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A Benson log raft is turned out, ready to be shipped down the Columbia River and out to sea

How Oregon built the city of San Diego:

It took about 100 of the oceangoing log rafts invented by Simon Benson of Portland; no one had ever been able to invent a seaworthy log raft before. Here's the story.


Legendary Coast Guard rescue-boat man Tom McAdams.

Newport's legendary cigar-chomping Coast Guard lifesaver:

In one famous incident, he saved four drowning people and earned a lifesaving medal — but the Coast Guard had wanted to reprimand him for risking their nicest boat to do it. Here's the story.


Jonathan Bourne Jr., the rascally and creative political mastermind behind the 'hold-up session.'

The legislature's notorious 40-day drunken party

Lawmaker Jonathan Bourne Jr. knew if the state House convened, it would elect his opponent. So he held things up for six weeks — with a Bacchanalian bender. Here's the story.


Title screen from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Mel Blanc, the legendary Looney Toons voice man, grew up in Portland.

The voice of Bugs Bunny went to high school in Portland

Legendary Hollywood voice man Mel Blanc's teachers weren't too impressed with his voice talents, but Oregon radio listeners and cartoon fans sure were. Here's the story.


This hunk of pallasite came from the same 1820 meteor strike in Chile that many scientists believe was the source of the 'sample' Dr. John Evans claims he chipped off the Port Orford Meteorite when he found it. Was the meteorite a fraud? Many think so; others think not.

port orford meteorite: a hoax? or is it still out there somewhere?

The man who found it was in financial trouble; did he really find an 11-ton, $300-million rock, or did he make it all up so he could stay employed? Here's the story.


This is not a picture of the Sunshine; it's a lumber schooner of a similar type, the Wawona. The Sunshine, on her way home from her maiden voyage to San Francisco, vanished and then reappeared, upside down, 200 miles off course.

Gold was gone when schooner washed ashore ... empty

The fate of the Sunshine's passengers and crew is unknown ... did somebody wreck the ship on purpose?. Here's the story.


One of Conde McCullough's bridges -- the steel one linking Oregon City with Gladstone. he's better known for the Oregon Coast bridges.

Sammy Davis Jr. used to regularly play portland clubs.

Many consider him the coolest member of the Rat Pack. Sammy caught his big break while he was in Portland. Here's the story.


One of Conde McCullough's bridges -- the steel one linking Oregon City with Gladstone. he's better known for the Oregon Coast bridges.

The man behind Oregon's most famous bridges.

Conde McCullough's genius was in getting the most gorgeous bridge to also be the cheapest, over the long term. Here's the story.


The steamer Telephone, fastest boat on the river in the 1880s and possibly the world -- until it burned to the waterline one day.


riverboat captain had to choose: save passengers, or save his boat?

The steamboat Telephone caught fire at the widest spot in the Columbia; the decision must not have been too tough, because Captain U.B. Scott didn't hesitate for a moment. Here's what happened.

A shallow-draft riverboat of the type pioneered by Uriah B. Scott, on the river at Albany around 1900 or so.

Turns out the 'ignoramus from back east' knew what he was doing.

The big steamboat outfits laughed at the crude, ugly riverboat Uriah B. Scott was building ... until he used it to eat their lunch. Here's how.


The gravestone of Ame, who despite having died 10 years after the Civil War, was still considered a slave.

sHE DIED AROUND 1874. SO WHY DOES THE GRAVESTONE SAY SHE WAS A SLAVE?

Ame came over the Oregon Trail from Missouri. But when the North won the Civil War, her status as a slave didn't change. Here's what happened.


Ray V.B. Jackson in a booking photo from the Oregon State Pen, in 1896. Four years after this photo was taken, he was teaching grade school in Silver Lake.

Is this the face of oregon's first serial killer?

Like an "angel of death," ex-con Ray V.B. Jackson just happened to be at the scene of at least five Central Oregon homicides. What are the odds? Here's the story (in two parts).


The four-masted schooner North Bend, stranded on a sandy spit, 'sailed' through two and a half miles of sand and relaunched itself on the other side.

