Pioneer Heights Church

By David Fisher, 1938

"Say, Daddy, let us buy us a place over in Oregon."

"How come,"says I, "What is the matter with this we have hereT'

"Well, there is a tract of land over the west of Portland that's been in litigation for some time and it has just been put on the market, and the land is cheap. By paying fifty dollars down with 6% interest we can have started work on it, and I have picked me out a twenty."

At the time of this conversation we was in what was called Rose Valley, about five miles southeast of Kelso, Washington on a rented place. Ernest Waters, my son-in-law, and I had moved out from Portland on a farm with the idea of getting rich, but it did not just turn out that way, and as we were going behind every month, we thought that most anything was better than this.

Norman Waters, Ernest's younger brother, was .... the first one to hear of this new land deal and went right out, looked it over, and picked him out his piece of land. Herman Christenson had been a neighbor too, during the summer, but at this time had moved into Portland and was living on the same flat with Norman. Naturally, Herman was looking for something to better himself and make life more easy, so he gets a twenty along beside Norman's twenty.

"Well," says I, "anything is better than this," so on the 27th of November, 1927, we loaded up the old Ford with a lot of stuff and started for the land of promise. As we had to' stop in Portland to see the agent about getting me a piece of land, it took some time to get out of town. Having a heavy load on the car, when we got to the Munson school we came to the end of the gravel.

Roads had not been worked very much and the fall rains had been on for some time and the mud was deep. When we got to the Pizzi [Peasey] hill we had to unload the stuff and carry it up the hill. [on Skyline between Rock Creek Rd or Elliot]

When we got to the top of the hill, my, what a view! Looking off to the east we can see across the Columbia River to Vancouver, north Portland, and St. Johns, and looking down the river we can see Woodland, Washington and other towns along the lower Columbia Highway. When the day is clear we can see five snowtop mountains: Hood, St. Helens, Adams, Baker and Rainier.

The road leading off of Skyline Blvd. going down a ridge is called the Elliott Road. It had not been worked for the last few years. It was washed very much, and some places it looked like the car was going to upset. It was about sundown when we got to the place. We made camp on the side of the hill for the night. That was nothing as we were used to camping out, but Oh, what did we see the next morning! Hills covered with big stumps, dead snags and plenty of brush and dead tops covering old logs.

Ernest goes back to his job in town and I stay and try to make a start on a place to live. So I moves the tent on a level place and start getting out cedar shakes to cover the house with. In the mean time the boys (Ernest and Norman) would come out on Sundays and do what they could in getting their houses going up. Norman put up a log house first and he and his wife, Lela, gathered moss and chinked the cracks between the logs, and it made them a nice cozy little home. They have one little boy named Robert. He is small for his age but is smart and tough as a hickory withe.

Herman Christenson, with wife Estelle and two boys, Myron and John, builded them a house with cedar poles with shakes to cover sides and roof.

During the last of December, 1927, we moved from Kelso to Whitwood Court in one of Mr. Munson's houses, and as soon as the weather got a little warmer the wife and I moved out in a tent, and started t6 build a shelter for the rest of the family. We first put up a shed 16 x 20, made of cedar shakes, to be used as a chicken house.

The land was crisscrossed with old railroad beds which had been used to haul out timber so I got me a small rope with a stick on one end and a slip noose at the other and drug the ties one at a time and laid up the main house 26 x 34 feet and floored it with three inch plank. Afterwards it was finished up and sealed and tongue-and-grooved floor put in. This was for Ernest's family. At this time he had four girls and one baby boy.

As for my own house I used the same method of hauling ties and laid up a room 16 x 24. We had to cut away a number of logs before we could start our house. After a while the walls were up and we moved in. Later on we finished up inside with shiplap and flooring.

While we were still living in the tent, Mr. Christenson had moved out and another family, a Mr. Robert Schramache, had moved into the neighborhood. As we were all Seventh Day Adventists, and had been used to studying the Bible every Sabbath day, we organized a Sabbath school with six members. The writer was chosen as superintendent with Mrs. Schram ache as secretary.

At our first meeting the question arose as to what we should call our Sabbath school. It was decided that each one was to suggest a name, and when we came together the next Sabbath, Pioneer was chosen. Later the word Heights was added so the church has gone by the name of Pioneer Heights ever since, as has the little community.

It was some time in March 1928 that Ernest got to move out, and all the time we were moving that spring, the roads was so bad and the mud so deep that we could hardly do anything. We had to leave our own car out by the Schramache place all that winter and spring and carry everything on our back to the shack.

It was on a Sunday that Ernest was to bring his family in so we all went over to the head of the Logie Trail to meet them and help them up the big hilL Wewas gone about one and a half hours and during this time someone went to the shack and stole about five dollars worth of stuff, sugar, canned milk, some beans and flour. We have never known for sure who took them. At another time we lost a few groceries. After this we have never had anything stolen. Our tools have been always where one could go and help themselves but we have never had anything taken. A very good neighborhood to live in.

