When the topic of ‘thing- and place names’ around Hillsboro is broached, one of the more common to arise in discussion is Shute. More specifically, Shute Park and Shute Road. “Are they named after the same person?” and “Why are two things with the same name located so far from each other?” are oft-heard queries. This installment of What’s in a Name? (an occasional series of the Hillsboro Herald) will explore this subject.
John Wright Shute was born in Montgomery County, New York in 1840. There, he grew up on the family farm. He traveled to the Oregon Territory via New York City, Panama, and San Francisco, arriving at Portland in 1858. Before long, at the hopeful port and townsite of Springville (on the west bank of the Willamette River near today’s St. Johns Bridge), Shute partnered with C. B. Comstock and Lafayette Scoggin in a mercantile and warehousing business. John did quite well in the partnership and, about a year later, sold his interest and moved to the Tualatin Plains where he found work on James Chambers’ farm.
The neighboring donation land claim to the south of James Chambers’ belonged to Edward and Brazilla Constable. Like the Chambers, the Constables had been first wave European American settlers and staked their claim in the 1840s. The side by side land claims are likely how John Shute became acquainted with Edward and Brazilla Constable’s daughter, Elizabeth (“Lizzie”). The two were married in 1866.
As a wedding gift, Lizzie’s parents gave the newlywed couple 80 acres of their donation land claim to farm. Both the farm and John and Lizzie’s family flourished. Three children were born between 1867 and 1875: Lewis (who appears to have gone by his middle name, Edward), Mattie, and Arthur. At least one account claims there was a fourth child. This offspring’s name may have been Ira.
The Shute farm’s success enabled the purchase of more real estate over time, expanding the Shutes’ agricultural holdings. At one point, John W. Shute was thought to own more than 800 acres. Around 1890, the Shutes had a new residence built on their property. The house (along with a big, red barn and other historic farmstead outbuildings) still stands at 4825 NE Starr Boulevard and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. Following the Shute residency, occupants and stewards of the landmark included the Meierjurgen family and the Ray and Carol Haag family.
Due to the Shute family’s vast land at this locale, the pioneer road running past—connecting Cornell Road to the south with the Helvetia district to the north—came to be known as Shute Road. Today, the southernmost segment of this road-turned-city street (between NE Cornell Road and Brookwood Parkway) continues to bear the Shute name. The rest of the historic right-of-way, stretching from NE Evergreen Road northward to the U.S. Highway 26 overcrossing where it becomes Helvetia Road, was renamed Brookwood Parkway (in connection with the construction of the Dawson Creek Business Park during the late 1980s). The business park’s street layout redirected Shute Road’s course just south of the intersection with Evergreen Road. Until that point in time, Shute Road ran a continuous, straight path from Cornell Road to the highway.
As John W. Shute’s wealth increased, his activities expanded beyond farming alone. An interest in a mine at Sparta, Oregon (Baker County) was an early personal investment. Then, in 1888, with capital of $50,000, Shute founded the first bank in Washington County. The First National Bank of Hillsboro was housed in a one-story, brick building with an ornate, Victorian façade, commissioned by John in the same year. The structure still stands at 253 E. Main Street—albeit with an altered front—and today’s Hillsboroites know it by the names Town and Venetian Theatres.
Although John W. Shute retained much of his agricultural real estate for ongoing investment revenue, the business of banking and finance quickly replaced active farming as his primary occupation. Shute’s prominence in both Hillsboro and countywide business circles can’t be overstated. Over a period of 30 years, the discovery of John Shute’s involvement in any given mortgage, business ownership, real estate speculation and development project, or other capitalistic enterprise would surprise no one. During the latter portion of Shute’s life, he was very likely the wealthiest person at Hillsboro. If not, he was undoubtedly nipping at the heels of whomever occupied the top spot.
Sadly, the domestic tranquility of the Shute household didn’t enjoy the same success as Mr. Shute’s business endeavors. In 1896, Lizzie Shute sued her husband for failure to file divorce papers. The following year, John and a woman named Mary Emma Smith were wed. John was 57 and Mary was 19 so one can imagine, around Hillsboro, there was probably no shortage of sidelong looks and whispered commentary. John and Mary Shute’s union would produce three children: a son, Henry (who appears to have gone by his middle name, Tracy), and twin daughters, Marion and Mary. A fourth child who lived only one day may have been born in 1916.
While not confirmed fact, more than one historian’s biographical narrative has been crafted to convey a subtle impression that John Shute may have felt an urge to bolster his public image following his second wedding. The soft-spoken assertion is made in light of the ‘good works’ subsequently undertaken by the man. For example, John Shute donated the parcel of land for construction of the first St. Matthews Catholic Church building (1902). Also, over the many years John Shute owned the first Hillsboro Grange Building on Main Street, he allowed the Grange fraternal organization (the prior owner) to continue using its upstairs meeting hall rent free. The capstone of John W. Shute’s legacy, however, came about in 1906 when he enabled Hillsboro to gain its first municipal park by selling the 13 acres of land to the City for substantially less than market value. The bargain price was offered and accepted with the proviso that the resulting facility at SE 10th Avenue and Maple Street would be named Shute Park.
Of course, it’s equally possible Mr. Shute made the benevolent contributions to his community with no ulterior motive. This article should not be construed as discounting that possibility.
The namesake park isn’t the last of the marks left on Hillsboro by John W. Shute to remain to this day. The 1911 American National Bank Building (known colloquially as the “Shute Bank Building”) still stands proudly at 276 E. Main Street. The Chicago style commercial structure was built in conjunction with John’s retirement from banking and would house the American National Bank, the new name for his reorganized firm which he passed to his son, Arthur. As a side note, this son’s occupational choice wasn’t the only way in which he followed in his father’s footsteps. You see, John had served on the city council in the past and as a county commissioner. Arthur would also contribute politically, serving as Hillsboro’s mayor from 1921 to 1924.
Another piece of the Shute legacy is a handsome Second Empire style house at 2140 E. Main Street. The dwelling sits on land known to have been owned by John Shute during the 1890s when the structure was built and it was likely commissioned by him to be his residence when he and Lizzie split up.
The house on Main Street wouldn’t be John Shute’s last, though. In 1910, he and Mary had a large, modern, and—by contemporary Hillsboro standards—opulent home constructed on a sprawling estate located closer to town. The Craftsman style domicile was built of ‘Miracle Blocks,’ mold-cast concrete units that look like rough-hewn stone blocks. Another distinguishing feature, many of the residence’s windows contained leaded and beveled glass. This house, where the Shutes would live until John’s death in 1922, still stands today at 210 SE 12th Avenue.