James Benson Underwood
James Benson Underwood was born on September 18, 1838 in Canandaigua, Ontario, New York.
He was the son of James Madison Underwood born 1808 in Vermont and his wife Lydia the
daughter of Hiram Collins; she was born in 1808 in New York. The Underwood family can be
traced back to John Underwood, born in 1585 in Dorset, England. His son Joseph born 1614 came
to Hingham, Massachusetts in 1637. Many of our subject’s ancestors arrived in Massachusetts in the
1630’s. Our subjects father James Madison was the first of the family to be born outside of
Massachusetts since the arrival of the families that make up his ancestral tree. Our subject’s great-
grandfather David Underwood, born in 1742, served as a Private in the Massachusetts Militia during
the Revolutionary War. His son David moved his family to Vermont before settling in Middlesex,
Yates, New York. Our subject’s father James Madison Underwood went with his father to New
York and after his marriage to Lydia Collins in 1829 they settled in Ontario County, New York,
where their children were born. The eldest son was David Collins Underwood, born December 26,
1829. He was named for his father’s father and his mother’s surname. The 2nd son of the family was
Hiram Collins Underwood, named for his maternal grandfather of the same name. The 3rd son born
to the family was our subject James Benson Underwood. Another son Adam died young and a
daughter Annar died when she was about 17. At the time of the 1850 census the family was found in
Middlesex, Yates, New York. James M. was a Farmer with $5,500 in Real Estate. The household
contained his wife, her mother Ann Collins, sons Hiram and James B, daughter Annar and 12 year
old Ede Waters. Missing was David Collins Underwood. David had heard the call of the Gold Rush
and had boarded a ship and sailed to California in 1849. In 1852 the father James M. Underwood
died in New York.
D.C. Underwood Dead
“David C. Underwood, died at his residence in this city, August 14, 1882, of dropsy. He was born in
Ontario county, state of New York, on the 26th day of December 1829, where he resided with his
parents in New York until the great gold mining excitement in California, in 1849, when he came to
California by way of the Horn. He remained but a very short time in the Golden State, and in 1850,
sometime in December, arrived in Oregon, at the mouth of the Umpqua River. Sometime in 1851
he Made his way up the Umpqua river, and settled on a farm a few miles southwest of Oakland,
Oregon. He was elected probate judge of Umpqua County in 1854, and filled the office faithfully.
During the rebellion Mr. Underwood enlisted in the army where he held the rank of first lieutenant.
He was in the service some four years, and after being honorably discharged he sold his farm in
Umpqua and removed his family to Cottage Grove in this county, where he formed a partnership
with Mr. E.W. Whipple and engaged in the mercantile business, and succeeded well. Some three or
four years ago Mr. Underwood sold out his business at Cottage Grove and removed to Eugene City,
and engaged in business with his brother, the late J.B. Underwood. Mr. David C. Underwood was a
man of sterling worth, an excellent citizen, a kind and generous neighbor, and an affectionate father
and husband. He leaves a large family to mourn his untimely loss, and a wide circle of friends, here
and in the Umpqua. His generous hospitality and genial disposition made his house a resort, far and
near, by neighbors, friends and strangers who lived in the Umpqua.
He belong to the order of Masons and A.O.U.W.1; the orders joined in paying the last sad tribute to
his memory, the Masonic order occupying the first place for the reason that he was a member of
long standing in that order. Thus another chapter of human life is ended, and a worthy citizen gone
to his long home.”2
In 1859 James Benson Underwood, than 20 years old, boarded a ship sailing out of Angelica, New
York around the Horn to California and on up to Oregon. He went to Douglas County where he
joined his brother David. Prior to the June Communication of the Grand Lodge in 1859, D.C.
