Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Early Portland Engineer

I've always marveled at the old sidewalks in Portland. Sometimes you will see old footprints with nail imprints from shoes of long ago. It sends me on a daydream fantasy journey to the past to spot raccoon tracks or dog paw prints. I try to notice which houses are as old as the sidewalks and imagine what the neighborhood might have looked like when it was new. Most of the early sidewalks are marked with the engineering company who was awarded the bid to put in the walk. Here is one I came across yesterday:

Bechill Bros. 1912. Curious about the early engineers, I went back to my office and did a Google search on Bechill, sidewalks, and Portland Oregon. Thomas Bechill was born in London, Canada in 1865.   The "Bros." I assume refers him and his sons.  According to the book, Portland, Oregon, Its History and Builders, by Joseph Gaston, (1911), he was engaged in contracting business specializing in "street grading, sewer and bridge work".  

Thomas sounded like an ambitious fellow, leaving his parents home at age 15, working first in lumber in the mideast states, then turning to the railroad. He started in the roundhouse of the Flint Pere Marquette Railway company and soon worked up to engineer. Railroading eventually led him to Portland where he settled in 1891.  He began street grading in 1901.  It is written his business reached "extensive and profitable proportions".  

He married Minnie Gwynne, and they had 4 sons (And this is where the Bechill Brothers must come in) and one daughter.  He is listed as having a ranch in Clackamas county along with property in the city.  He enjoyed hunting and fishing, was a Republican and member of the Elks, Odd Fellows, and a Royal Arch Mason.  The book goes on to say he found "pleasant associations with his brethren of those fraternities and they recognize in him qualities that are in consistent harmony with the teachings and purposes of those orders." 

Now when I am on this sidewalk, I'm am happy to have made this acquaintance with the memory of Thomas Bechill.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this - I am Thomas Bechill's great grand daughter and just happened to come upon this tonight while idly searching for family history. Very little of this info was passed on to me, so it's good to know. I actually thought my great grandmother's name was Nellie Gwynne! I'll have to find myself a copy of the book you reference.