The founding members of the Heslin family in this area were John Patrick (J.P.) Heslin (1835-1917) and Drusilla Missouri Dunbar Heslin (1848-1912).
While dates are not currently known, J.P. came West from Virginia to Portland by ship, via San Francisco. Drusilla came to Oregon as a young girl. She traveled the Oregon trail in 1850 with her parents, three siblings and several relatives. (The Dunbars were a founding member of this community and they heavily influenced its history and government life.) In 1864, Drusilla and J.P. married, and they lived most of their lives in the Fairview area.
Like many early Oregon pioneers, the Heslins endured hardships while creating a life for themselves. They had twelve children, all born at home, of whom six passed away in childhood.
John worked on the railroad, farmed, and had a successful lumber business. He also suffered from acute asthma, which sent him over to Eastern Oregon to begin his sawmill. Drusilla, on the hand, suffered from tuberculosis for the last twenty years of her life.
Most of what is known of the Heslin family is through Drusilla’s diary that she started March 3, 1867 with her first entry, “I have been trying to think of the most appropriate way of commencing my Journal, but it is not as easy a matter as I supposed, so I will leave it for present until I can think of something to write about.” Drusilla’s last entry was recorded October 10, 1910, “Elmer Dunbar and wife Estella visited relatives in Fairview today.”
Much of the family’s history is waiting to be researched, though some has also come to us by way of family lore, a booked called “On Duck Lane” by Helen Guyton Rees, and the memories of ECHO volunteers who grew up in the area.
Of the remaining children of J.P. and Drusilla, our primary Heslins and first official residents of the historic home were their eldest son, Edward “Edd”, and his family.
Edd (1866-1956) and Helen Maude Littlepage Heslin (1870-1954) were marred in December 1899, and had four children: John Caryl (b. 1896), Hazel Merle (b. 1899), Edward Harold “Ted” (b. 1905, d. 1991), and Lillian Rose (b. 1908).
Maude worked in the Fairview Post Office seven days a week, and Edd was a successful farmer who served for thirty years in Fairview City Government, thirteen of them as Mayor. Under his leadership, the former City Hall on Fairview Avenue was built (now the location of Handy Park), the town’s first water system was installed, and the Fairview Avenue railroad underpass was built. He lived to be 92.
From an interview by the Gresham Outlook on October, 21, 1954, Edd was quoted; “When I was young I once heard a minister say, ‘If you never take your first drink, you’ll never end in the gutter’, and I believed it to be true.” He also said at the age of 90, “I feel just like I did when I was 20. It’s when I start to get up off from the davenport that I know the difference.”
Of their children, Caryl, Ted, and Lillian all went to college and earned a degree. Caryl chose a degree in agriculture, Ted chose a degree in Pharmacy, and Lillian also chose agriculture. She was the youngest graduate at all three of her schooling institutions, and Caryl also served in World War I. Merle chose to work in Seattle where she met her husband and married. The two boys lived most their lives in Fairview, while the girls lived out of state. Ted was the last Heslin to live in the house until his death in 1991. Neither he, nor his brother Caryl, had any children. Lillian Rose was the last of the Heslins to pass, and she lived to the grand age of 104.
You can still find Heslins and Dunbars in the local area, and they still support ECHO’s efforts to save a piece of their family’s history.