Life in the Stafford Triangle

What do I love about living in the rolling Rosemont hills? To do justice to the subject, I'd need to commandeer every column inch of editorial space in this magazine, cover to cover, and duke it out with the advertisers, not to mention the publisher, for what's left.

Part of it's the scenery. As you approach Rosemont Road from Lake Oswego, you see, high on a rise to your left, a house I have chronicled in my mind for years as it passed through the seasons.

I've seen the mound on which it sits float like an island in an ocean of ground fog. I've seen the slope white with snow, green with new grass, gray through light drizzle, gold under summer sun. I've watched trees grow up in stop-motion, bare-limbed, green, rust and gold.

Next, there's Luscher Farm, a pristine 19th century homestead that miraculously survived into the 21st century. Savor this taste of the past.

Ahead on Rosemont, up the hill, you catch a fleeting glimpse of a landscape Grandma Moses might have painted, red barn and all. On your right, in summer, there's a stand of roadside grass that glows like luminous wands in late light.

Then Firland, the Louis and Violet Lang Farm, preserved by the Three Rivers Land Conservancy. Further, just past an unpruned filbert orchard carpeted with bluebells in springtime, another 19th century farmhouse. These scenes are priceless.

There's colorful history here, as well. Rosemont is one of those rare Territorial Roads, which means it existed before statehood.

In the late 1840s, Stephen Meek ­ pioneer of 1842, leader of the infamous "Lost Wagon Train" of 1847 and brother of Oregon's first sheriff, Joe Meek,­ ran the freight and stage line from Linn City to the farms and towns of Tuality Plain across the crest of Rosemont. Think of the uncluttered views in those days!

With his struggles to deliver goods and people on time, Meek may not have appreciated the sweeping vistas. But my father did.

Six days a week, he drove across Rosemont from our home in Lake Grove to his business in Oregon City. Evenings, he would paint vivid word pictures of sunrises, sunsets, fresh snow on the mountains, tall grass billowing in the breeze, wildflowers, birds and animals, always something new, something beautiful.

I rode with him on weekends when I worked as a stock boy at Hedges 5-10-25, better known as "the Main Street five-and-dime." And on summer days, I roamed the hills on my one-speed, balloon-tire bike.

Thus began my love affair with Rosemont, though I doubt there was a road in the entire Stafford Basin I didn't explore as a kid.

When I was feeling ambitious, I'd pedal the length of Stafford Road to Wilsonville, just to cross the Willamette by ferry boat.

Boone's Ferry was launched by Daniel Boone's grandsons, Jesse and Col. Alphonse Boone, soon after they arrived in 1846, and operated until 1954, when the Baldock Freeway bridge, now Boone Bridge, was opened. (Imagine squeezing I-5 traffic onto a 30-car ferry boat!)

On occasion, I'd branch off on Mountain Road to ride the Canby Ferry back and forth, coaxing tall tales from the operator. I knew every access to the Tualatin River, and fished them all. A favorite spot on hot days was under the covered bridge on Borland Road, near historic Willamette.

Think about how few roads exist in today's urban landscape, compared with a time when that's all there were, except for the platted streets of towns. Real, honest-to-goodness country roads.

We have freeways, highways, boulevards, avenues, drives, lanes, and the ubiquitous cul-de-sacs. But I live in an area of roads. Not just roads, but two-lane, winding roads named after vines.

I walk a 4.5-mile figure-eight that starts on Sweetbriar, then across Clematis, down Wisteria, onto Grapevine, down the steep hill to Woodbine, back up to Wisteria, again onto Grapevine, and finally back to Sweetbriar. With shifting patterns of weather and season, no two days are quite the same.

Little has changed, on the whole, in the 25 years my wife Scottie and I have lived in these rolling hills.

The previous owners of our property told us we'd see more horses than cars on our road, and while the ratio has shifted, we still see horses, not to mention parades of llamas, and dogs on leads. Throw in bicyclists, walkers, runners, strolling families ­ --- what I refer to as our "floating Neighborhood Watch."

New homes have popped up here and there, but we can still look from our windows without sighting another house. Change has been gradual, so there's little trauma involved.

We live just up the road from the original site of the Willamette Meteorite, one of the area's greatest claims to fame.

I have a personal interest in the current attempt by the Grand Ronde Tribes to repatriate the stone. During the 1904-05 court battle to determine ownership, my grandfather, Oregon City attorney J.E. "Gene" Hedges, brought in Native Americans to testify to the object's spiritual significance. The meteorite's fate may hinge on that testimony.

My roots in West Linn run deep. In 1850, Dr. William Allen, my great-great-grandfather, moved his family into a house on Moore Island, now part of the sprawling paper mill. Though he saved some 700 lives during a cholera outbreak on the trail, he died after only one year in Oregon.

His daughter Ellen, my great-grandmother, married Joseph Hedges of Canemah, the town on the opposite shore founded in 1849 by Joseph's brother Absalom, pioneer of 1845.

Joseph was a carpenter who built everything from steamboats, wharves, and warehouses to tables, chairs, and dressers, and supervised construction of the Willamette Falls Locks. Among my most prized possessions is the scrollworked jewelry box he carved for daughter Lizzie.

The spirits of my pioneer ancestors well in me when I stand in awe before the blessings nature has bestowed on Rosemont. By some miracle, we've escaped the crush of urbanization that's overwhelmed so many other rural areas.

I like to think the people who follow will know and love what we who live here today prize so highly. Trilliums and sword ferns. Tall firs and cedars, white oaks and Pacific madrones. Pheasants and quail, deer and raccoons, meadowlarks and osprey, crickets and frogs. Open fields with unobstructed sunsets. Winding, two-lane country roads named after vines.

[Published in the 2000 edition of Perspectives, annual magazine of the West Linn Tidings and Lake Oswego Review]


I just wanted to tell you how wonderful I thought your article was. All of the things you described are still etched vividly into my memory. Granted, it wasnt that long ago that I moved from Wilda Road, but wow do I wish I was back there now. It was truly an amazingly beautiful place. I used to roam the woods behind my house, down into the bottom of the basin where old snags of trees lined the wide field creeks. What a place of God. Thank you so much for putting the time into the article. Callie

Posted by: Callie | Email | January 17, 2006