Date of visit: October 16, 2011
Population: 105,594 (2010 Census)

In the 1800s the Gresham area (known as Powell Valley back then) was sparsely populated and the people scattered around on farms. There was no church there so traveling preachers known as “circuit riders” visited outlying areas like this, traveling from one rural area to another. Religious camp meetings in the summer were big events. Not only were they a chance for people to get together and worship with the circuit rider preacher, but they provided an opportunity to see friends and family, share news, and eat food. Some families built lean-tos or cabins on site so they could spend the week in comfort. The book Gresham: Stories From Our Past describes it all as a “prolonged picnic.”

Gresham’s first camp meeting was held in the fall of 1855 and became an annual affair. The meeting grounds — referred to as a campground — was a two-acre grove of firs and cedars in what is now downtown Gresham.  In 1880 a storm blew down the trees and destroyed the campground. The Methodists built a small church on the site, where circuit riders preached to the congregation until a permanent minister was assigned in 1905.

Welcome to Gresham

Once a church
The former German Evangelical Church, now a home decor store

Zimmerman House
The historic Zimmerman House, built in 1874

Wildwood Cafe
The Wildwood Cafe in downtown Gresham

Main Street
Downtown Gresham

Gresham Library
The Gresham Library

Arching bridge
Bridge in the City Park

The old library is now a museum

Witter House
The Witter House was built in the late 1800s

Map of Gresham

Oregon Towns Project