Jean Brooks Nixon
By Sharon Barthmeier
Recently, Jean Brooks Nixon generously shared pictures and stories from earlier life in the Skyline area. The pictures show Skyline Road (circa 1910) as a small rutted dirt road running through open land already heavily deforested; a group of Brooks and Kreuger boys perched upon a stile built so the Pauly kids would not have to climb over the farmer’s fence to get to Brooks School; a railroad car on the tracks loaded with cord wood to be taken into Portland; Asian Indians who were potato diggers, sitting in front of the family granary on Kaiser Road; a trestle-- complete with water barrels in case of fire--that ran across Rock Creek where the Krueger kids would walk across to the candy store on Helvetia Road with the nickel their grandpa had given them (note: this trestle and surrounding culvert were filled in and replaced by the Cornelius Pass tunnel); and many pictures of rural children and stern teachers standing solemnly in front of Brooks School around 1898.
Norma Jean Brooks Carpenter Nixon, who goes by Jean, grew up on Kaiser Road between Skyline and Germantown roads, living there from 1925-1965. The picturesque family house of beautiful red brick still stands on Kaiser Road today, although the former 200 acre farm is now divided into smaller parcels. Her father, Josephus Xanthic Brooks, had discovered the plans for this home advertised in the paper and promised his bride, Emma Kreuger, to build it for her within five years. In the intervening years, which grew to be fifteen, the couple lived in a converted granary on Kaiser. Their property included the woods on the hill north of Kaiser. Many acres were rented out to farmers growing strawberries.
Josephus X, called Joe X, was the mailman on Skyline. Mailmen in those days were paid according to the number of miles on their route. Joe was persistent and clever in expanding his route, adding the town of Cornelius and Sauvie Island, until it is claimed he had the second longest route in the United States! A picture shows him in his WWI uniform, sitting atop mud encrusted buggy wheels in a horse cart on the farm. Jean notes that the old wool uniform was the nicest and warmest piece of clothing he owned. Joe had returned to the farm during the war, disappointed that he couldn’t join the forces in France. It seems that he had thick, muscular legs and the army didn’t have leggings his size. As he waited for the leggings to arrive, the war came to an end.
An interesting side note to Joe’s WWI enlistment is a letter to his sister Jennie while he was in the army. He said he had received “2 pairs of shoes, 4 pairs of sox, 2 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, 2 suits of underclothes, a belt, a hat, an overcoat, a raincoat and two coats,” and noted, “I feel just like some colt running around with his head in the air.” It was the most clothes he had owned in his life!
A photo of a 1916 Studebaker truck shows its owner, Jean’s grandmother, Carolyn Hamel Krueger, standing alongside, and Jean’s mother on the back with six other children. The truck was complete with side curtains and benches that flopped down to accommodate transporting eleven kids to church. When not hauling boisterous youngsters, grandpa Ferdinand Krueger hauled potatoes to Portland docks to sell to visiting sea captains. Grandpa Kreuger was an infamous driver. After purchasing the truck, he was given two driving lessons by the salesman who came up to the house for the instruction.
However, after the lessons, the salesman deemed Mr. Kreuger too wild of a driver, and took the train back to Portland. Jean tells of a legal agreement between her grandfather Ferdinand and the United Railway Company during construction of the Cornelius Pass tunnel (at the s-curves on Cornelius Pass) in 1910.
The tunnel ran through Ferd’s property, and the agreement gave the Kreuger family free transportation over the United Railway line in perpetuity and “current [electricity] sufficient to light [the Kreuger] house and barn, said house to have not more than eight, said barn not to have more than four lights, said current to be permanent.” Additionally, the agreement read, “if the tunnel should drain the well of the [the Kreuger property] [the railway] will furnish a new source of water supply equal in quality and quantity…” Electricity was new to the Ridge, and there were rumors that some of that “sufficient current” was shared by the neighbors! An uncle of Jean’s who decided to build a dairy, replacing the small farm, ultimately canceled the United Railway agreement. Both parties felt the other owed them money, but in the end, the railroad paid the Kreugers hundreds of dollars.
Many of Jean’s photos will be at the Summer Gathering and selected photos will be displayed at the church. SRN would like to collect more old photos of the area and perhaps establish a website to share them with neighbors. If anyone has photos that they would be willing to have SRN scan or copy, please contact the Ridge Runner.