Offbeat Oregon History

Great train robberyBy Finn J.D. John

It had been a good 20 years, but Bill Miner was back and once again, as he liked to say, “on the rob.” Specifically, he was lurking with his partner behind a pile of baggage on an eastbound express train, a dozen or so miles out of Portland, waiting for his chance.

Boat boneyardBy Finn J.D. John

This is the story of Portland’s coldest cold-case file — a suspicious death in the worst neighborhood of the old Stumptown waterfront, almost lost in the mists of time, 135 years ago. Was it an accident? Or a murder? We’ll never know for sure. But there are good reasons to be suspicious.

 

 

VigilantesBy Finn J.D. John

John Hawk’s neighbors had few good things to say about him. Nearly everyone agreed that he was the surliest, most unpleasant man they’d ever met.
That, as much as anything else, was why he was about to die, on a cold, clear, moonlit night by the Lostine River in 1881.

Adam magazine imageBy Finn J.D. John

Drug addict and convicted robber Ray Moore was in his cheap hotel room on the corner of 12th and Morrison when his burglar friend Jimmy Walker pounded on the door.
Jimmy desperately needed help. He told Ray he’d shot a man, and was sure he’d be “burned for it.” He needed to get out of town.

Pinto ColvigBy Finn J.D. John

On any list of nationally famous Oregonians, there are a few names you probably won’t see.
For example: Bozo the Clown ... Goofy, the original hayseed hick from early Disney cartoons ... Bluto, Popeye’s nemesis ... comedian Jack Benny’s imaginary Maxwell motorcar ... and the list goes on.

Gussie TelfairBy Finn J.D. John

On September 25, 1880, an old and battered but sleek steamship drew into the mouth of Coos Bay, at the end of its voyage from Portland.
As the vessel churned its way into the bay, it suddenly and definitively veered out of the channel and slammed directly into the bank of the bay, close by Rocky Point — hard aground.

By Finn J.D. John

Tarzan skeletonCrater Lake, Oregon’s only national park, has a worldwide reputation for scenic beauty, which it richly deserves.
But the park has another interesting characteristic, and it’s one that few of the millions who have flocked to the park over the years have realized:
It’s lethal.

Mug shotBy Finn J.D. John

October 20, 1926, could easily have been the day Mrs. M.D. Lewis died — suddenly, silently and violently.
She was doing some work around a small house she had for sale in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland when an old car pulled up in front of it and a small man with black hair and dark complexion stepped out. Rude and brusque, he beetled into the house as if he owned it, muttering, “House for sale” as he passed her.

Train robberyBy Finn J.D. John

It was early summer, 1914, and an Oregon & Washington Railway Navigation Co. passenger train was just passing over the summit of the Blue Mountains, between LaGrande and Pendleton.
The crewmen were running the train slow, checking the brakes for the long downhill run ahead. Meanwhile, three men at the back of the train were checking their guns.
A train robbery was about to go down — one of the very last Old West-style train robberies ever. And before it was over with, it would turn into one of the very last Old West-style six-shooter gunfights, too.

 

Political armyBy Finn J.D. John

Many people today think of the 1890s as a prosperous, carefree era — the term “gay ‘90s” (or even “naughty ‘90s) jumps to mind. But what most people don’t realize is that much of that decade was spent mired in a massive economic depression. In many ways, the “Panic of 1893” was worse than the Great Depression.

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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.