A place to visit when mentioning small rural towns is Gaston, Oregon. A point to note though, blink and you’ll miss it as the highway only clearly marks the center of town as a few hundred yards, from sign to sign. With only average of 634 (it fluctuates up or down about five people but every time the population is taken, it’s about the same) people, it clearly classifies as small. The first thing to see, on the left of highway 47 as you pass through town is the railroad, which thanks is owed for getting the town started by Joseph Gaston around the American Civil War in the 1860s, officially named in 1872. Essentially the hubbub of town nowadays, is Gaston Market – watch out for the school-day lunch rush as most every high-schooler has gone down one time or another to buy lunch.
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Talk to any of the locals and they can direct you practically anywhere in town, any of the outlying area, or to the next couple of towns over. They can tell you of our long-time rival Yamhill-Carlton about twelve miles up the highway, about the former town of Dilley back down the highway you weren’t even aware of passing just before the entrance to Old Highway 47, and the former town of Cherry Grove out a ways to the right and the former town of Laurelwood out a ways to the left between here and Newberg.
A little know-how on the locals, there’s a very large tendency that once you move into town, the family or at least some stays. There’s not often someone selling houses because once they buy one, they tend to stay there until they die so most of the town population is older, but by then, at least one of their kids has come back with their own kids, wanting the small close atmosphere for them to grow up in. Speaking of the little ones, go up the hill to the school district.
Visit the elementary school, notice the class sizes topping of in the middle thirties no matter the grade K through 12. You’ll learn some family names when you notice them repeating every couple of grades, or that one sibling will become friends with a different family with similar-aged siblings really easily. Makes for a close-knit community when everybody knows a person, their family and the kid’s friend’s family.
If you want more history, stop by the high school library and see at least forty years of classes from the thirties with Gaston Union High, to the seventies with Gaston High School. Want to talk to somebody who's seen more than a few generations of kids, a former teacher now substituting on a fairly regular basis anytime is Mr. Shope.
Anything else to know should be seen in person, now that you’ve got a brief overview of the town, it’s history and it’s people.
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