The first summer we did not get to do very much in the farm business. Everyone got as much land cleared as we could and by the time the second year came around their was a number of other families moved in. Harry Burgess, was a brother-in-law of the Waters,and Harley Powell, another brother-in-law. Harley and Bertha have four boys, Charles, Virgil, R.L. (Lafe) and Norman, and a daughter, Ramona. Harry and Ora Burgess have no children.

During this second year another family of four, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Howerton and children Ben and Pauline, moved in from California, so n,ow when we came together on Sabbath it made a good size crowd. At this time we· did meet at some of the other homes.

As our church membership was scattered much over the state we voted to organize into a church, so one Sabbath Elder Woodman, the President of the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists came out and we were organized into a church with Herman Christenson as elder, and HarrY Burgess as deacon. Later in the winter on account of ill health Mr. Christenson resigned from the eldership and the writer was chosen to fulfill the rest of the term.

Another family, the E. A. Emerys took up a homestead not far away. [on the 20 acres where Karin and Michael live now] They have one little girl. Then Lloyd Emery came over and stayed at Norman Waters' place. He has one little boy. Soon after this O. H. Emery came in from the east and picked out him a home, then in a little while the father and mother came west, so we have four families of the Emerys.

Chester Ferguson and his wife Syneva bought a small piece of land a little way to the south of the writer. They have a boy, Gerald. Chet served as superintendent for several years, and also as deacon.

During 1928, Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Waters, the parents of the Waters boys, came here from Canada. They built a house on the hill on the Burgess property. Their youngest son, Fred, also arrived and lived with them for a while.

In the fall of 1929 the brethren came together and held a counsel in regard to a church school. As there was some eighteen or twenty that should go to school it was decided to hire a teacher. We had to pay forty-five dollars a I month, a goodly sum for those days. And where was the money going to come from? Each one pledged to pay so much and sent for Miss Ruth Beck of Granger, Washington to take charge of the flock of youngsters. Then the next problem was, what was we going to seat the pupils on or where was the school house to put them in? Ernest said to use his big room, which we did for some time. Then we began to nail together boards and slats to make desks and seats.

Let us go back for a time. In the fall of '28 a heavy forest fire swept over this part of the county and did a great lot of damage, burning down Norman's house and cleaning out Christenson' even burning up their flock of chickens. Burgesses was living in a tent at the time and building them a house. The fire burned up everything that they had. And Harley Powell had moved in and his household stuff was scattered all over the neighborhood while he was getting up him a place to live. He lost everything he had, but his house did not bum.

As so many had lost their houses, the land company put a carload of lumber at their disposal, so Burgess, Christenson and Norman Waters divided it up between them, so they soon had a place to live in. Norman put up a small house as he had a small family and he had a good lot of lumber left over so he told the church that if they put up the building we could use it for a school, and he could use it later on for a barn.

The brethren came together at once and we soon had a nice place for the kid dies to study, and along the middle of winter we moved them in. By now Mr. and Mrs. Buck and son George with three children of school age, Gladys, Gilbert and Fred, moved in and settled about a mile down the creek. Then a Mrs. Ivan Schramacke, who had three that was of school age moved in. Then the Hooper family came up from California with a crowd of scholars. With all of these it made our little room somewhat crowded.

So in the councils of the church board it was decided to select a place for a permanent place for a church and school. The writer donated a piece of his land on the eastern side next to the road, with the stipulation that if the time ever came when it was no longer used by the church or school it was to go to his heirs.

Now the next thing was what are we going to build the church out of. So each one was to solicit funds, and by the time that the second term of school was here we had the building nearly finished, that is, the outside shell up and windows was in. After we had started the school in the new building the County gave us a loan of some desks from the Bonneville school, replacing the homemade ones. Miss Mabel Anderson taught the second term with some twenty-two pupils in all eight grades. Then Miss Erma Haynes taught for two years. After her, Miss Viva Davis taught for one year, then Mill Cox and we have always had a school every year up to the present time, 1938.

At the end of her second year of teaching, Miss Haynes and Lloyd Emery decided to form a partnership of just two for a lifetime term. He was to have someone to do his cooking for him and taking care of his little boy, and she to enlist in a lifetime missionary endeaver.

Soon Miss Haynes' sister, Irene, came to visit and she and Fred Waters seemed to hit it off and decided to get married. They lived in the area for some time.


This article was given to Mel Jenkins by David Fisher's grand daughter, Grace Norris. She writes, "David and Annie Fisher had only one child, my mother Mabel, married to Ernest Waters. I am the second of eleven children born to them. David was born in 1868 so he was 59 when this story began. He died in 1958, just past 90 years of age. David was a graduate nurse and often gave emergency help in the absence of a doctor in our little community. Annie was 8 years older than David and was thin and wizened, but she worked like a man helping to clear land, make gardens and helping her daughter raise a flock of youngsters. She died in 1946 at the age of 86.

"I was seven years old when we moved to Pioneer Heights, as the community came to be called after the little church received that name. I was 14 when we moved away ar1d the place has always held a special place in my heart ... .1 am enclosing a couple of copies of old photos for your interest: one of David and Annie Fisher and one of the cross tie house that he built with very little help, for the Ernest Waters family."

RR Fall 97