About Offbeat Oregon 2012 articles 2011 articles 2010 articles 2008-2009 articles About me Store (the Finn J.D. John Centre for Crass Commercialism and Filthy Lucre)
Links to Offbeat Oregon History podcast page on iTunes Daily RSS feed (text/images) info Offbeat Oregon History page on Facebook. New historic photographs are frequently posted. Offbeat Oregon on Twitter. This is where you'll find most of the "pop history" community. Daily RSS audio edition (podcast) and iTunes feed Links to Offbeat Oregon History podcast page on iTunes

A few recent columns you might enjoy:

The Woody Herman Band performs at the Cottonwoods Ballroom in the Cottonwoods Ballroom in November 1947. Other acts that have graced the Cottonwoods include Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Chuck Berry, the Nat King Cole Trio, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, The Drifters, Duke Ellington, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and dozens of others.

How the Oregon Coast almost lost the Peter Iredale to a scrap-metal shark

An Oregon City man claimed he'd inherited the rights from his father, and demanded to be allowed to cut it up and haul it away. He almost got away with this little swindle.

The Woody Herman Band performs at the Cottonwoods Ballroom in the Cottonwoods Ballroom in November 1947. Other acts that have graced the Cottonwoods include Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Chuck Berry, the Nat King Cole Trio, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, The Drifters, Duke Ellington, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and dozens of others.

There's a piece of lava from central oregon in this photo, on the moon.

It was left there by astronaut Jim Irwin at the request of a friend from Bend — who gave him a sliver of Oregon lava to leave on the moon's surface. And so he did.

The Motel 6 on Mission Street in Salem as it appeared in the mid-1970s, when Carl Cletus Bowles made his run from its back door. Don't laugh, at least not too loudly ... two innocent people would die before Bowles was back in prison.

Killer broke out of state prison during a conjugal visit at a nearby Motel 6

It had to be the most awkward prison-break scenario in the history of the universe. But it really did happen. Here's the story.

James Lappeus, former Portland Chief of Police. He eventually was fired over allegations that he'd offered to 'accidentally' leave the jailhouse door open for a convicted murderer if his wife paid a $1,000 bribe.

gambler, swindler, gunfighter, liquor man ... oh, and also police chief.

James Lappeus came to Portland to open a saloon and "theater." Despite his checkered past — or maybe because of it — he was named city marshal and, later, Chief of Police. Here's the story.

Boats of the Astoria fishing fleet, with the help of both wind and incoming tide, race away from the dangers of the Columbia River Bar in this postcard image from around the turn of the century.

When fishing was so deadly, one in 15 didn't survive the season.

They drifted downstream in heavy 24-foot boats with their nets out ... and prayed the tide would turn before they got sucked out onto the bar. Here's the story.

This postcard picture of Cannon Beach was created in 1966, which means just off to the left of the frame is a beach with a fence around it and "no trespassing" signs.


A Portland real-estate guy found a loophole in the law and claimed a patch of beach for his own, and his friends in the state Legislature tried to keep it that way. Here's the story.

A color lithograph of George and Kate Ann Williams’s Victorian  mansion, located at 18th and Couch streets downtown.

This spooky-looking Portland mansion was home of a 'starvation cult'

A prominent Portland socialite led a sect called "Truth," with the motto "Pray and Be Cured," that required 40-day fasts. It vanished after its leader starved herself to death during a 110-day fast. Here's the story.

The archway monument leading up to the Wallowa County Courthouse,  built in 1936. The bronze plaque on the inside left of the arch includes  the name of murderer and horse thief Bruce “Blue” Evans.

A monument in honor of a horse thief and mass murderer?

Bruce "Blue" Evans led the gang that slaughtered over 30 innocent Chinese miners in 1887. So why is his name celebrated on a monument to Wallowa County Pioneers? Probably because they didn't know. 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.

Three Rocks Beach, Camp Westwind, the mouth of the Salmon River and Cascade  Head as they appear today.

Is there pirate loot buried at this YWCA youth camp?

The discovery of a giant skeleton in the 1930s suggested that the old Indian legend of a pirate ship sinking in the Salmon River might be true ... or maybe not. 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.


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).

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.

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.

