Designing of the Oregon State Seal

From The Oregon Blue Book 1935-1936
Compiled by Earl Snell, Secretary of State
Salem, Oregon

Copy of this interview with Mr. Packwood was provided from records of the family, through the courtesy of Judge John L. Rand, of the Oregon supreme court.

The story of how the design for the state seal of Oregon was selected, has been recounted in an interview with the late William Packwood of Baker in 1917. Mr. Packwood at that time was the sole surviving member of the constitutional convention held in 1857.

Quoting from the interview, Mr. Packwood related the following:

"As recalled to mind, there were 60 delegates, and the convention was in session as many days. Being young I was appointed only on some of the less important committees-one of which was the seal committee. The other members of the committee were, Chairman L.F. Grover; B.F. Burch, of Polk; J.C. Shields, of Marion; but if there was another member I do not recall his name.

"Chairman Grover drew the seal with a steel pen as we progressed. Having recently come from the east, he represented the commerce end of the committee, and he put in two ships-one coming and the other going-to indicate our domestic and foreign trade. Burch and Shields, representing the farming interests, put in a plow, a rake, a ripened sheaf of grain and a wagon. How the wagon happened to be at the land's end of Cape Blanco was like this: When the first wagon crossed the Cascade mountains the astonished Dr. McLoughlin remarked that anybody who could take a wagon across the Cascade mountains could also drive to the Sandwich islands. Now it happened there were those who wanted to go to the Sandwich islands, and there was a groundless rumor that some one who had taken the doctor seriously undertook the task of driving to the islands, but could get no farther with his wagon than to Cape Blanco, which was believed to be the most westerly point on the Pacific coast. The wagon was accordingly placed at the end of the cape on the seal to indicate that it had gone as far west as possible.

"When the picture of the wagon was drawn I called the attention of the committee to the vacant spot between the wagon and the higher portion of the cape, saying that I wanted to relate an incident that took place there. Then I told how a horse guard, Friedman by name, shot a fine elk that was grazing with the horses at that place. When the elk fell the excited man, dropping his muzzle-loading rifle, ran to cut the throat of his game. But his butcher knife was so dull that it would not saw through the hair and hide. Whereupon a comrade, perceiving the elk move its eyes, discovered it was not dead, but only stunned. So he ran up and grasped the animal by the antlers, and the man knew it would mean death to let go. Soon, however, a lariat was securely fastened about the antlers of the wounded elk; the game was secured, and the man was freed from his dangerous position.

"Although the elk imperiled the life of my friend, I could not help but admire the heroic efforts of the noble animal to secure its liberty. So I said to the committee, 'Inasmuch as there is nothing on the seal to indicate the prevalence of game in this country, I believe that the sturdy elk that battled on that spot so heroically for his life is entitled to that vacant place between the wagon and the hill'. All simultaneously agreed, and Chairman L.F. Grover promptly inscribed the picture of the elk as the finishing touch to the great seal of the state of Oregon.

"Oft have I reviewed in memory the battle that fine elk put up, and as often have I recalled the action of the committee in placing his profile upon the seal."

"A Place Called Oregon"