Elizabeth Lambert Wood was an early Oregon writer whose books were widely read during her lifetime. Binford and Mort, a Portland Publishing Company now located in Hillsboro, Oregon, published the books. Elizabeth was born in 1874, the ninth of ten children, to Joseph and Clementine Lambert. She would have had a comfortable childhood being the daughter of Joseph Lambert who as early as 1858 was active in civic affairs in his adopted Oregon. He served as county commissioner both in Multnomah and Clackamas counties, helped establish and served as president of the Citizens Bank of Portland and was a founding member of the Oregon Horticultural Society. As a nurseryman he was well known for developing the widely popular Lambert cherry.
Her early writing was done for the Pacific Monthly in Portland. Her first books were adventure stories, the “Oregon Wilderness Series” written for young boys. Most of her writings reflect her own life experiences living in the Northwest and Arizona and her interest in the local histories of these areas. She is credited with writing the first book on Peter French, a fictional account of his life titled “Peter French: Cattle King.” Samplings of her books include: “There Go The Apaches”, “Many Horses”, “Mansions In The Cascades”, and “Silver House On Klone Chuck.” The most well known of her novels, “Tragedy Of The Powers Mine,” is based upon a real event which occurred in Arizona on February 9th, 1918 when a gunfight erupted between members of the Power family and a local sheriff.
Elizabeth married William L. Wood, a physician who practiced in Portland. In 1901 William and Elizabeth traveled to the southwest to find a climate more conducive to improving Williams declining health. The Woods purchased a ranch outside of Tucson Arizona where they lived off and on until his death in 1923. Elizabeth continued to move between Arizona and the Northwest the rest of her life basing many of her books on the land and cultures of both regions.
According to an early addition of Polk’s Portland City Directory, the Wood’s first home in Garden Home was on the corner of Stewart and Ostander. They later settled in a home in the Hunt Club area. The couple had two children, a son Lambert and a daughter, Helen Henrietta. Helen had recently married when the Woods were notified that Lambert had been killed in action in France during the first allied offensive of WWI. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation stated that “With entire disregard for personal danger, Lieutenant Wood passed through heavy artillery fire with a message to stop misdirected supporting artillery fire, which fire imperiled the safely of his organization. He was killed near Soissons while leading his machine-gun platoon on a flank movement against an enemy group which was enfilading our advancing infantry line on July 15, 1918. Emergency address: Mrs. Lambert Wood, mother, Garden Home, Oregon.”
The John Grant family was living on 78th Avenue at this time. As related in TRACES OF THE PAST by Virginia Mapes and Jill MacWilliams, Paul Grant remembers overhearing a conversation toward the end of the war between his mother and Elizabeth. Elizabeth had come to visit and “ I was playing under the front porch when Mrs. Elizabeth Lambert Wood who lived in the Hunt Club area called on mother. As it was a hot day they sat on the porch and I learned that Mrs. Wood wanted to change the name of Garden Home to Lambert Wood to honor her son who had been killed in Germany. Mother didn’t want to hurt her feelings but didn’t sign the petition and apparently not many people did as the name was never changed.”
Dr. Wood died in 1923 of what appears to have been Tuberculosis. After Dr. Wood’s death their daughter Helen and her husband were divorced. Supposedly hoping to recover from these personal misfortunes Helen embarked on a long sea voyage. While sailing through the Indian Ocean Helen was reported lost overboard. A son named Lambert in memory of his uncle survived her. Young Lambert was then about 5 years of age. Within a decade Elizabeth had lost her husband and both of her children. The young grandson was adopted and raised by Elizabeth. Lambert joined the Army Air Force in WWII. Tragically he was killed while stationed in Texas when the fighter plane he was piloting crashed. The home on Hunt Club Lane burned sometime before 1940 leaving nothing but a large hole where the basement had been.
Now a grown man, Paul Grant bought the property, filled in the hole and built a house there for his own family. His daughter, Kathy attended Garden Home School growing up in that house and living there until she married Carl Hanson in 1958. Kathy remembers that Elizabeth came as a guest and presented the young couple a wedding gift of five autographed copies of her books.
Elizabeth continued to write and publish throughout the rest of her life. She died, aged 88, in 1962 and is buried next to William at Riverview Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.
Virginia Vanture, June 21, 2010
Lambert File, Oregon Historical Society.
Faces Of The West , Elizabeth Lambert Wood, 1952, Bindford & Mort
Faces Of The West, flyleaf, Elizabeth Lambert Wood, 1952, Binford & Mort
Oregon Boys In The War, letters compiled by Mrs. Frank Wilmot, 1918.
Traces Of The Past, Virginia Mapes and Jill McWilliams, 1984, page 182 (According to the Department of the Army citation Lambert Wood was actually killed in France.)
Email correspondence with Kathy Grant Hanson, February 12, 2010