History of Downtown Newberg

The “Original” Newberg

Jesse Edwards may be the “Father of Newberg,” but he was not the first to plat a town called Newberg. That honor belongs to two enterprising young Quaker couples, William P. Ruddick, his wife Sarah, and David J. and Maggie Wood.

The four were partners in the purchase of five acres of land from Elijah Hutchens. Hutchens had originally purchased the land from John Henry Hess, who had arrived in Newberg in 1845 from California.

It was bounded by Illinois Street (now West Illinois) on the north, the railroad tracks on the south, Morton Street to the west, and Main (now North Main) to the east.

On Feb. 24, 1881, county surveyor H.S. Maloney used this acreage to plat (at the request of the two couples) a town he named “Newberg,” adopting the name Sebastian Brutscher had given his post office in 1869. Brutscher lived east of downtown, approximately where Providence Newberg hospital is today. In naming Newberg, he was inspired by his hometown in Bavaria—Newburgh. His post office was in his home and he was the city’s first postmaster.

The Ruddick/Wood plat was filed with the county on Feb. 26, 1881. Historically, it represents the second plat for this part of the county, the first having been Joseph Rogers’ “Chehalem,” located near the river landing that bears his name, filed in Oregon City, Feb. 19, 1848. Rogers died before he could develop his idea.


Importance of Ruddick/Wood plat

The significance of the Ruddick/Wood plat is in how close it was (is) to where downtown Newberg sits today. It was where the two couples envisioned a business district might develop.

Word had been circulating since 1880 that Scottish backers were surveying a narrow gauge railroad to connect Dundee to Portland. It would use the same route through Newberg the Southern Pacific railroad does today, located a stones throw from Ruddick/Wood.

Because the rail line was supposed to open in 1883, the Ruddicks and Woods’ found quick buyers for their acreage, which they had subdivided into lots. By June, 1881, a single had been sold to Marcus Blair, a hotel owner from nearby Dayton; an entire block went to Jesse Edwards.

Had the railroad opened on schedule, a town would certainly have developed at this location.  But it didn‘t, and not the next year either. When the railroad was finally in service–the year was 1887–enthusiasm for the Ruddick/Wood location had vanished. The Ruddicks moved to Texas; David and Maggie Woods relocated to Whittier, Calif.


Early businesses

The first store in Newberg dates to 1855 at Roger’s Landing, operated by Joe Rogers until his death a short time later. His wife, Letitia, kept it going until her death in 1857, when it seems to have closed and then reopened around 1870.

In 1865, Adam Cooper had a combination blacksmith shop/saloon slightly east of Hess Creek, near Villa Road and Highway 219. He later moved it a mile further east to where a race track had been built. Nearby, a “Mr. Albee” owned a store in the early 1870s.

In 1878, at the same Villa Road/219 intersection, Jacob Haynes Jr. and his wife Sarah operated a small store. There may also have been a blacksmith shop nearby. On the south side of 219, there was a Quaker meeting house just west of the store. After Jacob Haynes’ death in July 1880, Sarah sold to Reuben Everest, who then passed it to Jesse Edwards in 1883.

Edwards’ plat

In 1883 Edwards put in motion his own plan for a town. Realizing his neighbors had to travel considerable distances to get supplies, he and wife Mary hired J.C. Cooper to survey and plat a town site, the first of three they would devise to encompass everything south of First Street all the way to the river.

Of these, the most important plat was the one that would eventually become the heart of today’s business district. It was officially registered with the county on Sept. 15, 1883.

Today, this section, which borders from First Street in the north to 4th Street in the south, and Blain Street on the west to Wynooski on the east, is known as Edwards’ “Original Town.“ The witnesses whose names appear on the documents are J.S. Smith, Marcus Blair, Henry Austin, grandfather of A-dec co-owner Ken Austin, and Henry’s wife Mary.

Downtown Newberg’s first store

Enter William Hobson. The year was 1883 or 1884. After establishing downtown Newberg’s first store with a partner named Siegler on the northeast corner of First and Main, he entered into a partnership with Edwards, after Siegler had sold his half to Edwards and Edwards had sold his interest in the Haynes/Everest store.  The new partnership became Hobson & Edwards. It included a post office, with Hobson serving as postmaster. Mail arrived from Portland on horseback.

According to C.J. Edwards (Jesse’s son), as told to the Newberg Graphic in 1939, this was not his dad’s first partnership with Hobson. Around 1882, the two had bought a warehouse for storing grain south of Wynooski Street. “It was on the low divide along the bank of the river,” Edwards remembered. “I heard my father state they took in over 125,000 bushels of wheat in one year, where it was stored in the sack for shipment to Portland.”

North Main makes its bid

With the 1887 arrival of the Southern Pacific trains, the neighborhood along Main Street did see a surge of growth, including several hotels, a train depot, drug and furniture stores, a tobacco shop and other small businesses. However, this was all to the south of the tracks, not north as Ruddick/Wood had assumed it would happen.

For a time the growth along Main matched what was going on over in Edwards’ “Newberg.” In the latter, an embryo of a business district had begun to emerge by 1888, best described as a small clustering of wooden structures mostly located around First and School streets.