The stranded sailing ship that salvaged and re-launched itself.

The North Bend was the last tall ship ever built on the West Coast. When it ran aground on Peacock Spit, it just kept on sailing through the sand, crossing two miles of sandy beach to reach Baker Bay. It took over a year. Here's the story.


The Sagebrush Symphony Orchestra on its 'giant violin' float, after riding it through the town of Burns in the Fourth of July Parade, 1915.

america's first youth orchestra came out of tiny sagebrush town.

The Portland Youth Philharmonic says it was founded in Portland in 1924. Actually, it's older than that -- and much more rural. Here's the story.


Vaudeville's famous Klondike Kate became a Central Oregon legend

central oregon's most fabulous homesteader ever.

Homesteader Kitty "Klondike Kate" Rockwell, retired from the bright lights of Vaudeville, often wore full costume just to weed the garden. Here's the story.


Goal of Oregon whale hunters: Grow fur coats, and put a man on the moon.

helping put a man on the moon, one dead whale at a time?

Whale oil is special stuff, and NASA needed it for the space program. So an Astoria group launched a whaling venture in the early 1960s. Here's the story.


Shipwreck ended Astoria's 1840s bid to become the Nantucket of the West Coast

astoria could have become a mecca of whale hunting ...

... had it not been for the Columbia River Bar, which wrecked the only whaling ship that ever dared try to cross it with a full cargo hold. It was a total loss. Here's the story.


Early Oregon 'holy roller' cult ended in murder, suicide, insanity

THE holy-roller "NAKED LADIES' CULT" IN CORVALLIS and waldport.

It started out as a church seeking perfect holiness and Godliness. It ended in murder, insanity and chaos — and, yes, rumors of naked ladies. Check out the full story (in two parts).


The Glenesslin, under almost full sail, grinds against the rocks at the base of Neahkahnie Mountain.

mariner's spooky nightmare came true the next day

In his dream, the first mate of the German barque Mimi saw seaweed covering all but three shipmates. The next day, all but three drowned in one of Oregon's worst-ever salvage disasters. Here's the story.


Florence's famous exploding whale: A highway engineer didn't know how much dynamite to use, so he guessed ... and guessed wrong.

Whale explodes: Details at 11.

The highway department guy didn't know how much dynamite to use, and said so on camera. But he still thinks the operation was a success. Check out the story of Florence's famous exploding whale ...


The Glenesslin, under almost full sail, grinds against the rocks at the base of Neahkahnie Mountain.

was this shipwreck insurance fraud or just drunken incompetence?

On a beautiful clear October day, astonished beach-goers watched a big windjammer simply turn and sail straight into the side of a mountain. Why would her crew do such a thing? Here's the story.


.44-caliber Colt Dragoon revolver, designed in 1848.

gold-rush bandits hunted down and killed ... but where was their loot?

No one has ever found it — or if they have, they've been awfully discreet. The Triskett Gang had stolen it hours earlier from the assaying depot in the town of Sailors' Diggins. Here's the story.


US Coast Guard 47-foot motor lifeboat takes on a heavy sea off Cape Disappointment.

tired of seeing mariners die, lighthouse keeper took action.

In 1865, Joel Munson watched 17 sailors drown on the Columbia Bar. But when their lifeboat washed up near his lighthouse, it gave him an idea — an idea that lives on today in the U.S. Coast Guard. Here's the story.


Delake Rod and Gun Club as it appeared in 1960.

mysterious mansion was haunted only by olympic medalist's dream.

OSU Wrestling legend Robin Reed, an Olympic gold medalist, was never pinned once in his entire career. But his plan for the Delake Rod and Gun Club ended in defeat. Here's the story.


U.S. Coast Guard cutter Algonquin.

bootleggers save sailors' lives, but get thrown in jail anyway.

In the early years of Prohibition, a Canadian rumrunner entered U.S. territorial waters to save the lives of nine castaways — and got caught and sent to jail anyway. Here's the story.


