There was a time when the Civil War meant more in Washington County than water-cooler arguments about whether the Ducks or Beavers will win the big in-state rivalry.
In the 1860s, the Civil War meant that county residents had to ride off on their own horses with their own rifles to fight the Indian Wars after the regular Army was called back east to wage the War Between the States. The southern mountain men and northern missionaries who settled Washington County didn’t argue about field goals and touchdowns, but rather about slavery.
Washington County’s role in the Civil War was minor, but veterans of the war played a major role in the area’s development. Take Gen. Thomas Thorpe, one of the war’s most-decorated heroes; after the war he came to Oregon to be Forest Grove’s school superintendent. Or Francis Bailey, a Confederate veteran who became one of Oregon’s most-famous doctors and mayor of Hillsboro.
Washington County residents have played a major role in every war since, from the Spanish-American War to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some made international headlines for their courage, while the heroism and sacrifice of others went largely unnoticed.
Also often unnoticed are the incredible changes the conflicts on the battlefront brought to the homefront back in Washington County. World War II hit home in a very personal way, putting the region’s forests in the crosshairs and creating war heroes here at home, including one Cornelius woman who nearly died in a horrific Portland shipyard accident, then returned to build more Liberty Ships after months of grueling rehabilitation.
World War II helped pull Washington County out of the Great Depression, but also derailed efforts to build roads to the Coast. Perhaps its most lasting impact, however, was the racial strife it created in local farms, forests and factories as Japanese-Americans were imprisoned and Mexican farmworkers were enticed to replace them.
Other conflicts don’t get the attention of the Civil War and World War II, but the sacrifices of those on the battlefront and effects back here on the homefront were every bit as profound. Consider, for example, the battle for Manila during the Spanish-American War, the effects of which had many lasting impacts on life in Washington County.
At 6:30 p.m. March 18 at the Washington County Museum, I’ll take a look at how each major American war has affected us here at home, and salute some of the local people who answered the call to duty. General admission is $6. Seniors/children/college/ID $4. Active military and veterans? $3. The event is in downtown Hillsboro, 120 East Main. There’s plenty of parking (no time limit after 5 p.m.) and the museum is convenient to MAX.