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Link to Web site for Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town z

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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.


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.


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).


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 ...


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.


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."


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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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

“Roaring Twenties” murder mystery solved by cop's diligence

Caught by a railroad “bull,” the thief shot his way out and ran for it. But an accurate shot by the dying guard and some persistent police work brought the bad guy to justice in a pistol-waving scene in a seedy Albina hotel room.

The Portland Morning Oregonian's artist's illustration of the scene when fugitive murderer Dan Casey, hiding under the bed in a cheap hotel room, went for his gun.
An illustration of the scene in the Davis Hotel when detectives saw a hand suddenly
reach out from under the bed, grabbing for a pistol hidden there. (Image: Portland
Morning Oregonian, 23 Feb 1936)

The sun had just gone down on a warm early-summer night, and the twilight was in the final stages of fading away when Union Pacific Railroad special agents Buck Phillips and H.G. Schneider stepped into the railroad yard to make the rounds.

There had been some issues in the railyard. A gang of thieves had been systematically pillaging the railroad that year. Their M.O. was a simple one, and evidently pretty effective: they’d sneak aboard an outbound boxcar full of cigarettes and, while the train was en route, start chucking boxes of smokes out the door; other members of the gang would come along afterward and retrieve them. They were clearly doing this at night, because the following day railroad agents would usually find a case or two that they’d missed. And this had been going on for three months.

So Phillips and Schneider weren’t just making the rounds the night of June 14, 1921. They were looking for somebody, and they had to have been a little nervous about what might happen when they found him.

The two of them walked along the train, one on each side, flashlights in hands, revolver holsters unsnapped and ready to draw.

Looking for trouble

Phillips saw a dim outline bundled up on a flatcar loaded with machinery: a man, riding the rails. Technically, this was illegal, and the two agents — “bulls” — were supposed to kick him off. But as a practical matter, Phillips and Schneider didn’t much care about rail riders, as long as they weren’t causing any trouble.

Mugshots of the "Boxcar Bandits," Dan Casey and John Burns, from the newspaper the day after their arrest.
Boxcar bandit suspects Dan Casey and John Burns. Casey was
hanged for murder; Burns was extradited to Ohio to serve a lengthy
sentence for armed robbery. (Photos: Portland Morning Oregonian,
18 Jun 1921)

“Where are you going?” Phillips asked him.

“Headin’ for Baker, chief,” the grizzled bindlestiff said, adding that he was going to Eastern Oregon for the hay harvest.

Phillips nodded and moved on. This would turn out to be a mistake. If he’d paused a moment and asked another question or two, the traveler might have told him that a couple rough-looking customers had passed by him just before the two bulls arrived, moving in the same direction up the train.

The agents moved on, methodically working their way up the side of the train. A few cars later, Phillips saw what he was looking for: an open boxcar door.

In 1921, on the Union Pacific line to Troutdale, boxcars did not roll around with their doors open. They were full of freight, and they were sealed shut. If that boxcar door was open, it was because somebody had opened it.

Phillips pulled his revolver out and brought his flashlight up. “Come on out of there,” he barked.

There was silence for a moment. Then the inside of the boxcar lit up with four bright fiery flashes as the sound of pistol shots split the night.

Three .38-caliber bullets lanced into Phillips — one in the upper arm, one in his thigh and a third in the lower chest. He crumpled to the ground. Then two men jumped out of the boxcar and ran.

Schneider scrambled under the boxcar and, once on the other side, got up and emptied his own .38 Special after the fleeing shadowy forms. Phillips managed to get three shots of his own off before losing consciousness.

He never regained it. Two hours later, in the hospital, he died.

The investigation

The next morning, Portland Police Detective John Goltz was on the scene, and police and railroad agents searched the area carefully. They didn’t find much — but they soon realized one of the bulls’ pistol shots had hit one of the bad guys. There was a substantial blood trail leading away from the train.

Goltz’s investigation led through several dead ends over the next few days. But the publicity the case had generated was helping quite a bit. One key breakthrough happened when a truck driver reported that he’d been hired to move some large, mysterious boxes, fairly frequently, from the Davis Hotel, located at 123 ½ Russell Street in Albina, to a nearby grocery store. It seemed kind of weird to be moving freight through a hotel like that.

Then an anonymous tipster called and suggested Goltz might want to talk to a man named Dan Casey, who might be staying at — you guessed it — the Davis Hotel.

Goltz decided he ought to go take a look.

At the hotel

When police arrived at the hotel, the owner, John Burns, was friendly and helpful — and loud. “Ain’t nobody here by that name,” he boomed. “I haven’t seen him since last Wednesday.”

Then a woman walked out of one of the rooms. Goltz asked her, straight out: “Where’s Casey?”

“I haven’t seen Dan for a week,” the woman bellowed in reply.

Meanwhile, Mr. Burns was slowly unlocking doors in the hallway, making sure the locks made plenty of rattling noises. “I told you Casey wasn’t here,” he roared cheerfully. “But seeing as how you are bulls, I suppose I’ll have to show you around.”

In the first room, the detectives found a black doctor’s bag full of bandages, and in the second room, a basket full of bloody gauze. There was also a loaded .38 Special with dried blood all over it, and a box of blasting caps. The trail seemed to be hotting right up.

And yet, half an hour or so later, Goltz and his men were getting ready to leave. They hadn’t found their man.

Like the cocky suspect on an old episode of "Columbo," Burns now started laughing at them. “You see, copper,” he jeered, “I wasn’t lying to you. Casey ain’t here.”

Then Goltz realized there was one more room they hadn’t searched — the one the loud-talking woman had emerged from earlier.

The hand that grabs the pistol

When they walked into it and started searching, one of the detectives gave a sudden yell.

“Look out!” he cried out. “There’s somebody under that bed!”

At the same time, a long arm snaked out from under the bed and dove under the pillow, then emerged gripping a big revolver.

“Drop that gun!” shouted Goltz, getting his own out and pointing it at the figure under the bed.

It was indeed Dan Casey, and he was promptly arrested and given medical treatment for not one but two gunshot wounds — both from the same bullet, which had gone through his forearm and lodged in his chest; clearly it was one of Phillips’ dying shots, fired at him as he was exiting the boxcar, since all six of Schneider’s shots had been from the back.

Ballistics test done on the bloody revolver proved it had been the one used to kill Phillips, and the Baker-bound bindlestiff identified Casey out of a line-up. A jury soon made it official, and sentenced him to hang.

Two years later, at the Oregon State Penitentiary, it was done.

(Sources: Holbrook, Stewart. “The Boxcar Murder: A Northwest Mystery,” Portland Oregonian, 2-23-1936; Portland Oregonian, 6-18-1921 and 9-24-1921)