Save the Date: Ledding Library Lecture Series on June 1st

Information about Ledding Library Lecture Series June 1, 2022

Change happens every day in our lives, our community, and in the universe. Without change life would be boring or even nonexistent. But our past, like historic buildings, help tell our story of where we began and what to either repeat or do better in the future.

Milwaukie Museum’s next Ledding Library Lecture Series entitled Preservation: Three Experiences is Wednesday, June 1st at 6:30 PM inside Ledding Library or on Zoom.

From the website page:

This Milwaukie Museum program focuses on topics that help preserve our historic places that we endear in our community and our lives. A State Historic Preservation Office representative will discuss the ins and outs on how to list and take advantage of preserving a historic building, Steve Bennett, Milwaukie Museum records specialist, will teach home research and how to find those unique stories you may not know about your property, Michael Schmeer, a long time resident and owner of an Oatfield property, will share his thoughts and feelings of living and taking care of a historic home, and a special address by Councilor Lisa Batey.

Thanks to our great partners: City of Milwaukie, Ledding Library, and Willamette Falls Studio, it will be live, on Zoom, and taped for future viewing on You Tube. Seating is limited inside the Ledding Library, so come early to reserve your seat. Please check Milwaukie History Museum Facebook page and the City Calendar for more details and links to the event.

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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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In Memory of Enid Briggs

OLHD is saddened to have learned of the passing of Enid Briggs, an avid supporter and volunteer for the Milwaukie Museum along with her sister Adele Wilder. OLHD had the pleasure of interviewing the two sisters in 2011, which is available for viewing on a link in OLHD’s website, or directly via the OLHD YouTube channel. Both Enid and Adele were a joy to be around. Our sincere condolences go out to Enid’s family.

Descendants of early Milwaukie residents Johnson Briggs and Fred Birkemeier, Enid Briggs and her sister Adele Briggs Wilder had deep roots in the Milwaukie/Oak Grove area. Their paternal grandfather, Johnson Briggs, arrived in Oregon from Maine about 1900 settling first in Sellwood, then near today’s Briggs Street in Oak Grove. Their maternal grandfather, Fred Birkemeier, arrived in Milwaukie from Germany in 1879 settling near Kellogg Creek, later Kellogg Lake. Both Enid and Adele had been active with the Milwaukie Historical Society and Museum for many years. The Briggs sisters grew up in the Milwaukie/Oak Grove area and until fairly recently shared a home in Oak Grove. Adele passed away in 2018.

Enid’s obituary can be viewed here.

A service will be held at the Milwaukie Covenant Church on Jan. 22nd at 2:00 pm.

Mike Schmeer
Chairman, Oak Lodge History Detectives

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Abstracts of Title – A Property Researcher’s Gold Mine

The most frequently asked question received by OLHD is “can you tell me the history of my house?”.  Unfortunately, our most frequent answer is “sorry, but no”.  Only a handful of the thousands of older homes in the Oak Lodge area have had their history documented and recorded. Hundreds of others await a willing homeowner or researcher to discover their history. OLHD can offer some suggestions as to how to go about researching a property’s history, and when undertaken it is always a rewarding experience.

Image of opening page of an Abstract of Title

One tool that can greatly help a researcher is the location of an Abstract of Title. Prior to the late 1960’s it was commonplace for the purchaser of a piece of property to receive a physical Abstract of Title from the title company, certifying that the property had clear title and was clear of liens, back taxes, or other encumbrances. These Abstracts recorded the chronological chain of deeds from the original government ownership (generally the Donation Land Claim the property lies in) to the grantor that the purchaser was buying from. They show the names of the Grantor and Grantee, the date, the legal description, and the book and page where the transaction was recorded. Abstracts of Title generally came in a legal sized book form with a hard cover, but one known example (the “Townsite of Concord”) was published as a hard bound booklet. Following the chain of transactions, the purchaser of a piece of property can easily determine how their parcel was divided over and over since the 1850’s or 1860’s to the size they were purchasing. Historians can also use these Abstracts to determine where significant historical sites were once located (for example Orrin Kellogg’s tannery, which was identified in one such Abstract), and even genealogical information.

Even if a homeowner does not have an Abstract of Title for their property, if they can find one from a long-time resident in the neighborhood it may shed a great deal of light on the history of the homeowner’s property.  Alternatively, an Abstract of Title should be able to be purchased through a title company, or in some instances the county recorder may be able to help.  A few of these Abstracts were spotted at the Clackamas County Family History Society a few years ago, and OLHD has obtained three or four – – – but these are somewhat random, and may, or may not, be pertinent to a given homeowner’s piece of property.

