Orenco Station Business Owners Association
The Orenco Station Business Owners Association (OSBOA) was established in 2005. OSBOA is comprised of businesses located in and around the Orenco Station neighborhood in Hillsboro, Oregon. Our primary purpose is to promote the services, businesses and activities at Orenco Station, to keep the local businesses informed and involved in the activities and plans at Orenco Station, to support events beneficial to the neighborhood, and to speak as a united voice regarding common issues of concern.
If you are a business located in Orenco Station and are interested in joining OSBOA, or if you have questions about the businesses at Orenco Station, please contact us here.
A History of Orenco
By Frances Slater
Date of article is unknown at this time (approx. 1965)
What once was a wheat field and woods became a show place in the heart of the Tualatin Valley and the garden spot of the Willamette Valley.
It all began when Squire Ebberts and his Indian wife first homesteaded in this area, and eventually became the Bennett donation land claim. After this a group of Chinese men were hired in 1886 to clear several of the wooded acres located 14 miles west of Portland and four miles east of Hillsboro. This land then was used as a pasture and as a wheat field until scouts looking for fertile soil and convenient location in relation to sales and shipment felt it was the best possible site for a new industry.
Oregon Nursery Co., operating at this time in Salem by two Canadian Scots, Malcolm McDonald, president, and Archibald McGill, purchased 1200 acres of this land and proceeded to plan and lay out the nursery and the town for employees in 1896.
When the nursery first began it imported several families from Hungary and their homes were built on what now is called Quatama road. Their church once occupied the corner of 216th and Quatama, then was removed to the Rose place, which now is the home of Mrs. John Smithers and her sons. Because the people were thrifty, they made a lot of money and some opened nurseries of their own in later years.
In 1907 Archibald McGill, secretary-treasurer of the nursery, built a fine home which was to become the show place of Washington County, and which at present is the home of Dr. And Mrs. A.O. Pitman, Sr. The town was founded in 1908 with the name Orenco derived from the combined letters of the nursery and submitted by the late Mrs. J.R. McNew (Anna Lisky) of Cornelius.
In 1909 the nursery built its office and the two-acre packing sheds just north of the rails. The packs sheds were so large they could house the Washington County fair for a number of years.
By the time the twos was two years old it had a population of 500 and there was $250,000 invested in buildings. This necessitated a fire station, and Orenco volunteer fire department was organized December 6, 1910 at the town hall.
Original officers were Benedict Salvadore, chief; William Dash, assistant chief; John McGee, president; Dr. W.B. Cunningham, Secretary; and, M. McDonald, treasurer. At this time they ordered a chemical engine. The station was on the lower floor of the city hall and a fire bell was mounted on top of the building. By this time, they had added a hand-drawn hose cart and hook and ladder truck.
Water for fire protection came from fireplugs installed in various sections of the town and these were supplied by the deep well on the McGill place, which also supplied the nursery. This water system is all rotted out now and the towns people rely on their own individual wells.
Orenco fire department was rated the best in Washington County at this time, and each Fourth of July the men would take their equipment into Hillsboro for the fire-fighting contests. Orenco men always ranked in the top. The present station was built in 1953-54 and C.B. Biksen is present chief.
One fire written about during that time was that of the hay warehouse, 300 feet west of the big packing sheds, which was destroyed. The local fire department was unable to save the warehouse, but formed a bucket brigade and managed to save the home of Robert Snyder nearby.
Oregon Electric Railway was building a line from Portland to Forest Grove but right of way ran south of the nursery land. The railroad into Orenco began in 1908 and finally ran eight trains one way and nine the other.
It took 45 minutes to get to Portland and eight minutes to reach Hillsboro. It averaged 1000 passengers a month from Orenco and its freight and ticket receipts averaged about $840 a month. Richard Meade in a dare reported there was 37,099 railway ties between Orenco and Portland.
On December 21, 2006, Orenco school district 38, which formerly was part of district 19 or the old Shute district division divided. The first school was held in a tent north of the barns on what is now the Pitman property; the second two-room ten school with boarded floors was located across the street. Eventually, new schools were built in two halves, the first section in 1909 and the second a couple of years later, with a total cost of $6000.
