Fanno family biography

Fanno is an important name here in our southwest Portland community. The Fanno Creek Trail follows the historic Oregon Electric Railroad track bed that crosses Fanno Creek. The trail then connects to the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District’s (THPRD) path which leads to Greenway Park, adjacent to the Fanno Farmhouse at 8405 SW Creekside Place, Beaverton, OR 97008. This is the oldest existing house in the city of Beaverton and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Fanno Farmhouse, owned and maintained by THPRD, can be found by turning south off of Hall Boulevard at Creekside Place, the street just west of Nimbus. The house was designed and constructed by Augustus Fanno in 1859 and was occupied by the Fanno family until 1979. The house was built with sawn lumber from Thomas H. Denney’s local sawmill, Rebecca Denney Fanno’s brother.

Augustus Fanno: The “first” Augustus Fanno was born on March 26, 1804 in Maine. His father John Fanno and family had emigrated from France during the French Revolution of 1790s. This Augustus was married to Martha Ferguson in 1838. They came West with their five year old son Eugene in one of the earliest wagon trains in 1846. Martha (and baby) died shortly upon arrival during childbirth in Linn City (now West Linn). Augustus (and possibly son Eugene) explored the territory on west of the Willamette to the coast and staked his donation land claim of 640 acres in 1847. This area came to be known as the Tualatin Valley, home to the Kalapuya Indians. The Indians had camped and fished for years in this area before disease and new exclusion laws decimated their welfare.

Augustus then married Rebecca Jane Denney in 1851. Her family had joined with a number of other families from the same neighborhood in southern Indiana. Some of these historic names are familiar today: Denney, Stott, Tucker, and McKay.

The first Augustus Fanno had served at sea for a number of years and then taught school in Missouri. In Oregon, he drained some of the beavers’ swampy land and farmed the eastern yellow Danvers onion by careful selection of bulbs over a period of twenty years, until he developed an onion which would keep in the damp climate. He was known to be honest and industrious and welcomed new settlers to provide children for a school. He was the first deputy sheriff appointed to Washington County and director of the local school.

Children: Augustus’ and Rebecca’s children who reached adulthood included boys Augustus and Alonzo and girls Zantaphine and Ziona . This second Augustus married Kate Guerin and had one child, Helen. Alonzo’s son Frank began a line of Fanno men continuing today with Dwight Fanno of Eagle Creek (story below) and his sons including Peter Rutherford Fanno, U.S. Navy. Many persons of the Fanno family are buried in the Crescent Grove Cemetery on Greenburg Road just south of Garden Home (see list).

Augustus and Rebecca’s sons Augustus and his brother Alonzo continued with the onion farming. Family lore remembers that this Augustus enjoyed the moniker “Onion King” and printed up cards which he handed out on the street. Other sources say that the Onion King title was given to the first Augustus. Family stories tell of the onion shipments to the Klondike gold rush of 1898 in the Yukon area. Some documents refer to the California gold rush of 1848 which would have been early in the onion cultivation farming.

Eugene Fanno, by greatgrandson Robert Fanno: As an adult, Eugene, the son of the first marriage whose mother died, became known in the local family as a “Mountain Man” and later lived in California where his son established the Fanno Saw Works. We talked with Robert Fanno of Chico, California, the current owner of the Fanno Saw Works and a direct descendant of the first Augustus Fanno. Robert is the son of Carl Fanno 1911-1976, who was the son of Asa Augustus Fanno who was the son of Eugene Fanno.

Fanno Saw Works logo

Eugene Fanno had four children including Eugene, Jr., Asa Augustus, Lena and two more. Eugene seems to have been somewhat estranged from the original family, worked in the Oregon coast range woods in the Valsetz area of Oregon where there is a Fanno Ridge and Fanno Peak Road. Asa Augustus Fanno, Robert’s grandfather, was a mill wright on a paddle boat and worked in boat building. He settled in Chico, California about 1900 and soon purchased an almond orchard. His first saws and long pole pruners were used on the nut trees and he developed the Fanno Saw Works.

[Editor: Eugene Fanno, born Dec. 10, 1841, was named Eugene Beauharnais Fanno.  This historic name of the era commemorated Eugène Beauharnais, the son of Josephine when she married Napoleon. The French Eugène commanded the army of Italy and was appointed Viceroy of Italy in 1805. Eugene Fanno died on July 9, 1931 and is buried in Chico, California.]

Dwight Fanno: We were pleased to talk with Dwight Rutherford Fanno, a direct descendant of the original Augustus Fanno who first came to Oregon in 1846 and claimed his donation land claim in 1847 southwest of the the larger Garden Home area. This has been called the Progress area. This land claim of 640 acres was signed by Abraham Lincoln.

