The Community of Verboort

The Verboort Community History

Because of the famine of 1846 and the poverty in Holland, groups described as a poor and courageous set sail for America. Some settled with our immigrants in Wisconsin, but because winters were so severe and stories of the mild climate and rich farmland to the west, they began plans for a possible migration west.

Father Verboort, who had immigrated at age 11 with his parents, was ordained to the priesthood in Milwaukee in 1863 at the age of 28. He was assigned to a parish in Depere, Wisconsin, but a desire developed in his mind to carry the gospel to the far west.

In 1873 he sent his brother John Verboort to the west to look for a good location. John returned with news of beautiful scenery, mild climate, and good prospects, and suggested Washington county, Oregon be the site for a settlement. A year later further exploration of this area was made with favorable reports again.

A company was formed of the families who were the first settlers in Verboort. The group of 27 includes family names of Verboort, Jansen, Hermans, Vandervelden, and Krieger.

These people traveled by train to San Franciso, by ship to Astoria, they by train to Portland, where the family stayed in three rented houses while the men looked for a suitable location. They had arrived in Portland in February 1875.

The Henry Black donation land claim, located three miles northeast of Forest Grove with a large farmhouse and 550 acres of good fertile soil was chosen. They bought it for $25 per acre. The two-story house with ten rooms had been built in 1864 with lumber hauled from a mill near Manning. The house is framed like a barn with 5x8 studding and held together by wooden pegs rather than nails. (The house still stands today, just north of the parish grounds, and is occupied by the Herinckx family, descendants of the first settlers).

With the arrival of springtime, these prudent Dutch people planted a large garden. The garden and wild berries were harvested and divided between the families. All 27 family members lived in the house together until after the first harvest. The land was then surveyed and divided by rail fences and each family built a home for themselves.

Soon after Father Verboort arrived the people built a temporary chapel of rough lumber, just 29 feet by 49 feet. It was blessed in September 1875 under the title of St. Francis Xavier. The holy mass was offered daily and on Sunday afternoons the people would gather there to sing liturgical music of the church. The community called itself "The Catholic Colony of Forest Grove".

Father Verboort died in July 1876 of a leg infection and pneumonia. Archbishop Blanchet came from Portland to offer the Solemn Requiem Mass, assisted by Father Verhagg and Father Thibau. The name of the community was then changed to "Verboort".

Reverend Joseph Hermann of the Cathedral was appointed the second priest of St. Francis Xavier chapel in Verboort and arrived in October 1876. The new pastor received a donation of six acres of land from Albert Verboort. This tract is still the heart of the community. A house was built for the pastor and a stable for his horse.

The community continued to grow as more families arrived and joined the parish.

Lather Father Hermann obtained two acres of land from Peter Evers and John Vandecoevering for a cemetery. It is located one-half mile north of the church and was cleared by volunteer help. In 1880 the bodies of Father Verboort, his parents, and others were transferred there from the previous burial area next to the church.

In June 1883 a larger church was built and dedicated to Mary under the title of "Our Lady of the Visitation". In the fall of that year, John Ramsey Porter gave the sequoia trees which stand around the church. Five new redwoods were planted in December 1974.

When the new church was built in 1883 the old chapel was transformed into a two-room school. Lay teachers taught until the arrival of the Dominican Sisters from Mission San Jose, California.

In 1890 the church was enlarged and shaped in the form of a cross, Rev. DeLatte was the pastor. Sisters of the Dominican had been recalled and in 1891 three Sisters of St. Mary in Oregon arrived to teach in the school. The pastor housed them in his cottage and he returned to the sacristy to live. People of the community treated the sisters as their own families, sharing their garden produce, fresh meat, or homemade sausage. In 1894 the first schoolhouse was built and in 1895 it was established as public school district #97.

Rural mail deliveries were unheard of during those years. Whenever a farmer made a trip to Cornelius, where the people had a post office box, he brought back with him all the mail addressed to Verboort. The mail was then placed in a large box at the entrance of the church for that purpose.

By 1917 a new parish house and covenant were nearing completion. In 1923 a new elementary school was built. (This was on the site where the parish center is now located.) The former elementary school became a high school. The first graduating class in 1937 was two young men who had attended the school for their junior and senior years.

The building was used until 1938 when a new high school was built. The old school was moved back and used as a gym. In 1949 the school district built a new gym, which is still used by our elementary students. The small school district was disbanded in 1947 and the students were absorbed into other schools through district consolidation. Visitation parish then purchased the buildings.

At midnight on February 8th, 1941 the community was aroused by the cry of FIRE, FIRE, FIRE. The church built in 1887 was a frame building and was soon reduced to ashes. Father Jonas saved the Blessed Sacraments and the crucifix above the altar. Gone was the beautiful high altar, the stained glass windows, and other church furnishings. The beautiful fresco work of the church ceiling done by Swiss artist Philip Staheli was reduced to ashes.

From 1941 until 1949 church services were held in the Forester hall, which stands just north of the parish grounds. In 1948-49 the present church was built. It was dedicated in November 1949 by Archbishop Howard.

In 1963 a new convent was built. A new rectory was added in 1979. The parish center was built in 1984 and is used for parish functions and gatherings throughout the year. In 1998 a new smokehouse was completed and in 1999 three modular classrooms were added. New cement, benches, and lighting at the church entrances were also added in 1999.

The school now has over 140 students. Severed as the third and fourth generation of families attending Visitation School. As few sisters from St. Mary of the Valley have been available to teach, lay teachers have been added.

The parish families have increased to 270. Many are descendants of those first settlers. Older residents can recall family histories and often are called on to explain to the younger generations how they are related to others in the community.