Utah State Mental Hospital

Ellen Rebecca Cutler (1911-1927) was the fifth child born to Joseph Jonathan and Lucy Stokes Cutler and a sister to Grandma Cleo Cutler Fergus. Her mother gave birth to 12 children in total, only 6 of whom would survive to adulthood. Lavon, the baby preceding Ellen in birth order, was born sickly and lived for only 9 days.  And after Ellen’s birth Lucy had three stillborn babies.  Family members would later describe this time in Lucy’s life as her “female troubles”.  After a corrective surgery at Ogden Hospital, Lucy would give birth to four more children, all of whom lived to ripe old ages.

Ellen was born with some type of developmental disability.  In an oral history interview her younger sister Cleo described her as being slow and “not quite right in the head.” Further evidence of this appears on her death certificate where the contributory cause of death is listed as “idiot – low type”.  Cleo also remembered that her sister became “unmanageable” and so her parents had her committed to the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo, Utah.  At what age, is unclear. Since Ellen is listed in her father’s household on the 1920 U.S. federal census we can narrow down the time frame to the years 1921-1927, or between the ages of 10 and 16.  She died at the facility just a few months after her mother’s death in 1927.  After her death, her father brought her body home and buried her in the family plot of the Snowville Cemetery.

Here is a glimpse at the history of the Utah State Mental Hospital.

image 1 - ush.utah.gov

Territorial Insane Asylum later renamed Utah State Mental Hospital. Image courtesy of Utah State Hospital ush.utah.gov.

The Territorial Insane Asylum was established in 1885 at Provo, Utah. The complex was sited just outside city limits some eight blocks from the nearest resident.  And in a revealing message about the prevailing attitudes of mental illness at the time, it was separated from the city by the city dump and swampland.

Its purpose was to treat the mentally ill and restore them to a normal level of functioning.  Yet in spite of their best efforts and intentions, it was little more than a human warehouse.  In 1903 it was renamed the Utah State Mental Hospital, then in 1927 the word “mental” was dropped from the title in an effort to remove the negative stigma associated with the word. According to the 1920 U.S. federal census, the asylum had a population of 604 patients.

1920 - main building

Utah State Mental Hospital circa 1920 as it would have looked when Ellen was admitted. Image courtesy of Utah State Hospital ush.utah.gov

0. building

The Milton Hardy Building constructed in 1908 to provide housing for women. By the 1920s it also provided space for those diagnosed as “feebleminded.” The building was determined to be unsafe and was demolished in 1967. Image courtesy of Utah State Hospital ush.utah.gov

By the mid-twentieth century, the hospital was home to more than 1,500 patients.  During the Great Depression (1936-1937) the castle and amphitheater were built by the Works Progress Administration. It was built to seat 800 people and used as a source of entertainment for patients at the hospital. For many years, the castle and amphitheater were decorated as a haunted castle for Halloween. Originally this was done for the entertainment of the patients, but it became so popular that the event was opened to the public and used as a fundraising event.


Castle and amphitheater built by WPA during the Great Depression. Image courtesy of Utah State Hospital ush.utah.gov

Today the role of the Utah State Hospital has changed from being the only mental health treatment facility in the state into more of a supporting role for community mental health centers created by the legislature in 1969. Original buildings have been replaced by modern structures, with the exception of the old superintendent’s home now a museum, and the historic castle and amphitheater.





Wilsonville Grade School

Wilsonville School - 1910 original building

First Wilsonville School circa 1910. The structure was built in the late 1870s and demolished in 2003.  Photo courtesy of Wilsonville School Reunion Project coordinated by Charlotte Lehan and housed at the Wilsonville Public Library.

The first Wilsonville School was a one-room structure built in the late 1870s, just off Boones Ferry Road as it led down toward the Willamette River ferry.

As the area around the school grew, residents felt the need to build a newer, larger structure in 1913.  This two-room school boasted two teachers, two outhouses, an iron pump in back for water, and a bell tower.  The primary levels, grades one through four were taught on one side.  The upper levels, grades five through eight, on the other.

