By Liza J. Schade, Washington County Museum Curator
Lester and Margaret Mooberry literally taught generations of children in Washington County, serving at schools in Cornelius and Hillsboro for 43 and 45 years! Here is an account of the couple, according to what I could find in our archive, from documents they left behind, photos, news articles and obituaries.
Lester Mooberry was born on Easter in 1887 in Illinois, third and youngest son of George and Mary Mooberry. He points out in his autobiographical book called The Gray Nineties, that his father moved the family to Oregon in 1889 to escape the extremes of Midwest weather. George Mooberry bought a forty acre farm at Fern Hill, a mile west of Cornelius, and they planted a prune orchard for a time (a crop which he struggled to sell, even in Portland). George Mooberry and sons worked the farm and supplemented income with local labor.
Hard economic times in the 1890s eventually forced a foreclosure on Fern Hill however, and they moved to the old Davis farm nearby, to help to run it with Henry Hendricks. This was a blessing in disguise for the Mooberry kids, who got to enjoy better hunting and fishing grounds. The children attended school at Cornelius and Gaston, and then Lester went to Oregon College of Education and University of Oregon.
On October 13, 1905, at only eighteen years old, Lester began teaching in the one room Witch Hazel schoolhouse for $35 per month. Amazingly, WCM has a handwritten account by Lester, in which he describes how he got the job, his first day with the children, what the schoolhouse was like and stories about students, the weather, and events. He commented, “This was what I had been asking for, a dream realized, a hope fulfilled. Here is where I would fail or succeed as a teacher and I must not fail.” Lester went on to teach at Johnson, Farmington View, Iowa Hill, and Haywood. He left a principal position at Cornelius for short time to work at a local bank, but returned to become principal of David Hill School, staying there until his retirement in 1955.
Lester was also a local historian; he wrote many histories that can be referenced by the public in our Washington County Museum archive. The “Mooberry Papers” are really a treasure trove of information about Washington County. There are small journals filled with handwritten notes by Lester about all topics of local history, from schools to cemeteries to town sites and anything in between. There are typed speeches he gave at various events. He and Margaret also gave WCM about 100 historic photographs of local towns, people, and schools. Between 1959 and 1966, Lester also wrote articles for the Hillsboro Argus, all of which we have in the archive as well, with an included index.
Margaret Mann Mooberry was born in Hillsboro to Grant and Martha Mann in 1892. Census records show that her father was a local farmer, but he may have also been a postmaster at Rose, Oregon in 1903. He and Martha had seven children, Margaret and Mattie, and the boys Grant Jr., Joseph, William, Ray, and Loyal. The year 1920 was a sad time for the family, as Mr. Mann was committed to the Oregon Insane Asylum (in Salem) for “acting very erratic for several years,” according to his wife Martha’s testimony to a local judge. The Argus even reported that he escaped for a time, but was caught in Mulino, Oregon a week later and returned to the asylum. Then the Hillsboro Argus reports that in October of the same year, the Mann’s lost their four year old son Grant Jr. to a “lung abscess.” It is a mystery as to whether or not his own father knew of his death. The child was buried at the Odd Fellows.
Census records show Margaret only had a high school sophomore education, but she ended up attending Oregon College of Education. It is unclear whether she had to do any prerequisite work to begin attendance, but she could possibly have tested in at the time, without the need to update her lower education. She became a teacher in Hillsboro and Cornelius along with her husband and served eight years as principal of Peter Boscow School (which originally opened in 1912).
Margaret and Lester married on June 29, 1921 at Cornelius Methodist Church, where they regularly attended, and the new couple continued their local teaching careers. They never had children of their own, but they definitely earned the love and respect of children all around the area. Margaret also served on many committees and had membership in the Retired Teachers Association, Hillsboro Garden Club, David Hill DAR, Hillsboro Coffee Club and many other community service capacities. Lester was also member of Retired Teachers, as well as Knights of Pythias, and the Cornelius Boosters Club.
In 1963, Mooberry Elementary School was named Lester and Margaret, who continued to teach local history at events and programs, as well as write about local history. They had their golden anniversary in 1971 and passed away within months of one another in 1977, Lester on Christmas Day. They are buried together at Cornelius Methodist Cemetery.
In 1969, while writing a history on Glencoe, Lester responded to a letter sent to him containing reminiscences about the McKay family. He wrote, “Writers often come to the museum to do research and it may be that someday some historian may discover the historic value of your material and give it the place it deserves.” It is such an honor to be that historian today.