Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Agnes Ruth Sengstacken, 1859-1948
By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton
Agnes Ruth Lockhart was born in Coos County, Oregon in December 1859 to parents who were pioneer settlers of the Oregon Territory. Her father, Freeman, was a hotelkeeper and later a miner; her mother, Esther Lockhart, was an early teacher in this rural area along Oregon's southwest coast. Agnes married a German immigrant, Henry Sengstacken (sometimes spelled Sangstacken), in 1884. For Henry, this was a second marriage; he had earlier married Agnes's old sister Lillie and the couple had two children before Lillie's death in 1882. Henry and Agnes had two children who died as infants and one additional child, Doris, who survived.
Agnes's life was shaped by her husband's meteoric economic success. He emigrated from Germany to San Francisco at 14 and after 8 years moved to the Coos Bay area in Oregon. He opened a drugstore first, then a general merchandise store in Empire City. Then he opened a branch store in Marshfield, which by 1903 had become the largest store in the city. He sold the store and next opened a drugstore in Marshfield and invested in the steamboat business out of Coos Bay According to one contemporary history, Sengstacken was "one of the largest landed proprietors in Coos County," owning more than 6,000 acres. He built a new home in Marshfield in 1904, described in one source as "a palatial residence." He served briefly as the mayor of Marshfield and later sat on the City Council.
Agnes Sengstacken became a writer and civic activist. In 1906 she was described as one of the major contributors living outside of Portland who worked on the unsuccessful 1906 suffrage campaign. A 1908 suffrage pamphlet lists her as the Coos County vice president of the Oregon Equal Suffrage Association. In 1910 she served as treasurer of the Progress Club in Marshfield, an affiliate of the Oregon Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1916 she was selected as an alternate delegate for the biennial meeting of the General Federation of Women's Clubs that met in San Francisco. Lastly, she was a founder and first president of the board of the Marshfield Public Library, a position she held for more than twenty years.
She was also the author of two books. The first, A Legend of the Coos, was a 37-page epic poem of pioneer days in Coos Bay, published in San Francisco in 1909. Destination, West!, published in 1942, tells the pioneer story of her mother, Esther Lockhart.
Henry Sengstacken died in August 1922 and Agnes continued to live in the family home on N. 3rd St. The 1930 census recorded Agnes, 70, and her 44-year-old step-daughter (and niece) Mabel living together. She remained active with the Marshfield Public Library in these years. Agnes passed away in Los Angeles in November 1948 and was buried in the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK].
Federal Manuscript census, Oregon, 1870-1880, 1900-1930, entries for the Lockhart and Sangstacken families. Accessed through HeritageQuest.com.
Find-a-Grave entry for Henry Sengstacken, November 1922 and Agnes Ruth Lockhart Sengstacken, 1948.
Abigail Scott Duniway, Path Breaking: An Autobiographical History of the Equal Suffrage Movement in Pacific Coast States (1914).
Wayne A. Wiegand, "Oregon's Public Libraries during the First World War," Oregon History Quarterly, 90:1 (Spring 1989), 39-63.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon (1904), p. 209
Centennial History of Oregon, 1811-1912, vol. 4, p. 687
Oregon Daily Journal numerous issues accessed with Newspapers.com: Including 09 Mar 1912, p. 2; 23 Oct. 1912, p. 13; 6 Nov. 1913; 10 May 1913, p. 8; 17 Aug 1914, p. 17; 24 Sept. 1916, p. 25.
The World (Coos Bay, OR): 22 Nov. 1916; 31 Dec. 1929, p. 69; 6 April 1935; 1 June 1936
Agnes Sengstacken to Abigail Scott Duniway, 29 Dec. 1914, Box 1, in Abigail Scott Duniway Papers, inventory accessed online at http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv63619.