The GeerCrest - History Con't

beside the creek at the foot of the hill their farm house now sits on. Ralph was hired by the area settlers to teach school in a newly built one-room school house near their farm. The nursery business boomed in the late 1840’s due to the gold strikes in California and in 1851 they built the farm house now occupied by the family’s fifth generation. The Geer homestead was the second registered land claim when Oregon became a state in 1859.

Ralph Geer was among a handful of area settlers that met at the Geer farm in the early 1850’s to form the Republican Party of Oregon and he was elected to the territorial legislature in 1854. Later, he was one of three commissioners that helped select the route of the Oregon & California Railroad and he was on the committee that selected the Salem site of the original state capital building. Succeeding generations of the Geer family helped shape the future of early Oregon. They pioneered the nursery industry, short horned cattle, hops, flax and merino sheep in the Willamette Valley. Their son L.B. Geer was the Oregon State Lands Commissioner from 1899 to 1903. Their grandson, Pearl Geer was president of the Oregon State Secular Union and co-founder of Silverton’s Liberal University (1895-1903). Later, Pearl became a recognized stage and screen actor. Their Grand-daughter, Musa Geer was a graduate of Willamette University (class of 189.). She taught school in the Waldo Hills and is recognized as the first woman to climb Mt. Jefferson. Musa moved to New York City in 1903 where she worked as an assistant to William Randolph Hearst’s New York Post advice columnist. She did modeling for Lord and Taylor and gradually moved into design work, establishing her own art studio, doing covers for magazines and catalogues. In 1910, Musa joined her mother and brother in the Goodnoe Hills of Washington State, where she homesteaded and ran a store and post office for fifty years. Ralph and Mary’s nephew, T.T. Geer was speaker of the House of Representatives in the 1890’s and became Oregon’s first native born governor (1899-1903). Their grandson, Home Davenport became an internationally recognized political cartoonist for the Hearst newspapers, author and lecturer whose work helped shape public opinion at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th. Also, with the help of President Teddy Roosevelt, Homer journeyed to the Arabian Desert in 1906 and imported 27 of the finest Arabian horses to the U.S. Today, many of the blood-lines of these horses are maintained by the Davenport Arabian Conservancy. Silverton recognizes Homer Davenport every year in August with their Davenport Day’s celebration. Salem recognized the contributions of the Geer family in 2007 when they named their newest park the Geer Community Park.

GeerCrest’s 1851 farmhouse and 1880 stone fruit house are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the front drive is graced by the venerable “Riding Whip Tree” – a State Heritage Tree planted from a cottonwood switch in 1854 by Homer Davenport’s mother, Florinda Geer.

Farming continues into the fifth generation at GeerCrest Farm. It remains a working farm in the tradition of the first settlers – a homestead, which includes a goat dairy, a variety of livestock as well as gardens and an orchard. It is worked by the multigenerational farm team and, coupled with it’s rich history and beautiful natural setting, offers a unique opportunity for children and families to partake in the agrarian life style through the many educational “farm life experience” programs offered to families and children.

In 2007 the GeerCrest Foundation, a non-profit, public benefit 501 c (3) corporation was formed. The purpose of the foundation is to take title to the property, preserve the historic building, artifacts and archives, and use it as both a historic cultural resource and a site where aspects of traditional agrarian culture are being preserved, lived and taught.

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