Wilsonville Grade School - original building

Second Wilsonville School circa 1913. Photo courtesy of Wilsonville School Reunion Project coordinated by Charlotte Lehan and housed at the Wilsonville Public Library.

After the second school opened, the original school was used for a wood shed. One of the student’s jobs each day was to carry in wood to feed the potbellied stoves, one in each room. A unique feature of the school was the large double-sided blackboard wall that went through the center of the building partitioning off the two classrooms. When an all-school event was held, students would go into the attic above and raise the blackboards to form one large room. For larger school meetings, assemblies, 8th grade graduation and the traditional Christmas play they used the meeting room of the Methodist Episcopal Church across the street.


Third and final Wilsonville Grade School circa 1951. Photo courtesy of Wilsonville School Reunion Project coordinated by Charlotte Lehan and housed at the Wilsonville Public Library.

In 1951 the Wilsonville School District was consolidated into the West Linn District and a new Wilsonville Grade School constructed.  If you look carefully in the picture you can spot the original 1870 structure behind the car. It remained on school grounds until 2003 when the property was sold to Fred Meyer Corp. and the buildings and playground demolished.

Only a small stand of trees remain to this day, surrounded by the asphalt of the Fred Meyer parking lot, with a small historic sign marking the spot of the former school.


Motorized Vehicles, Early School Buses


Rivercrest Farm and an Englishman

During their time on Rivercrest Jersey Farm, the Fergus family worked for Charles and Myrtle Couche.  It was an uncomfortable relationship at times due to differences in background and experience, economic status, and the oversize personalities of the Couches.  In order to build an award-winning Jersey herd and keep their hobby dairy functioning day-to-day they desperately needed an experienced herdsman, Boyd. And under his experienced hand, the farm grew and attained nation-wide recognition with a 7-star bull and award-winning progeny bringing the Couche couple the money and recognition they craved within the Jersey Association.

While researching the family’s time on the Couche place I came across the following news article that gives a sense of what farm life with two out-of-depth city folk was like for our grandparents.

“…Sunday was a tough day on the Charles Couche farm at Sherwood. First, a valuable Jersey heifer died from eating too many green apples. Then Charley fell from the top of a new hay barn, suffering injuries of a nature that made both walking and sitting extremely painful. Then the farm herdsman [Boyd Fergus] went to the hospital with ulcers. Finally the phone started ringing with calls from worried cattle club members to find out if date of picnic had been changed after wrong date had appeared in newspaper. On top of all that, Mrs. Couche complained it was hot….”     Oregonian, 8 August 1952

001a Charles Couche - closeup - 4 x 6

Charles Couche on Rivercrest Farm

Mr. Couche enjoyed the status and bragging rights of owning the farm, but could be inept at the day-to-day farm tasks.  He was also an aggressive bully at times, once tormenting a yearling bull calf to the point that it became a danger to itself, other livestock, and the herdsman and had to be put down.  (See Soli)  This behavior was not limited to animals.  In this hostile work environment, Boyd’s health suffered under the stress of working for Mr. Couche, the physical demands of caring for so many cows with only his wife and young boys for help, and the taxing record-keeping needed with his 8th grade education.

I was curious to learn more about the infamous Mr. Couche and his wife Myrtle.

Born in Exeter, England on April 4, 1890, Charles came to the United States via Canada in 1915 with his first wife Loana and two daughters, Eleanor and Gladys.  The family settled in Portland where Charles opened an advertising agency and quickly earned a reputation as a brilliant media marketing man.  One of his early contracts was with the Majestic Theater, executing their $40,000 advertising contract with Goldwyn Pictures for weekly movie promotions.

Sunday Oregonian - June 3 1917

Oregonian June 3, 1917

In 1918 Charles and local artist F.H. Clark took third place for their Liberty loan poster design in a hotly contested competition among the best advertising men in the seven western states region.  Their poster, “The Prussian Brute” showed a German figure in the act of stealing a baby from the arms of its Belgian mother while in the background the Yankees are shown going over the top of the hill.  His chief object, as quoted in the August 9, 1918 edition of the Oregonian was “to sell the war.”

