The Farmers - History Con't

Over the years different crops have evolved. The hop industry moved in and then back out; the total acreage has shrunk a great deal from the amount of hops grown in the first half of the 1900’s. Christmas trees have replaced strawberries in the Silverton Hills.

The Waldo Hills, southeast of town, was the location of the first and second Donation Land Claims. King Henry Hibbard laid claim to the first and Daniel Waldo had the second. It is Daniel Waldo the area is named for.

The Hibbards came to Silverton in 1847. Their DLC lays southwest of town and Hibbard Road, named after them, runs through that original property. The Willards, Davenports, Geers, Allens, Riches, Maschers, and Eisenhardts are other pioneers who farmed the Waldo Hills. They all established Donation Land Claims and lived in the area all their lives. They established schools, and community halls where they came together to socialize. Ralph Geer had huge orchard stocks of pears and apples; most of the others grew wheat and grain. His descendants still live and work on the original Century Farm.

The Silverton Hills lies on the east side of Silver Creek Canyon and it is this area that is the main road to Silver Falls State Park. Its agricultural history was also grain with a blend of logging. Some of the names associated with the early establishment of the Silverton Hills were Porter, Ross, Davis, Hubbard, White, Hicks, Hultt, Hartley and Hadley. Enoch Ross and the Hartleys lived down in Powers Creek canyon and the first school was on Ross land. John Porter has a road named after him and donated land for Porter School. There was also a Davis School and Davis Creek Road winds through a part of the hills, connecting the Silver Falls Highway to Porter Road.

It was in the Silverton Hills, later in the twentieth century where the wonderful Marshall strawberry was grown. They were huge, flavorful and sweet and people would come all the way from Portland just to pick them. Introduced to the area in 1938 they succumbed to a disease in the 1960’s. They didn’t transport well to the cannery either so no effort was made to save them. Hop yards were planted all around Silverton in the late 19th century. Hop dryers would be built along side barns and sheds. A tape of the history of hops in Silverton was given by Herman Goschie for a local schoolboy’s history project in the 1970’s. Mr. Goschie’s grandfather came to Silverton in 1885 from California and bought 80 acres five miles northeast of town in the Abiqua area. It was Mr. Goschie’s father, Carl, who harvested the first hops in 1905 and the Goschie family is still raising hops. Herman tells about the changes is growing hops over the past century, the mechanization of harvesting being the biggest. Hops had to be picked by hand into big hop baskets, then dumped into large bags which were then taken to the hop dryers where stoves had to be kept burning until the hops were dry. It was a labor-intensive industry, but then, almost all agriculture is very hard work!

Howell Prairie is especially known for the richness of its soil and the ability to grow anything. It is located west of Silverton and is mostly valley flatland. It was settled in 1843 by three brothers, Wesley, John and Thomas. There is North Howell and the more well-known Central Howell (the intersection of Silverton-Salem Road), Howell Prairie Cemetery and Howell Prairie Road which runs north to south. The vast acres of wheat and grain have given way, down through the years, to row crops of beans, corn, strawberries and caneberries, nursery stock and turf. Lots of grasses are grown today for the seeds which are then planted and grown somewhere else in the nation or the world. Hazelnuts are a fairly recent crop. The Willamette Valley being one of the few places in the world where they do well. It’s just been since the 1970’s that the wine industry has spread over to the east side of the valley.

In the agribusiness of nursery stock perhaps the oldest is Cooley’s Iris Gardens. Begun in the 1920’s by Rholin and Pauline Morley Cooley, it is still managed by their descendants.

Rholin Cooley was a postman in Silverton who was given a gift of an iris from local physician Dr. R.E. Kleinsorge whose hobby was hydridizing irises. From such a small beginning, an iris empire grew. The Cooley offices and show garden are located west of town on Hwy. 213, on the road to Salem. They ship iris rhizomes around the world.

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