Offbeat Oregon History

Oregon BootBy Finn J.D. John

In 1866, Oregon State Penitentiary Warden J.C. Gardner had a problem. The state prison had just moved to its present home, in Salem. Its old home had been in Portland, but the city didn’t really want it there — especially after an incident in the early 1860s when the state tried to save some money by subcontracting the facility out to a private operator. This solved the overcrowding problem in fine style: every single prisoner escaped.

Klamath FallsBy Finn J.D. John
At around 2 p.m. on a sunny Monday afternoon in August 1911, Klamath Falls resident John Hunsaker was driving past the Oak Avenue Canal when he saw something in it — something that looked like a man.

 

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.

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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.