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Thomas House

FHFG Historic Property Recognition

Circa 1893

Written by: Skip Buhler

What is known as the “Thomas House,” is one of several homes associated with Arthur B. And Mary E. Thomas, and was likely built ca. 1893 (the date given by Washington County is ca. 1900). The Thomas’s owned the land around the time it was built, roughly between 1893 to April 1903. The circa date was given because of the architectural style of the house, the vernacular farmhouse style popular during this period, but was even more in vogue in the early 1890s. The exact building date however is still a bit of a mystery.

The Thomas family likely had the home built, either to make the lot more attractive for sale, or for their children to live in while they were enrolled at Pacific University. It does not appear that the Thomas parents lived in the house at the time it was built, but rather on Block 20, on the corner of Cedar and 18th. This is the house they are more connected with, and lived in the longest, aka the third “Thomas House.” Some years before their deaths, according to the 1930 census, Arthur B. and Mary moved back to the corner of Main and 18th, to what’s known as the “Thomas-Hoge House,” next door to the 2014 18th Ave House.

Arthur Birket Thomas was a native of Cascade, Iowa, born in 1848. He enlisted as a teen in Company L, First Iowa Volunteer Calvary, to fight for the Union, and was determined to walk the 30 miles to Dubuque to enlist, so excited was he. After the war, he married Lottie Stewart and operated a mercantile in Franklin, Iowa, and later opened a grocery in Ames, and began raising a family. Lottie passed away around 1880, and in 1881, Arthur married Mary Estes. Sometime around 1890, the mercantile was destroyed by fire, and he and his young family soon after immigrated to Oregon.

The exact date of arrival is uncertain, but like many other settlers, The Thomas’s likely chose Forest Grove because of its educational opportunities, specifically the college. At least one of his children, Horace Estes Thomas, graduated from Pacific, and hired as principal at one of the local schools. Arthur began operating a mercantile with his partner John W. Caples, and the Thomas family became closer to the Caples when daughter Ida M. married Jesse R. Caples. John Caples retired from the business, and In the early 1900s, Thomas was joined by Edwin James in the business, which lasted a few more years.

In the Summer of 1893, the parents are shown, in deed records, selling the lot in question to Arthur H. “Artie,” their 22-year old elder son. Though not confirmed, we may assume a house was already here by that date. Arthur H. is shown, in deed records, selling the lot back to his parents, on September 27, 1898. It was probably at this point that Artie went off to seek his fortune in Sheridan, Oregon, where he married Eva Collard, and operated a furniture and undertaking business. He would later return to the Grove. After a number of partnership changes, father Arthur would eventually leave the grocery/mercantile business, around 1905, to dedicate his time to horticulture and realty, planting orchards of apple trees, among other crops, and then selling those orchards off. He was an unofficial booster for the Forest Grove region, always advertising the benefits of living here and the natural bounty awaiting.

Though the exact deed record is uncertain, at some point around 1903 The Thomas family sold the lot and house to Esther and Andrew Allen.

“Andy” Allen came from to the Grove from Vernonia in summer of 1896, and ran a series a barber shops, and according to advertising, was a popular tonsorial artist in town. Esther Martin was called to Forest Grove from Indiana to fill the principal position at Central School, another interesting connection to the Thomas family. The two were married in July 1897, at the Methodist church. In the 1900 census, Andy and Esther are living on Block 30 (which today is the United Methodist Church block). While Ester was head of Central School, Andy served as Clerk for the School Board, in addition to running the barber shop. The Allen’s owned a few lots in town, two in Block 7, and one on Block 41 (lot 1), and they may have lived at this location for a spell. In March 1904, Andy had a stroke, and they decided to move to Pendleton. Apparently Andy was supposed to manage an eight-chair barber shop there, as to news reports. The Allen’s returned to the Grove after just one year, with their son Harold and a new baby daughter Charlotte. Records show them living in the South Park addition, and out in Stringtown on a ranch, near what is now the Hines Nursery. Again, besides ownership, we have very little evidence that The Allen’s lived in the “Thomas House.” After Andy passed away in Yamhill, Esther returned to teaching, in which she was held in high esteem.

