Phllip Foster Farm On the Oregon Trail
Backstory and Context
Philip Foster was born in Maine in 1805 and worked as a lumberman before heading west in 1843 to open a store in Oregon City in response to groups of emigrants heading west on the Oregon Trail. In 1847, Foster moved his store to Eagle Creek after staking a 640-acre land claim on the Barlow Road, which was a new route on the trail. Foster welcomed the settlers who were ready to establish their new homes while collecting their tools and selling his goods with the help of his hired maintenance crew and gatekeepers. He also founded the Philip Foster School District (now known as the Estacada School District). After Foster’s death in 1884, his son and his wife continued to live on the property until their deaths in 1989. Between then and when the site opened to the public, Foster’s barn and house were rented out to tenants.
The Oregon Trail was a 2,000-mile-long westward travel route used by emigrants who traveled in covered wagons in search of new farmland. Between 1840 and 1860, the trail was used by about 300,00-400,000 travelers, making it one of the largest migrations in American history. The trail began in Independence, Missouri and passed through what is now modern-day Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho before eventually reaching Willamette Valley, Oregon. The Barlow Road played an important role in helping travelers arrive at their destination safely because before its creation in 1846, the trail would end at the Dalles in Oregon where the emigrants would either have to raft their wagons to go west on the Columbia River or abandon them so that the British could boat them west to Oregon City. Although the 80-mile southwest road was rough and steep, wagons could handle it, and it helped to increase emigration to Oregon.
The Philip Foster Farm was funded and repaired by local educator Betty Cody along with the help of the Jacknife-Zion-Horsehaven Historical Society. They opened the farm to the public in 1998, a significant year in that it was the 155th anniversary of the Oregon Trail. This historical society has also been working to restore the Lucy House, where Foster’s daughter and her husband resided in on the Barlow Road. The site has been supported by volunteers and a board of directors and its funding has been made possible by grants as well as by its visitors who donate, tour, and purchase items from the site’s store.
The farm is open from May to October and allows visitors to gain a hands-on experience of what pioneer life was like in the mid-19th century. The farm offers Pioneer Life Tours, a set of activities aimed at schoolchildren to help them to learn of the farm’s history and work through team building activities. Adults who wish to tour the farm can learn the history and the layout of the site alongside guides in clothing appropriate to the period. One of the biggest activities the farm offers are bulk cider squeezes in which visitors can pick apples or bring their own to turn into cider.
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Philip Foster Farm On the Oregon Trail. . . http://www.philipfosterfarm.com/welcome/.
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