Beaverton's Beginning

Black & white historic photo of early wagon train pioneers.The Tualatin Valley and Beaverton area was originally the home of native people who referred to themselves as Atfalati. Westerners later mispronounced the name as Tualatin. The tribe was a hunter-gatherer group that relied more on plants than animals for their food. They made use of various plant materials for making their clothes, houses and other personal effects. Although prosperous, the Atfalati population declined significantly starting in the late 1700s. 

The Native Americans occupied a village located on the Beaverton and Fanno creeks that was called Chakeipi. Although the name meant “place of the beaver,” early settlers called the village Beaverdam and later changed it to Beaverton.

Explorers and Pioneers

Black & white historic photo of early farmsteads in Beaverton.It was not until 1792 that westerners first visited the Pacific Northwest when American Robert Gray sailed into the Columbia River and opened the door to exploration. Later that year, British Lt. William Broughton, serving under Capt. George Vancouver, explored 100 miles upriver. Along the way, he named a point of land along the shore in honor of his commander. 

The first overland expedition to the northwest came when American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark visited in 1806. On the return trip, they camped near what is now Vancouver, Washington. Lewis characterized the area as “the only desired situation for settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.” 

In the spring of 1847, the first land claim (comprising 640 acres of Beaverdam) located in what is now Beaverton was taken up by Lawrence Hall. He and his brother built a grist mill near present-day Walker Road. Their mill along with others that were soon built in the area was instrumental in supporting Oregon’s early agriculture communities. 

The other important industry in early Oregon was logging and wood products. Thomas Hicklin Denney and his wife Berrilla came to Oregon in 1849 and quickly established the first sawmill in what is now the Beaverton area. 

As more people came into the area, it became increasingly important to provide a system of roads to transport agricultural and wood products to Portland for shipment. In 1850 the territorial government created the Portland-Tualatin Valley Plank Road Company to build plank roads from Portland to Hillsboro along Canyon Road. The road was completed as far as Beaverton by 1860 despite various financial setbacks.

Development of the City of Beaverton

Black & white historic photo of the Cady Building, circa 1910.Spurred on by a railroad into town built in 1868, the small farming community west of Portland began to grow. By 1893 the City of Beaverton was formally incorporated with a population of 400. Alonzo Cady, a local businessman became the first mayor. 

In 1872, George Betts became the City’s first postmaster. The post office was located in a general store that he owned. The current post office is located on Betts street, named in honor of the first postmaster. 

Beaverton’s first library opened its doors in 1925 on the second floor of the Cady building. Over the years the library has been housed in several different locations. The Library was taken over by the City government in 1941 and rehoused in the old firemen’s hall. Then in 1948 it was moved to a building on first street, then again in 1958 to a location on Hall street where it stayed until 1980. It was temporarily located in the Hall Street Station for four years. In 1984 the Library was moved to a different location on Allen Boulevard where it stayed for a number of years until a new Library was built at the intersection of Fifth Street and Hall Boulevard in September 2000.

Important Developments


Developing a system of roads became a priority in 1849, and by 1850 the Portland-Tualatin Valley Plank Road Company was chartered by the Territorial Legislature to build the Pacific Coast’s first plank roads. Plans called for the road to start in Portland and go out to Hillsboro along the wagon-beaten dirt trail called Canyon Road. Building came to a standstill when the company went bankrupt. Then in 1855 efforts were renewed. Public subscriptions were sold to raise money and a toll was charged for passage: from $1 to $5 for a wagon and team, with additional fees per head for loose livestock. By 1860, Canyon Road to Beaverton was complete, boosting the economic success of Beaverton farmers and merchants. 

The appearance of the railroad in 1868 was a catalyst for the incorporation, or legal formation of the "village of Beaverton”, although it didn’t officially happen until 1893. The officers of the corporation were the mayor, four councilmen, a recorder, a treasurer and a marshal.

Farmington Road circa 1890

Farmington Road circa 1890

Garden Home Railway

Garden Home Railway

City Formation

The original town charter in 1893 stated that the “...mayor and council shall receive no pay for their services... The indebtedness of said corporation shall never exceed the sum or $500, excepting for the purpose of supplying the town with water and light.” 

The popularity of bicycling by the early 1900’s prompted the Beaverton City Council to create a special speeding ordinance: If a person or persons operated a bicycle at a speed of greater than eight mph the fine would not be less than $10 and not more than $50. If the violator couldn’t pay, he was looking at time in the town jail for not less than five days or not more than 30.

Black & white historic photo of the Bank of Beaverton.The Bank of Beaverton

The Bank of Beaverton, the town’s first bank, was founded in 1910. In 1923 a new Spanish colonial building was constructed on the corner of Farmington and Watson. The present day occupant of the old bank building is Arthur Murray Dance Studio.

Women’s Suffrage 

In 1912, the ladies of the Beaverton Grange cooked up a plan to help pass the Oregon vote for Woman’s Suffrage. All the men were summoned to the Grange Hall to vote on the issue, some traveling a long distance by horse and buggy. The ladies had a sumptuous potluck dinner waiting, and while the men enjoyed the meal, the women pleasantly suggested that the men vote in favor of the female gender. One German man shouted “I vote for the Vimen!” and the others followed suit.

The Beaverton Airport and Motion Picture Studios

Black & white historic photo of George Yates and student pilot.The glamorous and exciting world of motion pictures changed the face of Beaverton in 1920, when Premium Picture Productions built a movie studio near Erickson Street. Local residents frequently worked as extras or had small walk-on parts. The film company made about 15 motion pictures before it went bankrupt late in 1925. 

