Offbeat Oregon History

USFS trapperBy Finn J,D. John

J.R. Carper, the U.S. Forest Service government trapper, posing on the front porch of a log cabin in 1908 with the skins of a number of predatory animals.

To Dr. W.H. Lytle, Oregon’s state veterinarian, the entire idea was preposterous. A rabies outbreak in northeast Oregon? Bah. Rabies was barely known west of the Rockies.
“However,” he added — no doubt with an exasperated sigh — “we intend to investigate the situation in Wallowa County and ascertain the facts at once.”

Early downtown Portland, ORBy Finn J.D. John

One November evening in 1885, Portland residents walking past a row of tiny houses at Third and Yamhill heard screams coming from one of them.
Bursting in, they found the mutilated and lifeless remains of a 33-year-old French beauty known as Emma Merlotin. Someone had killed her brutally with a hatchet and then slipped away into the night.
Emma, whose real name was Anna DeCoz, was a well-known “nymph du pave,” as the Evening Telegram phrased it — basically, a courtesan. Her clientele included some of the city’s most prominent bigwigs, and it was widely rumored at the time that her death had come at the hands of one of them — although 11 years later, a Canadian drifter confessed to the crime.

Tragic shipwreck was like a concerto of incompetence

Czarina shipwreckBy Finn J.D. John

The night of January 12, 1910, was a long one for a group of women clustered on the storm-swept beach of Coos Bay Spit. They were there watching as their husbands, clinging to the rigging of their foundered ship just a few hundred yards away, fell one by one into the churning sea and drowned.
It was the final act in what had to be the bleakest shipwreck drama in state history. Twenty-three of the 24 men aboard the 216-foot iron steamer Czarina died that day. And they died not from heavy weather, but from a veritable concerto of timidity and incompetence. There were no villains in the tragedy — just a number of people who, when weighed in the balances, were found wanting.
Here’s the story:

Tragic shipwreck was like a concerto of incompetence

Czarina shipwreckBy Finn J.D. John

The night of January 12, 1910, was a long one for a group of women clustered on the storm-swept beach of Coos Bay Spit. They were there watching as their husbands, clinging to the rigging of their foundered ship just a few hundred yards away, fell one by one into the churning sea and drowned.
It was the final act in what had to be the bleakest shipwreck drama in state history. Twenty-three of the 24 men aboard the 216-foot iron steamer Czarina died that day. And they died not from heavy weather, but from a veritable concerto of timidity and incompetence. There were no villains in the tragedy — just a number of people who, when weighed in the balances, were found wanting.
Here’s the story:

For Army, Camp Castaway shipwreck miracle was an inconvenient one

Coos Bay spit, OregonIt was January 3, 1852 — the middle of the night and the middle of winter, just off the middle of the Oregon Coast. The U.S. Army’s schooner Captain Lincoln, carrying a detachment of U.S. Army dragoons and supplies to reinforce a garrison near Port Orford, was getting badly abused by the weather. Wave after massive wave descended on the hapless Captain Lincoln, opening up a thousand little leaks in its hull; the soldiers toiled below decks at the pumps, trying desperately to stay ahead of the rising water in the bilge. Trying — and failing.

By Finn J.D. John

Portland's Stark Street ferryOn the afternoon of Nov. 8, 1858, 48-year-old Danford Balch stood on the deck of the Stark Street Ferry, holding a double-barreled shotgun. Both barrels were still smoking. At his feet in a widening crimson puddle lay the body of his son-in-law, Mortimer Stump.
It was the crime that would lead, early the following year, to the first public execution in Portland’s history. And it happened so long ago — it’s so shrouded in the mists of time and of rough-and-ready frontier recordkeeping — that it’s hard to know exactly what happened, or why.

IWW posterFinn J.D. John

In early 1917, shortly after the U.S. declared war on Germany, the first detachment of U.S. soldiers was dispatched … to the forest of western Oregon.
It turned out the wildest, boldest and (if you were a capitalist) most terrifying labor union in U.S. history had got its hooks deep into the logging business just as demand for timber reached its peak, and as the rest of the country was marching to war, the loggers were marching off the job.
That union was the International Workers of the World — better known as the Wobblies.
The year and a half that followed would be eventful ones in Oregon and Washington. They’d see the U.S. Army actually chartering a labor union of its own;

By Finn J.D. John

Postcard view of Toledo, OregonIn the summer of 1925, an event took place in the Coast Range town of Toledo that would spark widespread outrage and an international incident. The event was, for all practical purposes, a race riot: A mob of hundreds of angry white people attacking and evicting a small group of Japanese workers.

By Finn J.D. John

Spad C.VII Spad C.VII flown by Italian pilot Ernesto Cabruna

The last year of the First World War saw an explosion in Allied aircraft. The forces of Imperial Germany put up the best fight they could, and fielded probably the best aircraft of the war — the Fokker D.VII, which famously could hang on its propeller — but the few they managed to make were overwhelmed by swarms of the latest SPADs, Nieuports and DeHavilands, which were close to equal quality and far more numerous.

By Finn J.D. John

Anti KVEP radio ad

The first radio broadcaster ever to do be sent to prison for cursing on the air was a hard-charging early shock jock known as “The Oregon Wildcat,” who kept the city of Portland and surrounding regions glued to their radio sets every evening for most of the first half of 1930.
Robert Gordon Duncan was his name, and he broadcast his scandalous but highly entertaining tirades every single day over Radio KVEP (K-Voice of East Portland), 1500 AM.

The radio station was originally started in 1927 by William Schaeffer, who ran it in the customary way for several years and achieved a modest popularity with listeners.

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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.