He was also active with the local YMCA volleyball team, learned to drive and bought himself the latest model of the Scripps-Booth six touring car, planned local movie-themed balls and fundraisers, judged essay contests, and taught advertising classes. All this activity and community involvement cost him his first marriage in 1924 when his wife sued for divorce on the basis of desertion.  After his divorce was final he married Myrtle Forbes.

IMG_0580 (3)In 1935 he saw a future in radio and took a job as the advertising and promotions director for radio stations KALE and KOIN.  He continued to climb the ladder of success until he retired from the industry in 1947, as the general manager of KALE.  It was about 1944 that the Couche’s decided to dabble in the dairy industry.  Their talents were immediately put to use; Charles heading up the state club publication committee and Myrtle applying her talents as editor of the Oregon Jersey Review magazine. In 1945 they took a calculated risk in purchasing a yearling bull (Basil Stan Lilac Romulus King) from the C.W. Sherman stock farm in Scappoose, Or. He had an impeccable pedigree and within four years proved his worth by siring 23 daughters whose quantity of milk and percentage of butterfat per pound set new records. In 1949 he gained his 7-star rating, one of only eleven 7-star bulls in the United States at the time and was sold to Oklahoma A & M for the substantial sum of $2000 for use in their artificial insemination service. Never one to pass up a promotional opportunity, Mr. Couche launched an ad campaign benefiting Rivercrest Farm under the name “What One Bull Did for Us” and used it to promote and advertise not only his farm but increase the sales prices of the jerseys he sold.

IMG_0674 (2)The Couche’s continued to work their influence on the state level sponsoring 4-H contests, hosting club picnics, organizing tours for visiting Jersey dignitaries for the yearly meeting culminating in what fellow Jersey members believed was the organization’s crowning achievement; a contract and ad campaign with Fred Meyer stores to sell milk and other dairy products made from Jersey milk under the All-Jersey trade name owned by the Oregon Jersey Cattle Association.

Between 1955 and 1957 Charles and Myrtle Couche began the process of retiring.  Ending their work with the Oregon Jersey Cattle Association and selling their herd.  They purchased a property management company in Lake Grove, OR where Myrtle kept the books and Charles, only semi-retired, turned his talents to the budding filbert industry and thoughts of nationwide promotion.  He died in 1965, while Myrtle 6 years younger, died in 1982.

Wilsonville School Records 1945-1952

Photo timeline compiled using Clackamas County school records located at the Oregon State Archives and Wilsonville School photographs located at the Wilsonville Public Library.

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1945 Xmasprograma - circled

1946 First Second Gradesa - circled


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Dorothy Fergus – birthdate 8/14/36 (incorrect) – age 9 (incorrect), Darwin Fergus – birthdate 2/3/37 – age 8, Howard E. Fergus – birthdate 2/26/41 – age 4


1947 Lower Gradesa - circled


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Dorothy Fergus – birthdate 8/14/36 (incorrect) – age 10 (incorrect)

1947 5th & 6th Gradesa - circled

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Darwin Fergus – birthdate 2/3/37 – age 9, Howard E. Fergus – birthdate 2/26/41 – age 5

IMG_1039 (2)

1948 1st & 2nd Gradesa - circled


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Dorothy Fergus – birthdate 8/14/36 (incorrect) – age 12 (incorrect)

1948 5th & 6th Grades - circled

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Darwin Fergus – birthdate 2/3/37 – age 10, Howard E. Fergus – birthdate 2/26/41 – age 6

1948 1st & 2nd Grades - circledIMG_1055 (2)


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Dorothy Fergus – birthdate 8/14/36 (incorrect) – age 12 (incorrect)


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no Darwin Fergus listed, Howard E. Fergus – birthdate 2/26/41 – age 7, Monte (Monty) Fergus – birthdate 3/25/43 (incorrect) – age 5

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1950 5 & 6a - circled

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Dorothy Fergus – birthdate 8/14/36 (incorrect) – age 13 (incorrect)

1950 1st & 2nda - circled

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Darwin Fergus – birthdate 2/3/34 (incorrect) – age 15 (incorrect), Howard E. Fergus – birthdate 2/26/41 – age 8, Monte (Monty) Fergus – birthdate 3/25/43 (incorrect) – age 6

1950-51 School Year – school census records missing

1951 1st & 2ndab - circled

1951 7th & 8tha - circled

1951 Grada - circled

1951-52 School Year – school census records missing

1952 Grades 1 to 4a - circled

1952 Grades 5 to 8a - circled


Reference Information:

Clackamas County School District, Clerk’s Annual Census Records, accession 95A-26. Oregon State Library, 800 Summer St. NE, Salem, OR, 97301.

