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Before Oregon was a state in the 1840's, early settlers found the north Tualatin plains including Joe Meek, David Lenox, and Charles McKay.  

The most colorful was Joe Meek, a Rocky Mountain fur trapper, settler, organizer at historic Champoeg meeting of provisional government, first sheriff, messenger to the US capitol, first census taker, Jackson School board director, etc.

Charles McKay founded the town of Glencoe in 1842, naming it after his family’s hometown in Scotland.  Glencoe was located in the general area of Old West Union road near what is now McKay creek.  

history-v5David Lenox led the first wagon train of settlers over the Rocky Mountains on what became the Oregon Trail. He inspired and started the first Baptist church in the west in 1844, two miles east of North Plains.

From the 1870s-1900, the US Mail came by horseback and stagecoach to Glencoe, near the still existing Walter blacksmith shop on Old West Union Road. (See sidebar)

After United Railways built the 4,000-foot Cornelius Pass tunnel from Portland, the railroad bypassed Glencoe, building tracks south of town straight to Banks.

history-v4United Railways and Ruth Trust Company platted the town of North Plains, naming the streets and outlining the water system with wood pipes in 1912, so most Glencoe residents moved uphill to the tracks. Passenger and freight trains stopped in North Plains four times each day. The first freight leaving North Plains included fruits, vegetables, animals, and logs. The railroad station was along Main Street.

The oldest buildings in our community are:

Knights of Pythias Glencoe Lodge #22, a two-story building constructed in 1914.

The first bank was the brick building at Main Street, where the Last Waterin' Hole is located.  This is known locally as the “Lower Tavern”.

By 1915 a three-story school was built on Hillcrest Avenue on the site that is now Jessie Mays Park.  Only the school's gym remains which is now called Jessie Mays Hall.

nphismapHillsboro Argus, June 25, 1963
Untitled Article by Mindy Cottrell

North Plains is a new town grown out of an old dream -- a dream which went into hibernation as the optimism and enthusiasm of the grandiose 1920 promotion program faded and died for lack of sufficient responses. The community has responded today with its June 25th, 90-56 vote favoring incorporation. Urban plans proceed as Sept 2nd was recently set up as election day for North Plains mayor and councilmen.

Initial promotion was engineered by the Ruth Trust Company of Portland which bought out the North Plains area tract with the announcement by J. J. Hill in 1920 that he planned to extend his United Railways line to North Plains.

The trust company noted in its brochure of the area that Lewis and Clark declared the North Tualatin Plains the best available spot in all of his travels for a city of 50,000 people. It is "in the midst of a Garden of Eden" where scenery is beautiful, land is fertile and farms are rich, extolled the brochure.  With such potential the railroad sees a final guarantee of success. It would transport the abundant harvest of the fields to make farmers even richer and would bring thousand of investors to North Plains with mills, retail stores and creameries.

Thus it was that the town, incorporated in June 1963, was laid out in September, 1920. This was accomplished then only because of the railroad, explained the Ruth Trust officials, since the farmers were too busy getting rich to build a town.

Promise and prophesies for the new town site are evident through the first edition of the North Plains Sentinel, April 12, 1911, which proclaimed "North Plains is a necessity and its future is guaranteed."

Steps were taken toward this future with the formation of the North Plains Commercial Club which elected Dr. Murphy, a three-day resident to the new area, as its first president. E. M Mays was chosen vice president and the club began its first item of business--the choosing of a site for a school. The Sentinel announced, among other signs of community development and progress, the formation of a North Plains band and plans of Mays brothers to start a bank.

This issue also noted specific advances with the North Plains of six weeks ago. Consisting of only farm buildings, a tent, depot, and framework of water tower. At the time of the publication of the town, population 150, had graded streets and sidewalks, water and lighting system, "live and wide-a-wake commercial club," weekly newspaper, two telephone lines, public square, more than 40 buildings, and frequent and rapid passenger and freight transportation.

People of North Plains showed interest in the Cornelius gap tunnel boring 4100 feet through solid rock, recently complete by J. J. Hill. It was in this era that in North Plains meals could be had for 25 cents a day, $5.09 a week, or room and board for $6.90 a week at Mrs. G.M. Hunter's boarding house according to the sentinel ads. [This boarding house still exists in North Plains as a single family home located near Kaybern and Main.]

Farm dwellings were advertised at $2800 to $3000, complete with two stories, porches, attic, and partial basement. This was suitable for any of the five acre tracts on the 50,000 fertile acres that Ruth Trust was eager to sell into the first 1000 interested families.

The May 26, 1911 issue of the Sentinel carries on the same themes, forecasting inevitable North Plains progress. By this time the area was better known, having gained a spot in Great Northern Railroad's national advertising.

A letter-writing campaign was initiated to encourage "the endless chain of settlers" expected in the years to come. Patriotic celebrations were planned for Memorial Day and July 4th, reports the Sentinel.

