Expedition & Founding History

Establishing a community

Oliver Perry Lent & Martha Almira (Buckley) Lent

Oliver Perry Lent was born near Marietta, Ohio on August 31, 1830. His wife, Martha Almira (Buckley) Lent was born at Parkersburg, Virginia on March 19, 1833 and was left an orphan in her early childhood. They were married in West Virginia in 1851, traveled back to Ohio, and soon thereafter joined a wagon train bound for California in 1852. 

Along the journey, Mrs. Lent gave birth to a child which was stillborn and was buried beside the trail. Reports were received that many people were dying of Cholera along the emigrant trail, so the train was split up, half taking the trail to California and the rest, of which the Lents were part, taking the Oregon trail. They were still planning to go to California, but by way of the Willamette Valley. 

At Troutdale, just east of Portland, she gave birth to a son, George Perley, and suffered from childbed fever. The family eventually settled on a tract of land called Richey Valley in the town of Sycamore, present-day Pleasant Valley, located approximately three miles east of present-day Lents. Shortly afterward, Oliver and Martha each took up a donation land claim (DLC) of 320 acres in the Sycamore area, and built a cabin there where they lived for some years. 

Having been trained as a carpenter and stonemason as a young man, Oliver secured employment in Portland cutting stone blocks for the old Oregon State Penitentiary (then on Portland’s Front Street), the foundations of the old Portland Courthouse, the Post Office at Sixth & Morrison, and numerous other homes and businesses.

In 1866 Lent sold this land claim and purchased a 190-acre farmstead about one-half mile outside of the Portland city limits called Cason Prairie, named after early pioneer William Cason* whose 320 acre DLC this was part of.

Johnson Township map

At this time the land was still populated by local native people and had abundant wildlife. Lent built his residence in the wilderness at what would later be 10123 SE Foster Road. It was here that Lent became known as an authority on farming and ranching on the land that would later bear his name. The Lents and neighboring families began building a community and the components of a self-sustaining town.

William Johnson (1801 – 1879), his wife Elisabeth, and their four sons (Ezra, Jacob, Jasper, John) and four daughters (Mary, Martha, Miriam, Ellen) came to Oregon from Ohio by covered wagon in 1846 first settling in Oregon City. In 1849, the couple took up a 640 acre land claim bounded by present-day SE 82nd Ave, 122nd, Duke, and Clatsop. The Johnsons were the first to take up a claim in the area of the creek (then called Milwaukie Creek) that would later bear the family name. Also, present day Woodstock Blvd, east of 92nd Ave was initially named Johnson Ave. William started a sawmill on the creek in 1852 which was a good source of employment for the town. William’s gravestone in Oregon City shows that he was also a reverend as was his father Eleazar and his brother Hezekiah. The town is said to have received its name because of a coin flip between William Johnson and O. P. Lent. Lent won the name of the town and Johnson, the name of the creek.

William Johnson grave
Jacob Johnson

Jacob Johnson, (Dec 20, 1828 – Jan 24, 1901) son of William and Elisabeth Johnson, was born in Highland County, Ohio and came to Oregon with his parents and siblings. After living in Oregon City with his family, he moved to Portland for a while where he attended the Portland Academy and was married to Martha Lee in 1858. In 1861 the Johnsons moved back to Lents on Jacob’s parent’s homestead and later each took up a DLC further up the creek to the east. Jacob was a farmer and for many years served as School Director, as well as a Representative in the Legislature from Multnomah County. Jacob and Martha had a son and four daughters. Their grave marker reads Oregon Pioneers for whom Johnson Creek was named.

Thomas Waterman Gates (1821-1878) and his wife Cynthia, came by covered wagon to Oregon in 1847. They took up a 640-acres DLC in 1852. The claim surrounds present-day Lents Park and is bounded by SE Powell, Woodstock, 82nd, and 97th, and including a 40-acre piece n ear Powell from 97th to 102nd avenues. 95th Ave, south of Foster Rd was previously named Gates St.

William J Campbell came across the plains in 1849 with his parents, and in the 1880s William acquired a 160-acre homestead bounded by present-day Southeast 82nd, 92nd, Woodstock Boulevard, and Flavel Street. Also a prominent member of the community, 93rd Ave was named Campbell Street in the town plat map.

Cynthia Waterman Gates
Plympton Kelly

Plympton Kelly (Sept 7, 1828 – Sept 15, 1896) was born near Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky, crossed the plains with his father, Clinton, in 1848 and took his Donation Land Claim in 1850. On July 4, 1864, he married Elizabeth A. Clark. Plypmton lived in Lents throughout his life with the exception of the winter of 1855 and 1856, when he fought in the Yakima War and the two years he was captain of a steamboat (the Independence) running on the Columbia and Willamette River. He followed in his father’s footsteps serving as a Methodist minister and was the School Superintendent in Lents from 1878-1883 . Kelly Butte, being partly located on the Kelly land claim, was given the family name. His father Clinton, a prominent voice in the southeast Portland area, is the namesake for Clinton Kelly Elementary as well as the old Clinton High School (present day Cleveland HS), SE Clinton St, and Clinton Park in the South Tabor Neighborhood.