Dwight Fanno’s father was Norman Fanno 1932-2001, son of Frank Fanno 1902-1984, who was the son of Alonzo Fanno 1861-1949, the brother of Augustus Fanno 1855-1923 and who both shared in the inheritance of the Fanno farm and house. This Augustus and Alonzo were the sons of the original Augustus, 1804-1884, who came to Oregon in 1845 or 1846.

Dwight and his three siblings lived in the Fanno farmhouse, built in 1859, and farmed the remaining 85 acres with cattle and hay. The onion maggot had decimated the onion growing. During his early years, Dwight attended McKay School, Whitford Junior High and graduated from Beaverton High in 1974. He currently lives in the Estacada area where he has a home construction business. He consulted with his mother Gladys Fanno for some details of this story.

The Indians camped in an oak tree area NE of the Fanno farmhouse. Natural salt deposits in the soil attracted birds and animals. The first Augustus told about shooting deer from his front step. At one time, a research study on the large band-tailed pigeons was done in this area. This whole area of the previous farm is now occupied by businesses and family residences in addition to the Greenway Park along the Fanno Creek Trail. The area is subject to flooding and the beavers have returned to Fanno Creek in the Greenway area.


Interview with Dwight Fanno, August 2017 by Elaine Shreve.

Telephone interview with Robert Fanno, Aug. 30, 2017 by Elaine Shrevce.

National Register of Historic Places Inventory Augustus Fanno Farmhouse, 1984.

Family documents provided by Judy Denney Donovan, 2017.

Matt Miner, Seen in the Vista Brook Park pond this morning: 2017, comment on Nextdoor Garden Home:

8:00am. One great blue heron standing in the center of the pond, circled by a small flotilla of baby ducks commanded by their mother, the admiral. Another heron, sitting off to the left, poking at the water looking for breakfast. A crow swoops in, squawking at the top of its lungs. Just then a coyote briefly steps out of the brush on the far side of the pond. A nature documentary right in your own back yard.


Both books available through the Washington County Libraries:

Lindstrom, Eric L. (2012) Up Fanno Creek, Confessions of an Accidental Advocate. Printed by On Demand Books. In this fascinating book Dr. Lindstrom takes us along on his recent research into the history and realities of Fanno Creek and its tributaries. We learn of the Kalapuya Indians and their subgroup the Atfalati Indians who lived in our larger Garden Home and Tualatin area, the Missoula Floods, Fanno family life and our current concerns with the Portland sewage pump stations.

The author talks with our neighbors, investigates our streams and recalls his own early life in understanding the Fannos. The book explores the businesses, the people, the history, and the many factors affecting Fanno Creek and its tributaries in the middle of a highly developed city and suburbs. The two major tributaries are Ash Creek and Summer Creek. A wonderful resource.

Blowers, Joe (2000) “Fish Stories” The Historical Occurrence of Salmonids in the Fanno Creek Watershed Printed by 501 (c) (3) Fans of Fanno Creek, P.O. Box 25835, Portland, OR 97225. This report includes a map and an aerial photo of middle Fanno Creek. Many people experienced in identifying fish and habitat were interviewed and documented. At this 1999 research date, a steelhead was sighted in Fanno Creek at the Vista Brook Park by an employee of Oregon Fish and Wildlife. A chart documents the type of fish species seen in Fanno Creek over the last 50 years.

Virginia Mapes (1993) CHAKEIPI, The Place of the Beaver.  Published by City of Beaverton, Printed by Community Newspapers, Inc. Tigard, Oregon. This excellent well-researched book by our local historian covers the history of the Beaverton area and the early pioneers. Many photos, sketches, and maps. The story of Beaverton’s Bernard Airport in (now) downtown Beaverton reminds us how recent “history” has occurred.

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7 Responses to Fanno family biography

  1. peter Gertsch says:

    My Great Grand pa Oleson talked about being real good friends with Mr. Fanno ,since the Oleson s lived on Oleson Road started when Poly and Ole got Married in 1878 and had a total of 6 Daughters and one son. Two of his Daughter s were Nurse s in France in

  2. Judy Donovan says:


    • GHHP says:

      We’ve corrected the spelling of Denney where needed, thanks. Our Fanno family history sources have slightly different dates for Augustus Fanno’s marriages.

  3. Kassandra Denney says:

    I moved here in 2017, and realized my family is those Denneys. My father is Richqrd Rory, his mother is Carla Huntley.

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