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North Plains, Oregon

(Brief History of a small farm and logging town on the North Tualatin Plains)

© By James Andrew Long

Over two hundred years ago, the Lewis and Clark Expedition discovered 179 species of plants on their first trek across country.

Decades later, in the 1840s, four influential early settlers of the north Tualatin plains were Joe Meek, David Lenox, Peter Burnett, 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. David 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 town.

Peter Burnett, a lawyer involved in early government activities, was appointed justice on the Supreme Court of the Oregon Territory. By the time word of his appointment arrived from the capitol, Washington, like most men, Peter Burnett had left for California gold mines. He became the first governor of that big state.

In 1874, Abigail Scott Duniway and her suffragette newspaper, “ The New Northwest”, reached four local towns with post offices: Glencoe, Greenville, Mountain Dale, and the only one that still exists, Hillsboro.

From the 1870s-1900, the US Mail came by horseback and stagecoach to Glencoe, near the still existing blacksmith shop. 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. United 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 still standing include Pythian Hall Glencoe Lodge #22, a two-story building constructed in 1914. The first bank was the brick building at Main Street, now known as the “Lower Tavern”. A three-story school was built on Hillcrest Avenue in 1915. For 75 years Mays Brothers Mercantile maintained a clean store. Downtown had businesses on both sides of the street. A 1937 fire burned three downtown buildings. A temporary tent city sheltered shipyard workers who commuted by train during WWII. The North Plains Elementary School was built in 1954 and consolidated rural one-room schoolhouses (Dixie Mountain, Mountaindale, Meacham, Pleasant View and Shadybrook (many more?). A migrant labor camp was built in town in the 1960s. The three-story school was torn down in the 1960s. The remaining gymnasium was named Jessie Mays Community Center after a long-time teacher.

After the considerable Columbus Day storm damage and a series of public meetings, Della Cypher and Millie Provis incorporated the town of 500 residents on January 25, 1963. The first mayor of the City of North Plains elected by the city council was ED/Art/ Thies.

The sign west of city limits said “Strawberry Capital of the Northwest” in the 1960s and 1970s. There were strawberry fields every direction. The 1990 census counted 972 people in the city.  The 2000 census counted 1.605 residents, an increase of about 65%.

Jim Long, a local historian and consultant.  (503) 647-0021


(Last updated 12/01/2008 06:41 PM)