William Kern (1813 – 1895) was born in Pennsylvania, married Mary Ann Shull in 1834, moved to Illinois, and had four children there (Emma, John William, Camelia, and Thomas). In 1851, the family came across the plains to Oregon, arriving in December. In February 1854, they settled on their DLC, 320 acres bounded by present-day 72nd, 82nd, Powell Blvd, and Harold. In 1855 Mr Kern ran for Multnomah County Commissioner, lost, ran again in 1862 and won. The Kerns had two more children, Eldon Augustus, and Lilly W in 1859. A year later, Kern initiated the establishment of the first school in the Lents area and the creation of School District 12 because he worried that his children were endangered by falling timber on their daily walks to the school at Mount Tabor. In 1862 the Kerns sold two acres of their DLC to School District No 12 for the token amount of $1.

William Kern grave
George P. Lent

George P. Lent (Nov 1, 1852 – Nov 9, 1935) the eldest son of Oliver and Martha, graduated from Corvallis Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) in 1876 with the degree of Bachelor of Science. In 1881 he married Mary M. Johnson, daughter of Jacob and Martha Johnson.  In 1896 he graduated from the University of Oregon law school with a degree of LL.B and was admitted to the bar at Salem the same year. He practiced law for many years in Portland and for two years was school clerk and road supervisor. Lent was a Charter member of Mount Tabor Masonic lodge and Royal Arch chapter, and of Evening Star grange, United Artisans, Portland Commercial Club, and the Portland Chamber of Commerce.  He had four sons, George B. Lent, Frank B. Lent, Perley B. Lent, and Kenneth Lent.

Oliver and Martha had 12 children. Two died at childbirth, two sons died of diphtheria in 1863, and nine lived to maturity**. Like their parents, many of them were instrumental in developing their community. In addition to raising the children, Martha carried on Sunday School work for many years in the neighborhood with her relative, Reverend Plympton Kelly. Buckley Ave, present day SE 122nd Ave, was named after Martha’s family name.

Throughout Oliver’s professional and service career he contributed broadly to his community. In 1868, the Lents donated a patch of ground near their residence on 100th Ave and Foster Rd and a one room school house was built there. In 1883 Oliver established a sawmill at 92nd Avenue and Johnson Creek, where he gave employment to many early settlers. He used bulls to move the logs and his main product was plank for the roads of Portland.

In 1886 Oliver established the first post office and mail route which extended to the foot of the Cascade Mountains. His daughter, Mrs. Emma McGrew, served as the first Postmistress and ran the office out of her own residence until 1889 when it was moved to the I. F. Coffman*** General Merchandise store on the northeast corner of Main St (92nd Ave) and Foster Road.

In 1888 he helped found Multnomah Park Cemetery along with his son George P. Lent, Gustaf Petersen, Robert Gilbert, and William Kern.

Oliver and his son George were both instrumental in extending the interurban railway out of Portland into Lents which opened on June 17, 1892. The line ran from central Portland via Hawthorne Boulevard, south down 50th Ave, then east out to Lents.

Oliver P. Lent
George P. Lent

In addition to Oliver’s list of founding contributions he held the office of Justice of the Peace, Road Supervisor, and several times served as Master of the Grange. In his years of service to education he took on the role of School Director and later was Clerk of the School Board. Lent was also a member of the Woodmen of the World fraternal organization, and a member of the Unitarian Universalist faith. Though a Unionist during the Civil War and an admirer of Lincoln, he became a staunch Democrat after the war and ran unsuccessfully for state senate in 1892.

In 1889, Oliver sold his farm in Lents, retired, and he and Martha moved to Mount Tabor. He died at his home on April 22, 1899, Martha passing six years later on April 5, 1905.

On August 17, 1892, after purchasing adjacent land from the Gates, George P. Lent, an attorney and eldest son of Oliver P. and Martha A. Lent, platted and registered the Town of Lent with the county recorder. The official town boundaries were set at Foster Rd to the north, (present day) Tolman to the south, Oregon City Rd (present day 92nd) on the west, and Agate St (present day 97th) to the east.

The Town of Lent Plat Map

* Cason came to Oregon in 1843 and was the first man to take a DLC in the vicinity. The land was later purchased by another early settler, James Stephens, who came to Oregon in 1845, started and operated one of the first ferries across the Willamette River, and whose father was the first burial at Portland’s Lone Fir Cemetery. Stephens eventually bought up 1900 acres of east side land to sell to settlers of which 190 acres was sold to Lent for $3500. Present day 96th Ave, in the original town plat map is named Cason Street.

** George Perley Lent (1852 -1935), William M Lent (1853 – 1863), Emma L Lent McGrew (1853 -1927), Fremont L Lent (1856 -1932), Charles P Lent (1861 -1863), Ella Lent Whitlock (1863 -1938), Oscar Eugene Lent (1865 – 1941), Rosetta Ann Lent Evans (1867 – 1921), Elizabeth Judith Lent Wood (1873 – 1955), Oliver Winthrop Lent (1875-1944)

*** Isaiah Frank Coffman (1860 – 1931) and his wife Clara B. (1861 – 1927) were the owners and operators of the I. F. Coffman General Merchandise store on the northeast corner of 92nd and Foster Road which was the first store in what would become Lents. Coffman was such a central figure in the Lents business community that he was cordially known around town as “Mayor of Lents” though there was no official position for that title.