The earliest homesteads in the area were donation land claims granted by President Lincoln. The Willamette Valley received its first regular immigrants in 1841. The arrival of 111 persons that year doubled the number of the white population in the Willamette Valley. The Casons and the Rinearsons were the first settlers to receive their donation land claims in the area know now as Gladstone. Peter M. Rinearson and his family owned the land between Jennings Lodge and the Clackamas River, and between the Willamette River and Portland Avenue. The Fendal Casons, who came to Oregon in 1843, owned an area equal in size east of Portland Avenue, including the present Seventh Day Adventist (S.D.A.) Campground.
The white settlers lived alongside the area’s Indians, who operated a ferry across the Clackamas
River. The famous “Pow-Wow” maple tree marked the place where the different Indian tribes, mainly Clackamas and
Multnomahs, met to make trading agreements, settle community affairs, and conduct wedding ceremonies.
The tree still stands on Clackamas Boulevard, though a little battered. Adjacent to the “Pow-Wow” tree was an
Indian racetrack that Peter Rinearson later used as an exercise and training ground for the racehorses he bred.
In 1861, it was used as a parade ring for the First State Fair held on the Rinearson property, with the “Pow-Wow”
tree marking the entrance.
Soon after the arrival of the Casons and the Rinearsons, the Indian ferry was replaced by a toll bridge across the Clackamas River where the present Park Place Bridge stands. This bridge was washed out by the waters of the 1856 flood, but it was soon rebuilt and finally purchased in 1861 by Ad Cason who operated it as a toll bridge. Ad’s gun shop at the north end of the bridge served as a coach stop for stages traveling between Portland and Oregon City. The same Ad Cason built the first school for Gladstone, Park Place and the Clackamas area, on his father’s property in 1871. The district was formed with 27 taxpayers.
The founder of the City of Gladstone, however, was Harvey Edward Cross
who named it after a British Statesman he admired, Sir William Ewert Gladstone. Cross purchased the 640 acre
donation land claim from William, son of Fendal Cason, in 1883. He formed the Gladstone Real Estate Corporation
and had it incorporated in 1889. In 1893, Harvey Cross had part of his land platted for a town and prepared lots
for sale east of what is now Portland Avenue. He accepted the suggestion by his surveyor to name the streets
running north and south toward the Clackamas River after American colleges and those crossing them east and west
for English universities. The city was formally incorporated on January 10, 1911 (one year too late to be counted
as a city in the 1910 census), and O.C. Freytag became its first mayor.
In 1894, Cross granted a fifty year lease on what is now the S.D.A. Campground to the Willamette Valley Chautauqua Association for its annual summer assemblies. The originator of the idea was Mrs. C.I. (Eva Emory) Dye, with whom Harvey Cross concurred that such a project would be of great benefit to Gladstone and other towns and communities in the area. The first auditorium, built in 1895, seated 3000 people; the second, erected in 1917, seated more than twice as many.
Because of Chautauqua, Gladstone became a cultural and social center.
Railroad and street cars brought people from Portland and other towns and communities for concerts,
ball games and other events. Speakers and performers included the evangelist, Billy Sunday; band master, John Phillip Sousa;
poet, Joaquin Miller, presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt
and the most popular speaker of all, William Jennings Bryan.
The first Clackamas County Fair (1907) was held on the Chautauqua Park grounds.
Gladstone’s Chautauqua Park was the third largest permanent park in the United States. Its auditorium was often jammed with $2.00 season ticket holders for morning, afternoon and evening sessions. Lake Chautauqua, described by one observer as “very silent and still,” added to the beauty of an already beautiful and pleasant park.
What is perhaps most notable about Gladstone in those early days is the transportation system that provided
access to, and from, the city. The railroad was brought by Ben Holladay, who hired 600 Chinese workers to
build the bridge over the Clackamas River at what is now called “Hi-Rocks.” Completed in 1869, rail
transport became a popular mode of travel. Upon the establishment of the Chautauqua Park, Southern Pacific
erected a station at the junction of Oatfield and River Roads and called it “Chautauqua.”
Another very important mode of transportation made available to Chautauqua goers was the electric streetcar. Built in 1893, it ran from Portland to Oregon City. In Gladstone, streetcars ran on a spur along Dartmouth Street to the entrance of the Chautauqua Park on Oatfield Road. The train and the streetcar supplemented the private conveniences of horse-drawn vehicles. Much of the buggy and wagon, and later the automobile, traffic used the wagon bridge, originally built over the Clackamas River in 1860.
The decline in the popularity of Chautauqua was partly due to music and vaudeville acts which came to Portland;
the two art types which played an important part in making it popular. Easier transportation provided other
alternatives and had a lot to do with the termination of Chautauqua and the closure of the park in 1927.
After Judge Cross passed away in 1929, the Chautauqua Park grounds and buildings were sold to the Seventh
Day Adventist Church.
The death of Harvey Cross marked the end of a man’s career whose influence was felt far beyond Gladstone and its immediate surroundings. In addition to founding the City of Gladstone and organizing the Chautauqua Association, Harvey Cross taught school, practiced law, became a member of the State Legislature, and, for many years, was County Judge of Clackamas County. Over a period of time, he donated property to the Chautauqua Association, the Baptist Church, the Christian Church, the Gladstone Elementary School and to the City of Gladstone for a park by Clackamas River, known now as the Cross Memorial Park.
After Judge Cross and Chautauqua, Gladstone became a quiet, well-kept community with few local stores for
families whose wage earners worked in the mills in Oregon City and West Linn. By 1920, Gladstone had a
population of 1,069. Its population more than doubled by 1950. According to the Bureau of Census, Gladstone’s
1977 population was 8,985.