Mike Schmeer
Chairman, Oak Lodge History Detectives

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“The Lands We Live On” Presentation


UPDATE: new date! January 8, 2022 at Noon

If you’re interested in the history of Oak Lodge’s indigenous population prior to the arrival of the Europeans you may be interested in this online zoom presentation – sponsored by the Oak Lodge Governance Project:

David G. Lewis, assistant professor in anthropology and Native studies at Oregon State University, will present to the Oak Lodge Governance Project about “The Lands We Live On” at noon Nov. 13 Jan 8th. Lewis’ presentation will examine the history of the Oak Lodge area before the arrival of Europeans and delve into the various tribes and their interconnections. A member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, he traces his ancestry to Santiam Kalapuya, Takelma, Molalla and Chinook peoples.

To attend this presentation you must pre-register at this link:

Oak Lodge Governance Project Meeting Registration

Mike Schmeer

Chairman, Oak Lodge History Detectives

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Researching Your House History Course


For those interested in researching their house’s history:  The Architectural Heritage Center is holding a four hour class on that topic on Saturday, Nov. 13th at 10:00 a.m.  The cost is $10 for non-members of the Architectural Heritage Center.  This event is a virtual event, and is Part 1 of a four part series. See the link here.

Mike Schmeer

Chairman, Oak Lodge History Detectives

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Yes, Virginia, history DOES matter!

There is an old adage that says, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been”.  This applies to some degree to a recent event that occurred in the Fair Oaks neighborhood in Oak Grove.

In 1946 a woman named Alice T. Campbell platted Fair Oaks Addition, a subdivision along the Willamette River between the river and today’s Fair Oaks Ave., and from Courtney Ave. south to nearly Rimrock Ln. Alice and her husband, John W. Campbell, had moved to Portland from Hermiston in 1924 and subsequently began developing real estate along the Willamette River in Oak Grove.  They developed one large parcel on Vineyard Way in 1939.  John W. Campbell subsequently died in 1943.


Alice advertised her Fair Oaks Addition regularly in the Oregonian for a decade. Her plat showed 27 lots, including one narrow parcel, Lot 2, with a ten foot path from the road to the river, that she had set aside for access to the river for each lot owner.  It was clear from her advertisements that she even intended to build a moorage out from that riverfront access. Interestingly the 1939 Vineyard Way parcel that Alice’s husband, John W. Campbell, had developed a mile further south had a similar access point to the river.

In 2015 OLHD researched the history of Fair Oaks Addition, and Alice T. Campbell.

Our investigation had revealed a lot about Alice Campbell’s life, and a decade’s worth of advertisements showed that she was creating a unique neighborhood with beautiful homes, a park-like setting with numerous trees, many lots with a view of the Willamette River, free rock for landscaping from the quarry on the site, and access to the river. Alice touted large lots, native trees, “Riverfront Privileges”, a “Restricted neighborhood”, and a river landing and moorage.

The lots were laid out in a plat map in 1946 identified as “Fair Oaks Addition”, and a subsequent unrecorded plat, identified as “Fair Oaks No.2”, was platted immediately adjacent to the south in 1952.  The 1946 plat showed one narrow parcel, Lot 2, that Alice had set aside for access to the river for each lot owner, and many of her deeds of conveyance reflected that access.

The river access continued uncontested until April 2016, when a property owner adjacent to the parcel having access to the river sued all the residents in the Fair Oaks Addition, and seven financial institutions, in an effort to extinguish the river access by adverse possession.   As they had been using the access since the 1940’s the defendants rallied, enlisted a lawyer, and fought the lawsuit. It just so happened that the lawyer representing the 27 Fair Oaks Addition property owners, who lived in Fair Oaks and was also named as a defendant, had become aware of the 2015 Oak Lodge History Detectives (OLHD) Facebook post that described the history of Alice T. Campbell and her Fair Oaks Addition. As a result of OLHD’s research the defense asked OLHD to testify at the trial, to help establish Alice T. Campbell’s intent for the easement using the documentation that had been developed in the research for the article.