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Algonquin.

bootleggers saveD sailors' lives, were rewarded with prison.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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

The Lost Ledge

A short story about a Southern Oregon gold miner who lost everything that was important to him one day — and then got the most important part of it back just in time. (Presented as a work of fiction in Pacific Monthly Magazine, December 1898)

A postcard image from 1898 showing three gold miners working the
diggin's with a gold pan.

The old man stood gazing stupidly into his mining pan. He had been standing so in the shallow stream for full 16 minutes, shifting the sands from side to side. There was a gleam of “colors” and little golden nuggets mixed with the mud, sand and water in the flaring, rusted rim.

In a laurel on the mountainside a quail piped shrilly. The man started as it from a dream, and one toilworn hand fumbled about until the nuggets lay in the calloused palm. They would have meant so much to him once! Now he had lost what gold could not bring back.

The warm sun of Southern Oregon poured its rays down on the granite hills, and the hills cast the heat back fiercely. There was no movement, no sound to break the stillness of nature; there was no human being to break the loneliness of the man.

He turned from the stream and walked slowly through the brush until he came to a hole, dug deep in the ground, the prospect hole where he had struck “pay dirt”; then with a sudden fierceness he took the shovel and attacked the heap of gravel and fresh earth at his side. The afternoon dragged on, and when the sun went down the place was level again.

The old man looked carefully about him. To the right was a tall pine; he blazed the trunk. On the left he marked a laurel; south to the stream it was forty steps; north to the hill, two hundred steps. Then, shouldering pick, shovel and pan, he plodded down the slope as the twilight gathered, a pathetic figure in the silent hills.

Fifteen years came and went, and the clatter of civilization broke the stillness of the centuries.

The owner of the Gouge Company mine sat in his oftlce talking to a stranger. The mineowner was big and good-natured and hearty. Life had scattered nuggets in his pathway, and consequently he and life were very good friends.

The stranger was an old, gray-haired man, with a story written in the drooping lines of face and figure, a story of struggle and failure, of disappointed faith and lost ideals. And yet the eyes belied this story. It was as if hope, slumbering for years, had waked in the worn-out body.

The mine owner leaned forward in an interested way: “You say you know of a rich ledge near here, Mr. Ives?” he asked. “Now, if you will tell me about it we might make you a proposition worth considering.”

“Well,” said the stranger, slowly. “It was this way: I came out to Oregon from the states in ‘56, and went to prospecting. I don’t know how it happened, but I came here into the mountains and worked around. One day I struck it rich. I filled up the hole and left, and this is the first time I’ve been back. Of course, your mine has been opened up since, and things are a good deal changed, but I’m certain that I can find that place. And it’s rich gravel, Mr. Andrews.”

“What I can’t see,” said the mineowner, “is why you didn’t work it yourself.” And he looked at Ives doubtfully.

“I didn’t have money myself; besides, the gold didn’t make much difference to me then,” said Ives.

There was a moment’s silence, during which Mr. Andrews tried to weigh the probability of the story from a purely business standpoint, while Mr. Ives sat staring absently at the opposite wall. Instead of the narrow office he saw a courtroom filled with people. The lawyers, judge and jury were like figures in a mist, but the face of the youthful prisoner was white and clear-cut, and very much like his own.

Mr. Andrews’ voice called him from the past. “You are sure you can ftnd the place?” he said.

“I remember the marks I cut on the trees. It must be somewhere within five miles of here back from the canyon.”

“You will find the canyon pretty much torn up and worked below. You see a man named Jones prospected here, and I bought the mine from him fifteen years ago. We’ve worked straight along the creek ever since. There have been lots of prospectors around in these mountains, too, so you may have a hard time of it.

“Well! Mr. Ives,” said Andrews, rising; “maybe you would like to go down to the mine with me. We are busy just now; almost finished piping, and are scraping bedrock. And,” he added, as they stepped into the yard, “as I said before, if you find the place and it’s rich we will make you an offer for it.”

