Portland

Klan in PortlandBy Finn J.D. John

In early 1921, an outgoing Louisiana salesman named Luther Powell crossed the border from California to Oregon, with business on his mind.
Powell was a “Kleagle.” His job was to recruit new members for the newly resurgent Ku Klux Klan, collecting the $10 membership fee from each.
His commission was a whopping 40 percent. And the Oregon territory was wide open.

Portland dockBy Finn J.D. John

The Portland municipal dock as it appeared around the time of the longshoremen’s strike.

When the gunfire broke out and he heard the bullets sizzling overhead, visiting New York senator Robert Wagner was dumbfounded.
“This can’t be true,” he said.
It was. The bullets had come from four “special police” guards — part of a group of 200 guards hired by the city of Portland to keep the peace on the waterfront during the big longshoremen’s strike. They were not professional cops.

By Finn J.D. John

Portland harborThis hand-tinted postcard, postmarked 1931, shows the newly built Burnside Bridge drawn for shipping to pass through.

Early Portland was a relatively corruption-friendly town. But even the best of us have our limits, as three Multnomah County Commissioners learned the hard way in 1924.
In that year, the Portland area had a serious traffic congestion problem. The main source of the trouble was the Burnside Bridge, a swing-span setup that was at the time only 30 years old. However, it had deteriorated very badly, and was no longer considered safe. A new bridge was desperately needed.

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.

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.

By Finn J.D. John

Portland, Oregon grain shipsIn the mid-1890s, ship captains and sailors’ boardinghouse owners were like partners in crime — both busily and happily swindling sailors out of what little money they had and were owed.
But in the mid-1890s, something happened to upset this cozy arrangement: One particular “boarding master” — in one particular West Coast port city — figured out how to double-cross his co-conspirators, and suddenly the ship captains were left out in the cold.

 

By Finn J. D. John

Tusko & AlUnder the light of a single bulb, in a big storage room at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene, are the bones of a famous onetime Oregonian named Ned.
Ned had other names.

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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.