Both grade and high school were in the building, and by 1913 enrollment was 169 children and average attendance of 97 percent. In a quote from the Orenco Herald of 1914, “The Orenco school is one of the foremost in the state in garden and industrial work. During the year 1911-1912 the work was carried on almost exclusively by the school.”
Then in 1913 the Orenco School Children’s Fair Association was formed with competition for prizes for the best exhibit of vegetables. Gardens covered nearly an acre, with 100 pupils working them.
Some of the students attending a this time were Mrs. A.O. Pitman and her brothers and sister, Ellen Gardner, Freda Kehril Berger, and Margaret Brandenburg Coupe (whose husband was a member of the board at the time the gym was built). Mrs. Helen Old Erickson was first to graduate from the eight grade May 19, 1910. Emra Kehril Methoff and Helen Rick Holsman were among the last students to graduate from Orenco High School.
The school was very active in baseball and basketball with schools of Portland. The basketball team started playing in the warehouse north of the tracks and west of the nursery packing sheds and continued there until the freight business got so good the townspeople put their heads together with the school board and decided that if the school would supply the materials the townspeople would build a gym.
At one time, a newspaper clipping states they played a game of baseball with old-timers of the area. Dewey Parker was the youthful star with James Borwick, hotel proprietor, showed hot to make hits, and H.V. Meade, proprietor of the print house, B.A. Mitchell, vice-president of Oregon Nursery, Verne Curry, grocer, and Dr. Cunningham showed them how to run. The boys won 17-10.
Church, first held in the hall above the store, was started in 1909 and dedicated October 15, 1911. Its original cost was $8000 and seated 600.
“The church of Orenco stands for everything from better babies (and more of them) to the highest ideals of manhood and womanhood—welcomes all men for the mere privilege of serving them and affording them the avenue of service to others.” This was written in the Orenco Herald in 1914, and its principles remain much the same today. First pastor was the Rev. L.R. Welch, now living in Pomona, California, a cousin of Dr. Cunningham. The church was heated by a wood furnace and every month of the the members had to take turns starting fires on Sunday morning. When it was Mr. Olson’s turn, Helen Olson Erickson would do it. She is the last living charter member of the church. She also played the piano for Sunday school and church services.
When the Rev. Hiram Booser was pastor he wanted the men in the congregation to whistle the hymns, and if this worked he was going to call upon the ladies, too. During hot weather, services were held on the lawn, with Rev. Booser addressing the Congregation from the church steps. At one time, a circus was to appear in Hillsboro on a Sunday, and parishioners became so up in arms about it they raised a petition to stop it.
On August 25, 1911, H.V. Meade of Medford received machinery for his printing plant. In a few days the power and light line was to be completed and the plant was in full swing. It was to do all of the nursery catalogues, pamphlets, and stationery, and also the work from other nurseries and the town paper, the Orenco Herald.
Orenco received its mail by special pouch twice a day by special carrier. The nursery wanted its mail to come direct, and in March of 1912 Senator Bourne at Washington said direct mail run from Portland would be established with two mails out and two in.
In 1912 city hall was built. The town was growing so on January 6, 1913 the city voted to incorporate with the following officers being elected: Malcolm McDonald, Mayor; R.L.Wann, Recorder; Edna Purdy, Treasurer; Roy McDowell, Marshall; and, E.A. Mince Meyer, L.M. Boozer, L.A. Brush, G. Dora, Robert Schneider and H.V. Meade, councilman.
Sometime during this year a drive as made to obtain donations to build sidewalks into the country so rural dwellers could come into town during the winter without having to wade in the mud. Several miles of the wooden walk were laid and Florence Gross says some remained in front of their place on Quatama road when they bought the property.
The 1200 acres of nursery looked at its best by now, with millions of healthy trees and shrubs growing. This was the time to invite other nursery-men, and this is what occurred June 21, 1913. Three hundred nurserymen from all over the country arrived on a special train over the Oregon Electric Railway and were welcomed by Webber’s juvenile band. A big dinner was prepared and served in one of the packing sheds, larges building of its kind in the country.
