It all started with a simple mistake. A small factual error in the October edition of the City of Wilsonville's monthly newsletter, Boone's Ferry Messenger, had stated that the community's oldest standing building could possibly be the 106-year-old Methodist Episcopal Church.
Built in 1911, the church on southwest Boones Ferry Road was rehabilitated and repurposed by McMenamins as the Wilsonville Old Church and Pub.
It was quickly discovered that the church was, unequivocally, not the oldest structure in town, and the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society decided to use the opportunity to educate the public about the city's history through a contest to see who could dig up the most accurate information regarding the community's oldest buildings — with the chance to win a McMenamins gift card on the line.
Enter Jimmy Young and Dave Knierim, Wilsonville residents and neighbors. The pair took the challenge to heart and compiled a pages-long report on some of the community's oldest historical buildings.
"At first we just wanted the McMenamins gift card," Young joked. "Then we really started getting into it. David and I have talked about old parts of town before and he's a longtime member of the Frog Pond Church, so we've discussed that being one of the oldest buildings in town."
Oddly enough, Young had never really explored Wilsonville's Old Town so he decided to walk across the street to knock on Dave's door and propose the two of them go on a short adventure exploring Wilsonville's roots.
They began with a quick jaunt over to the Charles Ridder family home off Wilsonville Road, not too far from their houses, then a short drive over to Wilsonville's Old Town neighborhood to check out the site of the old Curry House and the Wagner Home, which currently hosts the Building Blocks Early Learning Center.
"It's kind of eye-opening to see what kind of history we have here just a short drive from downtown Wilsonville," Young said. "We came back and drove into Old Town, parked and walked to the Tauchman farm and house, which is the first time I'd been there and to these other old sites."
After exploring some of Wilsonville's historic sites in person, Knierim and Young got to work hitting the books. They spent some time in the Wilsonville Public Library digging up documents and photographs that put time stamps on some of these old buildings. Through their research they compiled their findings in a document to turn over to the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society as part of their entry into the contest.
Through all of their research and visiting historical locations, Knierim and Young think they've found the oldest building still standing and in use today: the Frog Pond Grange, located at 2350 S.W. Stafford Road.
The Frog Pond Grange was built in 1873. The building's 100-year anniversary, according to Young, was celebrated in 1974, just five years after the City of Wilsonville incorporated in 1969.
Young and Knierim won't know if they've cracked the case on Wilsonville's oldest structure until the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society's next meeting on Jan. 3, but what started out as a quest for a gift card turned into an exciting history lesson for the two Wilsonville residents.
"I think it's quite impressive what the City of Wilsonville has done to keep some of these historical buildings as focal points of our community, particularly the Tauchman House," Young said. "When we got started we thought we'd just be able to go online and find this. It wasn't that easy, so we thought we'd put some extra energy into this project to make it easier for the next person or student who wants to research some of these things."
Steve Van Wechel, president of the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society, said what started out as having some fun with a simple mistake turned into a thrilling hunt to learn and educate the community about Wilsonville's past.
"(These buildings) are part of our history, and our history is what makes us. It gives a foundation and feeling for what kind of community we are," Van Wechel said.