When the Chapman Timber Company bought timberland near the north fork of Scappoose Creek, the company built the Portland & Southwestern Railroad to haul logs. Approximately six miles west of Scappoose, the community of Chapman developed where Chapman Timber Company established Camp #1 and families of loggers and railroad men settled in the surrounding hills. The first school at Chapman was held in 1906 in a bunkhouse. A wagon road also was constructed to Chapman and a store and community hall were built in 1930, by 2002 the store had been remodeled as a dwelling and the rural fire station known as Chapman Station was on the site of the community hall.

Chapman Timber Company History

Simcoe Chapman of Ontario, Canada and son Fred, purchased 17,000 acres of timberland along the north fork of Scappoose Creek in 1905, and formed Chapman Timber Company. In order to move logs to the Willamette Slough they built the Portland Southwestern Railroad from a station named Boom, today known as Chapman Landing, to a place soon named Camp 1, with three nearby railroad stops: Chapman, Ruley, & Spitzenberg.



When the Columbia County Historical Society met in the Chapman Grange hall almost 20 years ago (1951), Mr. J. G. Watts of Scappoose told of the many trips to "the Switzerland of Oregon," as he called the place, later known as Chapman. He stated that this area, which is about six miles from Scappoose on the north fork of Scappoose creek, was heavily timbered, with game birds, deer, and other game, and was a favorite picnicking spot in his younger years. This was probably 80 or more years ago. A high point above the river, known as Signal Hill, which was established by the Geodetic Survey, was fitted with a high pole which was an aid to mariners on the river in steering their course. A ridge where the blue herons nest was known as "Crane Ridge," and these large birds went back and forth to the river for fish for their young. A crater, lava rock and mineral springs near Bonnie Falls were also of interest; fishing for trout also was a pleasant pastime.

Mr. George A. Nelson told of working for the Chapman Logging Co. in 1906, building logging roads. In 1910 they logged where the Winn and Hoag homes were later established. Mr. Fred Mollenhour told of coming here in 1910, then returning on a motorcycle in 1913 over a very rough road. He told of working ten years with a grub hoe, clearing land, also logging for the Nehalem Timber Co. Mrs. Winn told of coming in 1913, of walking from Scappoose six miles, then coming back in 1925 to live on the place they had bought, and where she spent the rest of her life. When our Society again visited Chapman recently, the present settlers told more about the Chapman Logging Co. A railroad was built, with a turn-around and shops where the T. C. Gahr home is now. Mr. Gahr told of finding the remains of shops and logging equipment when they came here to live, and his fireplace is constructed from bricks which lined the firebox of the logging engine. Others told of logging in those days. At the time of the logging company operations, 400 people lived there, and the large school house, now being used as a church, remains to tell of the large population in those early days. The community was named for the Chapman Logging Co. Simcoe Chapman was born in Ontario, Canada, according to McArthur, in 1840. As a young man, he engaged in logging and lumbering. He operated in Michigan and Minnesota, and came to Oregon in 1901. He worked in lumber all his life, dying in 1923.

Mr. Gahr told that the son of Simcoe Chapman came to his home and asked about the location of the various parts of the Chapman camp, and he was able to show him the place as well as tell many interesting facts about the company. Jennie Jepson Shatto told of the Jepson family coming in 1910. The family of six lived in a tent for a while at Spitzenberg, which got its name because of an apple orchard project which was started there. There were 45 pupils in the school then . Later the building was condemned and the children were sent to Scappoose to school. About 1925 the Wikstrom Logging Co. began operations. They had been in business near St. Helens, then near Scappoose, but moving farther out as timber was cut. The company had a mill at Scappoose.

A gruesome double murder took place in the area in 1911, when Mrs. Daisy Wehrman and her small son's bodies were found at their homestead on the Siercks road. John Arthur Pender was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. After a few years, he was pardoned conditionally, but soon committed another crime, so was returned to prison. Also in the hills not far away was established the Pisgah Home for Men, mostly alcoholics, by Mother Hattie Lawrence. This story is in Vol. VI, "Columbia County History."

During the depression of the 1930s, settlers in this area were having a hard time getting started on logged-off land for money was scarce. Roads were improved by WPA projects, and thus many earned enough to live on while they were building. Electricity, telephone and other modern conveniences were slow in coming, but now are available. These people have built up a good community with a live Grange, and cooperation among the settlers much as in pioneer days.