Besides the nursery and school the town boasted a 25-piece band, the only one of its kind in Washington County. This band was founded September 18, 1913, with Mr. Green as director. The band participated in many concerts in the church, in Salem, in Hillsboro and in the Rose Festival.
Programs, print in Meade’s printing office, were sent to all states and many foreign lands and also were forwarded to members of the band who were in the trenches in France during World War I. Charlie Rogers is the only charter member living of the original band.
Bandsmen held popular concerts 30 days apart, and in five years they were in front in all bands of the state. They played the best grade of music by leading band writers of the day, many of whom sent them their compositions direct. They also played for weekly dances held every Saturday night in the hall above the store. Their programs contained advertisements of the local businesses, jokes and newsy comments.
Sam Rich, who now owns and operates Rich’s Nursery north of Orenco, which had been founded by his father after the collapse of Oregon Nursery Company in 1927, found in a 1914 payroll that he earned 17 cents an hour working in the nursery.
By this time Orenco had a general dry goods store two grocery stores, barbershop, that also had billiard tables and sold all kinds of tobacco and candy, a hotel, several boarding houses, hardware store, lumber yard, blacksmith shop, livery stable, ice cream parlor and print shop.
M. McDonald built a large home, which still stands and is occupied by the Russell families on Orenco Woods golf course which was established in 1953.
Services in the town now included mail at Orenco’s third-class post office, city water, city sewage disposal, electric lights and telephone service. At one time there was street lighting all through Orenco.
Two other businesses that later established in Orenco were a willow craft factory and an evergreen receiving center. The willow craft factory was built for veterans of World War I. Various types of furniture were built by the 20 to 30 men working there. Blackberries were received, packed, crated and shipped fro the receiving center.
The town lived on until 1924 when a movie company from Beaverton made a picture about Northwest Mounted Police making Orenco as a setting for most of the movie. City hall was used as a mounty headquarters and many of the townspeople were extras.
Before the depression came in 1929 , the over expanded nursery started going broke. Collapse was not sudden—many had seen it coming. Some of it was due to bad judgment and some overselling. Sam Rich said, “I remember there was a great demand for apple trees and the company planted two million in one year. Of course the demand disappeared almost immediately.”
After a few years of struggling along, it dissolved completely, and this in turn spelled disaster for the town as most of its population was employed by the nursery. Stores sold out and residents left to find new employment.
From this several other nurseries started—H.M. Eddie & Sons in Vancouver, B.C., Motz & Sons of Portland, Western Plant Supply of Orenco and Pacific Coast Nursery on Sauvie Island.
B 1938, the few voters tired of the mechanics of municipal government and the town was officially dissolved. It slow began to disintegrate. The post office was closed in 1955 and moved into a corner of the store until 1963, when the people installed mail boxes were served by a mounted route from Hillsboro. Lights are gone, as are sewage and water system and most of the old buildings. The store remains with the John Grooms Now maintaining it; the church, with Rev. Wilbur Sloat present minister; the McGill (Pitman) home; the McDonald (Russell) home, and the new Sharp home now stands where one of the hotels used to be.
The town may have died once due to collapse of the nursery company, but it is not going to remain dead with the new Gas company facility to the North across from Rich’s Nursery, the $2 million Primate Center of the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon east, the Plas-Tron Corp. on 216th, the Somerset West, a proposed $500 million slice of self-contained suburbia on Sunset Highway. All are going to keep Orenco alive.
What was stated in the Orenco Herald in Vol. I, No. I, in January of 1914 sill can apply to Orenco: “Mr. Homeseeker, you will make no mistake if you cast your lot in with Orenco. You can buy lots or acreage at reasonable prices; you are within a few minutes ride of Portland; you have electric lights and telephone service; fuel is cheap and life is worth living.”
This is far from a dead town. It is a town with ever-creeping suburbia from Portland, a town that will grown, a town that is healthy and safe for children to grow up in. Orenco still can be the garden spot of the Willamette Valley.
Orenco Boundaries Map