Pioneer Days in Nestucca Valley complied by Bert Ray of Cloverdale, Oregon, and typed in April of 2005 by Dean Bones

(Note that this article was provided by Ms. Edna C. Redberg. It was presumably copied from the Headlight Herald. However, the date of the paper was not included in the copy. The phone numbers in the ads on the copy were only three numbers long, so the date of the paper must have been in the early 1900s.)

My father, Lester Ray, Sr., came to South Tillamook County in April 1880, and filed on 160 acres of land. At that time, my brother, Lester Ray, Jr., was 20 years old, my sister Anna, who later became Mrs. John Lucy, was 13, and I was five years of age.

My father and brother started to build a cabin of hewed cottonwood logs on the homestead, but in hewing the logs, my father broke his leg. Lester, Jr., finished hewing the logs alone. The few neighbors we had at that time came and helped complete the cabin. John Knifong, Jasper Smith, Mr. Fuqua, Elam Butts, Wm. Butts, Sr., Wm. Butts, Jr., Andrew Anderson, Nels Hansen, Lars Jensen, George Bodyfelt and Jerry Lewellen were our nearest neighbors.

In the fall of 1879 we had come to South Prairie and had wintered near where the Blimp Base is now. In the spring, Jeff Wallace, who used to buy cattle all over the county, moved us to the Nestucca River valley on pack horses. Father took the cook stove to pieces and packed it on a horse. He and MR. Wallace also packed the dining table, bedsteads, bedding and cooking utensils all on horses.

The cattle which Jeff Wallace bought, he drove through the Nehalem Valley, over the Cape Carney trail to Astoria. His saddle horse and his shepherd dogs knew the business as well as he did.

Wilburn Thacker bought hogs all over the county and drove them to the Willamette Valley on foot. As there were no bridges in those days, the hogs swam all the streams.

Mr. Thacker's oldest daughter, Alice, told me she was the first white girl born in the Nestucca Valley. She was born in 1875. That was before I came to the county, so most of the people in the southern part of the county must have been Indians at that time.

Our first road, which, of course, was a dirt road, became very muddy when it rained; so muddy, in fact, that in many places the mud was knee-deep, and in some holes the wagon would dip until (a line or two is missing!) mud and water.

I was eight years old when I went to my first three months' school. The schoolhouse was built of split cedar shakes, and it stood on a flat across the present highway, on the opposite side of the Nestucca River, in front of the Dee Sanders' place. A creek ran near the building.

William Rhoades, who lived on mile from Cloverdale, on the road to Hebo, was the father of eight girls. Those girls and I went to the above mentioned school, and we had to cross the Nestucca River to get there.

About four years after we settled in Tillamook County, my brother, Charles Ray, came and filed on a homestead, joining our place on the east. As soon as my father could prove up and give a clear title to his land, he sold forty acres of it to Charles.

Perry Mattoon came to Nestucca and bought a part of the Rhoades' place. He was our country blacksmith for a good many years. Then my brother Charles bought eighty acres more from my father and built the first cheese factory in Cloverdale and started the first general mercantile store in 1894.

My father then moved to the nearby town of Woods, which was named for Joe Woods, an early settler. Al Phelps owned and operated the first mercantile establishment in that town. He afterward sold the store to W.R. Robedee. T.J. Lucy and Frank Wilehart also had stores in Woods.

In early days, Charles Johnson, a Russian-Finn sailor, filed on a 160-acre homestead at the mouth of Clear Creek, about 1 1/2 miles west of Cloverdale. He had a piece of cleared land adjoining the old dirt road which followed the river bank between Cloverdale and Woods. He had built a tenrail stake and rider fence around this piece of land and here he pastured two young horses. Instead of trying to jump over the fence, the horses would back up against it and push it down. Once out in the road, they joined other roving horses and would sometimes stray as far away as Hebo before being caught.

One day I was coming home from Hebo when I met Charley Johnson with his halters on his arm. He asked me if I had seen his horses and when I told him I had seen them in Hebo, he was mad. He went on his way talking to himself. He didn't swear, but he said, "Condum 'em, I fix 'em!" Could he have had an electric fence like they have nowadays, his horses would not have backed up against it more than once, and then they would have got away in a hurry.

Charley Johnson was a bachelor, but a few years later he married a widow named Mrs. Lizzie White. They lived on the ranch until Charley died. His widow married a Mr. Scott and now lives near Grand Ronde. Her son, Elma N. Johnson, married my niece, Eleanor Lucy, and they live on the old home place where they operate a dairy, milking forty or fifty cows.

Continue to Part 2 of Pioneer Days in Nestucca Valley! (Yikes! Where is this? The search is on! 3/'07)

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