The era during which large groups of U.S. citizens began to migrate to the Sherwood area was one of the most exciting decades in the history of Western civilization. The decade begins with the California Gold Rush of 1849 and ends with the American Civil War. From 1843 onward, the Oregon Trail had been drawing people from Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon, a few miles East of here. The earliest settlers were mostly from the South, and evidence of their migration remains visible in the Sherwood area today. In Tualatin the Sweek Mansion looks like something from the movie set of Gone with the Wind. The Sweek Estate abuts a road that leads to a ferry crossing in Wilsonville named after Jesse Boone, a descendent of the great Daniel Boone himself. In Wilsonville a Great Great Great Great Grand Daughter of Daniel Boone routinely hosts national reunions of the Boone family. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of Sherwood, the town of Scholls was established by Peter Boone Scholl, the son of a nephew of Daniel Boone (The family name "Scholl" is very easy to find in any Boone biography). Other artifacts of the South remain. It is very possible that the name "Washington" was attached to our county because of the influence of a famous frontiersman from Washington County, Virginia: Joseph Meek. Visitors say that the seat of Washington County, Hillsboro, still possesses some of the ambiance of a southern courthouse town.
Daniel Boone's buckskin costume (he never wore a coonskin cap) was seen in the border lands of Britain long before it became a symbol of the American frontier. A medieval Robin Hood would have been similarly attired.
The Southern bias was supported by a piece of Federal legislation called the Donation Land Claim Act. The philosophy behind the DLC Act was expressed earlier in the nation's history by another great southerner, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's admiration for the vigorous, independent, and virtuous "cultivator of the earth" was exceeded only by his contempt for towns as "...scars on the body politic." To James Madison he explained, "When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we will become corrupt as in Europe, and go to eating one another, as they do there." (1787) This bias against town building was a dominant theme in antebellum Washington County
|Saint Paul Lutheran Church, established 1878, is not in Old Sherwood Town. But the campus remains Sherwood's most important artifact of the Jefferson Vision. "The Grove" is the setting for the church's annual "Mission Festival" or Missionsfest. Church historians will argue that the so-called Jefferson Vision was part of a vision that was filling people's minds long before Thomas Jefferson was born.|
Jefferson, the President who sent Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition, had a very clear vision for the region west of the Mississippi River. He agreed completely with Thomas Paine that the goals of the American Revolution would be pursued more effectively on the frontier, because these settlers would have gone "...back to Nature for information." By confronting the untamed wilderness "...man becomes what he ought...."
For Northerners who began arriving in Washington County Oregon in large numbers during the 1850s, the bias of the DLC Act was irksome. It was difficult to plat a town in Washington County because the Act provided no incentives to do so. One pioneer described the law as ideal for the settler who wished to spend the rest of his days at the base of some forest and raise and harvest a crop of grain and vegetables in the summer and hunt coons and chase the wild deer in winter [Bourke & DeBats, Page 154]. One paragraph in the Act evoked the Robin and Marian theme more than any other: A man's wife was granted a portion of land equal to that of her spouse's. In true pre-Christian tradition, she would serve as a replica of the Goddess Diana. In every remote cabin throughout the rugged Pacific North West, she would reign as the hearth-goddess patiently raising the children and tending the fire while her godlike man roams the forest, warding off enemies and searching for game.
The Jeffersonians were hard at work setting up their plan of eternal salvation in the Oregon Country, when the dream was interrupted by the vision of yet another great President: President Abraham Lincoln.
A Steam Train Wends Its Way from Newberg to Sherwood, Circa 1889. The engineering difficulties between Dundee and Portland were enormous. What Washington County settlers called "Chehalem Gap" was renamed "Rex Hill" by the builders: "Rex" because all the train wrecks that happened there! PHOTO COURTESY CRYSTAL RILEE FOUNDATION.
Contrary to popular legend, President Lincoln was no hayseed attorney from the Illinois woods by the time he entered into politics. By then, Lincoln had commanded huge fees as one of the nation's leading experts on railroad law. During the time Lincoln was an Illinois law-maker, Illinois became one of the hubs of rail traffic in America. As
President, Lincoln pushed Federal legislation that would permit the railroads to tie the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts together as quickly as possible. The Homestead Act of 1862 would perpetuate the basic democratic intent of the DLC Act, but it would also industrialize the West and tie her to the rest of the country with a ribbon of steel.
