Growth and Development in Tualatin in the 1860s and 1870s

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In the area now known as Tualatin, the small community of Galbraith continued to enjoy growth and prosperity.

Edward Byrom

In 1851, a young man named Edward Byrom settled in the area, after a long and perilous ocean voyage from Massachusetts. He built a log cabin and later married Elizabeth Moser. The couple and their children moved to Idaho, where they built and ran a hotel for six years before returning to Galbraith. Soon after his return, he and John Sweek realized the old one room schoolhouse was insufficient for the growing community, but they met resistance from longstanding community members.

The Little Red Schoolhouse

Between them, Byrom and Sweek planned and raised the money for the Little Red Schoolhouse, as it became known. It was ready for occupation in 1870 and soon became the community center. It served as a place of worship, with community members reading passages from the Bible and leading hymns until the community could afford a minister. On Christmas Eve, it would host a children’s pageant, with gifts, a feast and dancing.

The name of Edward Byrom has been immortalized by the building of Byrom Elementary School, one of the three public grade schools in the town today.

The Little Red Schoolhouse served eight grades, all in one room. The classes were taught by people whose names are remembered in local road names and districts: Tooze, Tauscher, Noble, Jackson and Young. One notable teacher was Harvey Scott, who later went on to become the first graduate of Pacific University and then the editor of The Oregonian. He was a prominent Portland figure. The local community was lucky to get him, and managed to save money by including board and lodging in his salary, and local homeowners shared the burden by offering a “boarding around” program.

Challenges for the School

The building was so close to the road that the children would lean out of the window to shake hands with passers-by, or pet their horses. However, this happened so rarely that teachers overlooked the interruptions.

Water was obtained from a well, which was a hazard in the play area. Teachers were constantly warning the younger children not to fall in, which is exactly what happened to one young boy… or was he pushed? He had a habit of teasing the girls, so there was some speculation that one of them retaliated. Whichever way it happened, the older boys threw a rope down to him and hauled him out. The well was thought to be the cause of the high childhood mortality rate: smallpox and diphtheria were rife in the early days.

George Day

George Day was a colorful local character. Although not one of the earliest settlers, he was definitely one of the most prominent.

At the age of 22, he and a friend each paid $75 for provisioned wagons and oxen and headed west. However, their wagon train was beset by cholera and many people, including Day’s friend, lost their lives, as did most of the oxen. By the time he reached the Snake River, there were only two yoke of oxen left, and Day gave these to a family suffering mountain fever. He continued alone and on foot.

His spirits lifted as soon as he reached Oregon, and he tried several occupations over a seven year period as he worked his way west: boating, logging, gold-digging, teaching. He went into partnership operating a ferry at Oregon City for a year before marrying and settling in Bridgeport.

Although arriving with the reputation of an adventurer, he settled to a successful life as farmer, stock raiser, and hop grower. His most famous characteristic was generosity: as well as donating his oxen to the sick family as he traveled, he offered a free campground to travelers on his land, providing wood, water, food and whatever other necessities they needed as they passed through.

State Representative

Seven years after his arrival, he was elected to the state legislature and, on the completion of his term, became a Justice of the Peace, hearing cases in his home. If a case lasted longer than a day, all the parties, lawyers and witnesses would stay at the Day home. On one occasion, there were twenty-five extra people accommodated and the dining table, which seated twelve, saw three sittings before everyone (visitor and family) was fed.

Galbraith becomes Bridgeport

Settlers continued to move into the surrounding area and Galbraith became a bustling town. It was home to the only saloon for miles around, which probably added to its popularity. In 1867, a bridge was built, spanning the river at the place where Sam Galbraith had operated his ferry. It was decided to change the name of the settlement to Bridgeport. The bridge was humped high to allow for the passage of boats during floods – the river flooded regularly in January and February and boat was the only means of transport at that time.

John A. Taylor

John A. Taylor moved to the area in the late 1850’s and soon capitalized on the need for more river crossings. He operated a ferry where now Highway 99 crosses the Tualatin River and later replaced it with a toll bridge. He was largely responsible for clearing the road into Portland and the road bore his name, Taylor’s Ferry Road, for many years. Today, that name is reserved for a short stretch of the original road.

In 1867, Taylor replaced Day in the state legislature and followed his lead, becoming a Justice of the Peace.

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