About the John Quincy Adams Young House

Plans for a sawmill were developed in 1855 by John Halsey Jones, seven miles west of Portland in what became Cedar Mill, a heavily timbered squatter's tract. Jones and his father purchased 183 acres from the squatter and later filed a donation land claim for the property near NW 119th Avenue and Cornell Road. Since Jones had previously received all the free land to which he was entitled, his parents, Justus and Lois, filed the claim. John and his eight-year-old brother, Elihu, moved to the area with their parents.

A small sawmill was built by Justus and John. Their mill, as indicated on an old road survey map, stood next to Cornell Road near a 32-foot drop of Cedar Mill Creek. Above the mill site, the meandering creek was dammed in a natural basin to form a mill pond. According to family accounts, power for the mill was supplied by a large overshot water wheel at the end of the millpond.

JQA Young

The Life of John Quincy Adams Young

by Eberhard Jaeckh, member, Friends of the JQA Young House*

The modest white “saltbox-style” house on Cornell near 119th is the most tangible reminder in our community of the life of a remarkable man. We are fortunate to know a lot about the life of the person after whom the house is named. John Quincy Adams Young was born 1828 in Clermont County, Ohio, the last of seven children.

His father, Elam Young, seems to have been a restless man, moving from his birth place in Saratoga Springs, NY, west to Ohio, where glowing reports about Oregon Country—“the land of apples and rain”*— encouraged his wanderlust to go farther west still. Finally, at the ripe age of almost 59, he and his wife Irene—not a youngster either at age 56 - set out to make the arduous trip west. Their three youngest sons, James (age 23), Daniel (age 21) and John Quincy Adams, 19 years old, joined in. Four older children stayed behind. The family left Ohio in 1846, and wintered in Missouri. On May 7, 1847, near the height of immigration west on the Oregon Trail, they joined a wagon train led by Captain Bewley.

No journey on the Oregon Trail could ever have been easy. Theirs was made more complicated by their late start, consequently getting to Oregon Country late in the season. Exhausted, they finally arrived at the Umatilla River in October. Dr. Marcus Whitman provided welcome shelter at his mission near Fort Walla Walla. Whitman was one of the earliest settlers, having come across in 1836 before there was an established Oregon Trail. His goal was to bring the good word to the local Cayuse tribe.

Their supplies being depleted, the Youngs decided to stay at the mission and assist Dr. Whitman in building a gristmill nearby. Only weeks later disaster struck. The infamous Whitman Massacre took place in late November. Thirteen people were killed outright, including Whitman and his wife, the former dismembered and mangled beyond recognition.

The tragedy struck the Youngs as well. James Young was killed while driving a wagon from the mission to the gristmill. John Quincy Adams, his brother Daniel and his parents were unhurt. Still, the Cayuse held them and some fifty others prisoner, until Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver ransomed the captives a month later.

The gruesome Whitman Massacre was one of the cataclysmic events of the period. When news of it reached Washington, it helped to usher in the establishment of the more formal Oregon Territory a year later.

It is difficult for us to imagine what must have gone through the minds of the Youngs, who were looking for a promising future, only to be faced with exhaustion, death of one of theirs, loss of all their possessions, and then imprisonment at the hands of the Cayuse.

With the other freed settlers, they reached Fort Walla Walla on December 31, 1847. They left the next morning in three large boats for Fort Vancouver. JQA Young said in his memoir, “Think of this, going down the Columbia in mid-winter in open boats, with only blankets and our scanty clothing on our backs, and a very few personal possessions. All our cattle, oxen, and wagons were confiscated or, in other words, stolen from us by the five Indians in the camp.”*

They stayed at Fort Vancouver for a few days, but soon afterwards boarded a barge to Oregon City. Elam, Daniel and JQA worked odd jobs to see the family through the winter, and then in May 1848 they moved to a small house in the Tualatin Valley to work for Walter Pomeroy.

A year later (1849) Irene and Elam Young settled on two Donation Land Claim plots totaling 642 acres around present-day Orenco. (Elam Young Parkway runs through it.) From all we can tell, JQA continued working the farm with his father and brother Daniel for the next few years. His father died in 1855, at age 67. Their mother Irene died in 1865 at age 74.

