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  • Writer's pictureDallas Area Visitors

W.C. Brown and the Nickle Toss

Since I've been a part of the Dallas Community, I've had an interest in the history of this community. I've done some basic level research on this, but none more fascinating than the information gleaned from one of Dallas' own historian, Rachel Greco, owner of Grandma's Attic Sewing Emporium.

Rachel informed me of this periodical that she produces called "Excerpts from Stores of Old Oregon: Towns and Founders II". I was lucky enough to get my hands on a few copies of Issue #11. This issue explores everything from "Dallas Along Rickreall Creek" to a Dallas Timeline. But by far, what I found the most fascinating was a particular character, W.C. Brown. Below is some information from Issue 11.

"W.C. Brown and the Nickel Toss William C. Brown arrived in Polk County in 1847, working first in Albany, splitting rails for a judge who paid him in seed grain. He then started a farm north of Dallas and later opened one of the very first stores in Dallas. He met his wife, Martha, on the Oregon Trail and they had five children.

Active in community affairs, Brown was elected to the Oregon State Legislature in 1874. He was also a charter member of the local Oddfellows and Masons. Known as "Uncle Billy", he was described as having red cheeks, twinkling eyes, and a santa-like white beard.

He was most famous for his annual banquet for widows, which he held on his birthday, November 30. Held at the Dallas Hotel, it was one of the biggest events in Dallas. At later events, he added widowers to his guest list. Brown earned lasting fame in 1902, when he sponsored a nickle toss on the courthouse lawn. He was making good on his promise to give $100 to local children if the price of hops ever reached 20 cents per pound. (Some accounts say 25 cents.) He scattered 2,000 nickles on the courthouse lawn and then allowed the children to scramble for them."

If you are interested in receiving the Stories of Old Oregon: Towns and Founders II, contact Rachel Greco at Grandma's Attic Sewing Emporium and she would love to provide you with a copy! Rachel can be reached at 503.623.0451 or by email at You can also stop by Grandma's Attic at 167 SW Court St. or the Chamber Office at 168 Court St and pick up a copy.

1902 Nickel Toss for Children on the Courthouse Lawn

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