History of Gaston

Gaston Schools

In 1866 the very first Gaston School was started. Four years later in 1870, another school building was erected near the connecting road between old Highway 47 near Dilley and Highway 47. Students attended school for only three to six months of the year! Later, the amount of time in school was raised to four months in the fall, and five months in the spring. In 1870, Washington County allocated $18.70 to Gaston Schools. A year later, the budget was increased to $66.60 for the one teacher at the school at this time. The same year, the teacher was given $20.00 for three months. A pay raise increased the teacher’s salary from $20.00 to $85.00 per three months. The teacher had no house, and lived with different families for a week at a time. Sometime between 1871 and 1873 Joseph Gaston allocated two acres for the Gaston School District. In 1915, a new high school was built on the current site, and students attended for a full four years. Students rode on horseback to attend school. Now, Gaston has a modern elementary building, high school, and two gymnasiums, along with portables outside.

White Settlers

The very first semi-permanent settlers in the Oregon area were hunters and trappers. The French were central in the fur trade. After the French defeat in the French and Indian War, the English took control of the fur trade. In late 1811 and early 1812, the North West (Fur) Company began to trap and trade in the Washington County area. The trappers wrote in their journals of their trades with a few Kalapuya Indians somewhere near the Willamette Falls, now identified as somewhere near Oregon City. The North West (Fur) Company merged with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821 and Fort Vancouver became the headquarters for the fur trade west of the Rocky Mountains. The fur trade finally declined in the 1830s due to the near extinction of the beaver.
During the 1840s and 1850s, people began to come to settle in Oregon from the East Coast. Two of these settlers were Mr. and Mrs. Atkinson. Mr. and Mrs. Atkinson were scheduled to take a ship to South Africa to do missionary work. A doctor told Mr. Atkinson that he would not live long in Africa due to its different climate. Mr. Atkinson decided to do his mission work in the Pacific Northwest. He was ordained at Newbury, Vermont Congregational Church. Mr. Atkinson left the East Coast with his wife in October 1847 and landed in Astoria in early 1848. They ventured from Astoria to Oregon City arriving there June 21, 1848.  They are presumed to have traveled near or through the Patton Valley. Records that these two people made of the Patton valley give us an idea of what Patton Valley was like in the early 1800s.
Washington County grew to 2,652 white settlers by the end of 1850. Two of these settlers were Donald McLeod and Alanson Hinman. In early 1850, these two men made the first settlement of Patton Valley. Many people settled in the Patton Valley area, but one other noteworthy settlement was on September 28, 1851, when Emanuel and Lucintha Horner settled upon the site of what is now modern-day Cherry Grove.
In 1854 the superintendent of Indian Affairs of Oregon, Joel Palmer, negotiated for 460 square miles of land for Washington County.  Some of this land was in the Gaston/Cherry Grove area. An 1860 census showed that approximately 70 people lived in and near the entrance to Patton valley.
The Patton Valley continued to grow from the 1860s, but one significant technological advance dramatically increased its population; railroads. Rail lines were constructed from Cherry Grove to Gaston and were completed in mid 1911. The trains brought in mill equipment and a sawmill was constructed.  The mill could produce 25,000 feet of board per day! But by the end of 1913, the selling price of lumber plummeted from $80 to $8 per thousand. The mill closed and the men left for job opportunities elsewhere.


On July 1st, 1870, stagecoaches began to carry people and mail within Washington County. Almost immediately plans were drawn for rail lines that ran parallel to the roads. By November of 1872, railroads stretched from Portland to St. Joseph. The only station to service the Patton Valley was a tiny railroad stop at its eastern edge. This stop was named Gaston after Joseph P. Gaston (1833-1913), the founder of the town. He came to Oregon in 1862 with the original intent of practicing law, and being an editor for the Jacksonville Sentinel. This changed in 1866 when he began to invest in railroads. He worked for almost fifteen years developing railroad lines and developing the town of Gaston. In 1880, he retired from railroads and oversaw the draining of Wapato Lake for farms. As more people arrived by train, Gaston grew from a fledgling railroad stop in the 1870’s to a prosperous town. A post office was opened on June 5, 1873. Gaston's first church was also built in 1873 by the Congregationalists.  In 1916, Gaston was able to provide a bank along with companies like J.H. Wescott and Sons General Merchandise, Bell & Owens General Mercantile Company, and other businesses.


Gaston sits just east of the Costal Range. Gaston lies on a hill with flat farmland spreading out across the valleys below. The land is rich and fertile. Rain pours frequently during the late fall, winter and spring. The average summer temperature is usually about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, though the temperatures can go above the 100 degree mark. During the winter, the daytime temperatures can range from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing temperatures are normal for winter nights. The Gaston area sports a temperate forest. There are about 3 or 4 tree species per square mile. There are many tree species such as oak, beech, maple, elm and many more. The wildlife is described as a wide variety of species such as squirrels, rabbits, skunks, birds, deer, mountain lion, fox and many other species.

Native Americans

The current theory of the Native American’s origin is that the first Americans crossed the Bering Strait ice bridge between Alaska and Siberia approximately 10,000 years ago. They then followed a dry area between two large ice sheets to reach dry lands to the south. These first natives were called the Clovis people after the town in New Mexico where their fluted spear points used for hunting mammoth were first found in 1932.
Many Native American tribes, such as the Atfalati, Kalapuya, and Wapato, are known to have lived in the Patton Valley area before the European and American settling of the area. The Indians depended on a variety of plants for food and medicine. Some foods, like acorns, required special preparation to remove potential toxins. Knowledge of safe foods was handed down from generations of trial and error. The Indians also depended on local wildlife such as small mammals, deer, elk, birds, black bear, fish, and grasshoppers.
In the Cherry grove area are petroglyphs, thought to be created by the Atafalati. These have been dated back many hundreds of years. The Indians were expert salmon fishers and trappers, but the coming of the European and American explorers brought a decline in their economy. They were also at great risk to disease brought upon by the explorers. Smallpox wiped out many tribes in the 1800s.


This was compiled by Andrew Erickson from the following sources: http://www.washingtoncountymuseum.org/programs/mountain.html  Birgetta, Nixon. Cherry Grove – A History, 1977. Print http://www.co.washington.or.us/deptmts/cao/geninfo/climate.htm http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/glossary/gloss5/biome/forests.html http://www.si.edu/resource/faq/nmnh/origin.htm  http://www.ci.tualatin.or.us/parks/Natural%20and%20Cultural%20Interpretive%20Info/early%20residents.htm  http://www.cedarmill.org/history/history_natives.html