The original plat for the town of St. Johns was filed on July 20, 1865. The neighborhood is named for one of its settlers, James John. John moved to the peninsula in 1844, after originally settling across the river in Linnton. By 1849, twelve families were living in the area – many of whose descendants still live in the neighborhood today.
James John was a generous man and donated eight blocks of his land for the town site. Upon his death, he left the rest of his property to build a public school where children from all religious denominations could learn together.
St. Johns was officially recognized as a municipality by the Oregon State Legislature on January 5, 1902. In 1915, after 12 colorful years as a township, voters in St. Johns decided to give up their charter and merge with the City of Portland.
St. Johns shares a history of racism with Oregon and the rest of Portland, and we are lucky that some of the details were brought to our attention by the Edison Street Mural, where key events were painted on the street within a giant Black Lives Matter mural, all within a short walk from Cathedral Park. Ah - right now the street is being repaved, and the mural was destroyed in the process. Hopefully it will be reborn soon, but in the meantime, it lives on, on the website.
“Historic St. Johns, Older Than Portland Character Of The Founder”. The Oregonian (Portland, Oregon): p. 40. 29 March 1903.
“James John’s Request. The Founder of St. Johns Gives his Property for Free Schools”. The Oregonian (Portland, Oregon): p. 3. 9 July 1886
Lansing, Jewel (2003). Portland: People, Politics, and Power 1851-2001. pp. 197-198, 298.
“Mayor Of St. Johns Charles Cook, Telegraph Operator, Is Chosen; First Municipal Election”. The Oregonian (Portland, Oregon): p. 14. 17 March 1903.
E. Saks-Webb, personal communication, January 31, 2013.