Fort Yamhill, Polk County, Oregon
Fort Yamhill sits in Polk County, just a few miles east of Spirit Mountain Casino, and an easy day trip from Portland. It gets it’s name from the South Fork of the Yamhill River, which was named after a tribe of local Native Americans in the area – the Kalapuya or more commonly and familiarly spelled here in Oregon, Calapooya. Many of them were moved to the Grand Ronde Reservation in 1855.
At the request of Joel Palmer, who was Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the time, the Fort was built in 1856 to keep Indians on the reservation. It’s location on top of a hill, along the Killimuck, was extremely advantageous for this reason. Realistically it protected the Indians from the Settlers more then it protected the Settlers from the Indians.
During the American Civil War it was fortified by Union Volunteers from California. One of the most famous Oregon History books, All Quiet on the Yamhill: The Civil War in Oregon, was written by Lieutenant Royal A. Bensell, who was stationed here during that time. It’s probably one of the best first hand accounts of early Oregon, and the only one directly related to Military life during the Civil War in Oregon.
Until very recently the location was on private property. It became open to the public in 2006 and is now an official Oregon State Park. Lieutenant Bensell mentioned the Oregon Weather more then once, especially the low laying fog and rain. I fortunately, or unfortunately encountered the same on the day I was there. The picture above is standing about where the Officers Barracks were, looking south to the flag pole. Bensell mentioned this exactly, only being able to see as far as the flagpole from the front porch of his Barracks .
Here is a map in the park, based on the original Quarter Master’s sketches. The Officers Barracks were at the North side of the Fort, at the top of the hill. On the west side were the enlisted Barracks, and the important buildings were on the east end.
It is said that General Philip H. Sheridan was stationed here as a Lieutenant and that this building was his barracks. It was moved to the southern end of the Fort when all the Fort’s buildings were auctioned off in 186.6 The back portion was added on to to become a farm house. It, along with the original Blockhouse that has been moved to Dayton Oregon are all that remains of the Fort. Unfortunately, this is more then remains of any of the other dozen forts in Oregon except for Fort Stevens of course. Fort Hoskins comes in a close third. It’s currently being deconstructed, and sounds like it will most likely be moved back to it’s original position in the future by the Park Service.