From the VanNatta Logging and Forestry site:

Chapman Oregon

Chapman is named for Simcoe Chapman. Simcoe Chapman was born in Ontario, Canada in 1840 and came to Oregon in 1901 after operating logging companies in Michigan and Minnesota. He founded both the Chapman Timber Company and the Chapman Lumber Company which operated in eastern Columbia County. He passed away in 1923. Chapman which is located in a broad valley in southern interior of Columbia County was first accessible only by logging railroad. Most of the communities residents live on a road branching south from the Scappoose-Pittsburg road. The Portland and Southwestern Railway which was the official name of the logging railroad connecting Scappoose bay to the logging country passed through Chapman on its way to Pittsburg and a number of points west. The exact period of operation of the Portland and Southwestern Ry is not known to this writer, but old deeds reflect that right of way near Scappoose was acquired for its construction in 1906 and the then abandoned right-of-way was converted to a truck load by Crown Zellerbach in the early 1960's and has now once again been abandoned as changing conditions compel logs to be hauled by truck directly to market rather than 'to the water'. The terminus of this logging route was always a log dump on Scappoose Bay, where the logs were rafted for shipment to a final destination which was usually a sawmill along the lower Columbia River.

Almost unique to logging railroads, the Portland and Southwestern tunneled under the summit west of Chapman on its way into the Nehalem River drainage. While tunnels are not unique to railroads generally, they were most uncommon to logging railroads which were never intended to be more than temporary constructions designed to last just long enough to 'get the timber out'. This tunnel and a more famous one in the Kerry line which extended south out of Westport, Oregon under Nicoli Mountain to Neverstill near Birkenfeld were the only logging railroad tunnels in northwest Oregon.

One of the unique things about these logging railroads is their style of construction. Excavation at the time was difficult and expensive. It was often accomplished with Chinese labor crews by hand or sometimes with the aid of a dragline. by comparison, trestle building was apparently less expensive. As a consequence you will find lots of trestles and few cuts and even fewer fills on old logging rights of way. Fills more than 4 feet high are uncommon. They almost always used bridge work instead. Also the logging railroads were not uniformly ballasted. Some used river rock ballast, Others used just pit rock for ballast and still others specially on branch lines used no ballast at all. They just layed out the ties on the dirt, and used spots of ballast on what were apparently the soft spots and fills.

See also the local Columbia County Logging History

1930 Census of Chapman Oregon residents, all 24 of them

Nehalem Timber and Logging Company Superintendent and family injured by aggrieved employee

April 1914

St. Helens Mist April 24, 1914


Dastardly Attempt to Murder Foreman

Camp Superintendent J. H. Gilmour of the Chapman Camp, near Scappoose lived in a tent house with board walls and board floor, with his family of a wife and two children at the camp. Last Saturday morning at 1 o'clock, while Mr. Gilmour and his family were asleep, a terrific explosion occurred which completely wrecked the house and nearly killed all the occupants. Some enemy of the Gilmours had placed a charge of dynamite under the house directly under the bed where Mr. and Mrs. Gilmour were peacefully sleeping. The explosion threw the occupants of the bed up against the top of the tent, and completely demolished the bed and other furniture. Mrs. Gilmour was severely cut and bruised about the head and body, while Mr.. Gilmour received several ugly cuts about the head. One of the children escaped without a scratch and the other one only slightly injured. Mrs. Gilmour was taken to a hospital at Vancouver where she is now recovering.

The sheriff's office at St. Helens was notified and Sheriff Thompson with Deputy Lake immediately proceeded to the scene of the outrage. W. E. Conyers came up from Clatskanie with his trained bloodhound and search was made for clues as to the identity of the perpetrator of the crime. After several attempts, the dog took the officers to the cabin of one of the workmen and three different times landed at the same place. However this clue was deemed insufficient to make any arrests on, but the officers are working on the case yet and hope to have the dynamiter in custody before very long.

Those people who saw the house after the explosion say it was almost a miracle that the occupants of the tent escaped with their livers. The fact that a heavy mattress was on the bed is attributed the cause of escape from death. This was the third attempt to do violence to Mr. Gimour by someone with a grievance at the camp and every effort will be made to capture the person who committed the crime,

Images of Chapman

Chapman Community Hall

Logging Camp at Chapman, Oregon Large Tent City with String of Empty Disconnect Log Cars


This strange looking piece of equipment, known as a velocipede, was an important tool for railroad track inspectors. These workers traveled assigned sections of track at least twice daily, checking it for damage and signs of wear. Velocipedes allowed them to cover the miles rapidly while keeping them close to the track to better examine its joints and the underlying gravel bed.

Dad and baby Trent Cave on velocipede 1942

Velocipedes (from the French for "swift footed") had both foot pedals and handles. Unlike the more common hand car which sped across the tracks through hand pumping, the velocipede was made to move through a combination of pushing and pulling its handles forward and backward while also pedaling in the manner of a bicycle.

Three flanged wheels kept the velocipede on the tracks; a fourth wheel would have added unnecessary weight. It was important that the track inspector's vehicle be lightweight, as he often was alone when the velocipede needed to be removed from the tracks or turned around. The fact that it is mostly made of wood also kept the vehicle light and maneuverable.

Text and image: Kansas Historical Society