Happy Valley on the Web
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Happy Valley on the Web

History Page 1

(The following is re-printed from the History of Happy Valley produced by Grade Five at Happy Valley School , May 1969)


In the southeast corner of the city of Portland, Oregon in Clackamas County is a small area called Happy Valley. It is bounded by Mount Scott on the west and by Scouter's Mountain on the east. The ridges extending northeastward and southeastward from these mountains form the hollow and seem to cradle it in their laps. The soil of the valley is very fertile. Several fine springs of water and a winding creek provide an abundant water supply. At one time the surrounding mountains and ridges and the valley floor itself, were covered with excellent timber. Tall grass, shrubs and bushes provided good protection for the wildlife which found the valley an ideal place to live and raise its young. The climate was warm and pleasant in summer and not too severe in winter. Food for both animals and birds was plentiful.


Both deer and bear were common in the valley when the first settlers arrived in 1851. There were also beavers, raccoons, badgers, rabbits, squirrels, opossums and weasels. Skunks made their presence known to the settlers and their dogs many times. Foxes and coyotes kept out of sight in the brushy areas, but they were here, too. The bobcat's scream could be heard often in the night, and once a panther was heard, too. Fish and frogs were plentiful in the stream, while newts and salamanders were found along the banks. As is true today, the only snakes were of the harmless garden variety good friends to have around.

Birds of many varieties abounded in the valley. The settlers hunted some of them for food, such as the China Pheasant, grouse, quail and even the wild turkey. Some of the song birds we hear today were heard then, too - the meadowlark, wren, sparrow, chickadee, robin, bob-o-link and many, many others. We see fewer eagles and hawks now, but these large birds were also numerous here at one time. At night the screech or the hoot of an owl was a common sound in the summer and early fall.

The flora of the valley has always been abundant. Besides the forests of giant Douglas Firs, pines, spruces and cedars, there are still many alders, oaks and maples. Most of the best timber has long since been cleared away to bare the land for farming, and more lately, for building homes.

In springtime wild flowers abounded. Trilliums, violets, lady slippers and May flowers bloomed in shady, moist places, while buttercups, daisies, dandelions and many other sun-loving flowers covered the open places.

The first settlers in the valley found a profusion of luscious wild berries to eat. Of these the strawberry was the most plentiful, but there were also blackberries, raspberries and huckleberries. Hazelnuts and black walnuts provided another source of food and were abundant in the area.

Although no longer forested, the valley is still a haven for a few animals and birds that remain, but as the development of the land continues fewer and fewer of these may find it a safe and happy environment in which to live. Already, many have disappeared never to return, such as the eagle, the wild turkey, the quail, the beaver, the bear, the deer, and many others. (Editor's Note: Many peasant and deer still populate sections of the valley in 1996; update 2004, not as many remain now)

Footnote: Research for this article was done by Devin Cooper, David Wheatley Steven Thompson, Carl Johnson


In the beginning Happy Valley was called "Christilla Valley", after the first homesteaders to take up a claim there - Christian and Matilda Deardorff.

It was the United States Donation Land offers that brought the first settlers into Happy Valley. The area was surveyed , divided and offered free to any man who wanted to claim it provided he was willing to live on the land, improve it and become a permanent settler. Christian Deardorff, a former Virginian farmer re-located in Iowa, arriving in Oregon in 1851 with his family, obtained the first donation land claim, 640 acres on the floor of the valley. One of his sons, John M,, claimed another 320 acres next to this. About the same time a man named Yot homesteaded next to Christian Deardorff on the northeast, and another by the name of Talbert took the land south along what is now 129th Street and the lower end of Mt. Scott Boulevard where the small church now stands.

Most of the valley floor being settled, other men claimed the slopes and ridges. The Scott family took most of the south slope of Mt. Scott, William R. Davis took 160 acres between Scott's and Talbert's, while the section between what is now King Road and Ridgecrest Drive alongside 132nd was homesteaded by Robert T. Davis. Jasper Gilliam claimed 520 acres south of John Deardorff's claim, and later Marvin Hubbard bought 80 acres between this piece and Talbert's, thus closing the free or purchased lands on that side.

