Before Fred Meyer: An Oak Grove Chronicle

Long before Fred Meyer established its presence in Oak Grove the property that it now occupies was owned by two separate land claim holders: Orrin Kellogg’s 1851 Donation Land Claim and George Crow’s 1850 Donation Land Claim.  As a result of a complicated 1882 transaction involving John & Celia Fahy, Samuel & A.F. Stein, Charles Bunnell, and Bernard Kluse, the property came into the possession of Orville Risley and his son Jacob S. Risley – just one small part of a 100-acre transaction. Upon the death of Orville Risley on Dec. 11, 1884 the property came into the sole possession of Jacob Risley. Jacob Risley died June 22, 1902, and the property became part of his estate, with his son John F. Risley serving as executor. Jacob Risley’s property holdings exceeded over 300 acres so John proceeded to divide it among Jacob’s three surviving children, Charles W. Risley, John F. Risley and Alice Risley Starkweather. Among other large parcels that she inherited Alice was deeded 7.98 acres that was a part of the S.E. corner of the Crow D.L.C., and Orrin Kellogg’s D.L.C. on Feb. 29, 1904. The property occupied by Fed Meyer today is part of that 7.98 acres.

1904 “Risley Farm”, which shows the 7.98 acre part deeded to Alice Risley Starkweather where Fred Meyer is now

Fast forward to 1928, no doubt following several subsequent ownerships, when the N.E. part of the Fred Meyer property was owned by Ernst Hokenson, and to 1937 when the entire N.E. 2/3 of the property was owned in part by May Montague and J. Archibald. But what about the S.W. 1/3 closest to the intersection of today’s McLoughlin Blvd. and Oak Grove Blvd.?

1937 Metsker Map showing the Fred Meyer property

McLoughlin Blvd. (once called the Super 99) was begun in the early 1930’s and completed, in sections, with a celebration commemorating the completion between Portland and Oregon City in Milwaukie on Dec. 7, 1934. By then the S.W. 1/3 of the Fred Meyer property was owned by David A. Palmblad. 

David A. Palmblad in 1910.

Palmblad’s family was from Gresham and he was first trained as a “mechanical optician and lapidist”, and later became the proprietor of a grocery store. About 1925 he was appointed a Clackamas County Deputy Tax Collector, and by 1930 was living on River Rd. in Oak Grove. By 1934 he owned the S.W. 1/3 of today’s Fred Meyer property, and being an entrepreneur he no doubt saw great potential in owning the corner lot at Hwy 99E and what was then Oak Ave. (today’s Oak Grove Blvd.). He and his younger brother Paul N. Palmblad proceeded to build a commercial building at that intersection and leased out spaces to various businesses. A period photo of the building shows McLoughlin being concrete, but Oak Ave. still being gravel.

Palmblad Building at McLoughlin Blvd. and Oak Ave., taken about 1935/1936. McLoughlin Blvd. is paved in concrete; Oak Ave. is gravel.

There was just one problem – in 1936 David Palmblad was caught embezzling some $15,000 tax money from Clackamas County, having admitted to using some of the money to fund his building in Oak Grove. Following an audit, he was tried and fined $30,000, convicted, and sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Newspaper article about the Palmblad embezzlement court case.

In an effort to recoup the taxpayer’s money and the fine the county sued to foreclose on Palmblad’s property. Without further research we can only assume that Clackamas County gained ownership of the Palmblad building and corner lot, and evidence suggest it was sold in 1938. By 1940 David Palmblad was already out of prison, back with his wife, living in Portland, and operating a restaurant. He died in Portland in 1961.

Clackamas County planning on foreclosing on Palmblad properties.
1938 survey in preparation for county sale

The Palmblad building remained at that corner of McLoughlin and Oak Ave., as a  store building and tavern, through 1960 – it’s footprint still visible on a survey done for Fred Meyer Inc. in July 1959, and visible in a 1960 aerial photograph. The building was home to the Desert Inn tavern from 1937 until its demolition in 1960, and Fir Garden Auto Service & Grocery in the late 1940’s. The same 1959 survey shows that the Fir Garden Auto Court had also occupied that property just prior to Fred Meyer’s purchase. All of it went away as Fred Meyer Inc. constructed its new super store in 1960.

1959 survey for Fred Meyer Inc showing FM building and elevations, superimposed on existing structures, including Palmblad building

Following Fred Meyer’s opening in July 1960 a service station was built at the corner, followed later by a Minit – Lube, and sometime after 1987 a Jiffy Lube. Eventually the property near Oatfield Rd. was purchased and Fred Meyer’s parking area extended to Oatfield Rd.

1960 Aerial photo showing the Fred Meyer store under construction. Palmblad Building still standing.
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