Pisgah Home Road – what’s behind this curious name?

What an odd name “Pisgah Home Road” is! The name refers to the Mountain from which Moses first saw the promised land. But the local story about this mountain road above Scappoose is even more interesting…

Apparently, it refers to a faith healing movement started around 1900 by Finis Yoakum at his house in Los Angeles. The home originally had room for only eight persons and was founded “to give free care to drunkards and outcasts” who wished to reform. Apparently, the effort grew into a major social initiative that inspired good Samaritans as far away as Portland, where “Mother Lawrence” took up the challenge. Hattie Lawrence was born in Wisconsin in 1859 and came to Portland at the age of 26. She seems to have copied the Pisgah Home concept when she established a Portland-based “Pisgah Home” to take care of the “down and out old men”, and it was said that the Portland police regularly brought her men that had been arrested for drunkenness. Needing a place in the country where her aged wards could do physical labor and restore their health, she acquired a piece of land above Scappoose in 1919. Apparently, she and her “down and out” men built an impressive three story shake-sided building on the logged-off land. It was surrounded by gardens and tended by old men hoeing and busying themselves with horticulture. The refuge even had its own cemetery to accept the last remains of those whose relatives had forsaken them. In 1937 Mother Lawrence died as the result of a car accident. The land was subsequently acquired by local Japanese businessmen, but they were soon dispossessed by the onset of the Second World War and the land now belongs to the Longview Fibre Company.

About Jim

Love to spend time getting lost in the deep forests of the Pacific Northwest with Zoe, my Siberian Husky.
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22 Responses to Pisgah Home Road – what’s behind this curious name?

  1. daniel keene says:

    I am a lifelong columbia county resident and even having lived and played on these roads, in these woods ,most of my life, I never heard the story of the Pisgah home retreat until about a year ago. Very cool. Do you have any pictures of the original main house and surrounding enclave? I have had a re-awakening of my interest in the logging history of Columbia/Clatsop Counties since I came back to retire in Vernonia.I am a 60 yr old Disabled Viet Nam Vet. I grew up in the last house on the road on the Old Bunker Hill freight and mail road and as a child remember walking the old logging grades all over these mountains. Climbing on old steam donkeys and train and heavy equipment that was abandoned. Climbing the old trestles(there used to be lots of them in the forests). I remember when you could walk among the ruins and see where the old town of Wilark once stood. any way it’s nice to see interest in our heritage on the rise. Danny Keene.

  2. Bert Van Laer says:

    I remember the old building and cemetery. My cousin and I used to go shooting out there. I think (?) I have a photo – though not when it was in use. When I get some time, I’ll look through the photo bin.

  3. Dan says:

    I rember motorcycle riding up to the Pisgah Home site back in the 70’s. There was just the concrete foundation left. I would like to see photos of the place and of the woman that ran the facilities? I believe there is a radio transmission station above the fondation not more then a half mile. There was also an old log cabin further up the road from the home fondation. Thanks to all who have provided some history of this location.

  4. Karen says:

    I was there when I a little girl after the evacuation, I do have two pictures of the big house. Why was it evacuated so fast? Clothes were left on the line…tables set…..dirty clothes left at the end of the laundry chutes…..furniture intact. Books on shelves, medical supplies in rooms….I have wondered since a child WHY was it abandoned so fast???

  5. KD F. says:

    I was there as a young child after it was abandoned. I have always wanted to know why it was abandoned so quickly. There was clothes on the line, and at the bottom of the laundry chute, tables set with dishes…medical supplies in rooms, furniture intact, bookshelves with books….looks like people just got up and ran. I do have two pictures of the big house that we took. Why was it abandoned so quickly?

  6. karen freeland says:

    I do have two pictures of the home.

    • Britta Duncan-Maresh says:

      Are you able to post the pics?

    • Mitch Ward says:

      Hello Karen,

      my good friend Mel is writing a history book on the area and he is including the story of the Pisgah home. We have both been up to the site in 2011, even having written about it briefly in The Beacon newspaper I used to publish in North Plains, OR.

      Mel’s first visit was in 1951. The house was in bad shape, but still standing. We returned in 2011 to view the site and take photographs to write about it.
      We are hoping to find earlier photographs to put in his history book that he is writing now.

      If you would be willing to share copies of your photos we would like to include them in his book, with full photo credit given.

      You can reach me at Beacon-editor@comcast.net

      Thank you,
      Mitch

  7. Britta DuncanMaresh says:

    Are you able to post the pictures of the house? While I was looking up information about mining in Columbia County, I came across the following which mentions Pisgah Home Summer Road.
    COLPORT-CHARCOAL IRON DEPOSIT
    The largest deposit in the Scappoose district is the Colport-Charcoal
    Iron deposit, which derives its name from the titles of the two
    development companies that did the original work on the deposit
    some 30 years ago. The companies have since been dissolved and the
    land is now divided among several owners.
    The deposit was discovered in 1898 but was not much explored until
    about 1920 when the Oregon Charcoal Iron Co. excavated several
    short tunnels and open-cuts along the outcrop, most of which were
    reopened during the recent exploratory program. In 1922 several
    churn-drill holes were put down to explore the extent of the deposit.
    The deposit is iy2 to 2 miles northwest of Scappoose (fig. 24). It is
    in sec. 3, the NW& sec. 2, and the NW^4 sec. 10, T. 3 N., E. 2 W., and
    the S% sec. 34, T. 4 N., R. 2 W. The area is readily accessible from
    Scappoose either by the Pisgah Home summer road or the road up
    Apple Valley.

