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J.B. Pilkington's legacy lives on

From Our Vault


Ever wonder who or what Pilkington Road was named after?

Pilkington Road was named after the J.B. Pilkington Nursery. Originally, the nursery began as a fruit tree farm owned by John B. Pilkington’s father, a practicing eye and ear doctor. In 1887, at the age of 16, young Pilkington took over the farm and established an official nursery business.

Fruit trees were in great demand and the nursery expanded rapidly. Then the money panic hit in 1893 and Pilkington was forced to close. He reopened in either 1896 or 1899 (there is some confusion about the date) on Columbia Boulevard in North Portland with a heavy emphasis on ornamental plants. When the nursery outgrew its Columbia Boulevard location, Pilkington moved south, purchasing two parcels of land totaling 400 acres — one parcel located where Bridgeport Village now stands and the other between Pilkington and Childs roads.

In 1926, Pilkington opened a branch nursery in Millbrae, Calif. His son, Clarke, took over the Durham operation.

John B. Pilkington died in 1939. After his death, much of the nursery land was sold off, but Clarke Pilkington and his wife, Esther, kept the greenhouses. They continued in the nursery business until 1955.

Clarke Pilkington died in 1969 at the age of 73. Esther Pilkington moved from the house at 1615 S.W. Upper Boones Ferry Road to Raleigh Hills to be near her daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Esther passed away in 1989 at age 96.

According to Esther Pilkington, Pilkington Nursery supplied most of the plants around Our Lady of the Lake Catholic church in Lake Oswego; her husband and George Rogers did most of the planting. Esther also remembered Mary S. Young — for whom the park is named — being a frequent purchaser of Pilkington plants.

“She’d come roaring down the drive in that old pickup,” Esther recalled. “Then she and Clarke would tromp around the nursery together selecting plants. They’d load them up and she’d roar off in a cloud of dust so she could get home to quickly get her goodies in the ground.”

“From Our Vault” is written by Nancy Dunis for the Oswego Heritage Council; look for it in the Review on the third Thursday of every month. Have something you’d like to add to the vault? Leave a message for Dunis at 503-635-6373 or email her at r2d2n3@yahoo.com.

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