The Hansen farm and stories of its people

Hansen Family Land Ownership

The Hansen family has lived on or near this portion of land on the North Fork Lewis River since the late 1800's, But the story of the land begins much earlier. Here is the simplified story of this land and it's people since "modern" civilization, and into the present.

Hayes, and Gardener Donation Land Claim

The Donation Land Claim Act was enacted in late 1850 by the United States Congress. It was intended to promote homestead settlements in the Oregon Territory in the Pacific Northwest (which included the present-day states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and part of Wyoming). The act brought thousands of white settlers into the new territory, mostly travelling via the Oregon Trail. Settlers were granted 320 acres of designated areas free of charge to every unmarried white male citizen eighteen or older, and 640 acres to every married couple arriving in the Oregon Territory before December 1, 1850. A provision in the law granted half the amount to those who arrived after the 1850 deadline but before 1854. 7,437 land patents were issued under the law, which expired in late 1855.

Daniel White Gardner (1814 - 1900) arrived to Portland from Illinois, by 2 wagon train and 12 cows in 1852. His original 1853 land claim was bordered by the Lewis River on the north, and 12th Ave. to the east (the street was not named at the time, it is believed that Gardener built this road). The Gardener property was the outpost of civilization on the Lewis River; there were no settlements upriver of his property. The river was still spotted with people of the Cowlitz Indian tribes. Daniel assembled a log home for his family until a permanent residence was built in 1866. The Hayes Post Office was established in 1876, and was named after President Rutherford Hayes. Daniel White was Justice of the Peace, Notary Public of the area, and minister at Gardener Chapel (later United Brethren Church), which was completed in 1889.

The church stood on the site of the current Hayes Cemetery (platted 1900), built with the help of son Daniel Wells Gardener, who eventually took over as Justice of the Peace and Notary Public for his father, who was the first person buried at the cemetery. Son Edward Everett Gardener sold off all remaining Gardener land by 1903 unable to farm it. The Hayes Post office was discontinued in 1913, the chapel was dismantled by 1940. The old chapel bell was placed on a monument at the cemetery in 1963 and can still be rung.

The original Hansen farm is located on the 1853 Gardener land claim.

Peter and Augusta

Peter Hansen was born August 8 1858, in Agerso,Denmark. He travelled through New York to SanFransico in 1880, where he began work as a fisherman. He met and married Augusta Abrahamsen at St. Helena Sanitarium, an Adventist institution near Napa California, and they were married in San Francisco on February 02 1888. Peter coninued to work as a fisherman, and then they moved to Astoria Oregon where Augusta had a sister, the same year. They had six children while living in Astoria.

He later travelled by boat up the Columbia and Lewis rivers and bought the original 100 acre plot and house in North Clark County on the Lewis River, near Woodland on the north eastern edge of the Gardener land claim in 1897, where a seventh child was born.

They had a farm house and a barn there, and Peter continued Columbia River fishing, and farming his land. Five short years later, Peter Hansen died in the steamship "The Mascot" on the Columbia River enroute to the only available doctor in Portland on July 17,1902. He had pneumonia due to a broken rib on fishing vessel accident in the lower Columbia. Peter was only 42 years old.

Augusta Hansen then took over ownership of the land, and made ends meet for her family of seven children, until her death in 1930. At that time, the land was willed to Ole Hansen and Peter H. Hansen equally. The land we now know as North Fork Ranch was still owned by Frank Spencer, who had already built the current barn around 1901.

August and Esther

August lived on the farm with his family and had a job driving a truck up to the "highlands" area in North Clark County, building roads, when he met Esther Johnson. Esther's family had just been settled in the area about 10 years from their trek overseas from Finland, where they were named "Johansen".

August Hans Hansen and Esther Johnson were married on July 2nd, 1925, in Clark County, WA. August bought a piece of land in the old townsite of Etna and raised his family there. This is where Walter Sr. lived when he was born. The house and barn that August built in Etna still stand. August worked for the fish hatchery across the Lewis River from his home and crossed the river to work every day. The "eye" that August drove into the stone near the mouth of Cedar Creek to tie his boat to, is still there protruding from the rocks.

August worked for the fish hatchery across the Lewis River from his home and crossed the river to work every day.

In the 1930's, August was taking care of the Spencer farm south of the original Hansen farm, while Frank Spencer was stuck in Europe. August ended up buying the entire Spencer farm to claim what we now know as the North Fork Ranch. When Ole died in 1936, he willed his land to Peter Jr., who now owned all of the original land. When Peter Jr. died, he willed this all to August.

At this point, August Hansen owned almost the entire area from the river, south to the Schurman property. August and his family worked and lived on this land until his death on the fourth of July in 1962. August collapsed from heart failure right in front of his barn. The entire farm was split into thirds to August's three sons, Walter, Frank, and Bob. Esther Hansen had a house built for her in Meadowglade, WA. where she lived until moved to a senior home in the 1980's.

Walt and Donna

August and Esther's 3rd child, Walter grew up and lived on or near the farm most of his life. Walter Hansen met Donna Phillips when he was working as the Automotive Shop Manager at Sears in N.E. Portland and she was working in a cafe across the street. Donna had also worked in the office at the old Fred Meyer store in downtown portland, often for Fred Meyer himself.

Walter Hansen and Donna Phillips were married on August 1st, 1953. They had 6 wonderful children together, and were living in the Orchards area of Vancouver when August Hansen died in 1962. The portion of land which included the farmhouse and the rest of the farm buildings were willed to Walter because he had a large family.

Walt and Donna moved their family into the farm on New Years Eve, 1962, only months after the Columbus Day Storm. Donna worked as the office manager at the Woodland Convalescent Home for many years, and Walter worked in life insurance. They lived at the North Fork Ranch off and on from then until they decided to move into a gated senior community for health reasons.

Sadly, Donna passed away May 28, 2010 from complications due to Lupus. She was a wonderful friend, wife, mother, and especially Grandmother. We all miss her very much. This article was written about her life.

Walter was a respected local historian, and as of 2015 still very active in the Woodland Community. He had been interviewed by the Oregonian, and owned the original Cowlitz County jail cell. He worked hard to preserve the history of the area, and had protected landmarks, including a cemetery from property development. In 2011, he was appointed the Secretary of Cemetery District No. 5, which includes the Hayes Cemetery. In 2013, he was named Citizen of The Year, by the Woodland Chamber of Commerce. That same year he was also leading history tours through the old town section of Woodland. Walt, and others in the Hansen family have been involved in Woodland Planter's Days since the 1950's, and as of 2015 was still the elected Vice President. In  January 2016, this article was written in the local paper about his legacy and declining health.

Walter E. Hansen Sr. peacefully passed in his home, surrounded by loved ones, on February 12th, 2016. He will be deeply missed. This article was posted to The Reflector newspaper in his memory, and family members were interviewed for this article in The Columbian. The Reflector also had an article about his funeral.

The story of this land and the family who has lived on it is quite old, but is still being written as you read this. After Walter Hansen's death, the farm and land was negotiated to Walter Hansen Jr. and his family. The farmhouse I remember growing up, has been rebuilt into a beautiful cottage that matches very closely the original farmhouse design from the turn the the century. Walters Oldest son, my cousin Ben Hansen, has purchased part of the farmland to raise his new family on. This historic land is seeing more new life than it has seen in many years.

As Walter Hansen Sr.'s grandson, I am proud that my own children can still play on some of the land that was once farmed by Peter Hansen, over a century ago.