As time went by, Christian Deardorff used parcels of his land as a means of paying the men who worked for him, and in this way the property changed hands many times in a short while as families came and went.

In 1888 Strickrott purchased from John McIntyre a portion of the Talbert land. At first they lived in a log cabin. Then in 1893 they built a frame house which is still occupied by the Strickrotts on Mt. Scott Boulevard.

The Ulrichs and the Zinsers moved into the valley late in the last century. In 1890 George Zinser bought land and built a house which is still occupied. It is the small, two-story red house just east of the fire station. (Editor's Note: This house was to become the City Hall in the early 1990's, but it was in such poor condition that it was removed and a replica built which serves today as the City Hall.) This is where another early family, the Rebstocks, used to live. Charles Rebstock purchased the place in 1901.

Fred Zinser built a log cabin on Mt. Scott in 1890 which was the birthplace of Royal, Elmer and Lydia Zinser, all of whom still live in the Valley. Their home is now a large frame house on Mt. Scott Boulevard known as the "Emberlin" home.

Some of the other early families were the Paulsons, Beckers, Oldenburgs, Bowers, Kannes, and Rushfords. Several pioneer families are still prominent residents in the valley.

All of the original homesteads have been sub-divided many times and sold to new individuals who have built new homes on the property. If this pattern continues (and there is every indication that it will) Happy Valley will soon lose all of its rural aspects and become a completely urban community. (Editor's Note: Even 27 years later in 1996 the rural aspect is evident, but disappearing rapidly)

Footnote: Research for this article was done by Matthew Montchalin and Gary Lockwood


The first families to settle in the valley came from the Midwest, mostly from Indiana and Iowa. They came overland over the Oregon Trail in covered wagons drawn by oxen. They decided to risk the dangers and hardships of this trip because they were told that Oregon had good land and a good climate for farming. There were tall trees which would make excellent houses and barns. There was plenty of water and lots of wildlife which could be used for food. Free land was available, and the promise of a new and a richer life called to them.

The journey to Oregon took several months. Progress across the hot, dusty plains was slow, and through the Rocky and Cascade Mountains, even slower and rougher. Several of the animals gave out and had to be shot. Finally, some of the wagons had to be abandoned and some precious cargo left behind. Many times the travelers met up with curious, and sometimes hostile Indians who frightened them and often robbed them. One of the descendants of the Deardorffs tells this story:

The members of the wagon train in which her grandmother traveled always stopped on Sundays to hold a service to worship God. Once, they were passed - and jeered at - by another train also traveling to Oregon. "Why are you stopping?" these people asked. "What a waste of time! You'll never get to Oregon at this rate. We'll beat you there and get first choice of all the best lands". The worshipers let them jeer and went on with their prayers. On the trail a day or so later, they came upon what remained of this group of travelers - several burned out wagons and no sign of the people. The Indians had attacked them.

In October, 1851 the pioneers finally got through the mountains and entered Oregon. They encamped at The Dallas on the Columbia River and built rafts to carry them down to the Willamette River. After an exciting and dangerous trip down the Columbia River they arrived at their destination. Some went to Oregon City and others to Milwaukie, both of which were rugged frontier towns at that time, but which offered shelter and food, and sometimes employment until a land claim could be taken up. It was from these areas that the Deardorffs and others came into Happy Valley took up claims and began to farm.

Footnote: Research for this article by Wade Vandenburg and Ronny Geister


Most of the first people in Happy Valley settled there because they wanted to farm. First they had to clear the land of timber and brush. This was hard work and it took a long time. They did not have power tools as we do today. They had only axes and crosscut saws. In order to get the biggest stumps out they learned to blow them out with charges of dynamite. Another method was to cut a ring out of the bark around the base of the tree, then set it afire. The fire would burn through the trunk and the tree would fall.