Before leaving for Pendleton, The Allen’s are shown selling the home to the Starkweathers, in January 1905. Viola and Joseph Starkweather bought the house for $2200 (also, in the same week, the Starkweathers sell the northeast lot on Block 8, to the Allen’s, for $1200). The Starkweathers were a farming and mercantile family, originally from Bridgewater, South Dakota, and they had a ranch near Forest Grove, but decided to move closer to the grade schools for their children. Their daughter Bernice graduated from Central School in 1907…She was accepted in a graduate program in Riverside, California, so the Starkweathers moved there in early 1909.

Viola and Joseph Starkweather are shown, in real estate transfers, selling the “Thomas House” lot to Lulu Allen. Lulu Jarmin Robinson married Marion S. Allen (not related to the other Allens) in 1904 in Arnold, Nebraska, and soon after came to the Grove. Marion, who’d long operated a mercantile in Nebraska, joined in business partnership with A. G. Hoffman. Hoffman & Allen Company was a major hardware store in the Grove for several years. Allen left to form his own hardware store around 1913, where he was one of the first Grovers to sell automobiles. Though destroyed in the 1919 fire, he reopened the business in the Caples Building, finally retiring in 1922.

Marion contracted tetanus after stepping on a plum thorn, and passed away within a few weeks in 1925. Lulu remained in the house, even after marrying Christian Bagstad around 1929. The Bagstads were long residents of the “Thomas House.” Christian Bagstad briefly operated Bagstad Fuel Company from the house.

The Bagstads transferred the home to Lulu’s daughters Martha Strong and Gertrude Harkins shortly before Lulu’s death in 1943. Soon after, the daughters sold it to Cynthia Good, that same year, but she does not appear to have lived in the house. Cynthia Good passed away in 1948.

The number of residents during the 20th century suggests the Thomas House was primarily a rental property: Troy Hines (in the late 1940s-early 50s), Vivian L. Elliott (in late 1950s), Deborah Groff (1959), Dr. William A. Bours IV. (1970s), David A. Robinson, Robert Rosenkranz, J.W. Bartee, Rosiland Hursh, Chris O. and Tyla Young, William R. and Beth A. Ellis, James and Julie K. Pascoe, Steve E. and Susan J. Dodge, Lorene C. and Stephen C. Hunt,

Line of Title (before the Thomas ownership)

  • Book Z, p25. – J.D Scharff & wife to Mary L Alexander. All of Block 28. 7-31-1888.
  • Book 27, p 136-7. – Mary Alexander (by town marshal) to Joseph Matod. Lots 3 & 4, BL28. 12-6-1889.
  • Book 32, p106. – Mary L. Alexander and husband to J.G. Boos, et al. – lots 2 & 3. BL 28. 8-14-1891.
  • Book 37, p347 – J.G. Boos, et al to Mary E. Thomas – in block 28 – Most of lot 3. 6-26-1893.
  • (A connected property is the main living residence of the Thomas family, at 18th and Cedar – Deed Book 42, p 400. – Edward Webster to Mary E. Thomas – in Block 20, lot 4 and part of one. 1894.)

 

Highlights

Historic Recognition

FHFG recognized this property as a significant historic property in October 2020.  A plaque was presented to current home owners Kyle and Bethany Abeln.

 

Other Recognized Properties

Plaquing Day

This house was recognized as a significant historic resource by Friends of Historic Forest Grove in October 2020.

Click here to get more information about our Historic Property Recognition Program

Skip Buhler

About Skip Buhler

I have been interested in Forest Grove's history since moving here ca. 2007 (it was probably 2006, but as I spend most of the time in the nineteenth century, I'm not exactly sure when I arrived). Since then, I have been actively researching the people and places that make this region such a great place. I first got involved with FHFG in 2011 or so, and have served as Board Secretary for many years starting in 2012. I'm an independent art historian, and also have a vinyl record store in town, where my interests in art and history converge.