JQAY family
The John Quincy Adams Young family circa 1880

In 1856 John Q.A. Young married a neighbor, Elizabeth Constable, one of five children orphaned on the Oregon Trail, who were brought to the Oregon Territory to live with their late father's nephew. John and Elizabeth had a total of 11 children, three of whom died young. Elizabeth was a respected midwife, seeing to the births of at least fifty babies in the area.

JQA and Daniel and their families continued living on their parents’ farm until they sold it. Daniel’s first wife died and is buried in Union Cemetery in Cedar Mill, he later moved to the Goldendale Washington area.

Jones Saw Mill
The Cedar Mill circa 1885

In 1869 John Q.A. Young formed a partnership with William Everson, who had crossed the plains in the same wagon train as the Young family. They bought the “Jones Lumber Company” mill and 160 acres of timber from Justus Jones and his family, who had settled the original Land Claim on the property. We believe that the small house we today refer as the JQA Young House was built that same year. It became the home of the Young family, by now including five children.

Post office box and stamp
The Post Office pigeonhole cabinet and stamp still exist

By 1874 JQA Young had sold his interest in the sawmill and purchased 280 acres of land across the Cornell Road, where he built a much finer and bigger house in 1884. That house no longer exists—apartments now occupy the site.

On January 29, 1894, JQA Young was appointed postmaster for the growing community. Cedar Mill History says, “Young’s small store, on the ground floor of his two-story former home, served as the first post office. Here the postmaster constructed a pigeonhole cabinet where patrons received mail delivered weekly from Portland. For his postal duties, Young received a commission based on the number of 2¢ postage stamps and 1¢ postcards sold."

John Quincy Adams Young then devoted his energies to what he called the “noblest calling of man,” namely farming. In his later life, JQA Young was a respected member of the growing community. Aside from farming he was an active member of the Wesley Chapel, the Oregon Historical Society, and the Oregon Pioneer Association. He was one of the founders of Leedy Grange, he served as a Justice of the Peace, and was a Washington County Commissioner from 1898 to 1902.

His eventful life ended in 1905. He died in his Cedar Mill home across from the earlier saltbox home. Elizabeth lived until 1934. They are buried in Union Cemetery off NW 143rd Avenue. Their graves are next to that of his parents Elam and Irene. (Union Cemetery, incidentally, is the resting-place of many of the early settlers of the area and well worth a visit.)

His role in naming the area and his service as first Postmaster marks the JQA Young House a valuable historical site for us today. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 2008. The house is now part of Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District (see accompanying article about the Friends of the JQA Young House.)

*Compiled from various sources, including, “Life Sketches by John Q.A. Young, 1889,” extracted from the biography of John Quincy Adams Young, which was written by his daughter Mabel Young McIlwain.

Saving the JQA Young House

Ron Willoughby and Sue Conger
The John Quincy Adams and Elizabeth Young House, shown in 2005—Ron Willoughby (then superintendent of THPRD) and Sue Conger
The Oregonian

The post office was later moved to other establishments, but the house survived. The property was eventually purchased by Stanley Russell, who built a new house next door and rented the house to a Mr. Peterson. It was added to the Washington County Cultural Resource Inventory in 1983. In 1993 the property was bought by the Cedar Mill Bible Church. The church adopted a master plan for expansion in 1997 which included plans for moving the house off the property.

Members of the community were alarmed to learn that the church had advertised the house to be free to any party who would move it to a different location. They felt that part of the historical value of the house was its location adjacent to the mill site.

In November 1997 Sue Conger helped form a group that came to be called “Friends of the JQA Young House.” The group contacted the church to request them to preserve the house. Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District (THPRD) expressed interest in acquiring the house plus the adjacent Cedar Mill Falls in order to develop a unique community park.

In February 2005 the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District acquired the house and the a half-acre of land on which the house sits in a property exchange agreement with Cedar Mill Bible Church. In March 2006, THPRD's Board of Directors adopted a management plan for the house. Current plans call for a major fund raising program to help renovate the house.

In January 2009, the official Friends of the John Quincy Adams Young House was formed.