store operated by Lucien Heath, Salem’s first mayor, and in 1869 Bush established the Ladd & Bush Bank in downtown Salem. In the 1870s Bush acquired William Ladd’s portion of the bank and hired Salem architect Wilbur Boothby to design a modern home to replace the Leslie house.

In 1878 the Bush House, which featured gas lighting, indoor plumbing and a central heating system, was completed. There were upstairs bedrooms with sinks for each of his children, a large bathroom and comfortable servants’ quarters. On the first floor were two parlors, a dining room and kitchen along with a library, bedroom and bathroom for Asahel Bush.

In 1882 a Conservatory for plants was constructed east of the house for daughter Eugenia.

Asahel Bush lived in the Bush House, with his daughter Sally, until his passing in 1913. In 1917 the children of Asahel Bush donated 47 acres of the original farmstead to the City of Salem for a future park in honor of their father. This land would remain undeveloped for public use into the late 1940s.

Sally remained living in the Bush home into the 1940s when the City purchased the remaining acreage for Bush’s Pasture Park. A few years after Sally’s passing in 1946, her brother A.N. Bush moved back to the family home where he lived until 1953. Following the passing of A.N. Bush, the Salem Art Association, founded in 1919, established the Bush House Museum which featured an art center and historic period rooms.

In 1965 the Salem Art Association moved their galleries from the Bush House Museum to the nearby Bush Barn Art Center following a remodeling of the barn after a fire. Today the Bush House Museum is preserved and interpreted to explore the lives and legacy of Salem’s Bush Family, the early development of Salem, and the history and diversity of early Oregon.

The Arts & History Immersion Program Field Trips in Bush House Museum visits the following rooms. The rooms are furnished with a significant amount of the Bush Family’s original furnishings to show their home around 1913. The house was modern when it was built with gas lighting, indoor plumbing and a central heating system. Since this was the home of a wealthy Oregon family, the Bush House Museum does not reflect the lifestyle of most people living in Oregon in the late 1800s into the mid 1900s.

The Sitting Room was a place to play music, with family and friends, read or play games much like a modern day family room.

  • The large mirror over the marble fireplace was shipped by boat around the tip of South American in the 1870s. The glass was packed in oil so it would not break on the long voyage.
  • There is an original gas lighting fixture on the wall above the piano which would have had a glass shade on it.

The Formal Parlor was a place to visit with family and friends in a welcoming and beautiful setting. The room is decorated with fine wallpaper, large original paintings and fine furniture. There is also the Aeolian Orchestrelle which was an early form of recorded music.

  • The keyboard instrument is a player pump organ known as an Aeolian Orchestrelle. It is much like a player piano except it works on a vacuum system which is created by pumping the pedals. The bar behind the music roll has a strip of air holes which are always sucking in air as the pedals are being pumped.

When there is an opening in the music roll, the air rushes through the pipes and creates the music which comes out the screened top of the instrument. Mr. Bush purchased this instrument to celebrate the turn of the century, 1899-1900, for around $1,500.

The Library has shelves of books once owned by the Bush Family. When the Bush House was built in the 1870s there were no televisions, computers or any of the electronics devices and games we enjoy today for entertainment. Reading was very popular and is still very important today even though some people read books in an electronic format rather than a paper format.

  • People in Salem purchased their own books, received them as gifts, or borrowed them from friends, prior to the Salem Public Library being established in 1904.
  • The painted portraits above the bookcase are Asahel Bush and his wife Eugenia Z. Bush and were painted in the late 1860s.
  • The painting over the marble fireplace is Asahel Bush in 1880, a few years after the house was completed.
  • In one bookcase there is a photograph of the first issue of the Oregon Statesman and a wooden type drawer which held individual metal letters that were used to print the newspaper.

The Asahel Bush Bedroom is a good example of the difference between public rooms in the house, which were opened to visitors, and the private rooms in the house.

  • The bed seems short to visitors because the Victorians were shorter than we are today and people often slept sitting up. People were very conscious of breathing unhealthy air and did not sleep flat like most people do today.
  • Asahel Bush had only one grandson and there were few family members given how prominent they were in Salem and in Oregon.
  • Prior to the installation of indoor plumbing most houses had outhouses in the back yard. People would wash their face and brush their teeth using a pitcher and bowl rather than a sink.

The Asahel Bush Bathroom is one of the first indoor bathrooms in Salem and contains all its original fixtures.

  • The toilet tank is high on the wall to enable gravity to drop the water to the toilet to flush it.

The Kitchen and Kitchen Pantries were private rooms where food was prepared by a hired cook. There was also a housekeeper, laundress and hired hands on staff to make sure the house ran smoothly.

  • The large wood-burning stove was made out at the Oregon State Penitentiary where Mr. Bush was the Superintendent from 1878-1882.
  • There are several “people powered” appliances in the kitchen including a coffee grinder, butter churn and meat grinder. When appliances like these were electrified in the 1920s the need for hired help lessened in large homes due to the increase the use of “labor saving devices.”
  • The cook, housekeeper and others ate at the table in the kitchen. When the Bush Family didn’t have guests they would also eat at this table.
  • There is a wooden icebox in the pantry off the kitchen. This would hold a large block of ice which would cool food for several days. This was used several decades before frozen foods were available or could be stored properly.

