Offbeat Oregon History

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.

Harry LaneBy Finn J.D. John

Many historians, when asked to cite the single biggest and most far-reaching government misstep in American history, will immediately start talking about the First World War.  By getting involved with that conflict — subtly at first, by lending money to the Allies, and later directly with American boots on French soil — we made it possible for one side to crush the other and impose its will,

Cornucpoia, OregonBy Finn J.D. John

Imagine yourself as a television network executive at NBC in 1973. The bright, happy Western classic “Bonanza” is about to be canceled. In a last-ditch effort to save it from the ax, you’ve been asked to put a fresh, “western-noir” spin on the show so that it can compete with the darker TV fare that’s now in fashion — like “All in the Family” and “M*A*S*H.”

Col. ThompsonBy Finn J.D. John
The “Oregon Style” of newspaper journalism was already a thing in 1871, when upstart newspaper publisher William “Bud” Thompson got in his famous gunfight in downtown  Roseburg.
But until that day, the vicious personal attacks that characterized the “Oregon Style” had mostly involved the spilling of ink — not blood.
On that late Monday morning on a corner in downtown Roseburg, that changed.

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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.