The Delaney House: A Settlement-Era Sensation

Charles A. Dana’s engraving of the Independence,
Missouri courthouse and square in 1855. (Image courtesy
of the National Archives)

Daniel Delaney was born in 1795. A prosperous farmer and slaveholder in Eastern Tennessee, Delaney sold his plantation and traveled to Independence, Missouri. There, in the spring of 1843, he joined a group called The Oregon Emigrating Company. Accompanied by his wife, most of his children, and a slave named Rachel, Delaney crossed the continent and settled in the Willamette Valley at the end of 1843 on a donation land claim.

After a little over a year on the claim, the family moved into the oldest portion of the house in 1845. The original two-story structure consisted of a front room with a fireplace and a small back room that was used for sleeping. The upstairs served as storage for goods. During the 1870s, the house was enlarged with the addition of a gabled parlor and kitchen wing. The wrap-around porch, which now defines the architecture of the house, was completed in the 1890s and the woodshed addition was likely built in the early 1900s.

Conceptual drawing by Gregg Olson of the
north elevation of the house before the
addition of the parlor wing in the 1870s.

Daniel Delaney lived on the property until his well-publicized murder at the house in 1865. He was known for having a substantial fortune from the sale of his Tennessee plantation. On the night of January 9th, two men shot Delaney and stole an undetermined amount of money. They were later prosecuted and hanged in Salem – the first executions in the state.

Delaney House at its original location sometime in the 20th century.
(Image courtesy of Willamette Heritage)

Ownership of the house passed through at least one other family prior to its acquisition by Thomas Edwards in 1898. The Edwards family owned the house for over a century.

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