City of Hillsboro, OR

11/30/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/30/2023 18:25

Honoring Hillsboro’s History: The Methodist Meeting House Monument

This article was updated 11/30/2023

Landmarks reflect our local history. They tell the story of our past, while providing insight into the present and an opportunity to examine our future.

Discovering and preserving landmarks can be a celebratory occasion, but sometimes history can also be painful or uncomfortable to remember. No matter its unique history, each landmark showcases the attributes that help define Hillsboro to its residents, neighbors, and visitors.

Methodist Meeting House Monument Dedication

On Thursday, November 30, the City, along with Nez Perce Tribe elders, descendants of the Meek family, the Historic Landmarks Advisory Committee, and the Hillsboro Historical Society held a dedication ceremony for the Methodist Meeting House Monument.

Although the exact location of the Methodist Meeting House and burial ground have been lost to time, they have not been lost to memory. The Monument was erected as a testament to the Nez Perce Tribe, the Meek family's loss and the vital role the Methodist Meeting House played in Oregon's history.

The monument features five pillars, each one representing the children that historical figure Joseph Meek and his wife Virginia - of the Nez Perce Tribe - buried near the Methodist Meeting House.

Each child's name - Hiram Meek (1842), Dallas Meek (1847), unnamed infant (1854), Josephine (1860), and William H.H. (1860) - is etched onto one of the basalt pillars.

The monument also includes five plaques, attached to the sanded concrete wall behind the pillars, that collectively tell the story of the area.

Methodist Meeting House History

First constructed in 1844 by the Reverend Joseph Hosgry, the Methodist Meeting House resembled an early day church. The building had a belfry, but no bell, as it is said that the church members could not afford to buy a bell.

The church was built on Richard Constable Farm, where outdoor sermons had previously been held. There is no evidence that the church members had legal rights to this property, as no deed was issued.

The first sermon on the farm attracted 16 worshippers, and over 60 attended the following week. The Meeting House was also used by other denominations and acted as a court during periods of Territorial and Provisional government.

Adjacent to the Meeting House was a small burial ground where five of Virginia and Joseph Meek's children - decedents of the Nez Perce Tribe - were buried.

In 1865, the Meeting House was deconstructed after securing land for a new church closer to the center of the city. The materials were used to build the Hillsboro Methodist Church which was completed in 1872.

Plaque #1: Methodist Meeting House

Located near this monument, the Methodist Meeting House was a crossroad of cultures located on the East Tualatin Plains. Walkways from the Columbia River to the valleys of the Tualatin and Yamhill rivers were animal paths. These paths became trails for the native peoples who lived and hunted in the area for centuries. Among those were the Atfalati.

Plaque #2: Trappers

Trappers and explorers ranged through these verdant lands after 1805. The trails became roads with the arrival of settlers from the east. In 1839, missionaries settled nearby.

In December 1840, three young Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) sisters from the Rocky Mountains and their American mountain man husbands made it to the Tualatin Plains and were joined by other trappers' families.

Among the first to arrive were Joseph and Virginia Meek, Robert and Kitty Newell, and Caleb and Catherine Wilkins. These three sisters brought the skills necessary to establish homes for their families.

Plaque #3: Missionaries and Methodist Meeting House Construction

Jason Lee, a Methodist Missionary, came from the Willamette Valley to preach at camp meetings. The Methodists of the area erected a building in 1844 on the donation land claim of Edward and Brazilla Constable. It was the first place of worship on the East Tualatin Plains, and services were held by a circuit rider preacher. This church was a small building with a belfry, which never held a bell, and served the settlement as a meeting house through 1854. The building was a gathering place for other congregations, Baptist and Congregationalist among them.

Plaque #4: Champoeg Meeting and First Government

On May 2, 1843, the white male settlers of the Willamette Valley and the Tuality Plains, after years of living under the rule of the Hudson's Bay Company, met at Champoeg. Following a debate and recount vote (52-50) in favor of "organization," a historic step toward the establishment of an American provisional government superseding the authority of the Hudson's Bay Company. Joseph Meek's dramatic challenge, calling for the question, forced the issue to a vote. Joseph Meek was appointed the first sheriff of the Oregon Country.

In 1846, the Methodist Meeting House was the seat of the Tuality District government, meetings, elections, and probate court; all this before Portland was established or Oregon was a Territory.

A stockade was built around the Meeting House in 1855 to provide protection from possible attacks, which never came.

Plaque #5: Settlement, Worship, Removal

The overland Oregon Trail brought many settlers who took up donation land claims. The Methodist Meeting House continued as a place of worship and a small burial ground.

Known burials were five children of Joseph L. Meek and his wife Virginia, of the Nez Perce Tribe. Other names and locations are lost to memory.

In 1865, the Methodist people of Hillsboro took the congregation to a new home. The Methodist Meeting House was dismantled and hauled into Hillsboro, where the lumber was used in a new church building.

This site reverted to fields, where farmers raised grain and hay. A one-acre grove of trees, preserved as the former grounds of the Methodist Meeting House, grew into timber over the site during the next 144 years. The trees were logged off in 1988, obliterating all traces of inhabitation.

This Methodist Meeting House Monument was created so that this place and those lives are not forgotten.

View the Methodist Meeting House Monument location on a map.

More information on the history of the Methodist Meeting House can be found in the Hillsboro Cultural Resources Inventory.

Plaque content was researched and submitted by Judith Gates Goldmann, Dirk Knudsen, Virginia Mapes, and Jean Edwards - members of the Hillsboro Historical Society.