Wilsonville 1968: the big vote by a small community

wilsonville brochure1

In 1968, my dad – Dick Montgomery – and his brother Bill, sparred over whether Wilsonville should incorporate. Bill, my family, and my grandparents all lived on Montgomery Way on the bank of the Willamette.

“While we were young and naive, we knew that adults disagreed about what should happen to our town and its land in our Wilsonville of the late 1960s….Fewer than one-thousand people lived in our not yet incorporated rural town. My dad and his sometimes argumentative brother, Bill, and our next-door neighbor, disagreed. Dad favored incorporation, designing the brochure illustrating Wilsonville as a “Quality Community with Potential Unlimited.” My uncle, never one to be told what to do, was adamantly and vocally opposed.”
From Monkey Wrenching
My Music Man

Dad joined the 183 voters supporting incorporation while Bill loudly sided with the 163 citizens opposing it.  Ironically, at the time both Bill and Dad worked for the advertising agency that designed the brochure and the town’s first logo (pictured above and below).  Bill and Dad are no longer alive, but I am sure each believed to have been right on their voting decision. Bill went on to win a seat on City Council where I am certain he was a thorn in Mayor Balsinger’s side. My uncle was known to be obstinate, rude and a maverick – and that’s being generous.

The Wilsonville vote reminds me of an even earlier Oregon vote where my great great great grandfather, William Willson, joined 51 other men on May 2, 1843 at Champoeg to vote in favor of establishing a provisional government, opposed by others who didn’t feel the need for government, or didn’t want to pay taxes.

16.4

And lest we think all this talk about opposing local government to be a thing of the past, take a look at today’s Damascus: its citizens recently successfully voting to disincorporate and choose to rather be within unincorporated Clackamas County. Damascus was first incorporated in 2004 after becoming the first new Oregon city in 22 years, but was disincorporated in 2016.

wilsonville brochure2

I inherited a large framed print of the photo on the right of the Willamette River, reminding me forever of Wilsonville’s yesterday.

“Soon after Wilsonville incorporated, Governor Tom McCall coined his famous and contentious quip. ” Come visit us again and again. This is a state of excitement. But for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live.””
From Monkey Wrenching
My Music Man

This year Wilsonville celebrates fifty years since that 1968 decision. In addition to reminding me that I’m older than I sometimes think, the anniversary is a big deal for today’s Wilsonville residents, even though few may remember that actual vote. Land, growth, urban growth boundaries, the legacy of Governor Tom McCall. Reminders of yesterday, leaving us with continuing questions about today, our future, and the never ending challenge to build sustainable communities yet protect our natural resources.

To read more about early Wilsonville and Oregon, you can borrow a copy of my memoir, My Music Man, from a number of libraries, including Wilsonville, Canby, West Linn, Oregon City, Multnomah County, LaGrande among others. Learn more about where else to find a copy. 

 

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