The trial took place in Clackamas County Circuit Court in November 2018 before a circuit judge. The plaintiffs claimed that there was no legal basis for people using the access, and the defendants cited, among other arguments, a long- standing use of the access, clauses in their deeds, and Alice Campbell’s intent established by OLHD’s historical research.  Advertisements for Fair Oaks Addition in the Oregonian and local directory, and the directory listing indicating that Alice lived in her subdivision, demonstrated that she was creating an “unusual riverside subdivision”. These documents were entered into evidence. This historical background played a key role for the defense. The outcome of the trial was that the judge found in favor of the defense and ruled that the easement for river access remains in full force and effect.  However, the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals.  After months of delays the appeal was finally decided on September 1, 2021, and in that decision the trial court’s judgement was affirmed.

Alice T. Campbell lived in her Fair Oaks Addition into her elderly years, after which she moved into Willamette View Manor where she had been a founding member.  She died Feb. 28, 1977.  Had she lived until now Alice would have been gratified to know that the river access she created for the residents of Fair Oaks Addition in 1946 would survive this legal challenge and remain available to the residents there.

Yes, Virginia, history DOES matter.

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We’re Still Here!


I just wanted to write to let everyone know that OLHD is STILL HERE!  Though the Covid-19 Pandemic has taken the wind out of our sails, and completely interrupted our ability to continue studying our local history, research is still being done in the background – as much as can be done remotely.  But it is difficult.  Most repositories are closed for in-person research, and most office business is being done remotely. Most meetings are being done electronically, and our usual meeting place is still not open to the public.

In July it started to look like we might be on the back side of the pandemic.  But the Delta variant, coupled with those that have chosen to not be vaccinated, has brought it back with a vengeance.  Thus it will still be a while before OLHD will be conducting in-person gatherings again.  But don’t despair – – – OLHD is not going away.  You will be notified when the time seems right to safely get together again.

Mike Schmeer

Chairman, Oak Lodge History Detectives

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OLHD designated as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit



After operating as a simple grass roots neighborhood history group for the last eleven years OLHD was recently designated a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit by the IRS.

In March 2009 our group began with the invitation of several local history minded individuals to the home of Pat Kennedy to discuss the community’s local history and how to promote it.  The group continued meeting regularly, and in the ensuing years  grew larger and started holding community gatherings to teach about the history of the Oak Grove, Jennings Lodge, and Oatfield Ridge neighborhoods. It was determined early on to NOT attempt to have a physical museum or library, but instead to build a DIGITAL library and use its photographs, maps and scanned documents as teaching tools.  With donations from community families and research by members, the library holds a wealth of knowledge about the area’s history.  Several times a year programs about early families and events have been offered at meetings, we’ve participated in several community fairs, and our group has been active in efforts to preserve some of our threatened historic resources. 

More recently it was decided that in an effort to do even more to live up to our mission the group should become a 501(c)(3), which would enable us to apply for grants and receive tax deductible donations.  With the prospect of additional income it is hoped that we can accomplish even more history related projects in the community.  In March, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, 90 pages of the application, accompanied by supporting documentation, were sent to the IRS.  Finally, in October, OLHD received the IRS Letter of Determination designating OLHD a 501(c)(3).

Following the designation the OLHD board has joined the Zoom “club” and has been meeting virtually to design our plans for the future.  And measures are being taken to make donating to OLHD  as convenient as possible by setting up an online donations mechanism.

OLHD looks forward to continuing our mission of “Investigating the Past and Enriching the Future” in the coming years.  We sincerely appreciate the support we have received from the Oak Lodge community, and hope that you will join us in learning more about our history in the future.


Mike Schmeer, OLHD President

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OLHD Membership Dues Moratorium


In any other year October would be OLHD’s Annual Meeting, at which time memberships that are due would be renewed.  This year Covid-19 has changed all that.  We have not had an in-person meeting since February 2020 and likely will not have one until well into 2021. Thus we’re all losing a year of local history education.

Because of the meeting cancellations, and the fact that our bank balance is reasonably healthy with no large expected expenses coming, the OLHD Board has decided that it would be unfair to be asking for membership renewals this fall.  So, be advised that ALL ACTIVE OLHD MEMBERSHIPS HAVE BEEN EXTENDED FOR ONE YEAR.  So if your membership was due in Oct. 2020 it will now be due in Oct. 2021, and for those whose membership would have been due in Oct. 2021 it will now be due in Oct. 2022.

OLHD appreciates all who have continued to support our efforts to ‘Investigate the Past and Enrich the Future’ of our Oak Lodge community. Thank You.


Mike Schmeer

Chairman, OLHD

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