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District Development and Heritage

As we begin the 21st Century, Clackamas County School District #108, which includes Estacada and the surrounding areas, consists of over 700 of Clackamas County’s 1,879 square miles. A community rich in heritage and historical significance, this area was home to one of the earliest settlers — Philip Foster. In 1843, Foster, along with Dr. John McLoughlin and their associates, formed the Willamette Cattle Company with Philip Foster as agent. In 1844, Philip Foster built a log house and moved his family from Oregon City to 800 acres of property in what is now the Eagle Creek area. The Willamette Cattle Company began with 575 head of cattle, 20 horses and 535 head of sheep. In 1845, a gristmill was under construction on Goose Creek near the Foster cabin, and in 1846, Sam Barlow and William Recter blazed a trail over the Cascade Range to Oregon City. This trail became known as the Barlow Trail. The Foster property, located along the trail, became a resting place for immigrants after they had crossed the mountains. Foster prospered from the swarms of immigrants who chose the Barlow Trail, but more importantly, he encouraged settlement in the Clackamas River Valley. The Estacada area was originally utilized for cattle grazing, but the immigrants soon found the rich soil of the valley suitable for agriculture and many settlers began farming in the early 1850’s. The Pierce family, who traveled the Oregon Trail from Illinois in 1852, settled on a donation land claim containing 322.24 acres that was later to become the town of Estacada.

By 1848, five families with 17 children had settled near Philip Foster in the small community that was called Jack-Knife. After a meeting of the heads of these families, it was decided that a teacher was needed and a young lady named Rebecca Denny was employed. She taught school from house to house. For two months each year this arrangement was provided in 1848 and 1849. In 1850, Philip Foster and his neighbors petitioned the Probate Court for a public school. On October 8, 1850, the court approved the creation of a school district and named it the Philip Foster District #17. The first school in our area was located near the old Eagle Creek Highway. The formation of Multnomah County, from existing Clackamas and Washington Counties in December 1854 by the Territorial Legislature, reduced the boundaries of the district and changed the name of it to School District #17. A considerable portion of the former Philip Foster District #17 became part of the newly created Multnomah County. In 1873, the second school in the Eagle Creek area was built near the site of our current Eagle Creek Elementary School. It was subsequently demolished and was replaced in 1894 by another building adjacent to it.

E.L. (Roy) Meyers compiled most of the above information from the Philip Foster Historical Collection that was published by the Genealogical Forum of Portland, Oregon Inc. in 1972. Mr. Meyers states, “It is not generally known, but the facts are that public school was taught here even before Oregon City and Portland had public schooling. A further fact, and one that should be of greatest interest, is that in 1850 the only public school between Oregon City and Independence, Missouri, was our local school [District #17].”

As the community grew, schools flourished, and from 1850 to 1924, thirteen small school districts served the area. In addition to District #17 they were:

#7 Currinsville (1851), #81 Barton (1854), #12 Garfield, #50 Douglas Ridge, #58 Ellwood, #78 Dodge (1895), #14 Viola, #24 Springwater (1852), #57 George, #68 Tracy, #88 Porter, #123 Three Lynx (1924) 

Within the immediate Estacada area, the first community that was established was Zion, in 1845. The school in Zion was first established in 1851. In 1884, the name was changed to Currinsville, named after the claimants George and Hugh Currin.

The first community in the foothills of the Cascades in our area would become known as George (it was also known as Eagle Park). Descendants of German emigrants settled it in 1871. By 1889, George had a population of 110, including 38 school children.

Ellwood, originally known as Kickapoo and later as Mountain Home, was established in 1892. The Dodge area, first settled in about 1852, built its one room schoolhouse in about 1895.

The Estacada area began to be settled in the 1850’s, mainly by emigrants of English, German, and Italian descent. However, it was not heavily populated until the turn of the century, when the electric railroad line was completed. The town of Estacada was incorporated in 1905.

Estacada Grade School #108 was formed in 1904 with a small 20 foot by 30 foot building on the west side of Main Street, built close to Second Street. In 1906, a one and one-half story building was constructed on the east side of Main Street, facing south. Outside toilets were on the Main Street side of the building. A few students from rural schools came to attend the seventh and eighth grades. It is believed that in the years between 1904 and 1908, schooling ended with completion of the eighth grade. In 1908, a duplicate building was added to the 1906 school. High school classes were held upstairs. This new building contained inside toilets. Students from rural schools paid a monthly tuition of one dollar to attend the high school. An addition was constructed onto this building in 1910. In 1913, the population of Estacada was recorded at 400.

