A publication of the Cedar Mill Business Association
|Volume 1, Issue 8||
The writing of Cedar Mill History
Two local women track down our pioneer roots
It was 1976, the year of the U.S. Bicentennial, and history was in the air. Linda Dodds had an assignment to write up an oral history for a literature class, and Nancy Olson’s neighbor, Willard Bauer, had been telling her stories of early-day Cedar Mill. The two friends got the idea to put together a history of the area, and Cedar Mill History was begun.
Nancy and Linda had met years before through their children’s daycare. Nancy says, “Our kids were in public school by then and we had some free time, and we both wanted to do something in addition to being moms and wives. We knew it would be a commitment, but fun and rewarding. We got fired up with those early interviews and realized we had a story to research and tell. I remember both of us thinking, ‘Hey, this could work. Let’s go for it! ’”
They began by interviewing Willard Bauer, who had a farm on Saltzman Road. He shared some old photos and put them in touch with other “old-timers." Nancy recalls, “Each interview added more contacts which we pursued. Armed with some knowledge, we researched archives for any Cedar Mill information. We found invaluable notes by H. Ross Findley at the Oregon Historical Society. Equally important were the memoirs of Gertude Walters Pearson Landauer, granddaughter of Samuel Walters, the first white settler in Cedar Mill (a copy is available to check out in the Cedar Mill Library), and Hazel Young, who married a descendant of one of the owners of the cedar mill, John Quincey Adams Young. He was postmaster of the community and gave our community its name in 1904.” They also found material in public and university libraries, newspaper archives, church records and many more places.
One would ask questions while the other wrote down the information. They decided against tape recording the interviews because they felt it might inhibit their subjects’ candor.
Linda had begun to work on an undergraduate degree in General Studies at Portland State University. She and Nancy arranged to take an Independent Study class so they could get credit and access to University resources and have some help on the project.
Their first advisor was an English professor, Dr. Robert C. Tuttle, who helped them learn to use more descriptive words to enliven the stories. Another advisor was historian Dr. Gordon Dodds. “He taught us to put our writing into perspective, by considering what was going on in the rest of the world while events were taking place in Cedar Mill. By understanding how the pattern of events in the outside world affected our development we could make it more than just a list of families,” Nancy says.
“ There were a few stories that we couldn’t use, because the people involved were still around,” Nancy noted. “There were even rumors that Cedar Mill had a house of prostitution at one time.” Given that there were probably a lot of lonely loggers around, that isn’t surprising!
They originally thought the project might take six months, but they kept finding more information and following it up, and two years had gone by before they were ready to publish. “We didn’t have a deadline, and we were always balancing our family time with this hobby that had become our passion,” Nancy recalls.
After many drafts, the manuscript went to Lois Jenkins, a “home-bound mother” who typed it all up. Jan Frith and Connie Barnes created beautiful sketches of scenes and heirloom pieces to illustrate the book. Connie contributed the front cover illustration.
They had decided to self-publish. Through Portland State, they found photographer Brent Schauer who reproduced the old family photos they had borrowed (this was before the day of scanners and Photoshop!) and they assembled the whole book by hand, pasting up the typescript together with the photos and illustrations
“ I’ll never forget when those first sheets rolled off the press,” says Nancy. “Linda called and said they were about to print it, and asked if I wanted to go down and watch, and we both went.”
Once the book was printed, they held an autograph party at the Cedar Mill Community Library and invited all the people they had interviewed. It turned into a wonderful reunion for these elderly people who had been children together in the early days of Cedar Mill.
After the book was published, Nancy and Linda went around to classrooms and meetings to present and discuss the material. They have a collection of large prints of the photos, which was exhibited in the Cedar Mill Community Library for a while and which they used to illustrate their talks. In 1979 they received a certificate of commendation from the American Association for State and Local History for "creating a community sense of history through lectures, exhibits, field trips, and Cedar Mill History.
Nancy eventually went back to teaching fourth grade, where the focus is on Oregon history. She is now retired and lives in Cedar Mill. Her sons are still good friends with Linda’s, and the two women see each other frequently.
Linda went on to a career in history, beginning with an appointment to serve on the state Advisory Committee on Historical Preservation. She took a job at the Oregon Historical Society as the Oral History Librarian, but illness forced her to quit. She became a consultant helping people research homes for listing in the Historical Register. After completing a graduate course at Oregon State, she did an internship at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Linda Dodds currently works as the historian for the Oregon Department of Transportation, researching the historical significance of properties slated for repair or development.
They printed 2000 copies of the first edition, initially distributing it to schools, libraries and other institutions. The first edition eventually sold out, and they decided to revise the text for the second edition. This time they were able to take advantage of desktop publishing technology. The second edition came out in a smaller format in 1986, and there are only a few hundred copies unsold out of that 2000. They have discussed updating the book again, to carry the story beyond World War II.
You can use the order form on the Cedar Mill website (cedarmill.org/cmbook.html) to buy Cedar Mill History directly from the authors. The Cedar Mill Community Library has several copies of both editions available for checkout. Some excerpts from the book are online at cedarmill.org/history.