The paper's advertising indicates the growth of North Plains with many features of city living--millinery store, grocery store, pool hall, paperhangers, undertakers, and saloons-- broadcasting their wares and services. International news of this time in the paper's "boiler plate" told of death and riots in Mexico City, while national reports criticized the eight hour work law for women which was causing them to be replaced by men.
Optimism prevailed in North Plains, however, as is evidenced by the Aug. 7th, 1913 newspaper, the North Plains Optimist. This issue sported a complete column which helped to spread the beginning of "The Garden of Eden of Oregon: North Plains, a thriving town where thing are doing. . ."

An interesting notice in this paper was an article urging that the Bible be more widely used in schools, suggesting readings
maysbroevery day. The more up-to-date sounding article was a forceful editorial demanding action on building a new school, an issue which had been voted down by the community for the past three years according to Roy E. King, editor.

It took three years to get a school , but 53 years to get a town. Somewhere along the line North Plains growth halted. The guarantee of the railroad became false security and the "Garden of Eden" remained in its natural state with little of the city life envisioned by Lewis and Clark.

And the boom town that never really boomed became official with the incorporation vote June 25, 1963, creating a town of nearly 500 according to boundaries set up over half century ago.

The old newspaper pictures and other interesting items relative to the early days of North Plains were found by Mr. and Mrs. Robert McCuen in their home, which was originally the home of the late Julius Schoenberg, long prominent in the area. Their interest was whetted by a recent Argus article on the history of North Plains.

nphists11This photo from The Oregonian, Friday, August 5, 1937 Oregonian. The photo is taken looking east on Commercial. The buildings that burned were the post office--"a little wooden building where it originally stood, barber shop, Tavern owned by Jim Kelly and Sadden Brothers." (Noted with the clippings.)
From the Oregonian, Special Edition, Friday, August 5, 1937
Noon-Time Flames Destroy Three Buildings:  Town Post Office Leveled by Fire. Big Brick in Path of Blaze Checks Advance,  Hillsboro, August 5 (Special)

Fire of undetermined origin at noon today swept through a cluster of business buildings at North Plains, destroying the community postoffice and two adjacent structures.  In addition to leveling the three frame buildings, and inflicted considerable damage to power lines, the flames also took most of the content of the Shaddon and Lewis pool hall and tavern, in which the fire originated, as well as household goods and barbering equipment belonging to Charles H. Kelley.

Fire Spread Quickly First hint of the fire came when flames were seen breaking through the roof of the two-story pool hall, the upper floor of which was used for storage. The one-story post office building, to the east, and Kelley’s confectionery, on the west, quickly caught fire. The upper floor and rear of the latter building were used by the family as living quarters.

A. L. Troutman, postmaster, and owner of the building which housed the government office, reported that practically everything of value was removed. Workers succeeded in saving money-order blanks, most of the records, furnishings, scales and mail. Although most of the money in the office was taken to safety, the cooling ashes at the post office site yielded an undetermined amount of silver and coppers when panned by searchers.

nphists14From the Hillsboro Argus (date approximately August/September 1963.)

Tallying ballots in Tuesday's incorporation election at North Plains are (from left) Mrs. Ralph Thies, chairman; Mrs. Jessie Mays and Mrs. Dale James, clerks, and Mrs. W.J. Provis, judge. Voters approved incorporation 90 to 56. Some 250 persons were eligible to cast ballots.

nphiscouncilThe town was not incorporated until 1963, so it took 53 years for this vision to come to fruition.

From the Hillsboro Argus, Thursday, Sept. 5, 1963. 

North Plains first Council Members. Front from left, Lester R. Cypher, Mrs. W. J. Provis, Cliff Ould, (back) Harold Keenon and Ralph Thies.
Our HistoryThe following is a compilation of news items about North Plains gathered from the 1930's to the present day. Most were originally published in the Hillsboro Argus, or the Oregonian. While these articles are fun to read simply for their historical value, they can also serve as a guide to landmarks you will find as you explore all North Plains has to offer.
Supporting Documents Gallery Historic
North Plains Volunteer Fire Department.

Photo of Jessie Mays who was a teacher for many years at North Plains Elementary School (see picture below), which was located on the site that is now the court area of Jessie Mays Park.  Our Community Hall was originally the gymnasium for the school.

This old picture of business buildings in North Plains, taken approx. 1913 was brought in by Mr. and Mrs. Robert McCuen. At the left is the Mays Bros. Mercantile, Co. and the North Plains Commercial Bank at right.

Shown in the picture, (left to right), are Elmer Mays, Russel Loftis, Wilmer Loftis, Sadie Loftis, Julius Schoenberg, Mr Haudegard, Earl Carver and Ora Davis. In the stairs window are Bess and Jessie Ireland. Picure identifications were made by Lester Cypher.

The building on the far right was North Plains first bank, which is now a tavern.