Stehman

[Information extracted from ” Sketches of Those We Know” printed in “The Rainier Review” Vol. XXI dated Friday, Mar 18, 1927 No. 35. unless otherwise credited.]

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JENNY MCKEE

To be exact about her arrival on the scene, on the 7th day of April, 1882, Miss Jennie McKee arrived in Portland with her parents, W. M. and Ruth McKee, and the four other children in the family. The McKee family came by steamer from San Francisco, but had made the trip by train to San Francisco directly from Kansas, where they had been pioneers in Crawford county.

 

THE HUDSON COMMUNITY

The McKee family found their way to the Hudson community because former friends and neighbors, the John Atkins family, already were settled here.

When they arrived at the Hudson community in 1882, there already were many families on the land. Among them were the families of Sam Hudson, Louis Malcolm, Dave Upton, R. P. Burns, and two bachelors, O. G. Anstine and Frank Solaire. The Miller family also lived in the community.

 

THE STEHMAN COMMUNITY

Over in the Stehman section were W. I. Shultz, Walter Furrow, Mike Roeser, Clement Mescher, Jared Wilson, H. W. Hankins, Henry Doan, the Findley, Duke, and DeBast families, and a Mr. Ring, who had a mill in that section. There was a bachelor named [William] DeJournet in the community, also. There were others, too, but they moved from the community so long ago that their names have been forgotten.

 

TEACHING AT STEHMAN SCHOOL

Jenny McKee had obtained her teacher’s certificate in Kansas, but when her family decided to move to the coast, she came west with them rather than to be left behind. She taught one term of school in the STEHMAN SCHOOL, which had been in session for at least one term before she taught there. Miss Huntington of Kelso taught there before Jenny did.

Miss McKee’s first term started on May 22, 1882 and continued for three months.

The Stehman school then was held in a dwelling on the Albert Stehman place, near where the present building stands. Its furnishings were informal, to say the least, but there were around 30 pupils in the school. The only determination made as to grading was to ascertain how far the pupils had “gone” through his books. The pupils called for all the grades, however.

They came to school from considerable distances, but of them all the children of Mr. and Mrs. Jared Wilson came the farthest, which was more than two and a half miles.

Although the list has been lost, she remembers 26 of those who were in that first group of her pupils. Among them were numbered Peter, Pius and Paul Roeser; Anna and Peter Mescher; Eva, Etta, Janie, Maggie and Felix DeBast; Flora, Victoria, and Walter Furson; Clara and Jesse Shultz; John, Carrie, and Vincent Wilson; Arthur Riggs; Mary, Minnie, and Henry Hankins; Elvis and Freddie Duke; Bessie Moeck and Albert Findley.

 

MARRIAGE

By one of those peculiar quirks of fate, Mr. Robert N. Lovelace came to this section practically at the same time as Miss Jennie McKee. To be exact, Mr. Lovelace landed in Portland with his brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Rice, from Missouri, on the 27th of March, 1882.

Mr. Robert Lovelace and Miss Jenny McKee were married on May 8, 1884, at St. Helens, by Judge Moore. It was not until 1901 that they bought a piece of land from W. I. Schultz and established the home where they have lived since.

 

LIVING CONDITIONS

In those early days all was not so rosy for the settlers. There were no roads in that community in the early 80’s and people walked where they wanted to go. Their houses were built of split cedar logs. Cedar splits straight and easily, and is lighter and more easily handled than other wood that was available as that time. The early settlers used “shakes” for their roofs, but later, when hand made shingles became more general and easier too get, this covering was used.

Incidentally, the sale of hand made shingles was the source of livelihood for these early settlers, until such a time as they could find other means, or to undertake to live from their farms.

They came to the land because they could get it free. The entire country was one dense forest, with huge trees standing so thick and close that in some places it was hard to pass between them. The task of clearing up a piece of land like this was tremendous, and required the work of a lifetime, under the circumstances under which the farmer had to work in those days.

Naturally, little thought was given to the possibility of living from the land on which the settler homesteaded.

Some of the settlers had fair sized gardens, while others had little if any. Their living, therefore, had to come from some source which would enable them to buy much of their food. For this reason they turned to making hand made shingles, which they could sell at the stores in Rainier for from $4 to $5 per thousand. These shingles were of the clearest of wood, and were of a high quality that even the best machine made shingles seldom reach now. Working hard, a man could make up to two and a half thousand in a day’s time, and these he could take to the store and be given credit for their value in groceries.

