Old Lake County Courthouse

While in Lakeview last month I went to the Lake County Courthouse to look through the county records from the early 1900s when Bernard Daly was county judge. There’s a lot to look at. It was time when counties had considerable power, Oregon’s state government was still relatively new and weak, roads and communication were poor, and Lake County was far from Salem.

In those days, the county judge, Bernard Daly, acted like a governor and the commissioners like a legislature for a county that was larger than several states. Among other things, the judge and commissioners established tax rates; built and maintained roads and bridges, appointed county officials, managed elections, and even granted U.S. citizenship.

Prior to the passage of the Naturalization Act of 1906, there was no standardized national process for granting citizenship. Local courts, primarily county courts, issued their own naturalization certificates of all sorts, shapes, and colors depending on the preferences of local county clerks and courts. While looking through the county records I saw several entries describing the granting of citizenship by the county court.

And, when I went back to Junipers RV Resort, where I was staying, I saw an actual naturalization certificate signed by Bernard Daly. John Shine told me that he framed his great-uncle’s (Walter Verling) certificate and hung it in the community room just next to where I pitched my tent. I took a photo of the certificate and then, when I got back to Corvallis, I took a closer look and realized that it was dated September 26, 1906, the day before the Naturalization Act of 1906 went into effect. In addition to standardizing the process and adding other requirements, the new law transferred naturalization proceedings to federal courts. It’s likely that Walter Verling was one of the last to be granted citizenship by Lake County.

When Bernard Daly first came to the U.S. in 1863, there were few legal limits to migration (passports and visas were not yet required), the greatest barriers were inertia and money. People generally don’t want to move away from family and friends, and it takes money to relocate. Those who emigrate, like Daly and his family, do so for a strong reason, often when their life, livelihood, or liberty is threatened. And, so it was that Daly came to the U.S., became a citizen, and then a judge who granted citizenship to others.

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