By George Edmonston Jr.
One hundred years ago, Newberg had the luxury of two weekly newspapers, The Newberg Graphic and The Newberg Enterprise.
On Oct. 11, 1912, Enterprise Editor and Proprietor John T. Bell published a tabloid he named the “Progress Edition.”
For that generation, the Progress Edition’s stories, profiles, advertisements and photographs provided a measuring stick for how much Newberg had grown since its incorporation in 1889. For us today, it represents a nice snapshot of Newberg a century in our rear.
Bell produced the Progress Edition to serve as a recruiting tool for the community.
Newberg wanted and needed new residents–businesses, farmers, families–and the enterprising newspaper man went out of his way to let the world know the city and the nearby West Chehalem Valley had the credentials to be considered an Oregon “center of prosperity.”
Though never stated, only implied, Bell’s nifty tabloid also represented the end of the “Grubby End” spirituality that had prevailed during the 19th century. Newberg in 1912 was shedding its grubby image…a good place to raise a family but not necessarily the best place to be a farmer… to remake itself for the future.
I say this because I suspect no one at that time thought the “Grubby End” moniker would have the kind of sizzle and pop needed to recruit newcomers. Certainly not Mr. Bell.
Reading Bell today, here are some of the interesting aspects of life in Newberg he wanted folks in 1912 to know:
City government consisted of a City Council (formerly known as “aldermen”) and seven public officials referred to as the “Board of Officials:” mayor, recorder, water superintendent, marshal, night marshal, street commissioner and engineer.
The publication devoted pages and pages to the agricultural bounty that was available in and around the city.
George Fox University was known as Pacific College. The student body was almost entirely Quaker.
Newberg’s public schools enrolled 913 students, 183 in high school. Twenty-six teachers did the work. The youngest pupils attended classes in a wooden building known as the Graded School Building. It was located where the Chehalem Cultural Center is today.
A new high school had been built in 1910. It’s still with us. Located at 714 Sixth Street and historically known as the Edwards School, the current use of the facility is to house the administrative offices of the Newberg Public School System.
An interesting school tidbit was contributed by City Superintendent A.C. Stanbrough, who wrote: “Several years ago Newberg adopted the centralization idea and a wagon is used to bring pupils from outlying parts of the district. This was the first district in the state to adopt such a course.”
Does this mean Newberg was the first in Oregon to have “school buses?” It’s tantalizing to think so.
Stanbrough also shared his pride in the fact that Newberg was listed on what he called the “accredited list of schools.” This meant that if you graduated from Newberg High, you were automatically” admitted to the various colleges of the state without examination.”
In 1912, the city had just brought on-line a new Carnegie Library, thanks to the work of a civic-minded group known as the Ladies’ Wednesday Club.
Indeed, the new library building was but one jewel in a number of other developments which spelled new levels of prosperity for area.
Streets were being paved (including approaches to town from east and west), electricity was expanding, courtesy of the Yamhill Electric Company, and a new electric passenger train service was about to service Newberg under the auspices of the Portland, Eugene and Eastern Railway (PE&E) Company.
A second electric passenger train offering was also in the works, this by the Oregon Electric Railway Company (OERC), promising in a full page ad that “service would soon be introduced to Newberg and McMinnville.”
Fearing competition by the OERC would hurt its presence in western Oregon, the Southern Pacific railway company bought PE&E in 1912. By 1914 this service was operating as the Red Electric passenger train line, connecting downtown Newberg to Portland and the rest of the Willamette Valley. OERC did provide trains to the valley but they went through the small town of Donald, ten miles to the east.
The rose was the unofficial flower of the city and was at the center of an annual Rose Festival hosted by the mayor and the business community. A feature of these annual fetes was a “procession of babies on the principal street (E. First) in their little carriages decorated with flowers.”
The largest payrolls in town were provided by a logging company, a flour mill, a meat packing plant, a brick and tile works, a handle factory and a prune packing plant.
Was editor Bell’s work all in vain? Was his Progress Edition a strong enough magnet to pull people to the Grubby End? Yes, at least in part. I also thought about this when I read the following:
“It does not require a very keen intelligence,” Bell stated, “to see the future is bright. Before many years, all the hills around Newberg will be dotted with fine residences and highly improved small tracts.”
To my knowledge, original hardcopy of this publication does not exist, however it is nicely preserved in the Newberg Public Library on microfilm. (For easy access, reference librarian Denise Riley has used the film to make a paper copy and has added it to the Newberg History Collection.)
This story also published under the same headline in The Newberg Graphic, February 27, 2013.