Wilsonville School grand finale [CD-ROM]: the reunion and celebration of a century. compiled by Charlotte Lehan, Wilsonville Public Library, 8200 SW Wilsonville Rd., Wilsonville, OR, 97070.




Another memorable animal from the Fergus family time on the Rivercrest Jersey Farm (Couche Place) was a bull nicknamed Soli.

Here’s a link to hear Uncle Monty tell the story with the help of his siblings.


Soli - Rivercrest Farm Bull 1949

“Soli” or Fairmeade Solitude Journal – Rivercrest Farm’s 2-year old junior herd sire awarded Grand Championship at the Clackamas County Spring Show.  Jersey Review Summer 1949

King, the 7-Star Bull


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Rivercrest Jersey Farm ad published in the Oregon Jersey Review, Summer 1950 issue, p 42

One of the more memorable animals Boyd cared for on the Couche place, Rivercrest Jersey Farm, was a bull nicknamed “King.” Purchased from the C.W. Sherman stock farm in 1945, the Couches took a calculated risk in the yearling bull named Basil Stan Lilac Romulus King. The animal had an impeccable pedigree and within four years proved his worth by siring 23 daughters whose quantity of milk and percentage of butterfat per pound set new records.  He earned his 7-star rating in 1949, one of only eleven 7-star bulls in the United States at the time.  The Couches sold him that same year for $2000 to Oklahoma A & M for use in their artificial insemination service.  And never one to pass up a promotional opportunity, Mr. Couche launched an ad campaign benefiting Rivercrest Jersey Farm under the name “What One Bull Did for Us.”

King - Rivercrest Bull 1946-1949

The following text appeared in the Fall 1949 issue of Oregon Jersey Review, the official publication of the Oregon Jersey Cattle Club.

7-Star Bull to Oklahoma

BASIL STAN LILAC ROMULUS KING 454028, 7-star herd sire for the past four years at the Charles E. Couche Rivercrest Jersey farm. Wilsonville, Ore., was sold for $2,000.00 on a 90-day trial arrangement last summer and shipped by Couche July 30th to Oklahoma A. & M. College, Stillwater, Okla. Word has just been received by Couche from L.H. Stinnett, Extension Dairyman at Oklahoma A. & M., that King has become adjusted to his new home and is doing splendidly; that the quality and quantity of his semen is very acceptable and that they are highly gratified with their purchase. This notification, coming almost a month in advance of the expiration of the 90-day trial period, justified Couche’s faith in the bull and his willingness to send him that distance on a trial sale.

In his new home King joins other Oklahoma A. & M. bulls for artificial insemination service sponsored for that state by the college. This purchase was passed upon and okeyed [sic] by Paul Harber, Tulsa, Okla., who inspected the bull, his daughters and their records when he visited the Rivercrest Farm May 29 as part of his western tour enroute to the Sacramento, Calif. convention of the American Jersey Cattle Club. The sale and arrangements were made via long distance telephone immediately after Harber’s return to Oklahoma.

King left behind him at the Rivercrest farm nineteen daughters, including a pair of twins born May 16 from a Very Good cow, and a more recent daughter from a Very Good, Gold Medal cow that was purchased last year from Nash & Sweet, Sixes, Oregon. Seven additional progeny are yet to come from cows bred to King before his departure. One of these is a Very Good, Gold and Silver Medal cow purchased by the Couches last September at the State Jersey sale. She is from the herd of Ralph E. Cope, Jr., Langlois, Ore. and won her medals by producing 622 pounds butterfat, 305 days, 2 x, at the age of 1 year 11 months, and on her current lactation, preceeding [sic] the birth of King’s offspring, she has given 594 pounds butterfat in 270 days.

