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Cedar Mill News
Volume 4, Issue 10


October 2006

History in the News

Area’s first school was in Cedar Mill

By Nancy Olson, co-author, Cedar Mill History

After Cedar Mill’s pioneers secured safety and shelter, thoughts turned to some more permanent needs. Soon schools and religious facilities were established for the local citizens. The first school in the area was a subscription school, with classes held in private homes and taught by William Walker.

It continued as a private school until the Union School District 6 was established in 1856 by County School Superintendent E.D. Shattuck. It was one of the first two public schools to operate in the geographical area that now makes up Beaverton School District 48.

The first building was erected on donated land around 1860. The acreage for Union School was donated by Francis McGuire from his Donation Land Claim. It was adjacent to the Union Cemetery on NW 143rd and it served the community for nearly 90 years.

During the year 1859-1860 the school census reported 45 students, but this included everyone between the ages of four and 20. The actual number attending was probably not more than 20 to 25, however. The school term was six months and the teacher was paid $276. 25, all of which was raised by tuition and donations. Around 1863, the school began receiving public funds.

The original Union School building shown with some of the male students, c. 1930. Photo courtesy of the Findley family.

Attendance remained fairly low due to inclement weather, frequent illness, poor road conditions and farm chores. More importantly, compulsory education was not enforced until 1889. Most students walked to Union School while a few had the luxury of riding horses. The frame schoolhouse was somewhat modern since most schools of the period were simple log cabins. Very likely, a wood stove heated the interior and nearby creeks provided water.

By 1901 the directors of Union School became concerned with the old facilities and a new, larger building was built just a few yards to the east of the original structure. Voters authorized a property tax measure “not to exceed $800” to pay for the building. A popular east coast design was selected with a hip-roof, Italian-style frame structure topped by a bell tower. It was a two-room schoolhouse with a front entry hall, and cloak room. Here the students studied nine compulsory subjects. Frequently routine exercises and examinations were varied by spelling bees and picnics. Over the years, the school was enlarged to include a gym. People continued to use the old one-room school building as a general meeting place for such purposes as voting and holding funeral services.

In 1948, Bethany and Union School merged and the building closed after Sunset Valley School was built. The abandoned building was sold to several local residents who dismantled it and sold the lumber. The gym was moved to the newly constructed Sunset Valley Grade School (where Home Depot is now) and the Union Cemetery of Cedar Mill received title to the land.

Some of the material for this story comes from School Days: A History of Public Schools In and Around Beaverton, Oregon 1856-2000, by Gerald H. Varner, written and published in cooperation with Beaverton School District 48.


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Portland, OR 97229