Bobbie the Wonder Dog

Bobbie the wonder dog's 2,400-mile odyssey.

Left behind in Illinois, the big collie dog walked home to Silverton, Oregon. It took him six months. Here's Bobbie's story.


A modern reproduction of a classic Concord Stagecoach.

a few legends of buried gold and treasure ...

Some of them might even be true. Here's a selection of them — as far as we know, the loot from any of them has never been found.


This crater marks ground zero in the Roseburg Blast. It's about 60 feet across.

a nuclear strike
in downtown roseburg?

No; it was "just" an exploding dynamite truck. But the mushroom cloud was big enough to fool a passing airline pilot. Here's the full story of the legendary "Roseburg Blast."


Part of the historic entry to Portland's Chinatown.

he dressed in rags like a beggar, so no one would know ...

To avoid getting robbed and murdered, Chinese couriers dressed as beggars while carrying thousands of dollars in gold from the fields. This is the story of one of these men, and the woman whose life he saved.


Steamer Admiral Evans, f.k.a. Buckman, which the two would-be pirates tried to hijack

THE dumbest would-be pirates in the history of the universe.

Their plan: Hijack a passenger steamer (that's it, in the thumbnail above), run it aground and sneak off into the bushes with 3 tons of gold. Do I need to mention that it didn't work out? Here's what happened.


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THE SHIPWRECK VICTIMS WHO THOUGHT THEY WERE GONERS ... UNTIL A TRAIN SHOWED UP.

Usually when something steams out to sea to rescue shipwrecked sailors, it's not a railroad train. Here's the story of the one (and probably only) time it was.


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Far-out guru "enlightens" Central Oregon.

What happens when a colony of acolytes of an East Indian guru move in, then try to take over Wasco County? Check out the four-part story of the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram ...


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this oregon youth went on to save half a billion lives...guess who?

A local Willamette Valley teen-ager named Bert Hoover, an orphan sent from Iowa to live with his uncle, went on to save millions of lives and become a singularly ill-starred U.S. president.


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oregon's most spectacular shipwreck ever.

The steam schooner J. Marhoffer was almost brand-new when, burning fiercely from stem to stern, it piled onto the rocks near Depoe Bay. It's the remains of this fiery shipwreck that gave Boiler Bay its name ...


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the gallant rescue of portland's floating brothel.

Maritime madam Nancy Boggs kept her bordello on a barge floating in the river, until a police raid cut it loose. But the captain and crew of a sternwheeler came to save the day. Here's the story.


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take off to the province of oregon, eh?

Few people know how close Oregon came to officially becoming a British possession under the treaty that ended the War of 1812. Only the presence of a handful of scattered, starving survivors from Astor's fur enterprise prevented it. Here's how.


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timberline lodge could have been a glass skyscraper

Calling the plan a "profit-making eyesore," a Forest Service manager nixed 1920s plan for a modern steel-and-glass structure with an aerial tramway. You can read about it right here.


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pixieland: an edgy, vanished amusement park

Built in the late 1960s as a "fairy-tale history of Oregon," the amusement park lasted just a few years before slipping into receivership. Today, all that's left of this odd and uniquely Oregonian story is a dilapidated guardshack.


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Mariner survived shipwreck by being trapped in the wreckage

George May was in an impossible situation, trapped in the upside-down hull of his ship, waiting for death. But then the ship washed ashore, the tide receded, and he lived to tell the story of the wreck of the M/V Oshkosh.

A vintage postcard image depicting the schooner H.H. Chamberlain in
a gale off the East Coast. The Oshkosh was a smaller ship and had
only two masts, but its situation must have been comparable.
By Finn J.D. John — April 1, 2012

It was the dark early-morning hours of Feb. 13, 1911, and off the north coast of Oregon the gasoline-powered motor schooner Oshkosh was in serious trouble.

The Oshkosh was a coastwise cargo ship, but it wasn’t much bigger than a large yacht. It was 89 feet long and rated at just 145 tons. It was also nearly brand new, built in 1909 at the Kruse and Banks Shipyard in North Bend.