King was bred at and purchased by the Couches from the C.W. Sherman Stock farm, Scappoose, Ore., in 1945, when he was two years old. He gained his 7-star rating with 36 credits, in March, 1948, being one of only eleven 7-star bulls in the United States.

He was sired by Brampton Basil Stan, Excellent, Silver and Gold Medal, Senior Superior Sire with 20 tested daughters averaging 619 pounds butterfat, 305 days 2 x milking.

King’s dam was Romulus’ Lilac Queen, whose final record before her death was 617 pounds butterfat, 305 days at 10 years of age.



There is a Story to Tell – Part 2

001b Cleo Fergus - autobiographical

Autobiography of Cleo Cutler Fergus written April 26, 1988 comprising p. 17-25 of her journal. Every effort was made to preserve punctuation, grammar, and spelling.

My life and experiences with Boyd Fergus (your father)

Come September in 1937 Boyds [Boyd’s] mother had the strong urge that they should get their [temple] work done Martha Elizabeth Peterson Fergus and William Maughn [Maughan] Fergus. And there [their] family who were at home Boyd, Don (I was proxy for Merle) Marion and Vaudis.  (His Father William was getting weaker all the time from his illness) On Sept. 28, 1937 They went to the Logan Temple and were sealed for time and Eternity and the five children were sealed to them. An Older Sister Nola was seald [sealed] to them on March 11, 1969 and Evelyn was sealed on Feb. 3, 1958.

Darwin was 9 months old at this time so the old Folks Decided to move to McCammon Idaho and leave us alone.  They opened up a restaurant there they thought they could make a go of it.  I don’t recall to [too] much about that part of [it] they moved away and we were by ourselves anyway it was in Oct or Nov.

This was about the time when the government was buying up all the places around there that were dry farms as we called them (un irrigated land). The place we lived on was one of them so we had to make plans to move. We did have a chance to buy the 40 acres of irrigated land where we raised our hay and some grain.  They wanted $900.00 dollars I don’t know if that was the full price or the down pmt [payment].  Any way we went to the banks and every where we could think of to get the money (Even my Father) but we couldn’t raise it, another big farmer got it away from us.

Lots of our friends whose places were sold were given the chance to be re located in Oregon.  The chance came to us so Boyd said we should come too.  I got very scared. The folks weren’t too happy.  My Father was very sad because he said we would stop going to church he wouldn’t see us and all that.  The decision was made and we had to plan accordingly.  One of our friends came back from looking at places and choosing his place it was very exciting and he said how nice it was and Boyds [Boyd’s] dad had told him about logging in Oregon so he really was excited.  I would have followed him to the end of the world so it was a busy time. (It was Darwin’s first Christmas so we bought him a good Christmas a little horse with bells and a pull toy with bells and he was afraid of them) he was more interested in the rubber ball he got.

We didn’t have to [too] many worldly possessions a bed rocking chair lots of dishes pots & pans and lots of bottled fruit.  We sold the horse (3) and cows (2) the harnass [harness] & saddle I dont [don’t] remember what else. We had a Chevrolet sedan so Boyd went to Salt Lake and traded for a Model A Pickup [pick-up]. It was in good shape that was to be our transportation to Oregon. In March some government guys brought him and John Funk to Oregon to get our new home. They were gone for 10 days when they got back they were very excited and things really got cooking.  It took a while to get things in order to get ready to leave.

We also had some grain to sell and left over hay I don’t know how much money we had I didn’t bother about that in those days we must have had quite a bit because we went to Malad and bought us some new cloths [clothes]. We got all decked out any way shoes shirts coats dad always had to have gloves.

