In 1852, Sarah and Richard Whitten left Cincinnati, Ohio and came to Oregon with the wagon train. Richard had a Donation Land Claim and they settled in Rosemont. In 1856, Richard drowned above the Oregon City Falls. Later that year, Sarah met and wed Franklin Ford. Mr. Ford had also arrived in Oregon with the wagon train. He was the widowed father of two daughters and Sarah was now a widow with three sons. (almost the "Brady Bunch") Franklin moved onto the Land Claim and started farming. Together, he and Sarah had five more sons and one daughter. Franklin was also a County Commissioner, a veteran of the Rogue River Indian Wars, and a delegate to the Oregon Republican Convention. The land he and Sarah shared their life on and the land Oswego Hills Winery sits on are one in the same.
A Czech-republic immigrant from Prague, Mr. James Spousta purchased this farm in 1915-1920. He worked at a foundry in Portland owned by a Mr. K.B. Hall who was reported to have government contracts to build parts for liberty ships during WWII. Sometime in the early 1940’s Mr. Hall purchased the farm from his employee, Mr. Spousta. K.B. Hall built the farm into a world-class equestrian center that hosted the likes of Roy Rogers’ Trigger and Buttercup during their trips to the northwest. Sometime in the mid to late 1950’s a lumber baron and his family, the Morley’s purchased the farm, then approximately 125 acres in size. Their home was built on the hilltop to the west of the barns. Mrs. Morley was still living there when we purchased the 36 acres, the barns and the original Spousta house from her daughter, Elizabeth Douris.
The property was purchased in December 1996. We lived within a half-mile of the farm for the twenty-five years prior and had admired the property for all of those years. It was an equestrian center with tremendous white barns, lots of horses and activity, and a big part of why we liked living in this area. Located half way between Lake Oswego and West Linn, it is within a mile and a half of either city center, yet in a quiet rural setting. Jerry Marshall, the owner, was an airline pilot with American Airlines for all those years and always had the desire to live once again on a working farm, after having been raised on one in West Pennsylvania. He retired from the airline December of 2000. We have been working diligently since the property was purchased to restore it to a measure of its original majesty.
When we took the place over, all the buildings, fences and pastures were in a state of gross neglect. The former owners and tenants had chosen the ongoing deferred maintenance program rather than annual upkeep and repair. Several of the broken down outbuildings were completely engulfed by blackberries, as were 10 to15 acres of the pastures. There were spots where in the winter we could walk on matted berry vines and be 3 to 5 feet off the ground. With the use of heavy machinery and hard work we planted our present vineyard in the spring of 1997. Although the structures were in a state of total disrepair, the high quality of the original materials and the construction expertise were and are evident as we continue to restore the structures for our purpose as a winery.
During our investigation of the farm’s history we visited with Mrs. Rose Mcvay living in Lake Grove, one of the four children of James Spousta , the original owner and foundry worker. She claimed that her father grew 9 acres of grapes on the hills south of the barns with good success. This was demonstrated by the wine he made and stored in the basement of the house during the late 1920’s through the early 1940’s. Our vineyard has been in the ground since 1997 and the site seems exceptional as a vineyard site with southern exposures ranging from SE to SW.
Our plan is to continue the rehab process of the buildings; there are seven original structures and they are all being incorporated into the winery layout. The architecture of the buildings and especially their layout relative to each other has proven to be superb for our use as a modern but nostalgic boutique winery and vineyard. We completed planting the vineyard in 2008 and now have 20 acres of vines in production. This translates into 2000 cases of premium quality Oregon wine each year.