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MailTribune.com
  • 'A sea of human tears'

  • "The terrible accident that deprived my youngest born of life was met on Sunday," said Alexander Berry.
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      The original Berry home, now a private residence, still stands at the southeast corner of East California and North Eighth streets in Jacksonville.
      The Berrys are buried in the family plot in th...
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      If you go
      The original Berry home, now a private residence, still stands at the southeast corner of East California and North Eighth streets in Jacksonville.

      The Berrys are buried in the family plot in the Jacksonville Cemetery, while the Mensors are buried near San Francisco.

      Young Alexander Mensor survived until age 96 and died in 1964.
  • "The terrible accident that deprived my youngest born of life was met on Sunday," said Alexander Berry.
    The following Wednesday, Dec. 7, 1881, after services at the Presbyterian Church, schoolmates of 14-year-old Alexander "Alick" Berry formed two lines and followed behind the wagon that carried the boy's body up the hill to the Jacksonville Cemetery.
    "We laid the lad in his last resting place." Berry said. "To their credit and my warmest gratitude, be it said "¦ the long procession of friends and acquaintances paid their last, though sad respects."
    Early the previous Sunday morning, Alick Berry and his best friend, Alexander Mensor, 13, had grabbed their shotguns and saddled up for a hunting trip along Bear Creek. Reaching the water, they hitched their horses to a limb and began walking. Soon they came to a place where a tree had fallen across the creek.
    Alick wanted to cross over, and although Mensor was opposed to the idea, it didn't take much teasing for him to change his mind.
    Mensor held Alick's shotgun as the boy began to struggle through the branches. He asked Mensor to hand him his gun, and although the muzzle was pointed up at the time, as it reached Alick's hands, the boy slipped. The barrel began to fall, one hammer caught on a branch, and a blast stuck Alick in the chest.
    "I am getting stiff," he said, and then he fell into the creek.
    Mensor plunged in and pulled Alick up on the bank. He rode to a nearby house for help, but when he returned, Alick was dead. Before 10 a.m., Alex Mensor had ridden back to Jacksonville to tell Alick's parents the sad news.
    Both the Mensors and the Berrys were among the earliest residents of Jackson County.
    Alick's father, Alexander Monroe Berry, arrived in Portland in September 1852 and a year later settled in Jackson County. He was a member of the 1856 Oregon Territorial Council and was elected state senator from Jackson County in 1860.
    A native of Prussia, Morris Mensor, Alex Mensor's father, traveled from San Francisco to Jacksonville on horseback with his wife and an infant son in 1855. A successful merchant, he and his wife had 17 children before he died in 1887.
    In recounting the accident, Jacksonville's Oregon Sentinel newspaper not only blamed the "overconfidence of youth in the safety of firearms" and the "reckless carelessness with which boys generally handle them," it wondered when parents would stop allowing their children to use firearms unless they were accompanied by an older, more responsible adult.
    "A bright, little youth," said the Sentinel, "the hope and promise of his parents, was instantly struck by death. We do hope that this sad affair will be a salutary lesson."
    The article closed with words of sympathy and condolences to the parents, "whose sorrow is sacred."
    "The most beautiful pearls of human life," it said, "are most often found in a sea of human tears."
    Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.
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