In 1917, Estacada’s first dedicated high school, a brick building, was built on Second Street, facing south, in back of the 1906 and 1908 buildings (at the site of the current Clackamas River Elementary School). This school was a two story structure and had ramps rather than stairs. By 1923, Estacada’s population had grown to 483. In 1931, the Estacada Union High School District #6 was formed to serve the Estacada area schools, with the exception of the Barton and Eagle Creek areas. A Union High School District was a common entity at this time and was created to be responsible for the education of students in the high school grades but not for those students in the primary grades. A new Union High School was eventually constructed in 1936, as a Public Works Administration project (project number Oreg. 1033), to replace the 1917 building. The cost of this new high school was $130,862 (approximately the cost of one classroom today), or about $2.00 per square foot. This building would later be converted to the current Junior High School.

In 1932, the 1906 and 1908 buildings were demolished and a new Estacada Grade School (the third to be built) with nine classrooms was built in their place. This building was constructed in the depths of the Great Depression, when funds were scarce. As a result the materials and quality of construction do not match that of the 1936 Union High School, built a mere four years later. In 1946, a cafeteria and five classrooms were added to the Grade School, and in 1951, another wing and a library/music room were added. The 1951 addition was built on the same site as the 1917 high school, which had been previously demolished. The Grade School had grown to a total of 23 classrooms.  The Grade School was demolished in 2002 to make way for the new Clackamas River Elementary School.

In 1929, as a result of the loss of the Garfield School that burned during the LaDee Flats Forest Fire, a series of consolidations with School District #108 began. Other districts that became consolidated with School District #108 are as follows:

#18 Tracy in 1931, #6 Currinsville in 1940, #57 George in 1944, #78 Dodge in 1946, #50 Douglas Ridge in 1948, #14 Viola in 1948, #24 Springwater in 1948, #88 Porter in 1963, #81 Barton in 1964, #17 Eagle Creek in 1966, #123 Three Lynx in 1975    
The Barton school buildings built in 1925 and 1954 were used for primary schools. After the 1964 consolidation with School District #108, the older building was demolished. In 1982, the Barton Community Church, located next to the school, purchased the remaining property, including the 1954 school building.

In 1962, a new Union High School was built on the north side of Sixth Street (the current High School), on the Wade Donation Land Claim, and the old Union High School was converted into the current Junior High School. By this time the Union High School District had expanded to include the Redland School District.

Eagle Creek School District #17 consolidated with District #108 in 1966. A four-room school built in 1912, which replaced the school built in 1893, was still in use as the primary school building. In 1970, a new elementary school was built at Eagle Creek, adjacent to the 1912 school building. The site was expanded by ten acres due to the acquisition of the Hans Lensch and Henry Suter properties. At the same time, a new school was built on North Broadway in Estacada, adjacent to the high school campus, now known as River Mill Elementary School. In 1982, the 1912 Eagle Creek School building was finally closed to students.

Redland School District withdrew from the Union High School District in 1974, and discussions began regarding the advantages and disadvantages of unification. In 1975, an administrative district was formed comprising Three Lynx Elementary School District #123, Estacada Elementary School District #108, and Estacada Union High School District #6. The newly reorganized district’s legal name became Clackamas County School District #108, but is commonly referred to as Estacada School District #108. The school sites included Eagle Creek Elementary School, Three Lynx School, Barton School, Estacada Grade School, Estacada Middle School (now known as River Mill Elementary School), Estacada Junior High School and Estacada High School. The District received a ten-acre parcel in the Springwater area as a result of a planned development and the District owned several residential lots in Estacada that were used by the high school’s Building Construction class. One lot, located in the Foothills subdivision, is still under district ownership and remains undeveloped.

In 1976, the high school’s Building Construction class built an administrative office building, west of the high school campus, which is currently in use. In 1979, a new Transportation facility was erected. Also in 1979, district patrons passed a $6.5 million bond issue. Projects funded by that bond were completed by the 1981-82 school year and included:

  • The addition of 11 classrooms and a multipurpose area at Eagle Creek Elementary School.
  • Renovation of the Junior High School to address fire and safety issues.
  • Remodeling of the Junior High School hallways and classrooms .
  • Installation of carpeting at the Junior High School.
  • Remodeling of shower and locker room areas at the Junior High School.
  • Renovation of 25 rooms at the Estacada Grade School.
  • Addition of a music complex at the High School.
  • Addition of an auto shop at the High School.
  • Addition of a gymnasium and locker rooms at the High School.
  • Addition of an instructional media center and three classroom areas at the High School.
  • Development of a commons area and offices at the High School.
  • General renovation and remodeling of the High School.
  • Miscellaneous remodeling of the Three Lynx School.

