When Mary Roher left her parents' Illinois home in 1864 at the age 16 to head out west, start a family, and create a home on land being given away, little did she anticipate that the world she envisioned would not happen with the man that she had just married. As they traveled along the Oregon Trail that summer, something happened that would change her future entirely. Just like so many others that undertook that dangerous journey, her husband died, leaving Mary to continue on, walking with the determination of fulfilling her dreams. Upon arriving at Fort Vancouver she discovered that single ladies were not eligible to get free land, but soon she met a young man who could help change that.
Lewis Stinson Fairchild had grown up with an adventurous life. When he was a child just able to walk, he went with his parents from North Carolina to Tennessee and four years afterward they migrated to Missouri. As a young man he was attracted by the mining rush, and he crossed the plains by ox team to California in 1850, making and losing several fortunes during the gold craze. On October 17, 1862, he enlisted in the Army at San Francisco and was ordered to Vancouver, Washington. In July, 1865 he received his honorable discharge from the Fourteenth Infantry of the Washington Volunteers.
Of course, Mary met Lewis and they got married! Two years later they came to Oregon, where they lived all of their lives in Washington County; first homesteading in the Gaston area and then later retiring to Cornelius. During that time, while growing crops and raising livestock, they also started a family with nine kids: three girls (Sarah, Louisa & Emma) and six boys (Joseph, Edward, Charles, Elmer, James & Robert).
When Mary’s husband Lewis died in 1919, Mary continued to live in their house on the corner of Alpine and 10th in Cornelius where they had lived for over 20 years. Concerned that Mary was now in her 70s and that she would walk every week to Forest Grove and back to shop, her kids started to pressure her to move to Forest Grove. Soon, Mary moved into this house, which was next door to her son Joseph and his wife Nora, who lived on the corner at 1504 Birch Street. The Fairchild family thought that they could keep an eye on Mom from there. So into her 90s, they watched her split cords of wood for her two stoves, hand spade a large garden in the side yard, and continue to walk regularly to Cornelius to visit her friends there. (Remember, she once walked from Illinois to Vancouver!) Mary loved to peel a large onion each evening and eat it like an apple. What a woman! Mary Elizabeth Fairchild died in 1940 at the age of 91.
There have been five other owners of this house since then, until 2006, Carole and Philip Clark took on the task of completely renovating it into the beautiful house that it is today.