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Table of contents: 2008-2009 articles

These are the columns published in the first two calendar years of Offbeat Oregon History. Please note, though — all the articles linked to on this page have been revisited with greater thoroughness and accuracy in 2016 and 2017. This page is essentially an archive of obsolete stories.

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Date pub.






2009 articles:





Yaquina ghost story is pure fiction ... or is it?

Joaquin Miller's sister-in-law published it in a fiction magazine in 1899, and it's become the best-known Oregon Coast ghost story. But there are those who wonder if it's really untrue.




Grande Ronde Valley: Eden, used-oxen dealership

Native Americans bought exhausted oxen from one year's Oregon Trail emigrants, and -- after they'd fattened up nicely on the lush valley grasslands -- sold them for double price to the next year's travelers.




Pixieland: Memories of an edgy 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 is a dilapidated guardshack.




Lightship had to go cross-country to reach sea

To get the beached ship back to the ocean, it had to be hauled due east -- away from the sea -- and launched in the calmer Columbia River.




BLM and Straub stopped plan for highway on beach

Plan would have put highway, raised on pilings and surrounded by trucked-in sand, right along the beach on Nestucca Spit on land the federal government had given the state for use as a park only.




Oregon had inside track on California gold rush

Oregonians found out about the discovery of gold a month before New Yorkers did; the state nearly emptied out as everyone who could went south.




Martial law declared in bawdy mining town

Saloon keepers had taken over Copperfield; in response, governor Oswald West sent his secretary, Fern Hall, to close the wild and rowdy place down -- which she did.




Have you heard of Marie Dorion?

Sacagawea got much more press, but Marie Dorion's story is more dramatic and, arguably, more influential




Early naturalist thwarted by hungry, thirsty fellow travelers

One gobbled down his owl specimen; another poured the whisky out of his dead lizard specimen jar and drank it, leaving the lizards to rot.




Nation's only wheelchair-accessible tidepools

Gravel company had planned to quarry all of Yaquina Head, leaving only a small island with the lighthouse on it at the end; when government bought the land, it turned the quarry into tidepools.




Pioneer governor was made of tough stuff

A 60-mile bike ride, a half-acre of grass mowed with a reel-type push mower and an oak tree chopped through twice were all in a couple days' work for Governor T.T. Geer.
Oregon Governor Theodore Thurston Geer




Corvallis' cattle-powered riverboat experiment

Name of inventor who tried the treadmill-powered vessel lost in the mists of time, but he may be father of town's passion for alternative transportation.




Ice skating on Cottage Grove Lake?

Historic cold snap let many Willamette Valley residents try out the sport for the first and, for many, only time.
A painting of the iconic Midwest scene of skaters sporting on a frozen lake. This is a scene that has never been seen in the Willamette Valley of Oregon ... except for that one time, in 1949.




Bonus Army of 1932 started in Portland

The most damaging incident of the Hoover presidency started in Portland when Walter Waters started a peaceful march to Washington, D.C., to petition the president to let veterans draw on their service bonuses.




When Portland floods, folks raise the sidewalks

In massive 1894 flood, Portlanders held boat races on downtown streets, caught steelhead in the train station lobby.




Mount Hood celebrated statehood with fireworks

Northwest Oregon's mountain playground hasn't always been such a benign place; when the members of the Mazama Club held their meetings on top of Mount Hood, they were picnicking on an active volcano.




AWS spotted few enemies, but saved many friends

The "eyes on the sky" on the West Coast during World War II watched for Japanese planes, but mostly they helped guide American planes in distress to safe landings.
An example of the type of seaplane that was used to deliver the bombs on the forest near Brookings.




Graveyard of Oregon Trail still said to be haunted

Laurel Hill (Rhododendron Village) was the most dangerous part of the Barlow Road, the overland route for Oregon Trail emigrants; casualties were many, and ghost stories are as well.




Ghost stories still haunt century-old tavern

White Eagle Saloon, est. 1906, has changed little since the days when Portland was a rough, dangerous waterfront town; it's picked up some ghostly legends over the years.




