The Stone House is located in Portland’s Forest Park, one of the largest urban forested parks in the United States. Danford Balch, the original owner of the land in the Lower Macleay Park area, was the first man legally hanged in Oregon.
On October 1, 1850, Danford Balch and his family took a donation land claim (DLC) of almost 350 acres near the settlement of Portland. He built a cabin on the land and became fairly successful but drank too much at times. By 1858, Danford and his wife, Mary Jane, had nine children—five boys and four girls.
His eldest daughter, Anna, 16, eloped against her parent’s wishes with the hired hand, Mortimer Stump of Vancouver, Washington, on November 4, 1858. On November 18, 1858, Danford tried to retrieve his daughter from the Stumps when they came to Portland for supplies. Instead he “accidentally” shot Mortimer Stump to death with a shotgun.
Danford was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. On October 17, 1859, Danford Balch was hung for the murder of Mortimer Stump. He was the first legal execution in the state of Oregon.
In 1897, Donald Macleay, a prominent Portland merchant, turned the upper portion of the Balch property, the steep gulch of Balch Creek, to the city for use as a park. The Stone House was built during the Depression by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a restroom alongside then Balch Creek Road. It was maintained until the Columbus Day storm in 1962 took out the plumbing system and heavy vandalism over the years forced park officials to abandon it rather than embark on costly repairs. It remains as a favorite spot to rest along the trail.
Directions: Beginning at Lower Macleay Park beneath the Thurman Street Bridge, come up Lower Macleay Trail along Balch Creek about a mile to the intersection with the Wildwood Trail. A patient observer can spot water ouzels in the creek and cutthroat trout in the pool beneath a wooden footbridge halfway up the trail. I spotted an owl (see photo). The wide trail is wheelchair accessible.