Gabriel Trullinger was the eldest of ten children born to Daniel Trullinger, a German emigrant, and Elizabeth Johnson Trullinger, the niece of future president Andrew Johnson. They were married on April 27, 1823, and Gabriel was born on February 20, 1824. The youngest Trullinger child, Sarah, was born in 1843. Five years later, on April 6, 1848, the Trullinger clan set out for Oregon with three ox-drawn wagons. Their journey was happily uneventful, with no tragedies striking the children or parents. The family arrived safely in Oregon City on September 14, 1848.
Daniel Trullinger took out a land claim at Fernwood, a few miles above the future site of Union Mills. The family soon heard about the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill, and in the spring of 1849, Gabriel, John, and their father Daniel headed for the gold fields. Like many other Oregonians, the Trullingers got a head start on the California Gold Rush, arriving months ahead of the ’49ers coming from back east. Daniel was pushing 50 at that point, and he soon decided that he was too old for life in the gold fields. Gabriel and John, however, remained in California until 1850. They didn’t strike it rich, but they worked hard and didn’t squander their wealth in the boom towns. When they returned to Oregon, both Gabriel and John had made a small fortune, something like $15-20,000 apiece.
Flush with California gold, Gabriel was an eminently eligible bachelor, and he married Sarah E. Glover on August 3, 1851. Sarah was an Oregon Trail emigrant of 1849, and like Gabriel she came west with her parents and siblings. She met Gabriel in 1850, after his father sold the claim at Fernwood and moved to Milwaukie. The women and children of the Glover family were staying in the Milwaukie area while the men were building the family a house in Eagle Creek.
At that time, Milwaukie was the head of navigation for ocean-going ships on the Willamette River. The first steamboats — the primary means of transporting people and cargo in the Willamette Valley and lower Columbia River until the coming of the railroads — in Oregon were being built in Milwaukie. Gabriel and John formed a partnership to purchase a warehouse and build a dock on the riverfront. They were quite successful, but being brothers, they were not shy about quarreling when they didn’t see eye-to-eye. They sold the business in 1852, and John moved to the Tigard area to build a sawmill.
On July 22, 1852, Gabriel and his bride moved to their new 640-acre Donation Land Claim on Milk Creek just a few miles from the family’s original homestead at Fernwood.
In 1854, Gabriel began building a sawmill on his land. Once the mill pond and race had been established, Gabriel continued to expand his business operations by building additional mills to take advantage of the available water power. Sawmill operations were expanded in 1858 or ’59 with the addition of planing machinery, then the only such milling machine in Oregon, purchased from John McLoughlin.
In 1867-68, Gabriel built a grist (flour) mill, and later a textile mill for carding wool. The ongoing development around the mill pond attracted other settlers and businesses, and a small town began growing around the mills. The mill complex was known as the Union Mills, and the town eventually took the name, as well. Gabriel Trullinger proved to be a capable businessman, keeping Union Mills going through the bad times and using his profits from the good years to expand his land holdings in the forests that fed his sawmill. He acquired over 2400 acres in the surrounding hills during his lifetime and served as Clackamas County Commissioner in the early 1870s.
The operations at Union Mills are still going to the present day, and they are still in the hands of direct descendants of Gabriel Trullinger. The first to inherit the reins was Gabriel’s son, Delazon L. Trullinger. In classic pioneer fashion, Del worked his way up in the family business. As pictured here, logging in the Nineteenth Century was often done with draft animals in addition to steam power.
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