NOTE: This page was last updated on July 20, 2017.
Fanno Farmhouse is adjacent to Greenway Park (along Fanno Creek), south of SW Hall Boulevard. It was designed and built in 1859 by Augustus Fanno. Honored as a significant historical site by Tualatin Valley Heritage, Fanno Farmhouse was named a Century Farm and nominated for the 1985 Griffin Cabin Award by the Washington County Historical Society.
Chapter Five: The Settling of the Beaverton Area from CHAKEIPI: "The Place of the Beaver" by Virginia Mapes (1993)
History of the Fanno Family and the Fanno Farmhouse
Augustus Fanno was of French descent. In 1789 his grandfather had fled from France to escape the French Revolution, and consequently came to America and settled in Maine. Augustus Fanno was born there on March 26, 1804.
At the age of 20, Augustus Fanno began a 3 1/2-year career as a seaman. Afterwards, he was a teacher in Mississippi, and subsequently Missouri, where he met and married Martha Ferguson in 1833. One son, Eugene, was born in 1841. Martha was pregnant when they left Missouri in 1845 for their overland trek to the Oregon country.
When Fanno arrived at The Dalles, he helped fell trees and whip-sawed the logs to build rafts. Pitch was used as a caulking material. Wagons were dismantled and loaded on the rafts.
These conveyances floated the pioneers to the upper Cascades. There they unloaded their goods and walked around the Cascades, sending the rafts down the wild rapids to be caught at the lower Cascades. Once the rafts were patched-up, they reloaded their supplies and went down the Columbia. They poled and landed their rafts up the Willamette River to Oregon City.
After a six-month trip, the wagon train disbanded at Oregon City. Fanno, who arrived with only 50 cents in his pocket, settled at Linn City across the river from Oregon City. Shortly after their arrival, Martha died in childbirth. She and the baby were buried at Linn City.
Fanno searched the valley for land on which to settle. Following the Tualatin Plains Indian trail that ran from Willamette Falls to Tillamook, he found his way by locating the blazes that had been cut in the trees by the natives. He settled his claim twelve miles northwest of Oregon City.
It was on a creek surrounded by beaver dam land. The early trail that passed within ten feet of the future Fanno home eventually became known as the Astoria-Military Road. Fanno picked this location because he planned to grow vegetables that he could trade to the trappers as they passed by on their way to Oregon City.
With "five dollars in his pocket," (accordingly to family records), Fanno and his young son, Eugene, settled on their 640-acre land claim on September 22, 1847. His was the 12th claim documented by the territorial recorder at the Oregon City Land Office and the first to be filed in what is now Washington County.
Fanno hired Indians to transport his supplies, pigs, calves, chickens, and nursery stock from Oregon City to his claim. Once there, he recruited the local Indians to help build a log structure. Fanno and his son led a cold and lonely existence that winter as the only settlers in the area.
At Willsburg, Augustus Fanno met Thomas Denney and his relatives. They had arrived in 1849. Denney wanted to locate a place to settle which had great trees, no underbrush and a lake. Fanno told him of land near his that met that description. The Denney's settled land adjoining Fanno's in 1850.
At the age of 47, Augustus Fanno married Rebecca Jane Denney, a "spinster" of 31 years. They were married on April 17, 1851. The first of their six children was born later that year.
At some point in those early years, Augustus Fanno taught school in Washington County. He used textbooks that had been ordered from the missionaries in the Sandwich Islands, which is the present-day Hawaiian Islands.
The first home on the Fanno land claim was built of logs. Fanno's brother-in-law, Thomas Denney, built a sawmill in 1851.
In 1859, Fanno's agricultural success allowed him to build a fashionable, rural style home for his growing family.
Recalling the severe winds and gales of this youth in Maine, Fanno reinforced his house "double-strength" so that if the winds blew it over, it would remain intact.
The house rested on log pins. Peeled logs about 14 inches in diameter were the main supports. Large ten by ten inch rough-cut fir timbers acted as joists supporting all the outside walls of the house. Peeled logs with six-inch diameters were used as cross-supporting beams.
The Fanno family pioneered the growing of onions in Oregon by developing a breed of onion that adapted to the damp climate and soil of the area. Fanno soon gained a local and regional reputation for producing large, fine-texture succulent onions.
In 1883, his sons, Augustus J. and Alonzo R., formed a business partnership with Augustus handling the management and Alonzo the farming. By the 1890s, the Fanno's were the largest producers and distributors of onions in Oregon and in 1898 they were the first producers to ship onions to Alaska by rail.
So rich and fertile was the Beaverton land that an acre was reported to produce as much as 1,000 bushels of onion. At the Lewis and Clark Exposition, Fanno was claimed the "Onion King." Also in 1905, Augustus J. became president of the Confederated Onion Growers Association and served many years.
Norman, grandson of Alonzo, said that his grandfather "made enough money off onions to retire at the age of 55." Later "the Depression wiped him out."
Alonzo continued to farm the property at Errol Station until he retired for the second time at age 77 in 1938.
Frank Fanno raised onions until about 1940 when onion maggots forced him to quit. "There were no chemicals in those days," Frank noted.
In the winter, heavy rains would flood the Fanno fields. If there were a hard freeze, the pond would be frozen solid. Young people would come from miles around to enjoy ice-skating.
The family recalled that on clear, cool, quiet mornings, you could hear the Willamette Falls at Oregon City from their farm.
The Augustus Fanno farmhouse is located off Hall Boulevard on Creekside Place, just east of the Hall-Greenway intersection. This historic home has been restored by the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District.
The house has also been placed on the National Registry of Historical Places. For more information, please call the Conestoga Recreation & Aquatic Center staff at 503/629-6313.