Offbeat Oregon History

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.

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.

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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.