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From Past to Present
By Evan Jensen   - 03/17/2010

The Estacada News

Long before Estacada was known as the Christmas tree capital of the world, early settlers closed off Broadway’s dirt road from the top of the hill into downtown Estacada. But it wasn’t to keep people away. Broadway’s steep hill was impassable when winter snow arrived, so locals poured buckets of water down the hill to create a better-than-Disneyland ride. And while the daredevils took turns sledding down the hill, others were gathered around campfires down below, roasting marshmallows and hot dogs.

This account of Estacada’s early days is one of hundreds that local writer Kathryn Hurd has collected for the book, “Images of America: Estacada,” featuring stories and photos from 1840 through 1980, that will be published in 2011.

“Writing history is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” Hurd said. “You collect all these pieces, like old newspaper articles, magazine stories, interviews and photographs, and the pieces begin to fit together. Eventually, there’s this ah-ha moment and that’s where I’m at with this project. I’m really looking forward to finishing this jigsaw puzzle about Estacada. It’s an exciting process.”

Hurd got her start as a writer and storyteller as a college student at Idaho State University, where she majored in speech and drama. She thought she was destined to become a Broadway star, but her plans took a happy and unexpected detour when she married her late husband.

They made their life together in Lake Oswego, and when he passed away, Hurd knew more change was on the way. The floods of 1996 convinced her to find a new place to live. She settled in Estacada after a long search for a place that would complement her love for animals, writing and story telling.

“When I decided to move, I drew a circle on a map within one hour of Portland and started going to different places,” Hurd said. “My house sold in Lake Oswego, and I closed on my house in Estacada on the same day. When I called the phone company for a number, I couldn’t believe it. My phone number in Lake Oswego was 636-4175 and the number they gave me in Estacada was 630-4175. And the day I went to look at the house and the property, a herd of 40 elk were grazing in the meadow. It was almost like my realtor, Joanne Jaggers, staged the whole thing. I knew those things meant I was supposed to be here. You have to pay attention to things like that.”

And it’s the little details Hurd is looking for to create the history of Estacada. The destination place known as Hotel Estacada had chickens in the backyard so guests could order fresh eggs for breakfast. Estacada’s earliest known library consisted of a shelf of books in a woman’s home that she loaned out to people.

“One person told me that she also had a nice claw-foot tub upstairs,” Hurd said. “So you could check out a good book, and if you needed a bath when you came into town, you could pay a small fee to use the bath.”

She’s heard from old-timers who can remember when the Clackamas River was so full of fish, you could almost walk on water. She’s learned that Estacada’s elk population is the result of an elk herd relocated by rail from the Oregon coast and driven towards Sqauw Mountain. And she’s gathered many accounts and interesting details about transformation that followed when construction on the first dam along the Clackamas began.

“The people I’ve talked to and interviewed about Estacada’s past are so interesting,” Hurd said. “People have such fond memories and surprising insights into what Estacada was like at one point in time. When I talk to people, I not only get a sense of history and geography from a chronological standpoint, I also get a sense for what this town was like at the time.”

Hurd has written three other books in her years as a writer. She chronicled the life and times of a bygone era of a local community in her book, “Briarwood Remembered,” wrote a biography on the famed and sometimes controversial Oregon businessman, Bruno Paul John, for whom John’s Landing is named, in the book, “Bruno Paul John: An Oregon Legacy,” and is also the author of “The Dwyers: Pioneers in the Timber Industry.”

And while you may not have read her books, chances are you know Hurd because of her gift as a storyteller. Not long after her husband passed away, she was captivated by an article in “The Oregonian” about a local storyteller. It took her back to her days as an ambitious young actor in college, and she decided to give it a try.

“I went to a storyteller’s guild meeting, and felt like I had gone home,” Hurd said. “I met all these wonderful people and decided to put together my own program for schools, libraries and special events. … I was really struck by Russian children’s stories, so with my theatrical background I made my own costumes patterned after pictures from old books and gathered artifacts to use for storytelling.”

She was awarded the Parents Choice Gold Award for her recording of Russian Wonder Tales in Stories from the Hearth, and moved to Estacada soon after to share her talents with the community at the Estacada Public Library.

“She’s a fabulous story teller,” Gloria Polzin said. “She was part of the library’s Renaissance Faire, and made up many of her stories and customers for the children’s library program. Her storytelling is flawless, and she also has a phenomenal gift for history, research and writing. … I’m really excited about the book she is working on. I think it’s going to be wonderful with a lot of information and stories we haven’t heard before.”

Hurd’s book will include stories about Estacada’s rough and tumble timber town days, when rowdy patrons roamed from one bar to the next. The book may include details about a curse allegedly placed on Estacada nearly a century ago, Estacada’s longtime nudist colony, the Timber Park Festival, and the people, churches, organizations and events that have shaped the community in the last 100-plus years.

“We’ve been friends ever since I helped her buy her house in Estacada,” Joanne Jaggers said. “She told me she wants to incorporate logging, the railroad, farming and anything to do with the history of the Estacada area into the book. I’ve lived here all my life, and I think a book like this is long overdue. People have so many questions about the area, and it will be nice to have something that tells the story of our town. … She’s the perfect person for this project because she’s a great writer and a good listener who is very generous, kind and compassionate.”




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