When Premium Picture Productions closed down in 1925, the 32-acre studio site was turned into an aircraft hangar-factory. The financier behind the film venture in Beaverton was also an aviation enthusiast. Dr. G. E. Watts built Watts Airport. The hanger was on the west side of Erickson, along what is now Sixth Street. Before long, airplanes were being built and tested in Beaverton and many more pilots were using the Watts airstrip. Having outgrown the site, Charles Bernard was approached. Bernard built more wood frame hangars parallel to the what is now Cedar Hills Blvd. and the home-built airplane industry in Beaverton thrived. Bernard Airport was once known as the oldest continuously-operated airport in Oregon. On September 11, 1938 the Oregonian reported that Bernard Airport was “perhaps the busiest noncommercial airport in the United States - Beaverton - where exists the added distinction that most of the planes are amateur built.”


The Halls

In May of 1845, the Hall Family (natives of Kentucky who lived in Missouri) began their trek to the Oregon territory. The wagon train they were a part of tried to shorten the journey by taking a little explored trail, and encountered illness, battles, a dwindling water supply, and numerous deaths. But the Halls made it. Hall Boulevard in Beaverton is named after this pioneer family.

Black & white historical photo of Thomas & Berrilla Denney.The Denneys

Thomas Hicklin Denney was running a sawmill and grist mill near Concord, Indiana around 1848, when he met his cousin, Berrilla F. King. Encouraged by relatives who had made the trip out West, the cousins decided to travel together and make their way to Oregon. Before long, their relationship grew. Thomas Denney and Berrilla King were married on January 4, 1849. When they began their trip in early March, Berrilla was pregnant. Although the last half of the journey was fraught with frequent bad weather and scarce water, the trip across the Cascades was uneventful. Their first stop in Oregon Territory was Mills (Milwaukie). There they met Augustus Fanno, who told them about a fine section of land that adjoined his in the lush Tualatin Valley. Thomas thought it was a good piece of land, and by 1850, the Denney’s had moved into a three-room log house on their claim, near what is now Scholls Ferry Road and Hall Blvd.

The Allens

The busy intersection of SW Allen and Hall Blvd. is the location where early Beaverton resident Orrin S. Allen lived. Allen was said to be scholarly (a faithful reader of the New York Tribune) as well a carpenter and painter.

Francis Robinson: Beaverton’s First Doctor

Francis Marion Robinson graduated from Willamette University in 1885 with a degree in medicine, and started a practice in Beaverton. In 1887, Dr. Robinson had a Queen Anne-style, Victorian home built on Broadway. In 1893, he had a pharmacy built next to his residence. Today the former Robinson house and pharmacy have been combined and converted into the popular Beaverton Bakery. 

Alonzo Cady: Beaverton’s First Mayor

Alonzo Brockway Cady settled in Beaverton in 1892, bringing his family boot and shoe business with him, and in no time was the towns leading merchant. He became Beaverton’s first mayor in 1893, shortly after the town was incorporated.

Otto Erickson and Guy Carr: Car Dealerships

Black & white historic photo of Carr Chevrolet dealership.In 1915, Otto Erickson opened Beaverton Garage, the first automobile garage in town, with a capital investment of $3,500. Later that year he became Beaverton’s Ford Agent. In 1917 he added Hillsboro to his territory and by 1918, he was the Ford agent for Washington County. By 1920, that $3,500 investment had grown to over $96,000. Otto was president of the company and owned 80 percent of the stock. The other 20 percent was shared by his employees as a reward for faithful service.

Guy Carr arrived in Beaverton, in 1919, just after World War I. His step-father, Otto Erickson, was mayor at the time, in addition to owning the Ford dealership. Carr went to work for Erickson, demonstrating the Fordson Tractor (“A tractor was new, unheard of,” remembered Carr) and later assembling the Fords that were shipped in parts to the Beaverton Garage where he worked. In 1923, Carr bought out his step-father’s Ford dealership at the Farmington location, and sold Fords until the building burned in 1930. Twenty years and several dealerships later in locations around Beaverton, Carr moved to the present-day location on Southwest Canyon Road. In 1987, Guy Carr retired after 68 years in the automobile business in Beaverton. Guy Carr served on the Beaverton City Council for several years. When the city went broke during the Depression, Bull Run water was cut off because the city couldn’t pay the $75,000 water bill. Carr and the other councilmen signed a $2,500 note, and proceeded to drill their own well with the help of friends.

Rose Biggi: Beaverton Foods

Rose Merlo lived with her family until 1920 when she married a young Italian man who worked for her father, Louie Biggi. When her father retired, the Biggi’s bought 14 acres to farm near what is now Cedar Hills Blvd. Seven years later Louie died, leaving Rose to raise and support three children-and 14 acres full of vegetables. Three acres were the winter crop: horseradish. Rose had a friend who made a little grinding machine, and she ground the root grown on her farm in Beaverton. She traveled to Portland, Hillsboro and around Beaverton with her basket of ground horseradish. It began to catch on. A savvy businesswoman, Rose saved her profits little by little and began to buy the land surrounding their existing acreage. Rose eventually built a larger home and building which housed the Beaverton Horseradish Factory. The demand for Rose’s product continues today, with her children and grandchildren running the company. Beaverton Foods products are shipped all over the world, from the same location on Cedar Hills Blvd. in Beaverton.

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