Reynolds: Middleton Pickle Factory and its legacy in Sherwood
On Oct. 30, 1894, an article in the Hillsboro Argus appeared about the village of Middleton, just south east of the new town of Sherwood. It was a simple feature article, but it speaks volumes about the history of our area and is the only original document we have about the Middleton Pickle Factory.
"About three weeks ago, we had the pleasure of visiting the southern part of the County … two years has wrought a wonderful transformation. New houses and barns have been erected, new fields with broad acres have been cleared."
As the old-growth forest land was being cleared off, logging was being a secondary industry to farming. The high rolling plain, from the Tualatin River to Rex Gap, was rich from Native American pyro-agriculture and rolling bottomland. This rich virgin soil was ripe for European crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, and cucumbers.
The climate of this land also mirrored the success of these crops. Articles of incorporation were filed in the winter of 1893 by the Winters family to organize a pickle factory.
Mr. Poole, the general store owner, could not keep up with pickle and sauerkraut sales with such a large German clientele. (The factory recipe was German.) Going to Portland for barrels of "kraut" was not as important as investing in and hauling a half a gross of axes or bolts of cloth. So he encouraged Mr. Winters to form a co-operative and sell stock certificates to the farmers. They raised a capital stock of $5,000 dollars.
The farmers all hoped that besides the investment, they could also raise and sell their produce.
"The building is 55 by 70 feet of one story and basement. Imagine our surprise when we stepped in to find tons and tons of cucumbers ready for pickling and hundreds of barrels already in pickle."
Cucumber season was almost over, and a large amount of cauliflower and cabbage was being unloaded at the loading dock.
Mr. Winters had another partner in the factory: Washington County Commissioner D.B. Reasoner.
Reasoner was a carpenter by trade and probably built some of the houses in Newberg and Middleton. He moved to Middleton in 1888 and was the first Washington County commissioner elected to a four-year term. He won a second term as well. During those eight years, he brought the first rock crusher machine to Washington County. It was located on Lebeau and Stark Road west of Sherwood.
D.B. Reasoner was married to Julia Janeway in Iowa, and his parents came out west as well and had a small general store on Washington Street in Sherwood in the early days.
A cooper shop was built next door to the factory to build wooden pickle barrels to be loaded on the train bound for Portland. The cooper shop not only made barrels, but kegs, firkins and large tanks.
"A good price is paid for pickles and a neat little sum will be realized from the sale of cucumbers, cabbage, and cauliflower (for the farmers). In all, 160 acres of vegetables have been planted (this summer) and are being successfully harvested and preserved."
This was a turning point for South Washington County, as the 1890s paved the way for a new agricultural economy. By 1917, Sherwood started a successful fruit and vegetable cannery which lasted for many decades.
Tickets for the Columbus Day dinner at Mason went on sale starting Sept. 9. This is a big event for the Sherwood Historical Society.
On Saturday, Sept. 28, the Sherwood High Class of 1969 will be having their reunion. On Monday, Oct. 14, the Mason Dinner will start at 5:30 p.m., and I am sure the "Ballad of the Middleton Pickle Factory" will be sung for your enjoyment. In the meantime, the History Center will be open on Wednesday and Saturday 1 to 4 p.m.
Buy your Mason Dinner Tickets at the Museum or from Sherwood History Center board members.
June Reynolds is president of the Sherwood Historical Society.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.