The Butler’s Pantry, between the kitchen and the dining room, was used to store and wash dishes.

  • The shelves were used to hold the food being served in the dining room and have burn marks from the hot serving dishes.
  • The window enabled people to see in this room without a light source prior to the installation of electricity.

The Dining Room table is set for a formal lunch with salad forks and soup spoons in addition to a regular set of silverware.

  • Some of the people that worked for the Bush Family had immigrated from other countries to start a new life in America. This was the era of the Melting Pot where people coming from other countries were expect to set aside their language, foods, and traditional clothing in favor of speaking English, eating American food, and wearing American clothes.
  • Americans now value the culture and talents that other people bring from their home countries such as their language, food, music, culture, ideas and hard work. Today we live in a multi-cultural society which honors the culture, heritage and contributions of those people moving to America.

The Dining Room Pantry has an 1890s telephone hanging on the wall. This telephone has an oak case with an earpiece, on a wire, for hearing the call and a cone to speak into. When a call comes in there are two silver bells which ring.

  • There is no dial or numbered buttons to call a number. People using the phone would turn the handcrank on the right side of the telephone which would connect them with an operator. You would tell the operator who you wanted to talk to and they would connect your two phones using a thick wire with a metal tip.
  • With the increasing popularity of telephones in homes, the rotary dial phone was invented so people could make a telephone call directly, rather than needing an operator. The rotary dial was replaced by phones with push buttons for making calls. Push button phones led to the development of touch screen numbers that need no mechanical moving buttons to make a call.

The Entry Hall & Staircase provides visitors with access to the second floor bedrooms.

  • The music box on the table was used to let members of the Bush Family know when the meal was ready to be served to their guests in the Formal Parlor. The music box has various metal disks that can be changed to play another tune.

The Guest Bedroom provides overnight visitors with a large bed, a fireplace, closet and a private sink.

  • When not being used for overnight guests, Sally Bush used this room as a photo studio. She hung a white sheet on the wall for a backdrop and made hundreds of photographs of family and friends. Her camera was probably made of wood and used 5 x 7 inch pieces of glass with photo-chemicals on them for negatives. Sally had her negatives developed and printed by Salem photographer Thomas J. Cherrington.

The Estelle Bush Thayer Bedroom is furnished as if Asahel Bush’s oldest daughter has returned home for a visit with her own daughter Eugenia Thayer.

  • There is a portrait of Estelle Bush Thayer and Eugenia Thayer on the mantle which was taken by Sally Bush.
  • The baby carriage, also known as a perambulator, would have been used to take a baby around town to show it to people walking down the street.
  • The cradle, with hand-carved decorations, is from the Hopkins-Bright family in Rosedale and is of the same period as the Bush House Museum.
  • There are three doors in this room, one is a closet and the other two lead to the bedrooms on either side. A staff member could go from the upstairs bathroom through the bedrooms to Sally’s room and gather linens, and other items, without having to use the upstairs hallway.

The Sally Bush Bedroom has a portrait over the fireplace of Sally Bush painted by John Van Dreal in 2011.

  • Sally returned from college and lived with her father, Asahel Bush, the rest of her life. She was an avid gardener and is remembered for her “quiet philanthropy.”
  • After the passing of Asahel Bush, Sally inherited the house and 100 acres along with part ownership of the Ladd & Bush Bank. Instead of living a lavish lifestyle, Sally used her money to send young women to college, feed and clothe those less fortunate and help build the community.
  • Sally owned an early electric car which had the license plate number 11. At one time she was spooked by a horse and crashed the car into the drugstore in the Reed Opera House. Sally and the car were uninjured and later she hired drivers to take her around Salem.
  • The wooden piece of furniture in the corner is a radio with an on-off switch, volume knob and station locator. This radio is from the late 1920s and people listened to scripted radio plays in addition to sports and news. The action in the radio play was enhanced by sound effects to encourage the audience’s imagination.

The Gallery of Victoriana contains a variety of art, furnishings and other items which were not in the Bush House when the family lived here.

  • The headless sculpture with wings, on the center table, is a copy of a famous Greek sculpture now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The head and arms on the original sculpture may have been broken off when the sculpture was buried several thousand years ago.
  • The portrait on the south wall of Isabel Miles Turner is a hand-tinted photograph made in 1878. She is wearing a tight corset around her waist which would limit the amount of air to a woman’s brain. When woman would become faint they would lay down on a sleeping couch which is also in the room.
  • The paintings are by Frank Heath who is the son of Frank Heath, Asahel Bush’s business partner in the mid-1860s.

The Bush House Museum is preserved to explore and interpret Salem’s Bush Family and Bush’s Pasture Park, the cultural diversity of Salem history and the development of early Oregon. Bush House Museum is supported in part by a grant of Transient Occupancy Tax funds from the City of Salem.

The Camas Fields on the Ancestral Lands of the Kalapuya in Bush’s Pasture Park