Emerson Conrad Yoder


September 26, 1914 – October 30, 2005

Emerson Yoder made mention once that his favorite time of the year was fall. His reason was simple: “because all the harvest is done.” On September 26th, 1914, Emerson Conrad Yoder, was born to Aaron and Edna Yoder. His mother had carried him for a full 11 months before he was born. Emerson was the middle child of three boys, Nolan was the oldest and Russell the youngest. He grew up in the family home on Kropf Road, just South of the Yoder Mill.

Emerson’s early years of education came at Evergreen and Yoder Grade School. One memory he had was from second or third grade. He asked the teacher if he could be excused to go to the bathroom and on his way there, simply decided to go home. He couldn’t recall any sort of consequences of his actions, but did think that teacher must have wondered what became of him!

Attending Molalla Union High School, Emerson was a charter member of their FFA club. On an FFA field trip in the fall of his sophomore year, he drank some water that had pooled in an old stump. Emerson ended up in the hospital with typhoid fever, spending several months there. His main fear about the episode was falling behind in his schoolwork. Emerson’s favorite subject was mathematics, an area in which he excelled. He liked the fact that it had a practical application in everyday life. Baseball was another favorite for him and he even had a practice wall set up at home that he could use after chores. He was a center-fielder and, when prompted, would recount the time he made a great catch that ultimately saved the game. He graduated in 1932 and later enjoyed attending many class reunions.  

Emerson briefly attended Oregon State College (now OSU), but decided that was not for him. He always knew he wanted to be a farmer and soon found himself logging and farming with powerful draft horses. A bond of trust, love and respect formed between him and his horses, which he ably cared for with a quiet gentleness. During this time, Emerson enjoyed many hikes with his brother Russell, his dad Aaron and various friends, including Steven Eyman and Lloyd Schumacher. Table Rock was one favorite spot. He often told the story of the time he hiked it alone and decided to take the long way down. He underestimated the amount of daylight left, ran a good stretch of the trail and managed to make it out just before dark.

In 1934, Emerson and his father Aaron set out on a trip back East by car to visit family. In Montana they visited Aaron’s brother Ralph and his wife Anna. While at the homestead of Anna’s parents, they noted that the corral fence was built out of some sort of cedar. It was incense cedar and in response to Aaron and Emerson’s interest, Anna’s father pulled off a board and gave it to them. The cedar board was placed under the car’s seat, where it rode safely back home to Oregon. Emerson later used it to build a small wooden box that he used to store handkerchiefs in.

In the late 1930’s, Emerson raised a colt by the name of Charlie. Gentle patience and determination were the foundation of Charlie’s upbringing as the colt grew into a strong draft horse. To work the threshing crews, a person needed to know two things and know them very well – how to work hard and how to work as a team. Emerson worked on many threshing crews and would often tell stories of his experiences. He spoke of the camaraderie and humor of the men and how they would gather at noon to eat a large dinner (and, according to Virginia, get to know all the good cooks in the area!).

Sunday, September 22nd, 1946, Emerson married Virginia Wilson and upon returning from their honeymoon trip to Yellowstone Park, they moved into their home on Schneider Road. Emerson continued raising animals and farming and on Sept. 18th, 1947 their first child, daughter Gloria, was born. Second daughter, Arlene, arrived Nov. 3rd, 1949. Also in ’49, he tried his hand at raising turkeys. It proved to be such a cold winter that year that they could barely gather the eggs before they froze, whereupon he decided raising turkeys was not for him. Sept. 27th 1953, one day after Emerson’s 39th birthday, daughter Louise was born. Around this time, the work horse was being replaced by tractors and the threshing crews were on their way out as well. With the departure of the crews, the need for the community to come together to help one another in such a way was lessened, a change which Emerson was truly sad to see.

