The little burg of Woodburn in the northern Willamette Valley played second fiddle to the thriving crossroads town of Belle Passi, a community began by early trappers in the area then known as the French Prairie--until an enterprising young man named Jesse Settlemier relentlessly pursued his dream. Today, all that most of us can recognize of Belle Passi is the cemetery on the road of the same name.
Beverlee Jory Koutny has a long history in the Salem area, being part of one of the original homesteading families, the Jorys (Jory Hill, Jory soil, the state soil, no less), and a long history teaching in area schools. Due to her long roots and knowledge of the area, she was asked my members of the Woodburn historical community to compile this photographic history book, Images of America: Woodburn, for Arcadia Publishing.
Beverlee accounted that Jesse Settlemier was a very young man who, with his brother, began a nursery at Tangent, just north of Albany in the center of the Willamette Valley. They took turns walking back home to the Mt. Angel area on the weekends (a trek of about 20-25 miles) for home-cooked meals and clean laundry. When Jesse discovered this parcel of land in what is now Woodburn, his dream of owning his own nursery began. He moved his family to the area he was developing, and offered plots of land to others who would settle there. He was integral in persuading the railroad folks to build their line through his town, securing its future. Unable to enjoy this success, however, his clear right to own the developed property was challenged all the way to the highest court of the land, and he was forced to purchase the property all over again, at inflated prices, of course. Even following the tragic suicide of his wife, leaving him with seven children to raise, he kept his eye on his goal and carried on.
Over the years Woodburn has embraced other visionaries from disparate worlds. Russian Old Believers, scattered across the world to escape religious persecution began coming to the area where they heard other "Molokans" were living. These folks formed a tight-knit community around their church and held closely to their traditions, even to this day. Another foreign group, the "braceros", were transported here every year from Mexico to help with the massive harvest of the crops growing in this fertile valley, after which they would return to their homes in Mexico. Over the years, some began staying year-round in the area creating a Latino community with its own strong traditions. A third group was introduced when folks from up and down the west coast were enticed to move here to be part of a new and innovative housing concept, a retirement community centered around a golf course--Woodburn Estates.
Beverlee's book chronicles the history of this burgeoning town as well as documenting the growing pains and efforts of bringing these individual "communities" together to build the Woodburn we see today. You can purchase the book locally at the Woodburn Library, the World Berry Museum, and the French Prairie Historical Society/Settlemier House in Woodburn.