For approximately 3 to 8,000 years to the middle of the 1900s, a Native American population inhabited the Tualatin Valley. The Atfalati were a dialect group of the Kalapuyan language family. Kalapuyan consists of three regions: Northern Kalapuya (a.k.a. Tualatin-Yamhill), Central Kalapuya (a.k.a. Santiam—Santiam River), and Southern Kalapupya (a.k.a. Yoncalla—southwest Oregon, around the Umpqua River).
It is believed that a series of epidemics depleted the entire lower Columbia region prior to substantial Euro-American settlement. The Atfalati were reduced to a few isolated bands by the 1840s when settlement began in earnest. The natives were passive and friendly, conducted life harmoniously when early settlers arrived beginning in the 1840s. Native women were savvy in finances while the men hunted food. In 1856, the last 100 natives were removed to the reservation in Yamhill County. In 1851, Chief Ki-a-cut of the Atfalati said “I have lived a long time at this place. We do not wish to reserve much here, but we do not wish to be removed from the little.” He was speaking in reference to the treaty negotiations then in progress.
Early settlers quickly took advantage of Land Grants or Donation Land Claims, and were offered 320 acres per person if they were willing to develop and farm the land. Because native women handled finances of the family, when marrying Euro-Americans, they were allowed to own property and be listed on the title. A couple could have 640 acres to develop as farmland.
In 1850 the first donation land claim in the Aloha area was filed under the name of Jacob Wheeler, and the Aloha area eventually was known as “Wheeler Station” or “Wheeler Crossing”, named after the owner.
Fifty-seven years later, Silas N. Buck and his family moved from Wisconsin to Oregon for opportunities out west. They settled in Aloha. He and his family built the first market, Buck’s Market on Wheeler Avenue, which is now 185th Street, with the intent to attract more land buyers to the area. On Christmas Eve of 1908, the first business in the Aloha area was open for business.
It took only four years before they would need a post office. On January 8, 1912, the Aloha Post Office was established. There are two accounts of how Aloha got its name and according to various newspaper reports no one can agree on the exact version.
The Buck Version: According to Julius Buck, the first postmaster, Dora Buck, suggested the name “Aloah”, because of her happy memories of a Wisconsin lake resort with the same name, an Indian word for “good morning”. Postal officials in Washington, D.C., rejected the name Wheeler because it had already been taken by a coastal city. They re-arranged the letters to make more sense to them and returned the official stamp with the name “Aloha”. The first post office was in Buck’s store (built in 1908 near 185th & TV Highway, was the local gathering place) as was the ticket office for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
The Wolfe Version: A prominent attorney Richard Caples invited Southern Pacific officials to his home for dinner in hopes of persuading them to build a station at Wheeler Crossing. One of the guests, Caples’ niece provided the evenings’ entertainment, playing the piano and singing the Hawaiian favorite, “Aloha Oe”. Rumor has it she had just returned from a trip to Hawaii, where her uncle was involved in the sugar business. At the conclusion of the piano solo, Mrs. Wheeler cried, “That’s it”, and the community was named.
Several historical landmarks remain in the Aloha area. One of the oldest is the Masters Century House at 20650 SW Kinnaman. It was built in 1853 by a young couple from Kentucky, Sara Jane and Andrew Jackson Masters. Just 3 years after the house was completed, Mr. Masters was shot to death by a neighbor because of a property line dispute.
The Aloha Grange, on 185th, was built in 1932 and is heavily used by many community groups. It looks much the same today.
The Aloha Theater, located on TV Hwy just a jog from 185th, was built in 1940 and is now occupied by Northwest College, a beauty school.
In 1984, the community attempted to incorporate, but the regional boundary commission halted the effort after determining the community could not provide the needed municipal services of a city.
Aloha Post Office
By Dolores Cortesy
Aloha Breeze, 8/21/1974
One day last week I found myself waiting behind several cars for my turn at the post office parking lot.
I remember when it moved to its present site in 1967 it seemed so spacious. Everyone attending the open house felt the government had really “done us proud.”
There has been a post office in Aloha since 1912. Mail was delivered by train in the early days and usually arrived around 2 or 3 a.m. The first postmaster was Julius Buck and the office was in his general store.
When he gave it up, Mrs. Boyd Stroat was named postmistress and the office moved to her home on the north side of the highway at 185th.
Later she relinquished it to Ray Wheeler, who operated Wheeler’s Market at the present location of the IOOF Hall. Wheeler sold his store to a Mr. Green but stayed on as postmaster until Green could pass the examinations.
The next move was to Henry Lowry’s store, facing TV Hwy. Although the post office was to move again, it remained in the same general area for a number of years.
In 1945 Harry Price became postmaster and on his death his wife took over. In 1948 Frithjof (Fritz) Tollefsen was named acting postmaster and in 1950 was sworn in as postmaster. In 1955 the Aloha office was reclassified a substation of Beaverton. Tollefsen was titled superintendent.
The quarters were small and for many years were heated with a potbellied stove. Then they went modern and installed a circulating oil heater.
On Dec. 9, 1965, it exploded and despite the fire department’s valiant efforts the post office was gutted. Tollefsen however, was able to save a lot of the pre-Christmas mail.
While the new building was under construction, it was business as usual in a trailer behind the fire station.
Tollefsen, like other long-time residents, marvels at changes in the area. His office has become increasingly busy and another full-time employee was added this year.
Some of us have decided there is only one way to beat the late afternoon congestion in the post office parking lot. Leave the car at the Aloha Mall and walk over.
Much of the preceding information was gleaned from old newspaper accounts from the Washington County Historical Society and Museum on the Rock Creek Campus of Portland Community College. Additional information is available and will be compiled and presented to future meetings of the Aloha Business Association.