History

Douglas Cty CourthouseProbably not what you’re thinking

By Finn J.D. John
It was Christmas Day in 1866. Officially, the Civil War had been over for a year and a half. Unofficially, though, not everybody agreed that its outcome settled things ... especially in Douglas County, Oregon.
At the time, Douglas County was like a microcosm of the United States. There was a Republican majority in the more populous and powerful northern part of the state, which had voted itself into full control of county government, much to the fury of the resentful, disenfranchised Dixie-friendly majority in the south of the state.

SchoonerBy Finn J.D. John
There was a time, a century and a half ago, when Coos Bay was the shipbuilding capital of the entire West Coast.
It all started, as so much West Coast history does, with the Gold Rush. A young apprentice shipbuilder named Asa Mead Simpson, caught up in the excitement, jumped aboard a sailing ship in which he owned a small percentage and headed for the gold fields.

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

 

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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.