SALEMTOWNE’S HISTORY COMES ALIVE
In August, 2004 Salemtowne's historian brought together an impressive slate of speakers who told us about the many layers of history that lie beneath Salemtowne. (Note: In celebration of Salemtowne's 45th birthday in June 2012, many of the same speakers and two long-time residents came together to share anecdotes and stories. See video link below).
2012 Salemtowne History Night Video
Maureen Butcher gave us a glimpse of what the “Brush College” area looked like back near the beginning of the 20th century when only a dusty lane led from this farm and orchard country to the banks of the Willamette River. Even then, there was a strong sense of community among the people who lived and worked in this very rural area.
We were amazed to learn that once not hundreds, but thousands of fruit trees covered the land where our homes and common buildings now stand. It was in 1886-1887 that Robert S. Wallace purchased over 300 acres in the “Brush College” area and started developing his expansive orchards of pears, prunes, and nut trees. Mr. Wallace built the “Farmhouse” and used it as a summer home for his family. He also turned the dusty lane into a gravel road that would allow him to get his produce to Salem and world markets. Today, we enjoy four-lane “Wallace Road” with its landscaped dividers and borders but the road still follows the route of that dusty lane.
Florence Bredahl told of visiting the “Wallace Orchards” as a young girl and staying with her grandparents who lived on the property when her grandfather worked for Robert Wallace’s son, Paul. She was wide-eyed when invited to come into the Farmhouse to see the beautiful Christmas tree and decorations that graced the home where Paul and his family lived year-round. Florence presented Salemtowne with a rare gift: a “vintage” bottle of pear syrup, a product of the Wallace Orchards.
Gary Schafer, retired Grounds Superintendent of Salemtowne picked up the story in the mid-1960’s when the property was sold to a developer. Gary and his father were hired to develop the golf course and watched as the first model homes and then more residences appeared in place of the fruit orchards. Gary described the rough years when the developer had to declare bankruptcy and the early residents of this retirement community came together to keep the golf course and community buildings going. Salemtowne went from a totally independent community with its own water well and tower, sewer system and roads to being a part of Salem, with city services—and city taxes!
With the perspective of his many years of service to Salemtowne, Gary was able to show us how this community grew and thrived, but never lost the volunteer “spirit” that helped the early residents get through those tough times. His account was enhanced by the recollections of “pioneer” residents, Maude Patch who came to Salemtowne in 1968, and both June Shelton and Keith Wilson who arrived the following year. They kept the audience laughing at some of the incidents they remembered over the years and all emphasized that Salemtowne residents have always worked to make this a wonderful place to spend their retirement years.
For over thirty years, our next-door neighbors have been Mark and Carol Gehring, whose well-kept berry fields provide a beautiful vista from our picture windows. Mark added another page to the history of Salemtowne and satisfied the “sidewalk superintendents” who are always curious about what is growing in his fields.
A portion of the Gehring berry fields,
as viewed from Salemtowne.