With the passage of Oregon Senate Bill 809 on Tuesday, May 10 (now awaiting Governor Kitzhaber's signature) every February 24th starting in 2012, will become "Edward Dickinson Baker Day" in Oregon. After a delay of seven score and 10 years, an honor is finally being conferred upon Oregon's second U.S. Senator, who gave his life in defense of the Union leading his troops in the October 21 Battle of Ball's Bluff in Virginia, 150 years ago during the Civil War.
As the official national commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War is in its second month, the state of Oregon already has several Civil War observances under its belt, including the lecture "Dixie of the Pacific Northwest: Southern Oregon's Civil War," given by historian Jeff LaLande on April 8 in Ashland, a special noontime memorial and wreath-laying ceremony at the Ft. Sumter War and Peace Memorial held on April 12, 2011 in Portland's Lownsdale Square; lectures in Portland, and now with the passage last week of SB 809 after a third reading during the House session held May 10 in Salem.
SB 809 honors the memory of Edward Dickinson Baker, statesman, soldier, attorney and avid supporter of Oregon's statehood, who became Oregon's second Senator in 1860. The bill was championed by the Sons of Union Veterans, Baker Camp 6, and member Greg Leo, and was backed by the testimonies of Camp Commander Mark Stevens, Lincoln presenter Steve Holgate, Mike Burton, K.C. Piccard from N.W. Historical Perspectives, Steve Betschart (SUV reserves), and Janice Williamson of the Oregon Federation of Republican Woman. State Senator Ted Ferrioli, (R-John Day) introduced the bill. He and State Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) head the list of the bill's sponsors.
Oregon Lincoln Bicentennial Commissioner (OLBC) Mike Burton told the committee that Oregon has 36 counties that directly link to the Civil War and to Lincoln. "But none have a more personal link that Baker County," he said. "As SB 809 points out, Edward Baker introduced Lincoln at his first Presidential inauguration, and Lincoln named one of his sons after Baker. The OLBC held several Town Halls in Oregon...but the Town Hall in Baker City turned out over 200 residents, more than any other town hall we held," Burton concluded. Janice Williamson recounted the life and achievements of Senator Baker: "Ever championing the cause of freedom, the "Union" and the abolition of slavery, Baker was involved as a volunteer leader in three wars (Black Hawk, Mexican and American Civil War) through his career...as a builder of the baby state, he was elected one of its first two US Senators."
Steve Betschart from the Sons of Union Veterans spoke about a recent trip he had made to Gettysburg Battlefield, and of the continuing need to remind Americans about why the Civil War took place and of the sacrifices made by the soldiers and their families. In her testimony, OLBC Commissioner and Friends of History president KC Piccard quoted from several eulogies given after Baker's death concluding: "Oregon can now rightfully take its place in the National Civil War Sesquecentennial Observances, not only because of Senator Baker's contributions and presence in Oregon, but also because almost 20,000 Civil War Veterans chose to make Oregon their last residence. Their weathered headstones can be found in public and private cemeteries across the state, and they need to be remembered"
The Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial News Network reports the news of Oregon based programs and special events commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War to remind Oregonians and the nation as to our stake and contributions to the preservation of the Union. http://orecivilwar150thnewsnetwork.weebly.com