Offbeat Oregon History

Temperance protestBy Finn J.D. John

In 1853, a French-Canadian gambler, fighter and all-around rascal by the name of Edouard Chambreau arrived in the brand-new town of Portland, ready to go into business.
Chambreau had just come from the gold fields in northern California and southern Oregon, where he’d been wandering from town to town, fleecing miners and other gamblers and running from the occasional angry mob.

Edouard ChambreauBy Finn J.D. John

In its early years, Oregon was at the outer limits of the known world, and that remoteness attracted all sorts of interesting characters.
There were Joe Meek types, driven by a spirit of adventure; there were guys like William Ladd, who came hoping to get in on the ground floor and become the next generation of business barons; and, of course, there were the Marcus Whitmans and Jason Lees, the state’s spiritual forefathers, come into the wilderness to save souls.
But there was another kind of frontier Oregon character, too, to whom the remoteness of Oregon appealed: The criminal, looking to run away to a place where people’s memories are short and laws are new and weak.

First cabinBy Finn J.D. John

Most people know Prohibition in the United States started in 1920 when the Volstead Act went into effect. But in Oregon, Prohibition started quite a bit earlier than that. Actually, it started before Oregon was even a state.
In 1844, the Oregon Territorial Government became the first in the United States to outlaw the use, manufacture or sale of booze.

Alaskan paddlewheelerBy Finn J.D. John

Paddlewheel riverboats are, of course, not designed to be used on the open sea. Their scant freeboard, so convenient for passengers clambering aboard for a trip down the river or across Puget Sound, becomes a major liability in a storm at sea; their ornate deck covers and big-windowed deckhouses, so nice for watching the scenery gliding by, take the full force of boarding seas when things get rough.

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.

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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.