John Dement's Jeans

John Daniel Dement (1825-1891) was a lucky and honorable man.

John Daniel Dement five-button Work Pants (Holabird Western Americana Collections)

These pants likely belonged to John Dement, an Oregon merchant and veteran of the Mexican-American War. He was one of the survivors from the S.S. Central America, a 280-foot vessel that sank during a hurricane on its way from Panama to New York City. Several hundred passengers died in the wreck. [Read Dement's story below how the loss of the gold, lives, and ship likely triggered the depression of 1857. -jm]

The pants were in Dement's trunk along with an overcoat and other clothing. The pants sold at auction recently, Feb 4, 2022, for big bucks — $114,000! A second auction of items from the ship is scheduled for February 25, 2023.] Visit [] for more information.

John Daniel Dement (J.D.D.) is buried in River View Cemetery!

John Dement's Story

He was a veteran of the Mexican-American War, and the last of only 59 survivors rescued from the sinking of the SS Central America, the Ship of Gold, which sank about 160 miles offshore of Charleston, South Carolina. Dement lost all he had, except his life, in that sinking.. The sinking of the SS Central America has been described as “the greatest economic catastrophe in U.S. maritime history, contributing to the Panic of 1857 and leading to a severe recession.” Tons of gold from the San Francisco mint and other gold coins, ingots, gold dust, and bullion from the California Gold Rush and 425 passengers and crew, including the ship’s captain went 8,000 feet down with the ship.

Years before the sinking episode, Dement joined the mounted rifles, U.S.A at the outbreak of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), was awarded “for gallantry at Monterey, and for bravery on the field of battle”. In 1850, he was “sent by the government to rescue white prisoners in the custody of Indians on Queen Charlotte's islands, Alaska, in which mission he proved successful”. In 1853, he resigned his commission, and engaged in steamship and railway business with his brother in Oregon City. The sinking was Saturday Sept 12, 1857.

See a longer account - an article on John Dement (after his death) The Late John D. Dement – Brief Sketch of His Career in the Mexican-War—Shipwrecked—On a Government Mission, Oregonian, 25 Jan 1891, p16. [LINK]

See 'Questions for Our Readers' below concern his later life and death.


DEATH OF A PIONEER - Col. John Dement Passes Away In Portland

PORTLAND, Jan. 23, (1891). — At noon today John D. Dement, father of Ralph M. Dement, ex-police judge, died in this city. He bad been in failing health for some time past.

Mr. Dement was born and raised in Washington City, and was about 66 years of age at his death. In 1846 he joined the army as a private soldier, and was in Scott's advance upon Mexico, participating in most of the battles.

When volunteers were called for to lead the assault upon the castle of Chepultepee, young Dement was the first to step from the ranks to form the "forlorn hope". This act attracted the attention of his superiors, and afterward led to his promotion. Some years after the war closed he came to Oregon and settled in Oregon City, where he engaged in business with his brother, the late M. C. Dement, for several years. The Subject of this notice was one of the passengers on the ill-fated Central America, when she foundered in the Atlantic in September, 1857, and supported himself upon a shutter in the raging sea until he was picked up by a passing vessel a day or two after the wreck, being one of the few that were saved out of four hundred souls on board.

A Service was held 01/25/1891.

Location of the Monument

Nice medium sized obelisk, easy to spot in the opening next to the lane.

John Daniel Dement Monument

We may give clues how to locate the grave in River View Cemetery. Stay tuned! (Till then, we will accept $$ for a guided tour. LOL)

John Daniel Dement Grave Location

John Daniel Dement's grave is marked simply with J.D.D. Dement's son, RALPH, (July 27, 1856 - Nov 21, 1916) is buried a few feet away.

Editor's Note

This story was called to our attention by the September 2022 Smithsonian Magazine article. Search of RVC Burial Records confirmed a match, had the Dement obituary, even showed the grave location! Find a Grave provided more details.

Writer: M Read; Editor: J Miller; Monumental photo: J Miller.


Questions for Our Readers

Comments submitted on this article

Comments will appear here — To be curated from Nextdoor, then posted a week or so after article is published. (At this time, we don't support commenting directly on the blog.)

Good Comment left by Tom DeNardo on 20 Feb 2022, on the Find-a-Grave Memorial: Survived the sinking of the SS Central America which sank Saturday Sept 12, 1857 off the coast of Cape Hatteras. This steamer was known as The Ship of Gold.

How this was posted on Nextdoor

ND: John Daniel Dement’s $114,000 pants were pulled from an 1857 shipwreck. Dement, veteran of the Mexican-American War, and survivor of that 1857 “Ship of Gold” wreck, is buried in River View Cemetery. Check out [CVBlog link] for details on his amazing life and slice of history.