Offbeat Oregon History

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.

Railroad campBy Finn J.D. John

The U.S. Post Office inspector was puzzled. He’d just arrived at the tiny logging-company town of Shevlin, deep in the ponderosa pine woods south of Bend — and found it gone.
Shade trees still towered over manicured home sites. A stray whiff drifted in the wind from an open pit where an outhouse once had stood. And on the spot where he’d expected to find the Shevlin Post Office, there was nothing but the bare outline of a building.

Reynolds murder trialBy Finn J.D. John

On June 20, 1907, a retired military man named Charles Reynolds was hurrying home as fast as he could — with a .38-caliber revolver in his pocket.
Charles was an old U.S. Cavalry man in his 50s who had moved to Portland with his wife, Lulu, and his two grown children from a previous marriage.

Woman with cane flaskBy Finn J.D. John

Late in 1912, for the sixth and final time, the topic of voting rights for women was on Oregonians’ ballot. And when the votes were counted, it was a win: A fifty-two percent majority had voted for women’s suffrage.
Among those who’d voted against it, there were many motivations — some far sillier than others, but all of them pretty goofy in the light of history.
But there was a certain cadre of anti-suffrage men who, if you got them to speak frankly and off the record, would tell you, straight out, the real reason they didn’t want to give women the right to vote: Prohibition.

playing pinballBy Finn J.D. John

If you were a fan of the classic ABC television sitcom “Happy Days,” you know The Fonz had a special relationship with two particular machines: His trusty ’49 Triumph motorcycle, and the pinball machine in Al’s diner.
But it may surprise you to know that when Fonzie was playing that pinball machine, in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisc., he was breaking the law — and so was Al.

Moselle steamboat explosionBy Finn J.D. John

It was a peaceful, happy spring morning in the little river town of Canemah, situated just above Willamette Falls — or, rather, it started out that way.
It was April 8, 1854 — the very dawn of the steamboat era on the upper Willamette. Steamboats had been working the lower Willamette and Columbia for some time, but they’d only come to the upper Willamette three years before. The result, for Canemah, had been an explosion of growth.

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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.