Oregon History

Photo of the week: New Era, Clackamas

Let’s go way back and way out there: New Era, Clackamas County. Now just a blip on the 99e between Oregon City and Candby, this once thriving town (though you wouldn’t know it from the photo) boasted a spiritual camp and agricultural industry.

Photo courtesy of Historic Images of Oregon.

Any information on New Era from readers?

23 replies on “Photo of the week: New Era, Clackamas”

my folks inherited a cabin on a lot on a creek in Canby. It boasted a 2 bedroom with an upper lot that bedded at least 6. It was an awesome community in it’s day! Many filtered in from Montana after the major drought of 1915-20,

I will be there! I am a decendant of Jennie Newbury/Dustin, the postmistress of New Era for 50 years. I would love to share whatever information I have and would love to see what others have!

Our family lived in New Era, on the Herman Anthony Farm. What a wonderful place to grow up! Wish I’d known about that talk in 2014 — I’d have gone.

What years were your family there? I have an old girls graduation photo with many girls from the area as well as school photos

Wow, Stephanie, I just happened to come here and see this! My mother, Flora Leonard, moved to New Era with her parents in the late ’20s or early ’30s.

The internal caption lists this as a depot. It is in fact an open shelter only, one of a long list that Southern Pacific placed along their lines where stations were not justified. (Also used on the Red Electric subsidiary.) The Cal State RR Museum did once publish a set of softbound books that documented the various routes with postcards, photos, written references etc.. New Era is shown in the Shasta Route volume, but I’d have to check to give you more particulars. I believe the known shelters were largely documented in one of the quarterlies of the Southern Pacific Technical & Historical Society…have it somewhere. (Some are undocumented or no photos found so far.)

Before I start, be warned that it’s always possible for photos to be mis-identified. Hopefully not the case here. What turns up is an Oregon Historical Society photo (#3883?) showing an Oregon & California R.R. train behind engine number 3 stopped north of a curve and labled as New Era. The train is northbound sitting on the riverside track (where there is a set of two tracks) and some wood structures are on the left (landside). Unless the other track is a siding, this is a bit odd as normal running practices (“right hand”) would call for the train to be on the other track. In the photo above, the station site (shelter) appears to have shifted south of the curve and only one track is available to handle traffic from two directions (siding tracks are what allowed for passings). All of this assumes this is the same curve…this could be wrong. Here was Southern Pacific’s description of this, “Between Oregon City and New Era, a distNce of six miles, are beautiful vistas of the Willamette. There are extensive peach orchards about New Era, which have given the name Peach Blow Curve to a bend of the river at this point.”. (Another OHS photo numbered 5146 does show an eating house and water tower, but I have reservations as it is marked O. R. & N. Co. which was the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company…another part of Henry Villard’s empire which controlled the O & C.) Hopefully some readers will know more about what went on around Oregon’s own Peachville (I guess the name Pitts-berg was already taken).

Hi Al: A question. I am researching the “Great North-South Oregon railway race and I believe I know which photo you are discussing. It is supposed to be a photo of Ben Holladay’s arrival at New Era, on Christmas Day 1869, when he wins the north-south 20 mile railway race. I agree, there is something wrong with that photo. It may be mis-identified…because if this is Ben Holladay, he is going the wrong way. His train would be headed south. And, please, correct me if I am wrong, I was under the impression he only built one line of track to win. Not two. That came later. Have you found out any more information on that photo that you can share? It would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

Kim Huey. I am well versed on Ben Holladay and the building of what would come to be known as the Oregon & California RR. I would be happy to give my thoughts on the photo if you can point me to a copy. dhaneckow (at)

After a bit more searching, it looks like New Era was possibly a victim of its’ own location. The origin of the name is not known. Oregon City, just north, was the area where the first Protestant churches were established in the state. Masonry also got its’ foothold here. An old photo exists of an ancient wooden Catholic Church in New Era. A small graveyard indicates it was in use for some extended period…the photographer must have had road access, so perhaps this had served as a gathering for people in the eastern valley farmlands.
In 1915, the Willamette Valley Southern railway extended services to the eastern valley out of Oregon City. Access to the growing electric rail network with connections to Portland may have reduced the importance of New Era. 1916, the Pacific Highway program was starting, but the stretch from New Era to Oregon City was apparently bad. In 1918, a whole new section was built closer toward the Southern Pacific line and the river. With the Depression, the electric railroads were disappearing, but the highways were still being improved. New Era probably turns its face toward the roadways and away from its’ already diminished rail face. By 1941, the post office designation for New Era was gone. With Oregon City (north) and Canby (south) available by road, New Era may just have faded into obscurity.

Found more-New Era was the point reached on 25 December 1869 to complete the required first twenty miles of rails from Portland. A second track (siding) extended during the twentieth century from Coalco (0.7 miles north) to the original point of New Era. But New Era was relocated by the railroad in 1979 further south of the Willamette River bend to where an old quarry pit had existed some 1.3 miles on. The quarry was due to the removal of a rock face that had been an obstacle forcing the line to be routed around it. This quarry was known as the “New Era Pit”. [Information from The Southern Pacific in Oregon-Dill/Austin 1st Ed….out of print]

Now that’s an oddity! It was German bondholders that first financed the building of this early section of rail line (aka Oregon & California). Henry Villard would become their representative to overlook that stake in Oregon, and he would encourage German immigration to the new world. Maybe Mr. Anthony was responding to these opportunities when he settled his farmlands. But then, for his demise to be caused by an auto/train collision in 1930 is indeed a cruel twist of fate.

Yes, Al, very sad. I only learned about it later in adulthood, while searching New Era online… it apparently was a topic not to be discussed in our little neighborhood.

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