Witness Post: Marquam

Marquam Hill, the town of Marquam, Oregon, the Marquam Bridge, Marquam Nature Park … this Witness Post highlights the iconic Oregon name whose origin is from two brothers who grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. Both Marquam brothers were entrepreneurial, adventuresome, and generous. The family moved from Maryland to Indiana, when the boys were young. The older brother moved from Indiana to Missouri and then to Oregon. The younger brother moved to California following the Gold Rush before heading to Oregon.

The Town, the Postman

The Oregon town of Marquam is named after an early pioneer settler. His name was Alfred Marquam, and he arrived in Oregon in 1845. Alfred Marquam secured a donation land claim of 640 acres between Molalla and Silverton and he built his first house. He soon opened up a general store, the first in this part of Clackamas County. Forty-four years later, in 1889, the Marquam post office and gas station was established by the town, who were honoring their first business owner. The town appointed him as the first postmaster.

Philip A. Marquam (1823-1912)

The Hill, the Judge

Alfred Marquam’s younger brother, Philip A. Marquam, earned a law degree in Bloomington, Indiana and came to Oregon after a detour digging for gold in the Sierras. His claims not panning out, Philip was appointed a judge in Yolo County, California. A few years later, in 1851, he was twice elected to be a judge in Multnomah County court, serving for eight years in Portland, Oregon. He also became a property developer in Portland, buying a hill that was part of a 300 acre donation land claim for $2,500. According to local legend, the land was purchased from John Donner, who brother, George, was a member of the ill-fated Donner Party.[2]

Philip Marquam was one of the early lawyers in Portland, which had a population of about 1,000 people at the time. Within two years he met and married Emma Kern. The couple raised eleven children, four sons and seven daughters. Many of the children grew up and made contributions in the Northwest, as far north as Fairbanks, Alaska.

For many years Marquam was the largest land owner in Portland, as he developed opera houses, eight-story buildings (which bore the family name) and other landmarks. He served in the Oregon House of Representatives, as a Republican and gained a reputation as a transportation advocate and developer.[3]

Father and son hiking the Marquam Nature Park trails, photo by Greg Vaughn

The Marquam Nature Park

Marquam Nature Park is one of Portland’s most used recreational areas. Comprised of over 200 acres of undeveloped land, it is the third largest park in the city. With over seven miles of trails, the park provided an excellent hiking and running opportunities, with forested scenic views and gorgeous vistas of the region. The Marquam Nature Park is part of the larger 40-mile “Trail” portion of the 4-T Loop. The other three T’s are for train, tram, trolley, which traverse the metropolitan area.

The nature park concept was conceived in the 1970’s as a way to forestall potential development of the Marquam Hill acres. Three brave neighbors – Barbara Walker, Elizabeth Crookham, and Nadia Munk – pooled their resources, collected contributions, sought grants and bought the property for the first phase of the park. In 1983 the nature park conservancy donated the Marquam Park to the City of Portland.

The Marquam Bridge construction photo 1964



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Augustus_Marquam

[2] The hill was part of a 300-acre (1.2 km2donation land claim Marquam purchased for $2,500 in 1857 from John Donner, brother of George Donner of the ill-fated Donner Party. The hill is now the site of the Oregon Health & Science University and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

[3] Marquam was instrumental in the formation of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company in 1887.