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‘Pioneers’ celebrate deep family roots

Joanne Brewer and John Lundell were named as Wasco County Pioneer Association's 2018 Pioneer Woman and Man of the Year, Saturday, May 5, 2018 at the annual meeting held at Fort Dalles Readiness Center.

Photo courtesy Susan Buce
Joanne Brewer and John Lundell were named as Wasco County Pioneer Association's 2018 Pioneer Woman and Man of the Year, Saturday, May 5, 2018 at the annual meeting held at Fort Dalles Readiness Center.

Wasco County Pioneer Association named the 2018 Pioneers of the Year — John Lundell and Joanne Brewer — Saturday at its 96th annual meeting at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center.

Attendees had a rare opportunity to view 80 of the association's collection of over 250 picture boards.

Following the traditional salmon luncheon, the meeting was opened by outgoing President, Myron Egbert. After the election of officers, historian Carolyn Wood announced the selection of John Lundell as Wasco County Pioneer Association's 2018 Pioneer Man of the Year, and Joanne Brewer as 2018 Pioneer Woman of the Year.

John Lundell

John Lundell can trace his history to 1066 when William the Conqueror invaded England. His ancestors lived on the Welch-English border and sailed on the “Lions Whelp” to Stonington, Conn., in 1630. DAR records indicate family connections to Martha Washington and Ulysses S. Grant.

Over the next 300 years, Lundell's ancestors migrated west to Illinois. In 1869, they were in Missouri and Kansas. They took part in the 1903 Oklahoma Land Rush, then moved on to Wyoming. His Davis grandparents came to Idaho, then to Goldendale and Lyle, where they farmed.

In 1923, his mother’s family moved across the Columbia River to work for the Union Pacific Railroad, bucking ties.

John’s father emigrated from Sweden.

When he reached New York, the quota was full, so he accepted an offer to work in timber in British Columbia until there was an opening to the United States. He arrived from Vancouver B.C. in the early 1920s and came to The Dalles to work in at the tie plant. Here, John’s mother, Beulah Davis, met and later married Harold Lundell.

Lundell grew up and attended school in The Dalles where he played trombone in the band, as well as in his own dance band. He participated in school politics and sports. He started playing basketball on a neighborhood dirt lot with his friends. They were part of the winning The Dalles High basketball team that went to the state tournament in 1953.

He graduated from the University of Oregon with a business degree. A very good athlete, he played on the university baseball and basketball teams. He married his childhood sweetheart, Donna Lee, in 1955 and joined the family plumbing business. They had two children.

Donna, from another pioneer family, passed away suddenly in 2008.

Lundell was elected mayor of the city of The Dalles and served from 1978 to 1984. His strong interest in history led him to publish his first book, “The Governmental History of Wasco County,” in 1970.

The second book that he wrote was a history of “Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church 1972” for its 75th anniversary. After he retired, he played a lot of golf with his friends.

In 2009, he compiled, wrote and published “History of School Districts & School Houses in Wasco County.”

Lundell remains the active go-to guy for answers to question about local history. He serves on the board of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum. He is a Wasco County Pioneer and member of the Wasco County Historical Society.

Joanne Brewer

Joanne Emerson Brewer's great-great-grandfather, Lorenzo Emerson, came west on the Oregon Trail in 1852 before going on to California.

His son, Chet, was born in 1854 at Angels Camp, Calif. Chet came to Oregon as a blacksmith and worked on a sheep shearing crew between Mexico and Canada.

He liked what he saw and returned to settle in Wasco County in 1880 with his wife and two children. He worked as a blacksmith for the new railroad being built along the Columbia River.

In 1883 he moved his family to the 120 acres he purchased on Fifteen Mile Creek. The family expanded the farm by purchasing adjacent land until 1900. The Emerson family concentrated on maintaining the quality of the soil by limiting tilling and by not burning the stubble each year as was customary in that time.

They added diversion ditches and dams to retain moisture and limit erosion. Since 2004, Joanne’s son, David, and family, the 5th generation, continues the no-till conservation farming methods to replenish the soil and retain moisture on the farm.

Joanne Emerson was born and attended school in The Dalles.

She married Robert Brewer and they began working for the Emerson Brothers when she graduated from Oregon State in 1959. They moved to the homestead in 1967 and raised three children.

Joanne wore many hats, teaching in Dufur before the children were born. She was a farmer and bookkeeper, 4-H leader and 4-H fair judge. In the 1980s, she worked in the county clerk’s office and later owned and operated Columbia Clothing in addition to being a wife, mother and grandmother.

In retirement, Brewer still lives and helps on the century family farm and continues to give to the county as past-president of the Wasco County Pioneer Association and Wasco County Historical Society. She was also a church nursery volunteer, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center library volunteer, bridge player, concert-goer, and world traveler.

Wasco County Pioneer Association holds its annual meeting the first Saturday in May.

Anyone with an interest in local history may become a member. For more information, contact Carolyn Wood at 541- 296-8052 or visit


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