This article about the history of the Molalla Branch is from the Molalla Pioneer News, May 2003

by Irene Emmert

It was the Molalla Indians from whom the town and the river that flows nearby received their names.  As time went on four donation land
claims became the start of what is now Molalla. The claims, around 1845, at the crossroads went to Joseph T. Wingfield, Mathew Sweigle,
Rachel Larken and William Engle. These claims cornered on the crossroads of the Indian trails; and is where the main intersection of
Molalla remains.

A community began. Lumbering and agriculture became the backbone ofthe economy of Molalla. Molalla had long been a distribution point
for manufactured products and a shipping point for farm goods and lumber; but all the transportation was by wagon freight. The mail was
hauled from Oregon City to Molalla by J.L. Waldron, who made the round trip with his horse "Old Buck". Mr. Waldron hauled passengers
and the mail for nine years. He estimated that with the 33 miles round trip, his old buckskin  horse had traveled more than 70,000 miles,
making the trip everyday except Sunday. He was quoted as saying, "I've gotten him (old Buck) at least a half dozen team mates that he has
worn out and that have had to go into discard. But the iron horse is one that will outlast "Old Buck", it is his turn to go into the discard".

On September 19, 1913 with much anticipation, the iron horse rolled into Molalla, when 25 miles was considered a long distance between
cities, and a trip to Portland in a "machine" was quite an event. The track was 10.2 miles long, from Canby to Molalla, and was laid by the
Portland, Eugene and Eastern Railway company in 1912-13, to be acquired later, July 1, 1915 by the Southern Pacific company. True to the
promises made by President Robert Strahorn, of the new line, the P.E. and E. branch line was ready for business on scheduled time, and
three monster trains, Doubleheaders and about ten coaches in each, made the maiden trip over the newly-ballasted roadbed. It was day of
thrills for the Molalla folk, but the biggest thrill of all, according to the record, was when the smoke from the first train, the Portland-Oregon
City special, was seen in the distance.

Molalla, on this important day was also celebrating a Fair with carnival and events to coincide with the train arriving in town. This  
community of almost 500 folks swelled to around 5000 to welcome the train, enjoy the Fair and visit with those they would see once or so a
year.  Forty or fifty khaki-clad cowgirls with holsters hanging on their hips awaited the arrival of the three special trains and fired their six
shooters to welcome Molalla's guests at the P.E. & E. celebration Friday and Saturday. For many years Molalla had dreamed of a railroad
and she was wakened to find her dream a reality. And that she was wakened left no doubt. Where once was the country crossroads is now
a city embryo. They no longer would speak of "Four Corners", it is now Molalla Avenue and Main street. The old donation land claims of
William Engle and Mathias Sweigle once raised crops of wheat, now raise blocks of concrete.  Standing on a draped pedestal on this
corner of Main street and Molalla Avenue, Miss Nina Dunton with upraised arm pointed the visitors to a banner stretched across the street
bearing Molalla's greeting and welcome to her guests. The procession marched from the depot ,where the special
trains from Portland, Salem and Silverton had brought in enthusiastic delegations. A special tent was set up where the speeches were
made. President Robert Strahorn was the first speaker, and modestly refused to take any credit for the completion of the new rail line,
although it was known that his personal efforts were instrumental in not only the preliminary work but in the actual construction and hasty
completion of the new roadbed. In his speech Strahorn informed the audience that it was a day of double celebration for him, for it was also
his 16th wedding anniversary. Edgar Piper, editor of the Oregonian, made (from The Courier files) a rattling good talk in his usual witty and
delightful manner, and his talk, too, was along the lines of general rejoicing. He pointed out the cooperation of the Portland Commercial
Club, and urged greater activity among the Molalla boosters. After the meeting in the tent had come to close the crowds surged about the
Fairgrounds.  Bands from Silverton, Canby and Molalla marched and following them were the cowgirls and autos bearing Pioneers as well
as that of President Strahorn and his party.

Hundreds of automobiles from Oregon City, Woodburn, Silverton, Salem, Canby and elsewhere were there while an almost continuous
procession of wagons and carriages came in from the farms around Scotts Mills, Monitor, Liberal, Kraft, Highland, Marquam, Noble, Mount
Angel, Mulino, Colton, Meadowbrook, and other settlements with in a radius of 12 or 15 miles. C.C. Chapman brought a large and
representative delegation from the Portland Commercial club.

Leading this huge parade through the streets of Molalla was Molalla's last Indian Chief; Henry Yelkes riding his horse and in his father's
regalia. These are his words in 1913. "I was born here 67 years ago, I am the last of the Molalla Indians. They named this place from our
tribe. When I was a boy there were many of my people here. Now they are all gone. My hat of deerskin and flicker feathers belonged to my
grandfather.  But he and the old times are gone." It was noted that Indian Henry took all this stoically and refused to comment on the
proceedings of the day.  Molalla was holding a Fair at their fairgrounds, and combined with the coming of the first train, there was much to
celebrate. A ball game, picnics, horse racing and some bronco busting. In frontier style, broncs and bulls were brought in for some wild
riding; it was noted that no one pulled leather. This proved lively and exciting for the crowds, and this event was the beginning of Molalla
Buckeroo rodeo. The first rodeos were Molalla Firemen sponsored to raise money for the fire department. The new rail line proved a great
thing for the Molalla country and the fertile region between Canby and Molalla. A train service was established at once, and during the
Canby Fair week, which followed the railroad opening and Molalla's Fair, the new line ran double train service between the two towns.
In 1915, the electric line from Oregon City to Mount Angel connected to the Portland line. The line was financed by farmers and investors in
Clackamas and Marion counties. This electric railway would carry passengers to Salem, or so they thought. The line went from Molalla  to
Yoder, Marquam and Mount Angel and then on into Silverton. But it never reached Salem as planned. It was decided to end it at Silverton. In
1933, the electric railroad was abandoned.

This was also the end of Molalla's Indian Henry Yelkes, he was found dead the next day, from either falling from the stage; or as was noted
in other history accounts: murdered by bad Indian Harry Clark, who had a bad reputation and was called "bad Indian Harry".  During WWII,
the freight train came to Molalla night and day, picking up scrap iron for the war effort and taking lumber to the Kaiser Ship Yards. Molalla
had numerous lumber mills in full production. What had been a celebration to end all celebrations in 1913, Molalla had a passenger train
and a freight train for products; now Molalla no longer has a train at all. The tracks have been removed, sadly progress took on a new way of
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