Connecting the historical dots
"My first remembrance of the Durham family's connection to Oregon history happened when I saw an article in The Oregonian about my great grandfather (Albert Alonzo Durham) filing the first town plat and founding the city of Oswego in 1851. Dad, Walter Durham Sr., says he never told me because I never asked."
That comment, made by Walter Albert Durham Jr. to Theresa Truchot for her book "In Their Own Words," was the inspiration for my new column, The History Connection.
In the coming months, I hope to share historical — and maybe even hysterical — stories about people, places, things and events related to the Lake Oswego area that I hope will inspire you to "make a connection" with each other, with your ancestors, with the community, with the past.
Just the way Walter Durham did.
I only started connecting historical dots about 10 years ago, when I discovered that Theresa Truchot, author of "Charcoal Wagon Boy" and "In Their Own Words," was the grandmother of one of my high school classmates. Truchot's daughter, Hortense Sylvester — affectionately called Tonsy — was one of the first people I met when I joined the Jottings From 5th and G writing group in 2012. Tonsy and I connected because we both enjoyed writing and loved Oswego history.
My love of history had started when my brother told me he purchased Dr. William Cane's refrigerator at his estate sale in the late 70s. (Dr. Cane owned the home where the Oswego Heritage House and Museum is now located.)
Tonsy inspired me to read a manuscript about the early history of Oswego written by Lucia Bliss in 1944, called "The Foundation." One of the things that intrigued me about Bliss' manuscript was a list of "firsts" she included. Not only was I intrigued, but I was also curious: Were there more Oswego firsts than just those she listed?
Motivated to research further, I discovered many Oswego firsts, some of which I will share here, along with items from Lucia's list. The rest I will post on my Facebook page.
Bliss was Oswego's first paid librarian, and I have reason to believe that her manuscript was one of the first written documents about early Oswego history. The manuscript is available in the library. Here's her list:
— First settlers here were Albert Alonzo Durham, Nancy and Jesse Bullock, Waters and Lucretia Carman, F. A. Collard, Josiah and Sarah Franklin, S. H. Tryon, J. Franklin, Marshall Perrin and Gabriel Walling, They came from New York, Ohio and Iowa.
— Oswego's first building, constructed in 1865, was a house located on the northwest corner of Durham and Ladd streets in Old Town.
— The Methodist Church, organized in 1854, is Lake Oswego's oldest church. Services were first held under a tree and then moved to the Grange Hall in Old Town. The Grange Hall also housed Oswego's first public school, built in 1850. Adam R. Shipley of the Shipley-Cook Farmstead on Stafford Road led the first Sunday school. (Dot connection: Rick Cook, great grandson of A. J. Cook, currently lives on the farmstead.)
— Oswego's original City Hall building on A Avenue and State Street was the first municipal building constructed, in 1926.
— Oswego's first newspaper was printed in 1894 and called the Oswego Iron Worker.
This is where Lucia's list ends and my discovery of firsts begins:
— First post office: Established in December 1853, it was one of only seven in Clackamas County established before 1855.
— First postmaster: Wesley Hull. He would advertise that mail was available for pickup in the Oregon Spectator newspaper.
— First mayor: Jerome Thomas, elected in 1910. He is buried in Oregon Pioneer Cemetery.
— First marshal: Charles N. Haines, in about 1910. He was petitioned by a group of women to deal with the stench of pigs coming from Mrs. Johnson's pig pen.
— First business: Durham's sawmill on Sucker Lake, near the dam. The first business district was along Ladd Street in Old Town, near Durham's mill.
— The first iron made from Oswego ore was pounded by Aaron K. Olds and H.S. Jacobs. It came from a tiny iron works about four miles south of Oregon City on the Tualatin River.
— Oregon Iron Company's first iron casting was on Aug. 24, 1867. It was the first iron produced west of the Rockies.
— Oswego first generated electricity in 1910 when Oregon Iron and Steel built a power plant for that purpose below the dam on Oswego Creek. That power plant still generates electricity today.
— The first diamond saw was designed by Oswego resident Gordon Clinefelter. He also manufactured the first diamond saws in the United States. Diamond saws were used for cutting quartz crystals into slabs for radios and radar.
— The first pipe foundry west of St. Louis was built by Oregon Iron and Steel in what is now the Foothills area. Oswego Pipe Foundry first manufactured 45-inch cast iron pipe to carry water that had been previously transported through hollow logs. (Dot connection: The Bull Run Watershed's cast-iron pipe was made by the Oswego Pipe Foundry.)
Watch for The History Connection on the third Thursday of every month in The Review. Sources for this article include "The Foundation," by Lucia Bliss; "In Their Own Words," by Theresa Truchot; "Lake Oswego Vignettes," by Marylou Colver; "Iron, Wood & Water," by Ann Fulton; and "Oregon's Iron Dream," by Mary Goodall.