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Some Bonneville Pioneers

Bonneville, Oregon, located east of the Sandy River at the eastmost point of Multnomah County, no doubt is the hub where much thought was centered by the early pioneers who came to the Oregon Country. The four-mile distance between Bonneville and Cascade Locks riverwise, was the most treacherous water on the Columbia River. It was a barrier separating Western Oregon from navigating the so-called Eastern Empire.

In late 1850, two men, RUCKEL and BRADFORD, appeared on the scene with rival interests. The two men started portage road building to transport commerce overland from the lower rapids to the upper end. Each one was backed by navigation people from Portland with hot competition on both sides. Some history is available that tells the full story.

The narrow bench of land between the steep mountain and the river was homesteaded. Ira DODSON and wife Sarah, Robert REED and his wife Emma, and others not so well known were Thomas MOFFETT at Moffett Creek, LEAVENS at Tanner Creek and a bachelor named SNOW on the heights between Moffett Creek and Tanner Creek.

Ira DODSON with his homestead rights devoted his time mainly to his two fish wheels he built on the river front. Trouble in the family culminated in Ira leaving the place to his wife and son Hiram. Rumors persisted that Hiram was fathered by Doc LEAVENS, who had a notorious reputation among the pioneers.

Hiram had several political favors from the old political machine in Multnomah County. What little political know-how the writer has, came from the school of Hiram DODSON. The last years of his life were devoted to protecting his property rights which he had in common with his mother, who at the age of 80 years married a young Swiss adventurer by the name of William BROADBACK. Death of all three of them at about the same time, ended the struggle. Ira, the original Dodson, supposedly moved to Troutdale, where his story ended.

Of the other homesteaders, Williams SAMS died at Skamania, Washington, when he was over 90 years old. He left a number of children at Skamania. One son, Lee, for many years a fish buyer for McGowan & Sons, lived at Dodson.

Thomas MOFFETT became the owner of Moffett’s Hot Spring. He had no children. Leavens had a homestead, part of which was bought by the State where they built one of the first salmon fish hatcheries in Oregon.

Bonneville, as obscure as it was, has been a place not to be forgotten in Oregon history. It was here that Lewis and Clark, shuttling down the Cascade rapids at Garrison on the morning of November 5, 1805, discovered they had reached tide water from the Pacific Ocean, the goal for their exploration. It was here the beautiful sternwheeler, Bailey GATZERT, used to take record-breaking crowds for picnics on Sundays. It was here a speech that Governor Oswald WEST came out publicly for Woman Suffrage in Oregon, in 1908 or 1909. It was here where early pioneers had to make important decisions that affected their whole lives. It was here that one of the last Indian attacks was made on white settlers.

Of a more personal nature, it was here that the writer [Erik A. ENQUIST] at the age of 18 worked his first day in Oregon. It was here my daughter, Aino Bossio, at the age of 3 used to steal away from her mother and go to the swift-running waterfront with her dog, throw in a piece of wood for him to swim out and catch. It is surprising that she is still here. It is here that my son Erik Rolf was born on May 16, 1910, the night Haley’s comet was the closest to earth. He passed away February 28, 1970 and is buried in the Troutdale Cemetery. -- Erik A. Enquist

[Source:  Submitted to Multnomah County GenWeb by Dorothy Hungerford, from a compendium of biographies hand typed and distributed by the East Multnomah Pioneer Association in about 1972, pp.213-214.]

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