Enjoy! And if you have any comments on stories, suggestions for column topics or other feedback — or if you're coming by the OSU campus and have time for a cup of coffee with a fellow history dork — drop me a note at fj-@-offbeatoregon-dot-com any time!
After several other attempts to get into the crime business didn't work out for them, the DeAutremont brothers came up with a plan to rob a train at the summit of the Siskiyous. It did not go well — for anyone involved.
College professor's forensic investigation fingered the DeAutremont Brothers in the brutal robbery; after a years-long manhunt, and more than 2 million “wanted” posters, they were caught. But we still don't know the full story.
Summer Lake, Abert Lake and Goose Lake were once all part of a vast network of seas surrounded by lush vegetation. In dry years they can evaporate completely — which led to some confusion on the Applegate Trail one year.
As a historical account, the Lost Blue Bucket Mine story is, to put it mildly, questionable. But there can be no denying the impact it has had as a legend, repeated and believed by generations of Oregonians.
The darksome story of the old console game, with its attendant Men In Black and swarms of zombie children, is a fun story to look back on; but its odds of being true are up there with tales of Bigfoot.
He arrived in Oregon at age 9, and people called him “Poor Little Bertie.” He left Oregon for good to go to college at Stanford when he was 17. But Herbert Clark Hoover remained a member of the Salem Quaker church until his death.
When World War I broke out, Herbert Hoover was the world's most successful mining engineer. He abandoned all that to build an organization to feed the starving, first in Belgium and then throughout war-torn Europe.
When Salem native Alfred Carlton Gilbert, inventor of the Erector Set, learned that government officials were going to cancel Christmas with their “Buy Bonds, Not Toys” campaign, he went to Washington to change their minds. He did.
Desperate for some ready cash after his steamer wrecked on the beach, the would-be magnate hastily built a “railroad to nowhere” over Santiam Pass in an attempt to swindle the federal government. It probably would have worked, but ...
Let's face it: No one actually knows where the famous English privateer and explorer spent the summer, and his notes, upon his return, were deliberately opaque. But it's possible that his “Nova Albion” was on the Oregon Coast.
East Portland's White Eagle Saloon has a colorful past. Over the years, it's been local headquarters for the Polish Resistance, a rough watering hole for sailors and dock workers, and Portland's hottest blues and rock-and-roll hot spot.
The city business leaders hoped the Shakespeare Festival would do OK, but just in case it tanked, they insisted that it share the stage with a series of prizefights. The boxing matches bombed badly; luckily, the Shakespeare plays did not.
The construction crew had knocked off work for the night, and outside the building the blustery January weather raged. Then, over the roar of wind and surf, the crew heard a terrified voice from below shouting, “Hard aport!”
But in 1861, the worst floods in state history turned the Willamette Valley into one giant half-million-acre lake and swept several burgeoning towns away. And, despite our flood-control dams, someday it will probably happen again.
Portlander Walter Waters arrived in D.C. at the head of 20,000 disciplined, well-intentioned petitioners to request that First World War vets be paid their service bonus early. Hoover refused to meet with him — a big mistake.
Eugene city leaders campaigned hard at the ballot box to stop South Lane County from seceding, and the plan to create a new county was defeated. A year or two later, the embittered south-county used the same ballot box to get even.
Although Oregon turned out to be harder for the Japanese navy to reach than folks thought, historian Bill McCash estimates the civilian plane-spotting service likely saved as many as 100 American aviators from dying in plane crashes.
Back when the Mazama Club formed, with membership open only to those who had climbed old Wy’East, standing on top of the mountain meant more than it does today. Just 35 years earlier, fire had been belching out of it.
When the mercury dropped below 20 degrees for six weeks, a six-inch layer of ice formed on many Willamette Valley lakes — and locals took up ice skating. And five years earlier, it got so cold, a newly built steamship actually cracked in half.
The most famous con artist of the Old West started in Portland, then traveled throughout the state working the “marks” with his signature swindle. Fifteen years later, an Oregonian shot him in a gun fight in Skagway.
Hopping on an old steel one-speed and pedaling 30 miles, then mowing a half-acre of lawn with a push mower, chopping down an oak tree twice, and riding 30 miles back again — it was all in a weekend's work for Gov. T.T. Geer.