The History of Our Beautiful Farm
GeerCrest's known history starts with when Ralph and Mary Geer arrived in the Willamette Vally. They established their homestead on 640 acres in the spring of 1848. Theirs was the second land claim awarded in Oregon. The house was finished in 1851. The farm became an important nursery during the establishment of the fruit industry in the Willamette Valley. Some heritage trees from that time still remain. To date, it is the oldest farmhouse in the state of Oregon with an original family member still living on the property.
The farm was home to:
- LB Geer, state commissioner of lands in 1900
- Pearl Geer, former president of the American Secular Union, co-founder of the Liberal University and later a nationally recognized actor of stage and film
- Theodore Thurston Geer (T.T. Geer), first native born governor of Oregon
- Musa Geer, first woman to climb Mt. Jefferson and among a small group of female American entrepreneurs at the time
- Homer Davenport, who became a well-known political cartoonist, was responsible for the first direct importation of Bedouin horses to the Unites States and wrote the book "The Country Boy" which imparts his life growing up in the Waldo Hills and Silverton, OR.
These were people who, by pursuing their dreams helped shape our nation. They pioneered the nursery industry, short horn cattle, hops, flax, and merino sheep in the Willamette Valley. Ralph Geer helped bring the first railroad into the valley and meetings were held in the Geer farmhouse that brought about the formation of the Oregon Republican Party in the 1850's, the party that stood against slavery. The Willard women's Club met for the first time in the kitchen of the farm house in 1913 - and continued to use it as one of its gathering places until 2008.
Today, with two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and an Oregon Heritage Tree on the site, GeerCrest has passed to the fifth generation, Jim and Erika Toler. As the probable last generation of family stewards of GeerCrest, they are focused on preserving this cultural resource for future generations. They wish to preserve and pass on something else. In our rush to embrace a better future, we have lost something of our past, and this is, our connectedness to the land, family, and place. We call this life style agrarian culture and that is what is lived and taught at GeerCrest.