There were few roads and as few teams for the first few years. For several years there were only two teams on the trails and these belonged in Rainier. They carried the groceries out to the settlers when they went to get the shingles that had been made.

Then the steamboats came in greater numbers, plying up and down the river delivering freight and picking it up. They burned wood and used it in cordwood lengths, and thereupon a new demand came, which helped the people on the land to find another way to earn enough money to buy the needed provisions for their families.

After that there were the mills, which started in a small way, but which offered an opportunity to make a living while the family lived on the homestead.

Among the early sawmills in the country was that of the Nicolai brothers, who had a mill in the Stehman section, and who now operate one of the larger door factories in Portland. Another was operated by Charles Wilson, on what is now the O. O. Anderson place in Fern Hill. There were others, of course — so many that came and went that it is now impossible to recount their number.

The fact that a larger portion of the people were poor and lived on small plots does not mean, however, that no land was cleared there. There was the Shultz place, which was well cleared up when the McKee and Lovelace-Rice families place also and the Ellwell place also was cleared. It was not , however, until about 20 years ago [1907] that a serious attempt was made to make a business of farming on the land where the trees had been.

For that matter, it was not necessary to make a very great effort to make a living on a farm in those earlier times. A few dollars would go a long way; wild game was plentiful and solved the meat problem nicely. The streams and river were full of the very best kind of fish, and the climate was ideal, especially when compared with that of many of the prairie states from which a goodly number of the settlers had hailed. While there were few if any orchards, the woods abounded with wild berries which served as well as domesticated fruit, and wood was so plentiful that the early settler was forced to burn millions of feet of it in order to get any use of the ground on which it grew. Aside from these reasons, there was the fact, too, that there was absolutely no demand for what the farmer raised if he did raise it and take it to town. His only need for a farm was to provide himself and his family with the produce that they could eat in the course of the season.

While such a life sounds “tame” in these days [1927] of jazz, automobiles and radio, those early settlers enjoyed their simple diversions more keenly than we do now. In the first place, they were more neighborly than we are now. When one family went to visit another family, they went for the whole day, either walking or making the trip in the wagon. As their numbers increased, other means of social contact came to the community. First there was Sunday school, and preaching. Then prayer meetings during the week, held at the homes of the neighbors. Then there was a temperance society, which afforded an opportunity for these people to work together for a common purpose.

 

“FERN HILL, STEHMAN VOTE CONSOLIDATION”

“RURAL SCHOOL HERE BY LARGE MAJORITIES MOVE FOR MERGER LAST WEDNESDAY EVENING. “

— So read the headlines in “The Rainier Review,” Vol. XXX dated Thursday, Apr 22, 1937 No. 37.

And then from “The Rainier Review” Vol 60 dated Thursday, Feb 18, 1965 No. 31:

 

“FERN HILL COMMUNITY DEPLORES PASSING OF OLD STEHMAN SCHOOL HOUSE IN FIRE

It is with a touch of sadness that we of the Fern Hill area pass the smoke blackened basement walls and tall slim chimney which is all that is left of the old Stehman school, an historical landmark in this area.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, [1965] fire broke out in the old building, owned by Carl (Pat) and Norma Zimmerman, rented and occupied by the Jim Gates family. Mrs. Gates was alone with the younger four of her eight living children. After getting the children to safety, Mrs. Gates tried to rescue the old family pet, a dog some 13 years old. It could not hear well and she was unable to get it to come to her or catch it. She couldn’t stay in the building but a short while and so was unable to save it.

In less than an hour the building was completely gone, thus, this old school like so many of those who attended there, has passed from this earthly existence into the pages of the past to be read now, only in “Memory Lane.”

Aunt Jane Rich, [nee Jane DeBast] now 90 years old, tells of the first school built on that site being completed and ready for the children to attend the spring session of 1885. She was about 10 years old and says there are still some living who went to school with her at that time.

The building just burned was built in 1919, by Orris and Homer Kellar. Orris was the contractor and drew the plans for it. It is identical to the Apiary school which they built in 1918.

For 46 years the old school served well the district both as a school and for homes. Pat Zimmerman, the present owner of the property also went to school there. Through the years have marched many more who have attended there and could the old walls have spoken many stories of childhood years of hopes, fears, joys and tears could keep one listening for a long time.

At the time Aunt Jane Rich went to school, children walked many miles to school and could not attend in the winter because of impassable roads. This is a far cry from our modern paved roads, school busses and cars to get to school; electric lights and equipment and all the rest pupils of today take for granted and have use of. Yes, it was a landmark of a long time past.

We miss it. — Contributed.”

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