Gaston, Oregon Custom Home Builder

by Delahunt Custom Homes

Gaston was named for Joseph Gaston, who immigrated to Oregon from Ohio in 1862 and actively promoted the west-side railroad southwest of Portland, which was later built by Holladay and Villard. He built the narrow-gauge line from Dayton to Sheridan in 1878 and subsequently wrote and published histories of Portland and of Oregon. Gaston died July 20, 1913, aged 79 years. Gaston post office was established on June 5, 1873.

Spotlight on Gaston, Oregon Custom Home Builder

The city has a city park with five acres. The Tillamook State Forest is within 50 miles. The following recreational areas are within 100 miles of the city: Oregon Coast, Columbia River, Nestucca River and the Wilson River.

Annual Wapato Showdown – Car show held in August.

Early history

Prior to the arrival of European immigrants in the 1800s, little is known about Native American settlements in the Gaston area. What is known indicates that Native Americans in the area lived similarly to other Pacific Northwest tribes. In nearby Cherry Grove there are a few petroglyphs usually credited to the Atfalati tribe, which is a division of Kalapuya. Like many other indigenous peoples in North America, it is thought as many as 90% of the local population were killed by smallpox, malaria, influenza or other European diseases even before the area began to feel the presence of significant European settlement.

Schools near Gaston, Oregon Custom Home Builder

In the 1860s, the census recorded only about 70 people in the Gaston area. Nonetheless, in 1866, the first Gaston School was founded. In 1870, a new school was built near the connecting road between Old Highway 47 and the new Highway 47. Initially students only attended school for three to six months per year, later expanded to nine months. In 1871, as a stage coach line brought more settlers, and in anticipation of a new rail line, railroad developer and town namesake Joseph Gaston set aside 2 acres (0.81 ha) of land on what was then the edge of town for a school.

Rail services

In the early 1870s, stagecoach and rail service was expanding rapidly in Washington County. By 1872, a stop on the Portland – St. Joseph line in Patton Valley was officially named Gaston. With a train stop, more people came and by 1873 a post office opened in the new town. The same year, the first church, Gaston Congregational Church, was also built. In the 1880s, Joseph Gaston was responsible for draining Wapato Lake, which lay in the valley around the rail stop, creating the farmland that exists today. “Wapato” is a word from the local Indians that refers to a water-based starchy root vegetable related to arrowroot sometimes called a “water potato” in local English. Rail service ended in 1985 with the removal of rails back to the junction to the Seghers spur.

1900 to present

The addition of a spur line to the nearby Cherry Grove area for the construction of a lumber mill in 1911 added significant activity to the local economy, although it had to be shut down in 1913 during a lumber market crash. The crash of 1913 notwithstanding, by 1916 Gaston had added a bank, J.H. Wescott and Sons General Merchandise, Bell & Owens General Mercantile Company, and other businesses.

In early May 1935 workers at the Stimson Mill went on strike. On May 22, “twenty-five cars loaded with pickets left the Labor Temple in Portland” to support the strikers. The next morning Governor Charles Martin ordered the state police and National Guard to protect the strikebreakers. Armed with gas grenades and machine guns, the military and police forces demanded the strikers leave or be shot. The strikers chose to disperse, averting a potential bloodbath.

New high school

In 1915 a new high school was built on the land Joseph Gaston had previously set aside for a school. That high school was in use through the 1986–87 school year, when it was condemned. The condemning of the building became a crucial local issue for the town, with residents split between merging with a nearby district (both Forest Grove or Yamhill were considered), and building a new high school. In the end, a new high school was built and Gaston retained its independent school system and with it a degree of local pride. Currently the Gaston School District is a full K–12 district, with 525 students total in 2007, and a single high school.

Modern Expansion

The growing popularity of Portland and the Pacific Northwest in general has led to population growth throughout the region. Though too far from Portland to benefit much at first, recently Gaston has started to see new housing and an uptick in school registrations. The late 1980s brought a new fire station and the 1990s baseball/softball-oriented park. Just after 2000, a new post office was built on the edge of town. Thus far, the town has not been able to effectively capitalize on the local wine industry’s growing national and international recognition. In 2006, the mayoral candidate advocated obtaining state or federal funding to revitalize the commercial strip on Main Street which, in theory, could help the city capture some of the wine tourism dollars.