We went to say goodby [good-bye] to all of my family. They all cried and hated to see us go.  I wish I could remember the date in April we left But we also had to load up all the belongings we had into this pickup and save room for a Big old pig that we had to take up to McCammon for the folks to have butcherd [butchered] we wanted to do it before we left but there wasn’t time to get it cured & canned so we put every thing [everything] in the front end of the pick up [pick-up] bed and made a place for the pig in the back and headed for McCammon. That darn pig just got into everything broke a lot of fruit and made a terrible mess on things by the time we got to McCammon and got the thing unloaded we were plenty mad & should have killed it along the way.  We stayed in there for probably a week and got everything cleaned up and got maybe we were there longer Any way it was a Monday about noon when we left and we went as far as Hazelton Idaho and stayed there with my Aunt Francis over night [overnight] and headed out early the next day and came as far as huntington [Huntington] or Caldwell I guess it doesn’t [doesn’t] matter where we stayed but we got to the Dalles and crossed the river on Ferry and stayed in Binggon [Bingen] Washington in a hotel.  We got into Portland on Friday as we came in on Sandy we stopped for gas at a station there and ask [asked] directions. We were headed for McMinnville and no body [nobody] ever heard of it. (Any way we had a very leisurely trip we took in the sights and I took pictures all along the way we stopped often so Darwin could get a drink and go Pee Pee).

We stayed with one of dads [dad’s] friends in McMinnville his name was Glendon Jansen and his wife & I think they had 2 children. It was sure nice to get out and really relax.  We had reached our “Promised land.”

When we moved into our little white house on North Plains we finally had some roots and the privacy we had longed for 3 yrs [years] or more. We had 2 bedrooms a dining room and kitchen with lots of cupboard space. I finally had a place for my dishes grandma Cutler gave us for our wedding present and we had quite a few other odds and ends from other folks who gave them as wedding presents.  My grandma gave me some pots & pans so we had that base covered.

When we borrowed the money from the government for our acres & horses and what machinery we had to buy we also bought a cook stove a new dining room set and 6 chairs we bought a bed & dresser we all ready [already] had one so we were sitting pretty good.  We had the cloths [clothes] we had brought with us.  There wasn’t any money for cloths [clothes] I had 1 good dress for church and dad had his old brown suit and 1 good shirt we had to wash it out when ever [we] went any place but we were very happy.

And sadly, this is where she left off writing…

There is a Story to Tell – Part 1

001b Cleo Fergus - autobiographical

Autobiography of Cleo Cutler Fergus written April 26, 1988 comprising p. 17-25 of her journal. Every effort was made to preserve punctuation, grammar, and spelling.

My life and experiences with Boyd Fergus (your father)

It began on the 1st of January 1935.  We were at a dance in Stone Idaho, one of the few dances in our area.  I saw this tall dark and handsome man and my heart did a flip and my eyes did a double take and I decided he was the one I would like to spend my life with.  We knew about each other but never that closeup so one of my friends was dancing with him and I insisted of [on] being introduced to him.  The feeling must have been mutual because we had a date on that New Years night and dated no one else from that time on.  And two weeks later he said to me. “Let’s get married” and I replied “yes” and we began making plans.  Oh how I loved him and he me.  I was 17 and he was 23.  How wonderful it was.  I had been working at a restaurant in Snowville and was collecting so [some] dishes and small bits of linen and my sister in law Amanda who was married to my brother Doyle showed me how to make some quilts we had 3 done by the time we were married.

We only had one obsticle [obstacle] in our way.  Convincing my father it was the thing to do.  We even planed [planned] if he wouldn’t let us that when I turned 18 in the fall we would run away.  I didn’t give my father enough credit or have enough faith in him.  Anyway I had always wanted a June wedding so we had to get up our courage to as [ask] him so Boyd come [came] one day and he had decided he was brave enough to ask my father, so as soon as he got home from the mail route which was around  noon we walked bravely in the house and faced my father.  Boyd said, “Brother Cutler we would like to get married.”  Well my dad was eating lunch and I remember one thing he was eating was corn, dad dropped his fork and looked at us. (corn going everywhere) and all he said was “it is all right with me if you do it the right way” meaning if we were married in the temple needless to say we had lots of things to do to get ready for a temple marriage.  Boyd had a word of wisdom problem and his bishop gave him a lecture and he promised to do better and really meant it.  This bishop [‘s] name was Thomas Cottle a very wonderful man he told him Boyd I can’t refuse you a recommend because if you don’t get to go to the temple now you may never get to go he was so understanding so Boyd was ordained a priest and an elder on the same day.  We planned for the 27th day of June 1935 and were married in the Logan Temple for time and eternity.