The little freighter was only about a year and a half old. It would not live to see its second year.

Helpless in a hurricane

The Oshkosh had left Tillamook Bay a day before, headed for the Umpqua River. In twenty-four hours of pounding abuse, its twin 100-horsepower gasoline engines roaring the whole time, it had made no headway against the 75-knot southwest wind; in fact, it had been blown back up the coast until it was just off the Columbia Bar. Also, one of the very first big waves to hit the ship had torn its lifeboat loose and crammed it into the deckhouse, destroying the galley and broaching the fresh water tanks, which quickly became contaminated with seawater.

The two-masted schooner Niagara under full sail in Massachusetts. This
vessel was of similar size and construction to the Oshkosh, except the
Oshkosh was designed to be operated primarily under power rather than
sail.

In desperation, Captain Thomas Latham turned the tiny ship around shoreward for a desperate gamble: A run across the Columbia River Bar in the midst of what amounted to a hurricane.

This was like playing Russian roulette, only with four or five shells in the revolver rather than just one. If the tide was flooding and the Oshkosh managed by sheer luck to avoid the shoal sands, it just might make it. But it was a desperate gamble, and the fact that a seasoned schooner skipper like Latham would even consider it says a lot about the trouble the Oshkosh was in.

They didn’t get far before Latham lost the bet. As it struggled to make headway against the outbound current, the underpowered schooner was blown out of the channel and into the breakers at the side of the bar. A colossal comber came down on the tiny ship with a sublime and terrible finality.

Down below, in the engine room, the Oshkosh’s engineer, George May, was struggling to keep the ship’s straining engines happy, coaxing as much power out of them as he could, when it happened. The engine room lifted high, like an elevator car shooting up, then abruptly lurched to one side, slamming May into a bulkhead like a bean being shaken in a box. Loose furniture crashed into him. A big drawer full of steel bolts, pipes and spare parts shot out of its cabinet and made for May like a cruise missile; he somehow managed to get out of its way before it pounded into the bulkhead beside him with crushing force.

Then he realized he was lying on the ceiling. The ship had turned turtle.

Trapped in a capsized ship

A postcard image of an unnamed cargo schooner lying in port. This ship
is of similar type and size to the Oshkosh.

He reached for the steel-caged light bulb as it faded to a dull glow and then left him in darkness. The two engines screamed, spinning the screws in the air above, before shutting down, starved of fuel and air. May was left in absolute blackness, feeling seawater starting to rise.

It didn’t rise very far, though. Although May had the companionway hatch open, the engine room was airtight, and formed a bubble.

The ship continued to be muscled around by the storm and the breakers, although it presented a much lower profile to the wind and the surface waves now that it was upside down. The water on the engine room overhead was now several inches deep, and May had to cling to bulkhead fittings as the ship was tossed around.

Finally, hours later, the motion of the ship slowed to a gentle swaying.

“Is that a light?”

Then May thought he saw a light. Just the faintest hint of a glow, coming from out of the blackness at his feet — and then nothing. Then it was back, a little brighter this time.

Then he felt the ship bump on something and realized it was the beach. The glow was sunlight reflected on the sandy bottom, seen through the open companionway.

May fought the urge to claw his way out into the light. He knew the water out there was bone-chillingly cold, and he was plenty chilly already from the oily water in the engine room. The ship was also on the move, and there was a chance he’d get pinned by it as he tried to swim out, temporarily blinded by the saltwater.

He waited. The ship bumped again, and again. The light came and went, more bright and more frequent. And then, finally, with an unusually heavy thump, the ship stuck.

The tide gradually receded, and May was free.

He was the only one of the crew that made it. Had he not been spared, the fate of the Oshkosh would have gone down as another Oregon Coast maritime mystery — one of the upside-down hulls that occasionally floated ashore, empty and lifeless, the story of their final moments unknown and unknowable.

(Sources: Marshall, Don. Oregon Shipwrecks. Portland: Binford, 1984; Gibbs, James Jr. Pacific Graveyard. Portland: Binford, 1950; shipbuildinghistory.com)