Hank Vaughn's most profitable "gunfight"

While the gunsmoke and horsefeathers were flying behind the auction house, legendary cowboy's lawyer was buying back his wife's farm for a song.




Portland man woke up during his wake

Two boys, asked to watch over the deceased on a dark and windy night in the 1890s, are terrified when the "corpse" starts making noises.




Man paddled over Silver Falls and survived.

"Daredevil Al" Faussett ended up in the hospital after the plunge; while he was recovering, his partner skipped town with the proceeds from his feat




Lighthouse built 3 weeks too late for 16 sailors

Construction crew struggled to light a warning bonfire after hearing a sailing ship about to hit the rocks below; the next morning, all they could see was the top of its mainmast sticking out of the water.




Unexploded WWII bomb rides in glovebox

Civilian volunteers retrieved debris from the Japanese submarine-launched seaplane bombing of the forest near Brookings; included in the lot was an intact, unexploded bomb. Only later did they realize how lucky they were that it really was a dud.
An example of the type of seaplane that was used to deliver the bombs on the forest near Brookings.




Ashland Shakespeare plays beat out boxing event

The festival's 1935 debut went head to head with a festival of fistfights, and to the astonishment of many city leaders, the Shakespeare plays kayoed the boxing in the first round




Did Sir Frances Drake summer in Whale Cove?

Some historians think famous explorer's "Nova Albion," in which the Golden Hind stopped for repairs and provisions in 1579, is in Oregon, not northern California.
Whale Cove as seen from the headland at the south of its mouth.




Mule-powered railroad a desperate gambit

Colonel T.E. Hogg built tiny track over Cascades, hauled in a boxcar so he could say he had service over the mountains. Why? After his steamer was wrecked in a suspicious accident, he was desperate for cash.




The swine flu: Is it deja vu?

The "Spanish Flu" in 1918-1919 also was likely related to pigs; it killed 3,675 Oregon residents, but much has changed since then.




Oregon helped Hoover prevent mass starvation

Few people know it, but the most hated president of the 20th Century saved more people from starving to death than anyone else in the history of the world -- ever.




Oregon freeways were the envy of the west

State had first paved road border-to-border west of the Mississippi, in 1923; its first freeway, the Banfield, came a year before Eisenhower's freeway legislation




Granite: An old mining town that's almost a ghost

Not long ago, the former gold-mining Blue Mountain boomtown was an incorporated city of one; it's grown 2,800 percent since.




The president from Oregon who fed millions

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.




Snubbed by railroad, Prineville built its own

Most Oregon towns, when bypassed by the railroad, withered into tiny hamlets -- but one of them refused to die, and built its own railroad instead.




Farmer from Oregon started California's gold rush

Driven from Oregon's Willamette Valley by the spring rain, James Marshall likely would have been happier if he'd stayed; he made the initial discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, but didn't benefit much from it.




No one has ever found legendary lost gold mine

A group of kids from a lost wagon train found some strange yellow rocks in 1845, three years before the Gold Rush hit. Miners have been looking for the kids' play spot ever since.




This was the lake that wasn't, but then was

A dry year caused a massive Eastern Oregon lake to dry up; the next year, pioneers stared bewildered at earlier tracks, which led straight into the lake




13 was unlucky number in Oregon train robbery

D'Autremont brothers destroyed mail car, killed several people in bungled attempt at a heist in 1923, in American history's last Old West-style train robbery (NOTE: It is the sheerest coincidence that this article came as No. 13 on my list; they're numbered by date published, not date written. If you'll read this story, you'll understand how truly spooky that is).
A modern view of Tunnel 13, where the last Old West-style train robbery took place.




Liberty ships: Building 'em faster than Hitler could sink 'em, in Oregon

At Henry Kaiser's Portland shipyard, a champagne bottle was getting cracked over a brand-new bow every three days throughout the war.
One of the two surviving Liberty Ships, the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, under way.




