Frederic Homer Balch - Oregon Author

Frederic Homer Balch (December 14, 1861-June 3, 1891) was born in Lebanon, Oregon to James A. and Harriet (Helm) Balch. When he was a child Frederic took a great deal of interest in stories of war and as he aged he gained interest in ancient history. At the age of thirteen he wrote poetry and historical sketches. His early writings show a great deal of interest in his home state, of Oregon, and the native tribes that lived there. Frederic carefully studied the native Americans who lived along the Columbia River and wrote works of fiction that incorporated elements of their religion and culture.

Living in Oregon, in the early frontier days of the territory, Frederic had limited opportunities for formal education. Instead of school Frederic had books and he read these books as thoroughly and often as he could. At an early age he aspired to be an author and wrote constantly in the hopes of accomplishing this goal. At eighteen he had worked to write his first historical romance and spent several years researching and writing. At twenty one, upon conversion to Christianity, he felt the book contained to much anti-Christian sentiment and chose to burn it. His sister, Gertrude, would later recount that as "a mere child at the time, (she) sobbed and cried as the flames curled around the leaves and reduced them to ashes".

At twenty one Frederic had attended a tent meeting and converted to Christianity. As a result of his conversion he decided to leave the "love of his life", Ginevra Whitcomb, and enter the ministry. While in the ministry he helped to found churches in the Oregon territory. He spent much of his time riding horseback from one settlement to another preaching sermons in the evenings. Some of the settlements, he preached in, were so remote they had little or no experience with the sermons and teachings of Christianity.

In his spare time Frederic devoted time to studying native tribes in preparation for a book. After a lot of study of various tribes he became convinced of the actual existence of a "Bridge of the Gods" that came up in various tribal legends. This "Bridge", that was a part of many tribal traditions, was supposed to be a natural bridge, composed of granite, that spanned the Columbia River at one time. While Frederic was a minister at the Congregational Church of Hood River, Oregon he would write a book inspired by the legend and call it "The Bridge of the Gods".

After writing his book, Bridge of the Gods, Frederic went to Oakland, California where he pursued further theological study. It was during this seminary study that Frederic contracted an illness that would cause his death. Frederic would die, just a few months before his thirtieth birthday, in Portland, Oregon, on June 3, 1891. After his death at least one more book of his would be published (called Genevieve: A Tale of Old Oregon). This book is said to have a certain amount of autobiographical details and was possibly inspired, in part, by his former love Ginevra.

Excerpt from Genevieve: A Tale of Old Oregon

Excerpt from Genevieve: A Tale of Old Oregon

Genealogy of Frederic

Line Descended From: John Balch of Maryland

Father: James Anderson Balch
Mother: Harriett Maria Helm

Wife1: Never Married
Marriage: Never Married


1. No Children

Primary Sources/Links:

Oregon - By: John B. Horner

Frederic Homer Balch - By: Gertrude Balch Ingalls (in The Pacific Monthly)

Frederic Homer Balch - Family Background

The Balch Family of Maryland - Gene Edward Balch

Old Oregon: The Art of Historic Photos (Image Source)

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