  8. Larry Brooks says:

    My dad used to take me deer hunting all over those hills back in the 60’s & 70’s. We would usually stop by the old Pigah Home site and sometimes visit the small cemetery, which was right next to the road on the uphill side. Dad grew up in Dutch Canyon and rode horses with his friends all over the area, cutting over to Pisgah Home via Rabinski Rd. He told me about the buildings that were up there and the people who had lived there before it closed. He was under the impression that they were mostly destitute old loggers who were living out their days. I kind of remember some of the buildings still being there when he first took me up there, but everything that was left burned up in a forest fire in the 60’s I think.

    As a kid it seemed like a pretty sad place in the middle of no where.

  9. Neil Johnson says:

    My friend and I were out to find a Christmas tree (about 1945) and got stuck on a remote mud road. Along came our angel and said he would bring a tractor out the following morning and pull us out. He then invited us to spend the night at the Pisgah Home. We had dinner and spent the night in a cabin. The night was rather noisy and we learned that the monthly checks for the residents had arrived and that meant a supply of whiskey! In the morning we were having breakfast in the lower floor that had an open stairway down from the main floor. We heard a loud clatter and looked up to see a pair of crutches tumbling down the stairs! At the top of the stairs was an older man and we jumped up to assist him and were told “no, he does that every morning to show that at 96 years of age he was able to come down by himself!” That is my fond memory of the Pisgah Home.

  10. Gene Bainbridge says:

    FASCINATING STUFF!!
    I have crawled the entire Pisgah Home area in my 4X4 (gently of course) and always wondered what sort of history the area had. There have been several times at night up there that I (as well as various companions) felt some kind of presence. Thats the best way I can describe it. It wasn’t so much a scary thing but definitely felt like we were NOT alone. That is why I have been curious about what the history was up there.
    Hello to Daniel (Danny) Keene… who posted above. Its been a long time! Hope all is well with you. robgeneb@gmail.com
    If anybody has anything additional not yet posted here Please let me know! Thanks!

  11. Rick says:

    I live on Pisgah Home Road and have photos of the following, if there is some way to attach them? Photos are of the home in 1959 (approximately), the foundation about 5 years ago (it has been logged once again, so looks completely different), 1930 Census report for the Pisgah Home Colony 1930 and a couple pictures of grave markers that a neighbor salvaged many years ago after loggers ran a road thru and destroyed the cemetery. My brother and I spent hours looking for the cemetery and it wasn’t until out neighbor (in his 90’s) came by and explained to us some of the history and shared the photo of the home. We were all quite dismayed that the cemetery had been destroyed. Please let me know how to post pictures. Thanks!

    • Mary says:

      I would love to see these photos! I only saw one grave marker for Homer age 14 while I was out investigating. Would love to see the home. I didn’t even see a foundation anywhere while I was out. The trees are starting to get big again and soon you won’t be able to see anything.

      • Jean North Plains says:

        Hi, like Mitch, I’m interested in old places and histories. You could post your photos and info on the Facebook page called “Forgotten Oregon” of which I’m a member. Lots of interesting information there. If you’d prefer, I’ll post for you my email is beanj566@gmail.com
        Thanks everyone for this interesting history
        Jean

    • Erin says:

      Hi Rick,

      I have been out to Pisgah Home numerous times and searched the area for the cemetery between 2012-2014. It’s been a real head scratcher, I was wondering if you would share the photos you do have with me? my email is: anewspringflower@gmail.com
      The place I have been led to believe is the cemetery is nothing but a wide spot in the road up a hillside. I never found any evidence of a marker searching the underbrush and all over that hillside, but reading some of these comments indicates there might have been something…. whether or not it still exists would be interesting, but I would love to see the photos you have. I have an article on the old Pisgah home from the Oregonian in 1916. The article contains some photos from the colony, but photos in 1916 newsprint look more like drawings. I found one obituary in the Oregonian and one death certificate at the Oregon state archives as the only record evidence so far of who is buried in this cemetery. I had hoped to document the souls buried there but it proved to be rather difficult. Its been a long standing interest of mine and it would be interesting to see old photos. Kind Regards, Erin

  12. Jean North Plains says:

    Here’s the link to the news obituary for Barbara Stewart, died Dec 17, 1916 https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/88773701/barbara-stewart#
    She is described as “deaconess and worker ” at Pisgah Home, and is interred there “as a fulfillment of her last wish.”

  13. Tricia Oberndorf says:

    The obit at FindAGrave is not for the woman who ran the home. The originator/manager/mastermind behind the home was Hattie Lawrence, aka Mother Lawrence. Ms. Stewart was actually someone who was there briefly and asked to be buried there after her death.
    We at the Columbia County Historical Museum have been researching the Pisgah Home Colony/Ranch … it went by many permutations on those names. We plan to publish a special issue of our biannual some time in the next few months, dedicated to the Pisgah Home. Like Erin, our interest was in part sparked by knowing that many were buried there but their names were not recorded or published. In the research we’ve done, it is clear that, for many, their families had lost touch with them completely. Our work has been greatly assisted by the ledger books that were found at the home in 1953 before it burned down and donated to the museum many years ago. In addition to the deaths recorded in these ledgers (which cover from about 1930 to about 1942), we have made trips to the Oregon State Archives to find relevant death certificates.
    We have a wealth of information that has come from these ledgers and from our own research. But it would be wonderful to hear from anyone who has stories like yours of what they saw there, relics they have found there, or photos. (Thanks to Rick for posting the link for those photos!) If you’d like to share with us, please feel free to contact me at triciaobie@colcomuseum.org or come visit us any Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, noon to 4. We are in the Historic Court House in St. Helens.

  14. Jean North Plains says:

    Thanks so much for this information Columbia County Historical Museum! So pleased to learn that the ledger was recovered. The story lives on.

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