Oregon Electric railroad line: State's past -- and future?

The plush rail service left artifacts along its lines after being made obsolete by the popularity of automobiles. But with the rising costs of fuel, it could be an idea whose time has come back.
The abandoned Pirtle Transfer Station on the Oregon Electric line, just south of Albany.




Love Crater Lake? Thank an Albany newspaperman

Founder of the Albany Herald fought for nearly 20 years to get iconic lake set aside as a public park; along the way, he introduced trout into it, and the state has been struggling to get them out ever since.
Crater Lake as seen on a vintage hand-tinted postcard from sometime before World War II.




Coming soon to a beach near you: 350-year-old beeswax

Chunks of beeswax that still occasionally wash up on Oregon beaches have been carbon-dated to the early 1600s, and are believed to be from a wrecked Spanish galleon.
A hefty chunk of the mysterious 17th-century beeswax, found washed up on the beach in 1952.




Valsetz: Company town was soggy, but home

The tiny town was owned by the sawmill, which bulldozed and burned it in 1984 when the mill closed.
Valsetz as viewed from an open railroad car on the Valley & Siletz excursion train from Independence in 1958.




The Oregon town that fell into the sea

Bayocean residents paid to build a jetty that changed the ocean's currents and caused it to wash the town away.
A Google Earth image of the sandy spit on which the town of Bayocean was built.




A pioneer scientist's graffiti in a cave

Prof. Thomas Condon and his students signed a stalagmite in Oregon Caves in 1883; their autographs are now protected by a thin layer of translucent calcite and will remain legible for millennia.
The signatures, in pencil, of Prof. Thomas Condon and his students, scrawled on this rock formation in 1883 and now preserved for all time under a thin, transparent layer of calcite.




Oregon's Centennial: The $19 million party

The Centennial bash in 1959 was a huge event; the state had been gearing up for three years and allocated millions to the festivities.
A 1959 Centennial "so-called dollar" issued by the city of Creswell, worth 50 cents in trade.




Oregon art students got "punk'd" by Andy Warhol & Co.

One of Warhol's cronies powdered his hair, donned Ray-Bans and impersonated his pal on the lecture circuit at universities in Oregon, Utah and Montana; hilarity ensued — for some, at least.
Allen Midgette, the fake Andy Warhol, in costume several years later at New York's Audart Gallery.




John Day's pioneer Chinese herbalist

Settlers in the late 1800s learned the healer of Kam Wah Chung could cure diseases others couldn't; all his patients survived the fatal Spanish Flu epidemic in 1919
Ing "Doc" Hay, the "China Doctor of John Day," as he looked when a young man.




2008 articles:





Jacksonville: Where gold was as cheap as salt

Hundreds of miles from nearest farm, but just a few yards from nearest mine, Southern Oregon town had so much gold the local bank charged a storage fee instead of paying interest.




The scandalous secret of One-Eyed Charley

There was something nobody kenw about the most skillful, admired stagecoach driver in 1880s Oregon -- but the horses knew the truth.




14,000-year-old fossilized people poop

The discovery pushed back the date of the earliest known humans in what's now Oregon until before the end of the last ice age; scientists actually recovered DNA from the samples.




Fish wheels back in service -- to save fish?

Once blamed for wiping out the enormous Columbia River salmon run, the mechanical salmon harvesters bring fish unhurt into waiting hands of conservationists who count, tag and release them




Did Bonneville Dam win World War II?

Power from Bonneville Dam in 1930s was turned into warplanes and other aluminum war materiel in the 1940s; it also made the development of nuclear weapons and energy possible.
Bonneville Dam postcard image from 1940s




Did Japan's wartime balloon bombs start the 1945 Tillamook Burn?

Forest fire broke out in a remote spot at odd time of year, in a virtually inaccessible spot, during World War II; no cause has yet been found.




Florence's famous exploding whale

An inexperienced highway engineer guessed wrong about how much dynamite would be needed to rid the beach of 8 tons of rotting whale carcass, with expensive and stinky results.


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