Happy Valley Oregon – A brief History Lesson


I recently had the opportunity to photograph a beautiful house in Happy Valley for Leilani Powell of Oregon First Realty.

As I was working my way through the house, photographing each of the rooms, I couldn’t help but notice the spectacular views from this location, situated high up on a ridge overlooking the valley below.

As a life-long Portlander, I remember that when I was a kid, Sunnyside road was really nothing more than a country road that was the link between 82nd Avenue in Southeast Portland to Damascus, Estacada, Mt. Hood, and beyond.

I wanted to do a little research to learn more about the area, and what made Happy Valley so “Happy”.

Here is what I discovered.

Happy Valley is bounded by Mount Scott on the west and by Scouter’s Mountain on the east. The ridges extending northeastward and southeastward from these mountains form the hollow and seem to cradle it in their laps. Its been said that the soil of the valley is very fertile. Several fine springs of water and a winding creek provide an abundant water supply, which is a primary reason that the area was first settled around 1851.

In the beginning Happy Valley was called “Christilla Valley”, after the first homesteaders to take up a claim there – Christian and Matilda Deardorff.

The first families to settle in the valley came from the Midwest, mostly from Indiana and Iowa. They came overland over the Oregon Trail in covered wagons drawn by oxen.

For a few years after the first settlers moved into the valley there were no real roads there, only trails made by wagons cutting a track through the woods and fields. Gradually the trail over Mt. Scott was widened and improved by the people living in the valley. Later, this road was graveled, but not until 1915.

About 1900 John M. Deardorff felt that there should be another way out of the valley besides the difficult road over Mt. Scott, and he persuaded the county commissioners to have a new road surveyed and built going north to Foster Road. He also helped with the building of this road and it is now called “Deardorff Road.”

Little by little these roads were improved by the county, but not until more modern times were any of them paved. The first road paved was in 1925.

Telephone lines were introduced into the valley in 1908 and the first telephone installed. In the fall of 1925 electricity was brought in. Some of the “old timers” remember this date very well because it happened just before Christmas and they put electric lights on their Christmas tree instead of the dangerous lighted candles.

So… what about the name? The valley was referred to as a “Hollow”. Boys from the “Hollow” enjoyed drinking Grandpa Deardorff’s delicious apple cider before attending church services at Sunnyside and often used to arrive there singing loudly and gaily. Sunnyside dwellers were soon referring to them as “The happy boys from the Hollow,” and after a while the area became known as “HAPPY VALLEY”

What started out as a farming community of not more than a couple dozen settlers in the mid 1800’s has not grown into a city of over 15,000 residents. Beautiful homes co-mingle with original homesteads, which makes Happy Valley a truly unique place to live!

I’ve had the opportunity to photograph many homes in Happy Valley and the Clackamas area. As I talk to real estate agents, I often hear the same stories of the areas slow change from “farmland to urban land” repeated. Everyone seems to have a memory of how the region has grown. But it’s still a “Happy” place to live.






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