Also in 1982, District #108 purchased a residential property located adjacent to the high school, which included a residence built in the 1940’s. The High School’s Building Construction class remodeled the residence for use as community school offices. This building currently houses the high school’s alternative education program. In 1983, a small portion of the high school property was transferred to the Estacada Cemetery District, and in 1989, the ten-acre parcel of district property in the Springwater area was sold.

During the 1986-87 school year, major paving and roofing projects were completed as well as acoustical ceiling treatment of the gym and the remodeling of a science classroom at the High School.

In 1995, a five-year $1.582 million bond issue was approved. Major projects included:

  • Replacement of asbestos tile at the Estacada Grade School.
  • Addition of a bus bay to the transportation garage which is now used as the district’s warehouse.
  • Resurfacing of the track and tennis courts at both the High School and Junior High School.
  • Addition of previously used portable classrooms at River Mill Elementary School and Eagle Creek Elementary School.
  • Reconstruction of, and addition to, the library at the Estacada Junior High School
  • Other miscellaneous maintenance items were performed around the district.

In May 1988, the Board of Directors voted to discontinue services at the Three Lynx School and the District began transporting elementary students from the Three Lynx area to the Estacada Grade School for the 1988-89 school year. Due to a decrease in the number of families at Three Lynx and the subsequent low enrollment, the Three Lynx facility has not reopened as a school and is currently used only for special activities. 

In November 2000, school district voters overwhelmingly passed the largest general obligation bond in district history - $25.4 million. Major projects included:

  • A new 60,000 square foot Clackamas River Elementary School to replace the Estacada Grade School, built in about 1932.
  • A complete remodel and seismic upgrade of the Estacada Junior High, built in 1936. Classrooms were enlarged and new ones were constructed. The auditorium and gymnasium received substantial improvements. An outdoor play area was also built.
  • A new addition to River Mill Elementary School, complete with additional classrooms, a full-sized gymnasium, a music room, and a science/art room. The library was also increased in size.
  • A new addition to Eagle Creek Elementary School, complete with additional classrooms, a science/art room, and a music room. The library was doubled in size.
  • At the Estacada High School, a complete replacement of the existing heating system (electric) to a more efficient oil-fired boiler system was constructed and a new, insulated, better draining roof was applied.

Currently, District #108 consists of the Clackamas River Elementary School, River Mill Elementary School, Estacada Middle School, and Estacada High School, which are all located within Estacada’s city limits. In addition, the District’s central offices, maintenance, grounds and transportation/warehouse facilities are also located in the same area. Eagle Creek Elementary School, another building located in the District, located about six miles west of Estacada, is a focal point for the Eagle Creek community. Trees from a historic fruit orchard remain on the Eagle Creek site.

The Estacada area is rich in history. The Barlow Road, hydroelectric development of the Clackamas River basin, logging, tourism, fruit and walnut orchards, along with other agriculture were pivotal in providing support, services, and sustenance to what is now the Portland metropolitan area and to the rest of the state. Consistent through the years is the District’s pride in our schools and a commitment to the education of our children.

The following piece, written by Principal James in 1917, appeared in A Land of Peace and Plenty, Estacada, Oregon.

“Probably the greatest pride of Estacada is its schools and school system, the main school being in the town and the country districts having their rural schools.

The following summary of the situation by the past principal of the Estacada schools covers all points:

‘Estacada has a school of which it is justly proud. The building cost $12,000, and has nine rooms; all of which are occupied. The rooms are well equipped with maps, charts, globes, and many things that are necessary to aid the teachers in doing successful work.

‘There is a full high school course. The high school laboratory is well supplied with apparatus that makes it possible to give much laboratory work in physics and physiography [the study of natural history].

‘The best teachers that can be procured are employed. There are seven teachers; including the principal. Five teachers in the grades; and two in the high school. In all probability another teacher will be added to the high school force.

‘We have a very large and rich school district. It includes the city of Estacada, much rich surrounding farm land, and two power plants; the one at Faraday and the one being completed at River Mill The valuation of this district this year was $730,000, and by another year a conservative estimate will place it at $1,000,000. With this valuation it is possible for Estacada to have a well taught, well equipped school.

‘What it means to the outlying country to have a good school in the city, one would fully realize if he were to be at the schoolhouse some morning and watch the children assemble. They come on foot, on horseback, by car, and with buggies; from miles around.

‘As the eighth graders have always passed the state examinations, many of the surrounding districts have come to send their eighth graders in here to finish the work of the grade.

‘Graduates of the high school are admitted to the state schools, including the University, without examinations.

‘The high school pupils who wish to teach have had no trouble in passing the teachers' examinations.

"We have the only high school in the eastern part of the county. Plans are being entertained to add a course in agriculture."
(Signed) H. M James, Princ.