Underwood had taken the first two degrees of Masonry. He was a Fellow Craft Mason in
Winchester Lodge #16 in Winchester, Oregon. There were 19 members of the Lodge, which meet
on the Friday before the full moon each month. David completed his degrees and was Raised a
Master Mason and by December. Whether by a show of competency or a dire necessity he had
gained enough confidence from his Brothers to forego being a Warden first and was elected
Worshipful Master for the year 1860. He was elected again for 1861. On September 19, 1861 the
Lodge changed its name to Oakland Lodge #16. Then in the Spring of 1862 the Master of Oakland
Lodge #16 wrote the Grand Master, Dr. James R. Bailey, “stating that by a vote of said Lodge, they
desired the privilege of surrendering their Charter, as they were all either going into the army or to
the northern mines.” The request was granted and the Lodge ceased activity. As noted David
enlisted and served as a Lieutenant for the next four years. David Underwood appears again on June
21, 1871 as the Charter Senior Warden of Cottage Grove Lodge #51.
1 Ancient Order of United Workmen
2 Eugene City newspaper August 1882.
J.B. Underwood applied in 1860 for the degrees of Masonry in Winchester Lodge #16, the Lodge
where his brother was Master. He is listed in the 1861 Annual Communication as being a FC in that
Lodge. However, having relocated to Eugene a request was made on his behalf for a dispensation
from Winchester Lodge, allowing Eugene City Lodge #11to confer the Master Mason degree upon
him; this was granted. Brother Underwood was Raised a Master Mason on June 24, 1861 in Eugene
City Lodge #11. In November of that same year he was elected Secretary of Eugene City Lodge #11
for 1862. He continued in that position in 1863. He did not serve as an officer for the next couple
years before returning in 1867 when he was elected Master of the Lodge. He was elected Secretary
again for 1881 and died in 1882.
Resolved: That Eugene City Lodge No. 11 A.F.&A.M. do hereby request Winchester Lodge No. ___
A.F.&A.M. to grant this Lodge a dispensation to confer the third degree on Bro. J.B. Underwood now a
fellow craft belonging to said Winchester Lodge, by request of Bro. Underwood.
John C. Ainsworth’s Scottish Rite Records May 1870, page 1
James Benson Underwood received the degrees Dec. 18, 1871, page 13
J. B. was an attorney living in Eugene City when he received the Scottish Rite degrees 4°- 32°
inclusive on December 18, 1871 from Ill. Brother John C. Ainsworth 33°. He was the 31st member
to receive the degrees in Oregon and the first Mason from Eugene to join the Scottish Rite. He
affiliated with the Portland Bodies on July 2, 1872. He was later granted a demit on May 15, 1877.
Hon. J.B. Underwood Dead
“Mr. J. Benson Underwood, of this city, died at his residence, on Thursday evening, August 3, 1882,
at 6:30 PM, of dropsy, after an illness of several months, but only six weeks confinement to his bed.
Mr. Underwood was born in Canandaigua Co. New York, September 18, 1838, his age at the time of
his death being 43 years, 10 months and 15 days. He came to Oregon in 1859, and settled with his
mother’s family in Douglas County. Desiring to study law he came to Eugene City in 1861, and he
and the late J. M. Thompson both engaged at the same time reading law with the late Hon. Stokely
Ellsworth. In 1863, Mr. Underwood was admitted to practice law, at once formed a partnership with
Mr. Ellsworth, which continued until 1865. In 1866, he formed a partnership with Hon. G. B.
Dorris, which continued until 1868. Mr. Underwood held many important positions of trust during
his lifetime, and was never satisfied at being idle. He was elected school superintendent of Lane
County in 1863, was elected to the legislature in 1865, was a partner in the Springfield Milling Co.
for many years and also engaged in merchandising with the late Judge Stratton at one time, and Mr.
S. H. Friendly at another time. He then became a partner in the Eugene Milling Co. and also
engaged in merchandising with Messrs J.G. Gray and T.W. Osborn. Upon the election of Grant to
the Presidency the first term he was appointed Postal Agent for the Oregon Division, which
position he held for two years. He was twice elected President of the Common Council of Eugene,
and several times a member of the Council. He was one of our most enterprising, public spirited and
liberal hearted citizens, and took a lively interest in every proposition to advance the welfare of the
city, which fact will make his death a great loss. He leaves a wife, three daughters and one son to
mourn his death. The deceased was a Mason of 20 years standing, and was buried by that order at 3
PM yesterday, the busines