Nestled in the Waldo Hills approximately 10 miles southeast of Salem likes the little community of Shaw. The old townsite occupies a short stretch along Silver Falls Highway at its intersection with Howell Prairie Road. Oddly enough, the town is divided into four sections by the railroad tracks which run roughly north-south and then Highway 214 running east-west. Originally the location was named Waldo Hills, in reference to the Daniel Waldo family, Oregon pioneers of 1843 that took up their land claim in the area.
By the late 1860s there were enough farms clustered in the area that John H. Bridges opened a store. And in 1871, a school was established for area children. In 1876, Canadians Angus and Mary Shaw along with their five children: Angus, Mary, Rachel, Daniel and George purchased the farmland on which the town would develop in the future. The Shaws were widely known and respected members of the Presbyterian church. Angus would be named the first postmaster on February 28, 1887.
The Shaws were also known for their beautiful daughters, one of which would plunge the family into trouble in November of 1886. It started when the Kearns brothers, George and Thurston convinced Rachel Shaw and her friend Retta Cooper to elope with them to Portland. After considerable difficulty the fathers of the runaway brides were successful in recovering their daughters, but this was not the end of the matter. Rachel Shaw’s husband Thurston swore out warrants for his wife and her parents on charges of kidnapping. Then while seeking counsel at the law office of Tilmon Ford of Salem, Rachel’s father Angus was attacked by the Kearns brothers and beaten unconscious. At 64 years of age it was a serious blow to his health that he would never fully recover from. As the matter played out in the newspapers and courts, details came to light that proved Rachel had not been kidnapped but rather had fled an abusive relationship with the help of her parents. The court would eventually rule in her favor, dismissing the charges against her parents and granting the divorce.
The stress and drama related to the situation as well as the after effects of the beating proved to be the end of Angus and his death in 1888 was a blow both to his family and the community. In 1891 the community changed its name officially from Waldo Hills to Shaw to honor Angus as its first postmaster. After Shaw’s estate was settled, remaining family members relocated to the Reedville area of Washington County.
With the change of the century, the bucolic farming town saw big changes. The 15 families enumerated in the 1905 county census grew to 73 by the 1920 US Federal census. On the property purchased by the Catholic church in 1876 ground was broken for a church building that would be dedicated in 1903. This church ground in later years would see additional growth including a rectory, parochial school, parish hall and a cemetery.
Joining the church along the main road through town was the Waldo Hills Hotel, two grain warehouses, a cement block factory, the Waldo Hills Prune Packing Association, and the Schomus General Store. The Joseph A. Schomus family moved to the area from Yamhill County in the early 1900s and ran the general store for a few years. The store was then purchased by the Frank Masser family. Passed from father to daughter and son, the store would remain in the family until the 1970s.
In 1975 the little country store was purchased and remodeled by Dale Mattox and renamed Dale’s Trading Post. The store and gas station retained its original charm and functionality including the two old-fashioned gasoline pumps with colored glass globes showing the original Tidewater Flying A symbols. Gone were the warehouses and other signs of industry, but the store remained, a symbol of community. In 1986 the business was sold to Warren and Suzi Kilby who operated it for three years before a devastating fire. All that remained of the building, more than 100 years old, was a hollow shell. Rather than rebuild they sold the property.
The community has seen a number of changes through the years, the general store is gone, and the old Waldo Hills Hotel has been converted to a private residence. St. Mary’s, the Catholic church on the hill, replaced their church building with a modern structure in 1962 and added additional buildings to their complex. And yet the sense of community remains, anchored in history, a quiet testament to its farming roots.
This article was written by Kaylyn F. Mabey for the Statesman Journal newspaper where it appeared on October 15, 2018.