Local residents create book celebrating history of Washington County, releasing in March.

STAFF PHOTO: JANAE EASLON - Arthur Sommers, left, and Karen Kearns, right, wrote 'Images of America: Washington County' after meeting through Washington County Museum's volunteer program. Washington County wasn't always the tech hub it is today.

Home to the Atfalati band of the Kalapuya people, who lived in the Tualatin Valley before the presence of Westerners, the arrival of fur trappers from other parts of America and Canada began a shift that transformed Washington County into a space of new industry.

This snapshot of history is captured by the upcoming book, "Images of America: Washington County," published by South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing, known for its books on preserving local visual heritage.

The authors, Washington County Museum volunteers Arthur Sommers and Karen Kearns, set out to create this compilation of photos ranging from the late 19th and early 20th century.

COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY MUSEUM - Dr. Elmer Smith was the first person to own an airplane in Washington County and owned the land that is now present day Hillsboro Airport. Sommers and Kearns are donating all the royalties from their book to the Washington County Museum, 17677 N.W. Springville Road.

Kearns moved to Oregon after working in the medical field and became involved with the museum to learn more about her new home.

"I love history, that is why I volunteer," Kearns said. "This was another way to delve into the area and learn something."

Kearns, a first-time author, is joined by veteran Arcadia author Sommers, who has penned six books for the publisher.

Sommers, a Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War, is an avid history buff. Sommer keeps a collection of 60 three-ring binders filled with historical postcards from the Gold Rush era.

After finishing a three-volume history of his family tree, Sommers wanted to study the history of Hillsboro, digging through the museum's 30,000 archived images.

Out of the thousands, the book only had enough room for about 200 photographs. Together, the two historians dug through the images to showcase life in Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Sherwood, Buxton, Banks and more.

Arcadia Publishing already has books on Beaverton, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Aloha/Reedville, but Kearns and Sommers said they saw an opportunity to represent the county as a whole up until the mid-20th century, they said.

The best part of writing the historical captions for each photo was discovering the unexpected, Sommers said.

In a photo of the Hillsboro courthouse, Sommers found that an apparent smudge in the photo on top of the building turned out to be a human.

"I thought it was a mistake on the photograph, but turns out it is a guy," he said. "The only way I would have known that is because someone wrote his name on the image. His name is Oliver, he was the son of an early pioneers, Jabez Wilkes. He liked to climb around to lay telephone lines."

COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY LIBRARY - Hop picking is a historical industry in Washington County, with pickers pictured in Hillsboro in 'Images of America: Washington County.'Uncovering local history is part of the fun, the authors said, such as learning about the former movie production studio in Beaverton, Premiere Picture Productions, which produced at least 15 silent films by the 1930s.

"There are pictures in the book people haven't seen before," Sommers said.

Another iconic photo shows Dr. Elmer Smith from Hillsboro, the first man to own an airplane in the county. He went on to purchase 100 acres on what is now the Hillsboro Airport.

"The county has advanced so much from farming, but it still retains its agricultural heritage — look at all the farmer's markets we have," Kearns said. "This is a nice way to introduce history to the area if residents are interested, and a nice overview on how we got here."

Sommers and Kearns will be signing copies of "Images of America: Washington County" on the book's official release date, March 25, at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd. In April, the pair will be signing at Barnes & Noble in Tanasbourne, 18300 N.W. Evergreen Parkway, as well as the bookstore Another Read Through in Portland on April 18.

By Janae Easlon
Features Editor
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
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