Ask any Boy Scout whos earned Eagle Scout status and hell almost certainly tell you that the Eagle Scout project is the most difficult obstacle in the way of obtaining the highly-coveted distinction. It requires an idea that will benefit society, hours upon hours of hard work and a great deal of ambition. Those criteria have proven especially true for Wilsonvilles own Jake Whitehurst.
The 17-year-old junior and member of Wilsonville Boy Scout Troop 194 began his Eagle Scout project more than a year ago when he was tipped off about an intriguing idea. It centered on Ewing Young a name that many might not recognize, but one that played a great factor in Oregon becoming the state it is today. The idea was to create a type of memorial structure, shedding light on some history that is largely overlooked.
Ewing Young was the first American settler in the West, Whitehurst says. John McLoughlin gets all the credit, because he was here first, but people forget he was British. Ewing Young isnt credited for being the founder of Oregon, so it was great to do a project that means something.
After a lengthy back and forth with the organization Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) lasting roughly six months, Whitehurst was finally put in touch with the owner of the farm located in Newberg just north of Highway 240 where Youngs grave is located. Directly on top of Youngs grave sits a massive oak tree, said to be the result of an acorn placed by a friend after Youngs death in 1841.
He was referred to the owners brother, Doug Root, who filled Whitehurst in on the rich history surrounding Young and what Root had in mind for the project. After meeting multiple times with Root, the Yamhill County Historical Society and Oregon Historical Society, Whitehurst soon learned that not only was Ewing Young the first American settler in Oregon, but he started the states first American business there, too the American Cattle Company.
Whitehurst quickly set out to create something to commemorate the man and place that held so much historical significance. He realized there wasnt a plaque or landmark signaling the importance of the site, and decided to create a plaque with Ewings history so that those passing by would stop and appreciate the giant oak and the man that lies beneath.
They already had a plan for what the top of the structure would look like, which would have Ewings signature engraved. But they wanted something for the structure below, Whitehurst says. I wrote something up, Doug (Root) took it home and edited it, and then I came up with a plan for the structure after looking at information boards around Oregon, and modeled mine after that.
The catch was that having a plaque and information board constructed was expensive, meaning Whitehurst would need to raise about $1,200 to have one made. He quickly got to work, raising the needed funds in about a months time, as well as an additional $500 or so for a temporary plaque while the permanent structure was made.
Whitehurst, with the help of fellow scouts and his father, Norm Whitehurst, began building the structure for the board and plaque in his garage. Using donated lumber and hardware, the team constructed a signage kiosk after hours of hard work, before tearing it all down so that it could be rebuilt on the actual site.
We were worried people would try and rip the board off, so just figuring out which materials we should use and how to build it best was hard, Whitehurst says. We did a dry run in our garage and then took it apart to rebuild it once we got back out there, cementing it into the ground. We were probably out there five
hours getting everything perfect.
Now complete, the structure sits a few hundred feet from the tree that marks Youngs grave. Whitehurst and the Root family held an unveiling Sunday, Jan. 10, marking the culmination of months and months of hard work. Because the tree and grave are on private property, the structure is actually a few hundred feet away just off the nearest road Highway 240 but the distance allows for people to get a better appreciation for just how stunning the spot really is, Whitehurst says.
The tree is just beautiful. The structure is actually on a road in front of the tree. Theres a field where horses are and theres a gap between two trees where the structure actually is. But from there the tree just looks incredible. Obviously its like 200 years old, and just a cool part of history.
While Whitehurst is happy the finished product means the hardest part of his Eagle Scout requirements is out of the way, he says what the project means to Oregons history is whats most rewarding.
It was an awesome project and experience, Whitehurst says. Im glad its over, but its something Im proud of.
Jake Bartman contributed to this story.