Son Paul was born Oct. 13th 1956 and nearly two years later, on Aug. 22nd 1958, daughter Twyla was born. As the 1950’s came to an end, Emerson planted a cherry orchard and began raising cherries to sell. This was also when he bought his first tractor, a 1952 W-6 McCormick Standard. On Feb. 5th 1961, youngest daughter Loretta was born, rounding out the Emerson and Virginia Yoder family of six children. In 1980-81, Emerson and Arlene built the pig house, which is still being used today. He had a knack for seeing things and how they would come together in their building. Gifted at carpentry, Emerson soon had a pig house to be proud of.

Along with raising his family and farming, Emerson then started working with his brothers Nolan and Russell at Yoder Mill. He always enjoyed being in the woods and many of his later Sunday drives were to past logging areas or current Yoder Mill project sites.

He also began selling milk commercially from the cows that he milked by hand. This lasted until the late 1970’s, after which he continued keeping a cow and selling milk to family and friends. He also tutored his grandchildren in the art of milking, impressing them with his skill of being able to shoot the milk straight into the waiting cat’s mouth!

Providing for his family was very imp o r t a n t t o Emerson and this showed itself in many areas – from the establishment of a large garden and orchard to home butchering and smoking of meat, which included the construction of a smokehouse and a mammoth food dryer. Emerson once decided to give the children a thrill by pulling them around behind one of the horses. They all had such fun that he didn’t see the smokehouse coming. A few repairs were in order after that collision.

All of the children helped out on the family farm. Whether feeding calves, helping with choring or grading the eggs – and there was many an argument over who did what – there was always plenty of work to go around. Emerson tried to pass on his strong work ethic, the value of education and the importance of self-sufficiency in every aspect to all of his family.

In the early 1970’s, two significant things happened. The first of his grandchildren was born and the cherries were taken out. Emerson and Virginia welcomed the grandchildren as they came into an ever-growing family. Emerson continued farming and working at Yoder Mill, his days were filled with the quiet satisfaction which only hard work provides. In the late 1970’s, Emerson and Virginia opened their home to their first exchange student, Dorothee Fritz, the first of many who would become additions to the Yoder family.

In 1980-81, Emerson and Arlene built the pig house, which is still being used today. He had a knack for seeing things and how they would come together in their building. Gifted at carpentry, Emerson soon had a pig house to be proud of.

In 1985 Emerson and Virginia undertook their big trip back East. They packed up the pick-up with the camper and headed out to spend nearly 2 months visiting people coast to coast. They enjoyed several other trips together, including to Alaska, Branson, Missouri and a Yoder History trip to Missouri and Illinois. Their 50th wedding anniversary was spent up at Skamania Lodge on the Columbia Gorge in Washington State. In 2002, they treated all their children and grandchildren to a boat trip on the Columbia River from Portland to Astoria and back.

Emerson was always interested in people and history. He had a great memory (he might argue this point) and also kept a daily journal from 1954 on. More than a few disputes have been settled soon after those involved heard, “well, let’s just get the journal out and see…” He was full of stories and loved to tell them.

It is very difficult to try to quantify the life of any individual - especially one with 91 full years of life lived. Emerson Conrad Yoder was a good man, brother, husband, father, grandfather and friend. He had a strong faith in God, but was never overly vocal about it, yet a softly spoken grace was given before every meal. He never worked on a Sunday as he believed this to be a day of rest and thanks. The day included attending Sunday School and Church at Smyrna, a large dinner with family or friends, perhaps a little drive somewhere and then usually a light supper of homegrown popcorn and fruit.

Emerson and Virginia created a life, home and family that spoke for their beliefs – work hard, take care of each other, respect and appreciate the land, and remember the stories to keep it all alive.

On October 30th, 2005, Emerson died peacefully in his sleep at home on the farm he loved. Fall - his favorite time of year - all the harvest is done. Thanks for everything, Grandpa,

Love MLH & CJH   

1993 – Standing in front of the Russell steam engine owned by Emerson and his brother Russell