We moved into the home with his parents and his 2 brothers and 2 sisters, his parents really counted on him for some of there [their] support. It was the time of the big depression and money was hard to come by for the most part it was a happy time I got along well with his mother and father.  We were never separated for more than a week at a time most of our married life.  I was very close to my grandma Cutler (Rebecca) she was very good to me, she went to the temple with us when we were married. (Its [it’s] important for you to know that my father Joseph J. Cutler was a very avid temple worker and the people knew him very well he was very well thought of by all who knew him.)

We lived with his folks for the first 2 years of married life I was afraid I wasn’t going to have any children but finally after a year it happened I did become pregnant it was a wonderful thing for us and some thing [something] I look[ed] forward to and cherish[ed].

Now in the meantime on June 5, 1936 Boyd’s younger sister Merle Fergus died with mastoids and other complications beginning with a bad cold.  It left the whole family devastated because she was such a vibrant and happy person.  It was very hard on Don Fergus because they were so very close.  They used to sing together and act in skits together for mutual.  We all used to ride horses together so it was a great loss.

On February 3d [3rd] 1937 our special little boy Darwin Boyd Fergus was born in the Hospital in Malad City, Idaho.  We went home from the hospital 11 days later back to his parents [parent’s] home we went by car as far as the roads were clean of snow and the rest of the way by bob sled the snow was approximately 2 feet deep with drifts up to 4 & 6 feet deep. It was a joyous day we were a family.  All went well we had a few minor illnesses and Boyd got the measles when Darwin was a few weeks old he was very sick he had such bad nose bleeds I was very frightened for him it just seemed like they lasted forever.  We finally called the Elders and he was administered to and he began to get better.  All the while Darwin and I slept with him because we just had the one bed and we kept our baby close to us.  Then spring came and things looked brighter and the men could go back to chopping posts and selling them to make our living.  With all of us working together we made it all right.

(I failed to tell you Boyds [Boyd’s] dad was stricken with sugar diabetes and couldn’t work any more so Don and Boyd were the family support and they were fortunate to get on work on the W.P.A. and with each of them working with a team of horses they made fifty $50.00 a month and with the little grain they raised on the place we lived we were able to have the nessisities [necessities] for a pretty good living by us all sharing.)

I must tell you the place we lived at was our[s] rent free for taking care of the poperty [property].  We raised a few turkeys and sold them around thanksgiving time they used to run in the alfalfa field and along the irrigation ditches and eat the grass hoppers and they had grain that was raised on the place so that was a little more money.  Then Boyd done [did] irrigation and we had some hay ground rented for a share of the crop that fed our horses & cows. We raised a good garden and did canning & made pickles. Boyd rode fence for the government after they planted rye grass on the sand doons [dunes] to keep the sand from drifting and eroding.  He rode the fence to make sure it didn’t get broken into by the range cattle so they didn’t kill out the grass.  Life was very interesting Boyd was a good worker and took advantage of every opportunity he got and it kept us going and our love was so wonderful.  We had many friends I wasn’t a very good cook, but his Mom was, so I learned a lot from her and I was very busy too taking care of our baby and trying to learn how to manage a home.

We spent time in a sheep camp a lot in fact we spent our honeymoon in a sheep camp a glorified covered wagon with a stove & table and a bed.  It was wonderful tho [though].  During this time I was still helping my father by carrying the mail from Snowville to Black pine Boyd helped him cut some long poles in the Black pine forest I dont [don’t] remember what they were for but him [he] and my youngest brother Norman worked long hard hours doing it so you see we didn’t [didn’t] forsake our parents when they needed us.

To be continued…

Rock Creek School

In 1943 the Fergus family moved again, spurred by the need for a larger home for their growing family and a desire to be closer to the bus line that carried Boyd to and from his job at the Portland shipyards.  So they rented a home in West Union, OR that was owned by the Sattler family.

The move necessitated a change of schools for Darwin as he began second grade and unfortunately it was a tough transition.  Columbia Academy, the school he transferred from had a reputation for providing a higher quality education, akin to a private school.  And his new school, Rock Creek, was still a small, country school with a brand new, rather inexperienced teacher.