The plat for Smockville ignores the alignment of the Amos Z. Hall Donation Land Claim. Old Sherwood Town is aligned to the railroad instead.
The manner in which J.C.Smock's Town is perched upon the Hall Donation Land Claim illustrates the sudden shift in national land-use policy that occurred after the Civil War. The dizzying 45 degree tilt of the railroad town's axis almost seems to mock the carefully placed North and South boundaries of the earlier claims (to say nothing of the aspirations of our transportation planners today).
By travelling the Old Sherwood Town Heritage Trail we will not only see how this conflict between competing American visions was resolved, but how improbable, remote railroad towns like Sherwood became the source of a bright new vision that inspires the civilized world today.
Go with us then, on the Old Sherwood Town Heritage Trail, and see what a Turn of the Century railroad town was like. Men in buckskin no longer fire rounds at your heels. Women of the Temperance Union no longer lecture you on the evils of rum. The sidewalks are of brick and concrete instead of wood. Dogs and chickens and pigs no longer follow us everywhere we go. Even the steam trains are gone. Indeed, precious artefacts are disappearing year by year as buildings, like people, age and decay. But with a little exploring and a bit of imagination, we will see the vision— not just of our one little town, but of America herself— as clearly as the people who not only created that vision, but fought over it and died for it.
The Old Sherwood Town Vision
"Bill and me had a joint capital of about six hundred dollars, and we needed just two thousand dollars more to pull off a fraudulent town-lot scheme.... "
The Ransom Of Red Chief by O. Henry, 1910.
With so many towns sprouting up along the rails, railroad towns were coming into existence like prairie flowers in spring. Town building was a favourite occupation for people whose one outstanding characteristic was their lack of imagination or talent. We had no anecdotes at all to relate about Sherwood's town founder, J. C. Smock. When I asked his great grandson for a suitable story to tell Sherwood's sixth graders, Walter S. Bowen Jr., showed me a stack of quit claim deeds that Smock had signed. "He was quite a wheeler dealer." Bowen said, "Always buying and selling town lots." Somehow, that was all I needed. A passage from Glenn Chesney Quiett's They Built the West fills in the rest of the story:
From enormous buff envelopes men would take scores of certificates elegantly printed in colors, representing property in various towns, and propose to sell thousands of dollars worth, certain to quadruple in value within a few months! If you declined to purchase, they might ask to borrow six shillings to pay their washerwoman, or twelve dollars for a week's board. Three days later, meeting you again, they would cancel the debt with pockets burdened with twenty-dollar gold pieces... Shares often doubled in price in two or three weeks.... Servant girls speculated in town lots.
The Sherwood Historical Society may have its head in the clouds when they discuss Old Sherwood Town. But as the Quiett passage shows, from either end of the time scale— whether we're looking at "certificates elegantly printed" in 1893 or.... a show at Morback House Museum today— the level of excitement is the same both times, the same crazy American vision both times.
Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, by David Hackett Fischer. Oxford University Press, New York, 1989. ISBN: 0195037944.
American Notes, by Rudyard Kipling.
and Tyler too, by Robert Saeger II. McGraw-Hill, N.Y., Toronto, London, 1963. America's 10th President shared the Sherwood Vision. When he retired from the Presidency, he purchased a plantation in Virginia and named the 1150 acre estate "Sherwood Forest." Tyler claimed to be a descendent of a genuine Robin Hood type, the 14th Century rebel-leader Wat Tyler. His second wife, Julia Gardiner, claimed to be a descendant of Robin fitz-Warren, who closely resembles the Robin Hood we meet in American movies. While President, Tyler worried about Oregon and advocated sending troops there to protect the settlers. He never set foot here.
Bob Heater Oral History: World Forestry Center Oral History Project, by Michael O'Rourke. September 21, 1998.(manuscript) The World Forestry Center is between Sherwood and Wilsonville, on Parrett Mountain.
The Architecture of Country Houses, by Andrew Jackson Downing.
The Case Against the Global Economy: And For a Turn Toward the Local, Edited by Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1996. Chapter 38, "Community Money: The Potential of Local Currency" by Susan Meeker-Lowry. ISBN:0-87156-865-9.
Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves & the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia, by Woody Holton. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill & London, 1999. ISBN:0-8078-4784-4. This book tries to explain why Jacob Hite, an ancestor of Sherwood Oregon's own Don Hite, threatened to arm his slaves in 1774.
Forgotten Founders: How the American Indian Helped Shape Democracy, by Bruce E. Johansen. University of Nebraska.
The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History, by David Hackett Fischer. Oxford University Press, New York, 1996. ISBN:019505377X. A One Per Cent Inflation Rate means that somewhere in America tonight, someone is experiencing homelessness for the first time, and will never recover from the experience.
Handbook of Denominations in the United States, by Frank S. Mead. Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York & Nashville, 1951.
Housecalls: Recollections of a Family Physician, by Thomas L. Stern, M.D., Bookpartners, Wilsonville, Oregon, 2000. ISBN:1-58151-033-0. Dr. Sterns was my doctor when I was a kid. The international archery contest between the Sylvan Archers and the Nottinghamshire Archery Society was instigated by Dr. Sterns.
The History of Sherwood, by Ronald Sherk ((manuscript)).
Jefferson: Magnificent Populist, by Martin A. Larson. Devin-Adair, Greenwich Connecticut, 1981,1984. ISBN:0-8159-5902-8.
The John Hall Family: From Ohio to Oregon, by Patricia Seidler Burling, March 2002, (manuscript).
They Built the West: An Epic of Rails and Cities, by Glenn Chesney Quiett. D. Appleton-Century Company, New York & London, 1934.
The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson, by Daniel J. Boorstin. University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 1948, 1981. ISBN:0-226-06496-4.
Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, by Andrew Jackson Downing.
Main Street Revisited: Time Space, and Image Building in Small-Town America, by Richard V. Francaviglia. University of Iowa Press, Iowa, 1996. ISBN:0-87745-543-0. The Disneyland and Disney World replicas of Walt Disney's hometown— Marceline, Missouri— became the model for the typical American shopping mall. The author points out that it is ironic that a native of Missouri like Walt Disney, "...who was politically conservative and espoused rugged individualism, actually produced an environment that embodies such nearly total social engineering and control." Page 164.
Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869, by Stephen E. Ambrose. Simon & Schuster, NY, London, Singapore, 2000. ISBN:0-684-84609-8.
Pacific Northwest:An Interperative History, by Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes, University of Nebraska Press, 1989. ISBN:0803291663.
Railroads and Clearcuts: Legacy of Congress's 1864 Northern Pacific Land Grant, by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan with John Osborn M.D., Inland Empire Public Lands Council, Spokane WA, Distributed by Keokee Publishing, Sandpoint, Idaho, 1995, ISBN:1-879628-08-2. This book proves that as much as we may idolize Abraham Lincoln, he could not control all the consequences of his decisions. A bizarre checkerboard pattern of clearcut forests defaces most of Washington State— and some of Western Oregon— because of the NPL Grant.
Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail, by Theodore Roosevelt. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln & London, 1983. ISBN:0-8032-8913-8.
Robin Hood,by J.C. Holt, Thames and Hudson, London, 1989. ISBN:0-500-27541-6
Small Town America: A Narrative History 1620-Present, by Richard Lingeman. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1980. ISBN:0-395-31540-9.
St. Francis of Assisi, by E.M Almedingen. Knopf, NY, 1967.
Washington County Politics and Community in Antebellum America, by Paul Bourke and Donald DeBats. John Hopkins University, Baltimore & London, 1995. ISBN:0-8018-4950-0.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: It is impossible to name each person who contributed important details to this essay. Sherwood High School Librarian June Reynolds drafted the original version. Sherwood antique dealer Olive Gribble provided a wealth of photographic data, plus the book I have quoted extensively, They Built the West by Glenn C. Quiett. Sherwood antique dealer Vince Harbick introduced me to Rich Seidler and Seidler's sister Patricia Burling, who are blood relatives of the Smock/Hall clan. Another kinsman, a great grandson of J.C.Smock, Walter S. Bowen Jr. provided important materials, including an old newspaper article that featured the lost tree planting ordinance of 1893. The geneologist for the Beavert, Boston, Wilson and Underwood families named Vicki J. Bonagofski provided important documentation. Special thanks must also be given to a member of the Sherwood Institute for Sustainability , Colleen Reed, without whose prodding this essay would never have been begun, much less completed. To those I have neglected to mention, I also express my thanks.