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Creek's new name flows with history

Small stream near Sherwood could get a link to Washington County pioneer


It’s just a tiny creek southwest of Sherwood, but it could have a link to local history.

On Saturday, members of the Oregon Geographic Names board are expected to give a name to the small, nameless creek that branches off Baker Creek along Laurel Ridge north of the Yamhill County border near Southwest Mountain Home Road, linking the stream to Washington County pioneer John B. Kirby.

Members of the state board meet from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at the University of Oregon Law School in Eugene. The Kirby Creek name proposal is one of several items on the board agenda.

Stuart Clark, whose Southwest Mountain Home Road property includes the creek, said he proposed the name because of its link to Kirby, who settled a 320-acre donation land claim in the area. Clark’s 6.5-acre property sits on the eastern edge of Kirby’s original land.

Clark said his interest was tied to the area’s history, and his desire to see it honored.

“The creek is nothing geographically noteworthy, but I do cross it frequently as my dog and I hike down to Baker Creek, which is named for another early Oregon pioneer family,” Clark said. “It just seems fitting that the Kirby name should be permanently attached to something on this hillside.”

John Brammer Kirby was born August 1808, in Garrard County, Ky., and made his way along the Oregon Trail in 1852, eventually settling in Washington County near what is today Sherwood.

Kirby died in July 1870 at age 61 and is buried in McMinnville’s South Yamhill Cemetery.

Kirby and his first wife, Elizabeth Johnson, sold their 100 acres in Jennings County, Ind., in 1851 before setting out on the Oregon Trail. Johnson and their daughter, Mary Jane Kirby, died on the trail.

In December 1852, Kirby married his second wife, Rachel, and they were awarded the land as part of the Donation Land Claim Act of 1860. They lived on the property for six years before selling it and moving to McMinnville. Rachel died in February 1871.

Clark isn’t related to the Kirby family, but just wants to see something with Kirby’s name on it to mark his time in the region.

“My interest comes from walking this ground for the past 40 years and finding myself fortunate enough to own a piece of it for the past decade,” he said. “After a time, one begins to wonder about the generations that have walked the same ground before, what their lives were like and the challenges and sacrifices that they made.”

If the state board approves the creek’s new name, it will be forwarded to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which formally adds the name to official maps.




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