The Famme house, a vernacular farmhouse, is named after Frank and Mary Famme, settlers of German descent who arrived in Forest Grove around 1910. It was built on land that at the time (ca.1914) was the northern limits of town. “Willamina” was not the official name of the road yet, as far as census records go, and the other homes in that area were listed in directories as being on the “North end of Main,” or “off Greenville Rd.”
One of the key families at the north end of Main at the time was that of Edwin Allen. Allen was a man of many trades: farmer, former schoolteacher at Purdin and Dilley schools, principal at Central School, mailman for the rural routes, later manager of the Oregon prune cooperative, postmaster, and State senator. Though still speculative, given that he lived in the immediate area for some time, and owned the 17 acres that Famme House sits on, it’s possible Edwin Allen had some role in the home’s construction. Whatever the case, Edwin sold the acreage in question to Frank Famme in December 1910.
Mary and Frank Famme were both born in Sebringville, Ontario, Canada. (Frank immigrated to the US in 1884 (with his brother August), first living in Michigan, and then coming to Oregon in 1891. Frank and Mary married in 1895, and settled in the Yamhill area where they ran a farm in Checowan, OR…They raised hops on 16 acres near North Yamhill. They maintained close friendships with friends and relatives in the Yamhill/McMinnville area, long after they resettled to the Grove. They may have chosen to relocate to Forest Grove for the good schools. They are mentioned in the Forest Grove Press as living here as early as 1911.
The reason for the circa date of the house is that, on a board under the stairwell in the house, someone, presumably Frank, scrawled “Bild by Frank Famme May 20, 1914.” Though we assume the note was by Frank and refers to the whole house, it remains unclear. Frank was later noted to be a carpenter in city directories, lending credence to that theory. County records also cite this as the construction year. On the new farm, Famme raised various crops, including potatoes. Every now and then, the Fammes appeared in the press. For instance, in 1917, while building a barn with neighbors, Frank helped put out a fire at the Watrous house in Wapato.
The Famme’s had three children: Clarence, Mille and Harvey, all born in the Yamhill area…Their son Clarence graduated from Central School in 1914, and entered the high school later that year … He’s mentioned as working at a fish cannery in Ketchikan, Alaska in 1916, maybe for the summer. He graduated a semester early in 1917, apparently so he could go fight in WW1, where he served admirably. Clarence later moved to Portland, where he became a firefighter, and became Fire Captain before retiring in 1956.
Millie graduated from Central School in 1913, graduated from Forest Grove high school in 1917, and attended Oregon Agricultural College, later working in Portland as a stenographer and a clerk for the US Forest Service. She married Alvin Rhode, and they lived briefly with her parents, then moved to Seattle sometime in the 1950s…Harvey would have graduated high school around 1922. He became a dentist in the mid-1920s, his office was at 33rd and Belmont, in Portland.
Around 1920, the Famme family sold the home and moved to 108 Buckeye (now D Street)… All in all, they lived in Forest Grove for 14 years. Later they moved to NE Portland, probably to be closer to Clarence and family. Frank passed away in Portland in 1949. Mary went to live with Mille in Seattle, where she passed in 1965.
After a series of owners, including Mike and Josephine Amato, who were here for about 10 years, the house and farm were sold to the family who had been renting it since 1938, the Fuitens. Benjamin and Hattie Fuiten came from Wisconsin in 1936, and moved to the Famme house in 1938. One of their grandchildren, local entrepreneur Rod Fuiten, remembers family reunions at the house and Thanksgivings there, and being taught by his grandfather Ben how to plant potatoes. They had cows and chickens, and Ben would milk his two dairy cows every day. The Fuiten’s sons were basically reaching adulthood and had jobs in town and farther south, and had no interest in farming, so it was left to the parents to run the farm. “Grandma” Hattie took care of the house, the truck farm, and the vegetable canning operation, which supplied food for the whole family. They had an old cast-iron wood stove in the house, and wood was burned for heat and cooking. Around 1962, their son James B.Fuiten, who ran the town mortuary, sold the farm and moved his parents to a house on Hawthorne near 19th.
Many other interesting people have lived here, too many to mention, and all contributed to the house and its legacy.
Research and Narrative by Skip Buhler.