Local History: Our Town – Our Story: The Stories Behind the Photo

by Ann Koppy, BHSoc Historian23 Bowser System gasoline pump ~1916

Every photo tells many stories that remind us of a time, a place, an event. We don’t know the names of the men in this image, but it’s likely they were Beaverton residents. Were they sharing a private joke, admiring a visitor’s motorcycle, or showing off a newly-purchased motorbike? Perhaps they were filling it up from the Bowser System gasoline pump George Thyng had installed in front of his confectionary on Broadway Street. Several other noteworthy narratives from local history are waiting to be told.

The date can be established with reasonable accuracy. The Cady Building on the corner of Farmington Road and Watson Avenue appears to be recently completed, putting the year close to its 1914 construction. The men’s suits and hats are appropriate to about 1916, and unpaved streets are apparent.

Motorcycles began to grow in popularity by the beginning of the 20th century as several U.S. manufacturers entered the marketplace. They were inexpensive, reliable, fast, and able to go where automobiles couldn’t. Oregon registered 3,155 in 1915, and although it’s unclear how many were in Beaverton, local newspaper accounts made note of at least two the following year and one in 1914: “Another evidence of spring: Paul Muessing is sailing around town on his motorcycle.”

A daring 20-year old man, his machine, and two passengers made news in late 1916 for an audacious escapade. He had sped, or “wheeled his motorcycle” as the Morning Oregonian newspaper called it, across Portland’s Morrison Street Bridge at 45 mph. A municipal motorcycle patrolman pursued through city streets on a wild chase, eventually forcing the offender to stop. His punishment? Three days of solitary confinement in jail, a $178 fine (about $4,000 in 2016), and no riding for 30 days.

Dusty in the summer, muddy in the winter defined Beaverton streets for many years. As late as 1916 men from “outside of town” came into our small community “with teams, plow, and grader and fixed up the city street south of the (St. Cecilia) Catholic church” then located on the northeast corner of what is now Hall Boulevard and Canyon Road. Local businessman Elmer Stipe offered the use of his personal oiling equipment to control dust, but it was a temporary fix. In spring of 1918 the town council announced its intention to obtain rock with the intent to lay a foundation to pave streets. Work would be delayed, though, until weather improved enough to open the quarries. Plans were made the next year to pave Broadway Street.

Beaverton contractor A.M. Hocken announced in January 1914 he had almost completed work on F.W. Cady’s two-story brick building on Watson Avenue and Farmington Road on the former Henry Livengood property. It was the first brick structure in the city and was fronted by newly-poured cement sidewalks. Its earliest occupants were the Bank of Beaverton, post office, and Beaverton Hardware and Implement, whose prices were “lower than the big mail order houses.”

From images such as this one, we can learn and investigate as history detectives.

Interested in more local history? Visit www.historicbeaverton.org