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The name drawn from a hat

How did Estacada get its name?

Hmmm. It’s a head scratcher.

“Nothing creates a more lively discussion than how Estacada was named,” said historian Kathryn Hurd.

Hurd said that of all the accounts she’s come across, only one thing was agreed upon: The name was drawn from a hat.

A century ago, a township was for sale.

But, the founders agreed, the land needed a name.

According to documents found by Hurd, on Dec. 21, 1903, G.W. Morrow, president of the Oregon Water Power Townsite Company; W.H. Hurlburt, president of the Oregon Water & Power Railroad; W.P. Keady or Kady or Cada (documents vary as to the spelling of his name), the agent hired to sell the land; and George W. Kelly, his assistant, each wrote a name on a slip of paper and put it into a hat.

The name drawn from the hat would be the name of the township.

Here’s where accounts vary.

Hurd has found several old, handwritten documents claiming to be the true version of the story.

“Accounts of the name’s origin (I have copies of eight) were written anywhere from six to 50 years after the event,” Hurd wrote in an email.

Of course, they all contradict each other.

Some say the name drawn was “Estacado.”

One story goes that Hurlburt, or perhaps it was Kelly, saw the name “Estacado” on a map of the United States and liked the sound of it.

In the context of “Llano Estacado” of western Texas and eastern New Mexico, the term means “staked plain” in Spanish.

Hurd added that another Spanish connotation to the name is “a place to fight in.”

Another story goes that the sign maker somehow misinterpreted “Estacado” and wrote “Estacada” instead.

Perhaps Estacada got its name with an early 20th century version of a typo.

The Chamber of Commerce Directory also tells this version of events.

“Estacado” was drawn from the hat, and somewhere in the drafting process, the “o” got changed to an “a.”

Joanne Broadhurst of the Jacknife-Zion-Horseheaven Historical Society said that she’d heard several versions of how Estacada was named as well.

“The one I heard more often is from early Estacada residents, particularly a man named Ralph Wade whose family was here before Estacada was platted,” Broadhurst wrote in an email: “His story from his father was that the superintendent of construction was named Kady or Kaddy. He had a daughter Esther and the name was drawn from a hat.”

Hurd has come across a similar account where the names “Esther Williams” and “W.P. Keady” were combined to form “Estacada.”

“So who knows how it was named?” Hurd said.

What’s your story?

Do you have a family legend for how Estacada got its name? We want to hear it! Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or drop us a note at the office.



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