Bridges of Washington County History and Facts

History of Phillip Harris and Groner Bridges

How did the Phillip Harris Bridge get its name? The rolling prairie of the Tualatin Valley was attractive to the early settlers intent on farming. West of the Tualatin River the highway follows the boundary line between two donation land claims, that of Elizabeth Jane and Felix Landess to the south, and that of John M. Ritchey to the north. Both claims were patented in 1865. East of the river was the claim of Phillip and Sally Harris, who were issued a patent in 1873. The original "Road from Portland to Lafayette" identified on the 1852 map crossed the Tualatin River more than a quarter mile south of the existing bridge. Phillip Harris operated a ferry at the original road crossing, and subsequently built a bridge over the river. The current bridge is named in his honor.

Additional Factoids

The unincorporated community of Farmington, centered at the intersection of Farmington Highway (OR 10) and River Road, is located just east of the bridge. Farmington had a post office from 1884 to 1904.

History of Scholls Ferry Bridge

The Scholls Ferry Bridge is the crossing of Highway 210 over the Tualatin River. The roadway and bridge is named for Peter Scholl, who was born in Clark County, Kentucky in 1809. In 1828 he married Elizabeth Cowhick and in 1847 they arrived in Oregon and settled his Donation Land Claim on the north side of the Tualatin River. In 1850, Peter Scholl applied for a license to build a ferry crossing on the Tualatin River, for a fee of two hundred dollars. He first built a raft and later constructed a rope-towed ferry for crossing the river. The crossing was located just north of the present Scholls Bridge, and was in the center of his Donation Land Claim. It is noted that Lt. Phil Sheridan and his company of US Calvary traveled across Scholls Ferry enroute to the Grand Ronde where they took part in the Indian fighting. The ferry was in operation until 1880, when a covered bridge was constructed at the site. The ferry was then discontinued. A second covered bridge was built in 1890, replaced by a bridge with steel trusses and a wooden deck in 1929. The previous concrete bridge was constructed in 1961 and the new replacement in 2008. Scholls Ferry was the first transportation link across the Tualatin River. It provided a connecting route between the Tualatin Valley and Polk, Yamhill, and Upper Willamette Valley Counties. This site, since 1850, has been a communication and transportation link important to commerce and industry.

History of the Scholls Tile Factory

Scholls Tile FactoryAnother historical site that may be of interest is the Scholls Tile Factory located on the north west corner of the bridge. The Scholls Tile Factory, constructed in 1902, is composed of an office building, a processing building, a garage for vehicle maintenance and a kiln shed containing two large cylindrical kilns (about 25 feet in diameter). The kiln shed and the other sheds are constructed of round, upright log poles and sawn lumber. A central brick chimney is located between the kilns, connected to each by a tunnel. Fred Groner, F.E. Rowell, and J.H. Rowell built the factory in 1902. The factory at that time included a sawmill, a small office, a machine shop and a three story processing building. A bunkhouse, used to house factory workers, was moved to a site across River Road. The processing building was enlarged to its present size after 1914. The plant produced red clay tile; the clay was obtained from a mine located on the 20-acre complex. The tile made at the factory was mainly used for drainage pipe. In 1926, the plant was sold to Jesse Snyder and J.M. Stretcher. Within two years, Snyder became the sole owner of the factory. Jesse Snyder, Jr. later inherited the business and successfully operated the factory until 1976. The factory is no longer in use, but remains as one of the few historic factory buildings in the County today. 

Footnote:  Excerpted with modifications from the “Washington County Cultural Resource Inventory” dated October 1989.

Weight Limits (10 weight-limited out of 188)

The County periodically reviews the ability of its bridges to carry heavy traffic. If a bridge cannot carry the normal heavy traffic load the bridge will be classed as 'Weight Limited' and a sign will be posted to alert the traveling public of the bridge's weight limit. Weight limiting the bridges causes heavy trucks to take detours around these bridges, adding miles to their trips, thus increasing the cost of delivered goods and increasing air pollution.

Currently the County has 10 weight limited bridges out of the total County bridge inventory of 188. Most of these bridges are rural bridges. The County has a plan to replace these weight limited bridges.

Top 3 Longest Bridges

The three longest bridges in the County are Rood Bridge (684 feet, multiple spans), Golf Course Road Bridge (490 feet, multiple spans), Scholls Ferry-Groner Bridge (476 feet, multiple spans). The longest single span bridge is Minter Bridge Road Bridge at 211 feet.