Rock Creek School Dist 54 - WCHS coll-2 (2)

Rock Creek School, District #54

Take a listen as his mother Cleo and sister Dorothy discuss it during a 1992 oral history interview recorded on a drive visiting the old family homesteads in Washington County, OR.


The first one-room schoolhouse built on the site just west of Cornelius Pass Rd. in the community of Rock Creek was built by the local community in 1878.  The building, along with a community store and blacksmith shop comprised the “town” portion. An average of 35 students attended the area traveling to school by foot or on horseback.  Along with the building itself, local farmers also built desks and blackboards.

Rock Creek School Map

1937 Metzker map, Washington County, Township 1 N., Range 2 W., Section 11

As the population around the school grew, a small building was added to the original and a second teacher hired.  Then in 1915 a new two room school was built at the corner of Phillips and Cornelius Pass Road.  Attendance grew to 75 students from grades 1 thru 8th.  At this time a school bell was added, which is now housed in the collections of the Washington County Historical Society.  For many years the bell was featured in the annual Fourth of July parade in Hillsboro.  Hauled on a trailer and rung at key points along the parade route.

The school officially closed in 1945, the year after Uncle Darwin attended (1944-45) as the school district consolidated.  The structure itself is still in existence, but has been turned into a private residence.

Rock Creek School - modern view


Columbia Academy

After the Fergus family moved to the True farm in Roy, OR their oldest child Darwin started school.  The year was 1942 and the school was Columbia Academy.

The academy was located just off Milne Rd. on the property line dividing the James Imbrie and Thomas Cornelius land claims.  At the time, Milne was the main road between Hillsboro and Mountaindale in the upper valley. The west side of the roadway along the school was planted with native Big-Leaf Maple trees stretching for a half mile or more, spaced thirty feet apart.

Columbia Academy map

1937 Metsker map, Washington County, Township 1 N., Range 3 W.W.M., Section 4 historicmapworks.com

The first building was built in 1855, a smaller version of the old College Hall on the Pacific University campus in Forest Grove.  Originally the community intended the school to be the center of secondary education (9th – 12th grades) and to serve a large area stretching from Glencoe (later renamed North Plains) to Mountaindale.  Their grand plans never materialized however, once Hillsboro and Forest Grove built their own high schools and university. So the academy remained a grade school surrounded by a grove of old oak trees that provided shade for many a recess and community picnic.

Lester Mooberry, a former teacher at the school, described the inside of the building in his memoir titled, “Memories of Old Academy Linger with Community”.

“One of the downstairs rooms served as the classroom and the other was used as a woodshed and storage room. The upper room served as a play room for the children on stormy days and as a community center when church services were held there on Sunday or programs during the week.”

Prior to the turn of the century, the building was home to the Tualatin Plains Presbyterian Church, Columbia Grange #89, and a fraternal order called the Independent Order of Good Templars.

Columbia Academy School - Darwin (2)

1903 photo of the original Columbia Academy building.

The second schoolhouse was built in 1909 and sited just in front of where the original stood.  It was a modest one-room country schoolhouse with the usual school furnishings including a blackboard, wood stove, bell tower.  One rather odd feature though, the building had no windows on the front (east side) or south side where the best source of natural light would have been.

2nd Columbia Academy School 1909

Second Columbia Academy school, District #21

In 2010, Melvin Van Domelen shared a school memory from his cousin John Crocker in The Beacon, the local North Plains newspaper. Melvin and John graduated from Columbia Academy in 1946.

“One favorite recess and noon activity was trying to see how far they could walk along the top board of the fence that went around the school grounds.  It was fairly easy along the driveway where the top boards were two inches thick. The hard part was when the fence turned to go behind the woodshed and the top board went down to one inch in width. The children became proficient enough at this to be able to meet and pass one another at a fence post.”

According to Van Domelen, the second Columbia Academy building was dismantled sometime between 1953-1955. All that remained was the old well, now capped, and a play shed that crumbled under a load of snow in February 1990. The current property owner has planted an orchard, but the capped well is still visible.

Columbia Academy School - current location b (2)

2017 view of the Columbia School site.