As far away as one could see on the ridge was a narrow, light strip, lost sometimes in the gorges, but always reappearing on the points. It was the mining ditch which came from the mountains twenty miles away. The ditch grew broader as it neared the canyon, until one caught the gleam of water where it was swallowed by the great, black pipe, reaching far down into the mine below. From the front of the house a rocky slope led gown to the stream, and across the stream were granite hills, through whose gaps the road wound to the outer world.
The two men took a path following the creek. After a few minutes’ walk they came to an open apace on the edge of a bluff. The mine spread wide before them one hundred feet below. The giant boomed with a deafening roar as the water shot against the cliffs, turned to spray and ran down in muddy rivulets. A long line of sluiceboxes stretched through the canyon. Where the line stopped two Chinamen were working over the “tailings.” Beyond the water ran in a tumbling, yellow stream along the mined-out gorge. The black pipe crawled from the mountainside down to feed the giant. Around a bend to the right the workmen were scraping bedrock. Some of them threw dirt into the sluice boxes; others dug in the crevices of the rock with curious, spoon-shaped scrapers, then swept the crevices with brushes and washed them with water.

“Well, what do you think of it, Mr. Ives?” asked the mineowner, with evident pride.

“It is a good mine,” said Ives, “but I can show you what will make as good a one. You are busy, so I think I’ll hunt the place up now.”

He turned and started back into the hills.

“He’s brisk for such an old man,” thought the mineowner. “I can’t understand why he didn’t work that ledge. He looks honest, but there is something the matter somewhere.”

It was late in the evening when Peter Ives came back to the mineowner’s house. A merry group sung college songs on the vine-hung porch to the thrum of a banjo. The light streamed through the open doorway, and as Ives came along the walk Mrs. Andrews noticed that he looked tired and very old.

Mr. Andrews called out: “Well! What luck?”

Peter Ives leaned heavily on his cane. “I didn’t find the place,” he said, and there was a weariness in his voice.

“You’ll know all the better where to look tomorrow,” said the mineowner, in a comforting tone.

The next day the old man wandered from dawn to dark among the hills. Yawning prospect boles mocked him. Some time during those fifteen years a spring freshet had torn through the gaps, and the course of the stream was changed. He could find no trees that were marked, and as he turned from a spreading laurel the thought came with a suddenness that was terrifying — perhaps the spot was east of the stream instead of west. His frame trembled so that he could not stand, and he sat on a log thinking, thinking, trying to remember, until it seemed that he was not himself.

Somewhere he had heard of an old broken-hearted man who had been happy once, but a great blow came to him and broke his faith in man. He found a rich ledge, but he hated the gold, for gold had caused his sorrow, and it gave him a savage delight to leave it burled in the earth. Yet, for some reason, he marked the spot. After years of waiting for death a letter came, and, with it, hope. But when he wanted the gold he could not find lt. It was strange the man should forget, Peter Ives thought.

Something snapped suddenly in his head, and he remembered that he was the man. He arose and began the search again. He came back at nightfall, worn and disheartened, only to look agai the next day. The mineowner’s family were kind to the old man, who was wearing away his strength wandering through the hills, and when he came back night after night, they did not ask him if he had success. The gray, pinched look in his face, and the added stoop to the bowed figure were answer enough. So, for a month, old Peter Ives sought for the lost ledge in the hills, in the morning always hopeful, at night always dejected.

Then he went back to his lonely cabin on the toll road.

The stage came rattling down the steep grade of the
California toll road. The driver slowed the horses to a walk, and, pointing with his whip, said to the passenger by his side: “Curious slide on the mountain yonder. I never look at it without thinking what old Peter Ives said about it.”

The passenger looked the deep ravine to where a great, rounding mountain stood. Its sides were covered with low brush, but running from the top, halfway down to the base, was a great, irregular slide.

 The driver continued: “The slide came there one night in the spring — red soil, you see, makes it look so curious — and the day I saw it I says to Ives — he lives down in the canyon here — ‘Seen that curious-looking slide?’ He was standing in his door, and he turned his eyes to the mountains, and says: ‘It’s like some big crab’s claw reaching down to pinch the life out of me.’”

The stage swayed around the curves, down the shelf-like road on the cliff, clattered over the bridge and drew up at the door of a rude cabin. The driver clambered from his seat. “Guess I’ll say howdy to Ives,” he said.

But inside the door be paused, for the old man sat smiling over a much-worn letter, and the smile was not of earth. Very reverently the driver stooped and read:

“Dear Father: Twenty years in prison have made a man of me. May God forgive me all I have made you suffer for my crime. Yesterday the governor pardoned me out. Father, if you can forgive me, I will come to you to begin again.”