Offbeat Oregon History

Hank Vaughn at 35By Finn J.D. John

By the mid-1880s, the wild, unpredictable and dangerous Oregon almost-outlaw Hank Vaughan had started showing distinct signs of settling down. He had married a part-Umatilla woman named Martha Robie in 1883; Martha, a widow, had inherited a comfortable sum from her late husband, and also was entitled to claim 640 acres of reservation land.
Hank, as Martha’s husband, now turned his considerable managerial talents away from livestock rustling and toward wheat-farm management.

Hank VaughnBy Finn J.D. John

Crime, they say, does not pay.
Yet it’s pretty easy to look back through history and find examples of a certain kind of criminal for whom it did, handsomely, and for decades. With charisma, moxie and a seemingly endless supply of good luck, these characters sometimes even manage to cheat karma and die a natural death.

Opium denBy Finn J.D. John

Most people think of opium today with a certain kind of mild romantic  nostalgia. We know it was bad, and people got hurt, but opium and the  demi-monde that developed around it had a certain dark allure with its  fragrant, smoky fumes and its elegant, exotic smoking rituals.

Black BartBy Finn J.D. John

Charles Bolton was a man with many friends. A charming, gentlemanly member of the social elite in the brand-new frontier town of San Francisco, he always had plenty of money. And if you asked him, he’d tell you he was the owner and manager of some mining concerns in the Sierra Nevadas, up near the Oregon border.

Sunken PT boatBy Finn J.D. John
The Porpoise was one ugly boat in 1992 when the guys from Portland first laid eyes on it.
It was a massive, weatherbeaten old hulk, 78 feet long and 20 feet wide, wallowing by the dock on Treasure Island in the Alameda estuary.

Mayor Geprge BakerBy Finn J.D. John

George L. Baker, the big, bluff, hail-fellow-well-met owner of Portland’s Baker Theater, was flabbergasted. As he and his fellow Portland Rosarians were getting ready to march in the 1917 Rose Festival parade, a courier had run up to him with a cryptic message:
“The grand marshal’s car awaits,” the messenger puffed. “Hurry and get in and don’t delay the parade.”
“Why, I’m not grand marshal,” Baker replied, puzzled.

Will DalyBy Finn J.D. John

Late on the evening of June 2, 1917, the Portland Morning Oregonian sprang a trap – a cunning and dirty trap.
The always-formidable daily newspaper, owned and edited by Henry Pittock following the death of the legendary Harvey Scott, had thrown its weight behind a big, boisterous City Council member named George Baker in the race for Portland city mayor. But in a fierce race with Union man and small-business owner Will Daly, Baker was clearly on track to lose.

War posterBy Finn J.D. John
Nobody remembers it today, because it was so long ago. But the outbreak of the First World War changed Oregon – and the rest of the United States – a great deal.
News of America’s entry into the fight was greeted with excitement, eagerness and dread. But there was one particular group of Oregonians for whom the dread was particularly pronounced: The German-American community.

Crooked gamblersBy Finn J.D. John

In November 1892 in downtown Portland, a “fast” young man named J.P. Cochran stepped off a passenger train from St. Louis, Missouri.
J.P. was the dashing 22-year-old son of a railroad executive. In St. Louis, he’d been running amok in the saloons and “faro banks,” getting into lots of high-spirited trouble with fast women and irresponsible friends. His father, wanting to get him away from the company he was keeping, had come up with a scheme to send him off to what he no doubt considered the most sober, hardworking, Little-House-on-the-Prairie-like place on Earth: Oregon.

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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.