History

Drunken husbandBy Finn J.D. John

You may have heard of Henderson Luelling - the Quaker nurseryman who founded an Oregon industry when he brought a wagon full of tiny trees out on the Oregon Trail, back in 1847. His story was recently memorialized in a children’s book that won the “Oregon Reads” award for the state sesquicentennial: “Apples to Oregon,” by Deborah Hopkins.
On the trail to Oregon, many of Luelling’s fellow emigrants thought he was crazy. The care he lavished on the trees (even at the expense of his wife and nine children) was, by anyone’s lights, obsessive. But history vindicated Luelling when the few hundred surviving tree slips made him a wealthy man upon his arrival in the Willamette Valley.

Skookum labelBy Finn J.D. John
From time to time, bills come up in the Oregon State Legislature that seek to designate an official language for the state.
Of course, the language they specify is always English, since that’s the dominant language in Oregon today.
But if an official state language is thought of like the official state bird, or state wildflower, or state animal - as a special example of a type that is vital to the very nature of Oregon and that helps provide it with its particular character - there’s really only one legitimate candidate for state language. It’s the Chinook Jargon - more commonly spelled by those who speak it today as “Chinuk.”

Governor PennoyerBy Finn J.D. John
Oregon may not be the richest, or the largest, or the most powerful state in the union. But our fair state does indisputably have one thing over every other state:
We have more Thanksgiving holidays.
It’s a tradition that was originally referred to as “Pennoyer’s Thanksgiving,” after the curmudgeon of a state governor who first proclaimed it. Actually, it’s probably better described as a dead tradition, having been more or less completely forgotten long before the turn of the last century.

Wooding upBy Finn J.D. John
Just before Christmas in 1871,  little steamboat called the U.S. Grant came to grief on the legendary Columbia River Bar, as had dozens before, and as would hundreds after.
What makes the U.S. Grant’s demise unusual is that it wasn’t trying to cross the bar. It had been set adrift in the middle of a dark and stormy night to drift helplessly onto a raging bar, with its two owners on board.

Whale killersBy Finn J.D. John
In August 1949, some residents in the small town of St. Helens started noticing a very unpleasant smell coming from a neighbor’s orchard.
Upon investigation, police easily found the source: a large, oddly-shaped, obviously home-built galvanized steel tank, about 13 feet long and six feet wide, with great marks of rust and corrosion all over it.
Inside it, they found a dead whale.

 

 

Burkhart airplaneBy Finn J.D. John
In January of 1910, deep in the bowels of an old, obscure building at 10th and Everett in Portland, Albany natives Johnny Burkhart and “General Willie” Crawford were hard at work on a secret project when they heard a knock on the door.
They waited for the knocker to go away. He did not. The knocking grew more insistent. Finally, unable to ignore it any longer, Johnny and Willie opened the door.
Their visitor was a newspaper reporter. Apparently their secret project wasn’t as secret as they’d thought. Somebody had told somebody, and this newsman had come to see for himself.

LighthouseBy Finn J.D. John
It was late December, 1856, and Thomas Smith, proud owner of the intrepid little 104-foot barque Desdemona, was in a hurry.
Smith stood to make a particularly nice profit if the shipment of general merchandise the Desdemona was carrying out of San Francisco reached Astoria on or before New Year’s Day. So he proposed a deal to the captain of his ship, Francis Williams: Get the cargo into port by New Year’s Day, and he would be rewarded with the price of a new Sunday suit.

Powerhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy Curtis Irish

 

McKenzie River Reflections

 

 

Border patrolBy Finn J.D. John
The editorial writer for the Portland Morning Oregonian was trying to be sarcastically dismissive, but between the lines, a discriminating reader could pick up on signs of real concern.
“Curry (County) would of course immediately acquire the glorious climate of California and become a haven for retired Midwest farmers,” he wrote. “Gold Beach would become a metropolis with offensive slums, and Latin quarters, and traffic problems and police scandals and what-not. … The Curry County plan to become a county of California is so full of potential disaster that once again its people are beseeched to pause and consider.”

Gilbert GableBy Finn J.D. John
Most Oregonians know about the State of Jefferson — in general concept, at least: a small group of Southern Oregon people got together in 1941 to proclaim a new state, made up of southwest Oregon and northwest California, called Jefferson; just as they got started, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor; and the idea just never got off the ground.
All of which is true enough. But it barely touches the real story of Jefferson — and it’s not even the most interesting part. The fact is, the 1941 move for statehood was mostly a publicity stunt.
It was crafted over drinks by two guys who seem right out of central casting for a Hollywood movie — a high-rolling, back-slapping business promoter and a hard-drinking, wildly imaginative newspaper man.

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McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/subscriptions-0. Purchase copies online at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/back-issues-0. Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.