Both Edwards and Hobson were aware that if a real town was going to develop, it was going to be west of Hess Creek, in proximity to where the county road from Dayton to Portland intersected with First Street, in other words right where Edwards had platted his “Newberg.“

Consequently, in 1884/1885, the two partners contracted with Dr. Elias Jessup to move their Main Street building slightly eastward, to a spot just east of Center Street facing First Street. The work was done during the muddy months of winter. It is interesting to note that it would be very near this same location, on the east side of Center between First and Second streets, that Edwards and others would open The Bank of Newberg in 1886, the town’s first.

Two Newbergs

Now there were two “Newbergs,” Main Street to the west and First Street to the east, only a few blocks apart. During the decade of the 1890s, the two would be rivals, with Main Street holding an early lead. By the turn of the century, First Street has surpassed its opponent to enjoy a position it would never relinquish. For the record, Newberg’s business district sits squarely on the original Donation Land Claims of Joseph B. Rogers and Daniel Deskins.

In a very real sense, the Newberg we know today came about as a result two original plats—Edwards’ and Ruddick/Wood– welding together to form a single town.

The “Father of Newberg”

Jesse Edwards is often called the “Father of Newberg.” He deserves it. Besides platting the location which now sits at the heart of the downtown business district, his long and productive career enjoys accomplishments that did more than any other early settler to ensure the town‘s future. In addition to establishing a store and warehouse, he owned a sawmill, brick company, drain tile company and one of Newberg’s first banks.

He also played a strong role in establishing with his son Clarence the first electric company for the area. He served his church as spiritual leader and helped build the magnificent Newberg Friends Church which stands at the center of Quakerism in the Pacific Northwest.  He was a farmer, an educator, was elected mayor, served as post master and built the railroad spur on Blaine.

Newberg in 1888

In the Dec. 29, 1888, Graphic, which had been established just three weeks earlier, the fledgling newspaper described Newberg as “15 business houses, representing nearly every line of business there are near Newberg, five good sawmills, one flouring mill, three grain warehouses, two fruit drying houses, a nursery, a brick and tile factory, another brick yard to start soon, a company organized to buy a fruit cannery, the prospect of a new roller process flouring mill and other manufacturing establishments.”

See for yourself

It was also during the early 1890s that Newberg began to see a more permanent infrastructure for its emerging business district on East First Street. Five buildings that are still around:

(1) Bank of Newberg Building at 817 E. First, built in 1888 as Newberg‘s first bank building;

(2) Morris and Miles Company, built in 1890 at 701 E. First. Currently Chapters Books. Sarah Deskins, wife of Daniel Deskins, owned the property in 1890, and today it is one of oldest surviving commercial buildings in town. From 1890 to 1920s it was a dry goods store and general store, initially owned by Morris, Newberg’s first mayor, and Miles, a state legislator. Also housed C. Smith Harness Shop until 1939, later Parker Hardware and then Newberg Fitness Center in late 80s.

(3)“Run-N-Gun Building,” at 814 E. First, built by in 1891 by J.T. Smith. It housed a general store, millinery and photo gallery. From 1902-1929 it was a grocery store. A long-time owner was prominent resident A.M. Hoskins;

(4) Harker Building at 300 E. First, constructed in 1895. Long-time home of Ferguson Rexall Drugs, one of several businesses of this type that occupied the space for 84 years. One of the most picturesque older buildings in Newberg, it housed the First National Bank of Newberg in its west half before the bank moved across the street to 214 E. First. The Mason’s and Eastern Star used the second floor for meeting space from 1897-1932, after which both groups moved to the newly constructed Mason Lodge.

(5) Willamette Valley Telephone Company, constructed in 1896 at 717 E. First. Financed by the Bank of Newberg, it was the WVTC until 1906, then Charles B. Wilson and John Larkin made it the Newberg Telephone Company until 1927. In 1912, Clarence Edwards became president of NTC. From 1927-1930, the building was the West Coast Telephone  Company. Became Innerman Music in late 1980s, now Domino’s Pizza.

Want to know more?

Read a brief history of Newberg and the surrounding region or go back in history on our downtown Newberg walking tour.

By George Edmonston Jr. – Newberg Historical Society
The author is greatly indebted to the following sources, from which he has borrowed liberally to write this feature: (1) Newberg Graphic. “Miller Mercantile Direct Descendant of First General Merchandise Store in City.” March 21, 1935, p. 1. This story gives the location of Newberg’s first store based on the recollections of the city’s oldest (at that time) residents. (2) Macy, Perry D. “Early Days in Newberg Vicinity.” Graphic, April 1939. A professor of history at Pacific College, Mr. Macy was a well-known local historian who interviewed many of the old timers around Newberg. (3) Maps produced by the Sanborn-Perris Map and Publishing Company, Broadway Avenue, New York, N.Y. Found in Newberg Public Library for years 1891, 1892, 1905, 1912 and 1929.  (4) Scott, Leslie. “History of the Narrow Gauge Railroad in the Willamette Valley.” OHQ, Vo. XX, No. 2, June 1919. (5) Stoller, Ruth. “Newberg: Two Towns in One.” Old Yamhill, 1976, pp. 59-63. The best article yet written on early Newberg. (6) Students of Newberg public schools, grades 6-8, 1905. Written assignments prepared for the Lewis and Clark Exposition covering the topics of Newberg business and industry and well-known local landmarks, assembled and bound together by teachers, Etta McCoy, Evangeline Martin, and F.H. Buchanan. Housed in Newberg Public Library vertical files on Newberg History. Contains descriptions not found anywhere else and extremely rare original photos of interiors and exteriors of businesses and their owners.