timberland 30003 Gales Creek
GALES CREEK If one could go back in time to the 1800s when Gales Creek was the first stagecoach stop from Portland to Tillamook, a wealth of history would unfold. Gales Creek was not always the small country town it is today. In the 1800s many large buildings containing general stores, a hotel, blacksmith shops, a beehive factory, dance hall, school, churches and mills, along with many houses, clustered together to make a bustling little town in the country. It was known as Gales City in the early days.
One of those proud old buildings in the center of Gales Creek was the Sargent and Son General Store, Post Office and family home. This building was purchased from a Mr. Veatch by Albert C. and Lyda Sargent in early 1893 and was razed in 1945, leaving the Sargents’ home, which still stands on the land today.
This land which has been home to the Sargent family and their descendants for the past 88 years, was recently sold to the Forest Grove Fire District. It is planned as the new site of the Gales Creek substation for the Forest Grove Fire Department.
Audrey Sargent Bristow, granddaughter of the late Albert C. The first entries in the ledger are dated May 17, 1893, and contain familiar family names of early settlers to the Gales Creek Valley names such as Adkins, Bateman, Cox, Lafterty, Hart, Lily, Parkin, Hines, Parsons, McClarren, Wilson, Johnson, Lyda, Lee, Heisler, Wohl, Willtrout and Maitland are entered as customers of the general store. Comparing wages of that day to now, grocery prices appear no higher than today’s, in comparison. First day entries include: 8 pounds of bacon, 88; 5 pounds sugar, 40; potatoes, 25; sack of flour, $1; 2 plugs climax, $1, 1 1/2 pounds cheese, 30.
Other entries include: shoes, $1.75; socks, 25; overalls, 75; knee pants, 60; wash boiler, $1.75; and garden hoe, 40.
Listings on Dec. 17, 1898, 5 1/2 years later did not show a marked raise in the cost of items purchased. Sugar was 5 pounds for 50 cents, a plug of tobacco, 45 cents; and 8 pound roast for $1; 4 3/4 pounds bacon, 60; 3 yards of flannel, 30 cents; 3 milk pans, 30 cents; and a shirt, 80 cents.
It was truly a general store that contained everything from food staples, fresh fruit and vegetables in season, fresh and cured meats, hardware, clothing and household items such as coal, oil, washboards, boilers and dishes, to the corn cob pipe and the gentleman’s supply of tobacco.
Notations in the back of the ledger record labor and building materials costs for an addition to the store buildings in October 1894, recording wages paid at $1.50 for a day’s labor. This was not the typical 8 to 5 job so familiar to workers today, but a 12 hour day with short rest for lunch. Often in earlier days, the one doing the hiring would also provide a very large home cooked meal at mid day.
The listing of building materials included: 65 pounds of nails,.60; lumber from Willtrout Mill, $12.62; lumber from Lyda Lumber.75; 150 feet of shelving, $2.10; labor at $1.50 or $2 a day. total for the addition and repairs came to $86.96. The . cost $8.40. Those who attended dances there remember how the whole building would sway from side to side. the dance floor was said to have special suspension construction on the floor since there were no supports.
People would bring their children to the dances. While the adults danced, the children would play games, and the little ones would fall asleep. Audrey Bristow remembers her parents telling a particular story about a family with five or six children attending the dance. When Walt and Eva went up the next morning to clean the dance hall, they recalled, they found one of the toddlers fast asleep, apparently overlooked when the family left for home at the end of an evening of dancing.
One neighbor tells of climbing the black walnut tree, stepping up on the front porch roof, and climbing in a window of the dance hall. That was when extra money for entertainment was hard to come by and a young man was a daring soul.
The stately old black walnut tree appearing in early day photos of Sargent’s General Store and Post Office still stands proudly beside the road, its large branches reaching skyward.
The interior of the old general store and post office was unique. I can remember climbing the steps to the very large front porch and entering the double doors to what seemed, to a small child, a massive room. Then, in the mid 1940s, although it was no longer a general store, the counters, containers and barrels were still in place to remind you of what used to be a bustling business. There was also the potbelly stove, still surrounded by comfortable wood chairs, as when it was the place to warm cold hands and engage in conversation of the day.
On entering the double doors, the post office was to the right. Albert C. Sargent was the postmaster at Gales Creek from the mid 1980s until 1914. His son Walter then became postmaster and held that job until his death in 1944.
After Mr. Sargent’s death, the post office was moved to the Gales Creek store, and Web Limpus was the postmaster for the area until 1949.
In 1949 Eva Sargent was named postmaster, putting the postal service back with the Sargent family.
The Gales Creek post office was originally an independent third class post office, but in 1959 the designation was changed to Rural Station out of Forest Grove. Mrs. Sargent was able to bid on the job, even at age 70, and maintained the postal service in Gales Creek as contracting “clerk in charge.”
She then moved the post office into an enclosed back porch on her home, where it was one of the coziest postal settings around. The office was reached by a footpath through the garden of the residence, where postal customers viewed window sills and tables filled with plants and flowers. The sound of the door opening would be greeted by Eva’s voice from the kitchen saying, “I’m coming, be right there” or the customer would be greeted with a warm friendly smile and a comment sure to bring smiles and/or laughter to the one entering the door. Grandma Sargent or just Grandma, as Eva was referred to by her neighbors and friends, served the postal needs of Gales Creek families until 1973 when she retired at the age of 88.
The Sargent family home, which was home to Walter Sargent, his wife, Eva, and their children, Elizabeth, Frank, Philip, Chester and Audrey, still stands on the land today, a reminder of days gone by. It is built in the box design of the 1800s, with few windows and doors, 12 foot ceilings and wainscoting along the walls of each room. A long hallway, leading from the front door to the living room, contains coat hooks along the full length of the wall. Many coats have found a resting place there over the years.
As Audrey Sargent Bristow told someone recently, “the older homes were not built for convenience and warmth, merely a shelter for the family.” This old home holds a wealth of history inside its walls.
The parcel of land that housed the buildings which served the public for nearly 90 years as a general store, dance hall, post office and home in Gales Creek will soon serve the public again. Having a fire station and volunteer firemen based at the old home site, Audrey feels, will be an appropriate memorial to her mother, the late Eva Sargent, and other ancestors.