Centennial celebration: Residents reminisce, look forward

August 2016 Posted in Community
There was a time when Scotts Mills was a booming town with saw and flour mills. Scotts Mills Area Historical Society

There was a time when Scotts Mills was a booming town with saw and flour mills. Scotts Mills Area Historical Society

By Hannah Kloft

Margaret Gersch, 91, is nine years younger than the city of Scotts Mills.

She recalls moving to Scotts Mills in 1931 when there were no paved roads. It was only gravel roads once travelers passed the bridge.

She grew up four miles up Crooked Finger Road, and then moved into the town of Scotts Mills when she married at 21. She can remember life in a bustling town of trade.

There were two grocery stores, two service stations, and two mills.

“We had lots of people working and living here,” Gersch said. “Everything you needed was here. The grocery stores had everything you could need. At one time, there was a pharmacy and a doctor… We were very self-sufficient.”

Scotts Mills activities
Sunday, Aug. 14, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fishing contest for children 12 and younger.
Trucks, cars, firetrucks on display.
Commemorative coins for sale.
11:30 a.m. Old Jail dedication
12:30 p.m. Homecoming potluck
and Centennial program
Aug. 13 – 14 Quilt show at Grange
For information: Margaret Gersch 503-873-6596,
Jim Hays at jimwhays@yahoo.com,
Lydia Stoddard at lydia.stoddard@yahoo.com

This year, the community members of Scotts Mills are reminiscing about its past and looking forward to its future as they celebrate its 100th year as an official town of Oregon.

The Scotts Mills Centennial Celebration begins at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14. The Scotts Mills downtown area, Scotts Mills Fire Hall, Scotts Mills City Park, Scotts Mills Grange Hall, and the museum will all host activities until around 4 p.m. The celebration will include an old jail dedication, potluck picnic, quilt show, old car displays, a fire department open house, fishing contests, a centennial homecoming.

Scotts Mills was named in 1916 after the Scott brothers, Robert Hall Scott and his brother, Thomas Scott.

The name Robert Hall Scott has been kept in the family for six generations. Robert Hall Scotts V and Robert Hall Scott VI will attend the 100th anniversary, Gersch said.

To gain insight into Scotts Mills’ history, Lois E. Helvey Ray and Judith Sanders Chapman wrote and compiled, Scotts Mills: A Pictorial History. In an interview, Ray referred to several paragraphs from the book.

In the 1820s, Thomas McKay was one of the first fur traders to work along the Abiqua and Butte Creek. He was the son of Alexander McKay and Marguerite Wadin, and stepson of the founder of Oregon City, Dr. John McLoughlin.

After constructing a water-powered gristmill in present day Scotts Mills County Park, McKay left the Oregon Country to start a wagon party in search of California gold for Peter Hardeman Burnett, the first governor of California.

Upon his return in 1849, “the Jack brothers, Thomas Porterfield, William Allen, and Robert Alexander conferred with McKay and decided to ‘…establish a sawmill somewhere on the Butte Creek…succeeded in getting a liberal concession for power yard room, and option for saw timber’ on property owned by McKay,” according to the book.

These mills would soon be “…claimed to be the most productive west of Minneapolis. The 1850 Oregon Schedule of Industry noted that the saw mill contained $1,500 of invested capitol, employed five men and produced 624,000 feet of lumber worth $12,000, while the gristmill represented $2,000 of invested capital, had three employees, and produced 4,500 barrels of flour worth $45,000,” the book states.

Michael Nowlen, who the road and bridge entering the town are named after, received the two mills from the McKay family. He then sold them to his Oregon Trail companion and brother-in-law, Joshua Bowman. After moving to Oregon City, Bowman then sold the property to Robert Hall Scott in 1866.

Robert and his brother Thomas immigrated from Banff’s Mills, Roxburyshire, Scotland and settled in Oregon in 1866.

Having experience in the mill industry in Scotland, the brothers ran a successful business and improved their mills to become some of the best in the entire Willamette Valley. The flour produced by the mill was sent to Downs Station in Mount Angel and shipped on the Oregon and California Railroad.

Eventually, in 1916, the town was named after the Scott brothers who owned the mills, and the mills were passed on to several heirs of Thomas Scott and others.

“There’s been a lot of change,” Gersch said. “Back then, I enjoyed the closeness of the community and the availability of a good education for my children.”

Today, Scotts Mills is now a quiet home to more than 350 residents. “The population is pretty much the same,” Gersch said.

The covered bridge in Scotts Mills City Park is a popular site for both community and private events.

The covered bridge in Scotts Mills City Park is a popular site for both community and private events.

However, there are “more houses but less families, since families are smaller now,” Gersch said. She’s watched Scotts Mills become a bedroom community, she said “Everyone works out of town now.”

Scotts Mills Mayor Paul Brakeman said the city is slowly growing.

“We have a couple of challenges citywide, but we’re working on those for the future,” Brakeman said.

One of those issues includes the transition to a new water system within the city. “Everyone here is on a septic system, and we’re looking to upgrade to sewer,” Brakeman said.

Scotts Mills Elementary School Principal Kirstin Jorgenson enjoys driving to town with her children each morning for school. Before becoming the principal at Scotts Mills, she was the principal at Robert Frost Elementary School.

“I had heard so many wonderful things about the school and community before making the transition, but each school and community event in Scotts Mills I experienced solidified that it was a great decision,” she said.

“From the scenic and peaceful drive to Scotts Mills each day, to the amazing staff and students and supportive community, Scotts Mills is a treasure!  I look forward to the 100th anniversary celebration, and September for the start of another great school year”

Scotts Mills City Councilor Dick Bielenberg has lived in Scotts Mills for 65 years. He is the councilor responsible for unpaid supervision of the water department.

“We’re looking for grants for a newer sewer system for the older parts of town, because our newer houses have better septic systems” Bielenberg said.

Bielenberg said Scotts Mills is a really nice place to live.

“There’s a creek for the kids and Oregon City and Salem are only 30 minutes away for anything you might need” Bielenberg said.

As far as the future goes, “It’ll remain a small residential community with a few businesses,” he predicted.

Jerry Lake has been a resident of Scotts Mills for 32 years.

“It’s a beautiful little quaint town that we all love,” Lake said. “I love it here. It stays in its old time era. Everyone that’s lived here a long time is right with each other. We all look out for one another.”

After being her home for more than 70 years, Gersch said there’s a lot of local interest in Scotts Mills because it is a “great place to live.”

“We’re a very historical town so we just try to preserve past history for the future” Gersch said.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.