Once the land was cleared it had to be plowed. A settler was lucky if either an ox or a horse had survived the long trip to Oregon. Often he had to borrow, trade, or buy an animal to pull his plow. When the fields were ready he planted grain, mostly buckwheat which was very hardy and was good for making bread. In time he also planted many different kinds of vegetables, such as beans, peas, potatoes, cabbage and other garden crops. Soon he had fruit trees growing around his house, mainly pears, apples and prunes but also peaches and cherries. Many wild berries were harvested and sold in the market, and some were cultivated especially for sale in the market.

Most of the farmers in Happy Valley brought their produce into Portland in the Lents area to the many markets on Foster Avenue where they either sold them for cash or traded them for the things they needed, such as sugar, salt, coffee, and articles of clothing not made at home. A few of them peddled their produce from door to door in Portland.

Besides the orchard, field and garden crops the farmers also raised poultry and livestock. When they needed meat they hunted for it or butchered one of their animals, a young calf, a lamb or a pig. Each family raised almost all its own food. They either canned or dried their fruits and vegetables for the winter months. Meat was smoked to preserve it and then hung from the rafters in the attic until it was needed. Chickens kept the family supplied with eggs, while cows provided them with milk, cream, butter and cheese.

Every member of the family had work to do. The men and the boys in the fields, the woods, and around the barns, the women and girls in the house, the gardens and berry patches. Harvest time was the busiest time for the farmers. At first they had to cut the grain by hand, using a scythe, then gather it up with a horse-drawn flop rake. In the field it was pitched on to a hay wagon and taken to the barn where the grains had to be knocked off by hand or under the trampling hoofs of a horse. But this slow method did not last long. Cyrus McCormack's reaper soon appeared in the valley, replacing the scythe and the flop rake, then came the engine driven thresher and the work of the harvest was a lot faster and easier. Soon John M. Deardorff was producing a buckwheat of such excellent grade that he was marketing it all over the state! To help identify his product, and perhaps advertise it too, he designed s special stamp to be placed on his grain sacks - that of a deer's head followed by the syllable "DORFF".

Footnote: Research for this article done by Linda Dyches, Vickey Perman, Shirley Martin and Dorothy Fredericks


Women and children played an important part in the settlement of the valley. The well being of each family depended upon the work and cooperation of each member. While the men worked in the fields tending the crops and around the barns caring for the livestock, the boys who were big enough helped them, learning many useful things from their fathers. The women and daughters did all the cooking, sewing and other household tasks. Preparation of meals took a lot of work. In summer the vegetables for the meal had to be gathered from the garden. Bread had to be baked - or hot biscuits - in the oven of a stove that burned wood. Meat had to be supplied through the hunting done by the men, or it was brought from the attic where it was kept stored after a calf or pig was butchered.

The canning of fruit and vegetables, the making of jams and jellies and relishes, went on all summer. The women and girls did this work. Jars containing these foods were stored in a cellar or in a pantry - a small room off the kitchen. The attic also served as a place of place of storage, especially of meats and dried fruits. Quarters of apples, peaches and prunes were hung from the rafters on long strings. Sides of bacon, hams, home-made sausage and other smoked or dried meats also hung there. This was the settlers main source of food during the winter.

Washing and cleaning up was shared by all the girls in the family. Darning of socks and putting patches on torn clothing were more jobs done by them. The women made most of the clothes worn by the settlers, including the suits for men and boys which they often made from homespun cloth. After all the most necessary sewing was done, most women, and girls, too, did "fancy work" - embroidery, crocheting, tatting, quilting and knitting.

Besides all the work done around the house, the women end children helped to pick berries in the fields during the season. These were sold in the markets. The children had many other outdoor jobs, also. They helped to bring the cows in from the pasture, fed the chickens, gathered in the eggs, brought in firewood, and did many other helpful things.

Although the women and children had to work hard, there were advantages, too. They got plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise which kept them healthy and strong. They appreciated their Sundays more because that was one day they did not have so much to do. They joined their friends and had many good times together.

Footnote: Research for this article by Clara Swerzbin and Linda Lewis

History 2


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Last upate August 7, 2004
Copyright © 1996 -2004 Erik Gustafsson, Happy Valley, Oregon
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