Peter Onsdorff

Of the many Scandinavians who settled in central Clark County, Peter Onsdorff was one of the most prominent, as a merchant and a founder of Battle Ground.

Onsdorff, born in Sweden, homesteaded on Bell Mountain near Battle Ground in the 1880s. One tribulation there was destruction of the Onsdorff cabin by fire.

In the mid-1990s, Onsdorff began operating a store at Hockinson. Cultural opportunities were sparse, and in 1898 Onsdorff held a meeting in what was called the Eureka School to organize a Christian Church. The result was the formation of the community’s first Sunday School.

Revived plans to extend the railroad from Vancouver to northeast Clark County apparently were the main factor in Onsdorff’s decision to sell out. He moved with his wife Ida Brown Onsdorff in 1902 to what is now Battle Ground, close to trains that would be passing. The Onsdorffs lived in the store at first. He and D.B. Mickey platted the town in 1903.

A 1903-04 business directory listed the town population as 75, and mentioned that Battle Ground was on the line of the Portland, Vancouver and Yakima railway. Methodist and Catholic churches already were active, and a stage operated to Amboy and Vancouver. Onsdorff was postmaster.

The Onsdorffs soon were able to move to a fine new home near the store. Onsdorff was postmaster and a school board member. He also was a leader in establishing the First Christian Church, which later merged with another church to become the Battle Ground Community Church, United Methodist.

Mrs. Onsdorff died in 1915 and Onsdorff in 1936. Both are buried in Elim Lutheran Cemetery.

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