Austin Monroe Shaffer
Founder of Canyonville Christian Academy.
Known as Dad or Daddy Shaffer to generations of students.
Born: April 13, 1884
Died: March 31, 1961
Married to Francis Adele Staples
Children: Helen, Ruth, and Robert
Early Life :
As a young boy he was ill-treated, orphaned, and received only an elementary school education. As a young man he moved to Colorado, met his wife, and started a family. (A full telling of Dad Shaffer’s early life can be found in the book The Orphan, written by his daughter Helen Shaffer Dunbar. Available from CCA.)
Founding of CCA:
In the summer of 1923, A.M. Shaffer and his family were enroute from Colorado to California when their car broke down in Canyonville. After a few days of awaiting parts, during which Dad Shaffer preached at the local Methodist church and worked in the orchards helping with the fruit harvest, the car miraculously went to gear began to run properly.
These unplanned and unexpected events led to Dad Shaffer making the decision to stay in Canyonville. Within a few months he had built a church on Main Street and started teaching Bible and other courses. This humble beginning evolved within a few years into a boarding high school which is now CCA.
The schools first building, now the girls’ dorm, housed living space for boys, girls, and staff along with classrooms and the dining hall. It was build on faith and the donations of supporters of Dad Shaffer’s ministry.
Dad Shaffer was the president of the school from its founding until his death in 1961 at age 77. He was also pastor of the church located on campus, originally called “Canyonville Gospel Tabernacle” and later “Canyon Chapel”, from 1924 to 1960, retiring just a few months before he died.
For many years Dad Shaffer spoke at the daily chapel service for students.
Dad Shaffer was involved on a daily basis with the building construction on campus. This included pouring and troweling of thousands of square feet of cement being prepared one small mixer load at a time. It was more common to see him in his work overalls than a suit.
To graduate from Dad Shaffer’s academy, all students were required to write both a junior and senior year thesis. The senior thesis was to be read in front of the student body during chapel time.
Other Facts and Memories:
– An honorary doctor of theology degree was awarded to A.M. Shaffer in 1960 by Northwest Bible College (Kirkland, Washington), now Northwest University.
– Dad Shaffer read widely, with emphasis in history, biography, and religion but his formal education ended in elementary school.
– He served on the organizing committee of the Northwest District of the Assemblies of God and was an ordained minister of that denomination.
– He never received a salary from the academy he founded. His income came from his work as a pastor.
– He was elected mayor of Canyonville and actively worked to bring electricity to the city.
– Rev. Shaffer loved accordion music, drove a white Ford Ranchero pickup, and had a dog named Taco.
-Students and friends would get to hear his wonderful stories of the first time he saw an automobile or an airplane; tales of great leaders he admired, like Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt; and colorful recountings of the Great Depression and both World Wars.
– He lost his beloved wife to a heart attack while she was doing advanced piano studies at the University of Oregon in 1946. For years, when she was suffering from her ill-health, each morning he brought to her bed fresh-squeezed orange juice.
– From his days in Colorado and up into the 1950’s, he was an avid beekeeper, each year gathering many gallons of wonderful honey.
-While Rev. Shaffer’s sermon texts were mostly from the Old Testament, his underlying themes were often related to issues of character and integrity and transmitting his Christian values on to his congregation and students.
– For many years, when he lived downstairs from the student residence areas, he had a tradition of inviting students for a bedtime snack of graham crackers and milk.
– The school’s chapel, “A.M Shaffer Memorial Chapel”, is named in his honor.
– Although there was never any doubt that Dad Shaffer’s desk was “where the buck stopped”, he was always had a collaborative relationship with his son Robert, the school’s V.P. They would meet almost every business day to go over plans and decisions.
– Dad and Mother Shaffer donated the money from an inheritance to purchase the land for the campus west of Canyon Street. He also gave the school “Dad Shaffer’s Steakhouse”, a small building overlooking Canyon Creek , that is now the teacher’s lounge.
– He was named “Pioneer in the History of Douglas County”. He is among a very select group whose name appears on a plaque in downtown Roseburg, the county seat.
Never one to mince his words, among his favorite expressions were “lollygagging, gumsucking, and lounge lizzard”.