Heroes and rascals, shipwrecks and lost gold: Strange but true stories and secrets of Oregon's wild past | Offbeat Oregon History The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho -- yes, THAT Osho) as he appeared when he lived in Wasco County with his followers. That's also him in the white Rolls-Royce surrounded by followers, in a scene from Rajneeshpuram. (Four-part story starts with Column No. 73, May 9, 2010 While doing some cleaning-up around the Odd Fellows Hall in Scio, a local girl found a tiny coffin with this partial skeleton inside. Whose? We'll probably never know ... (Story No. 204, Oct. 14, 2012) The ever-elusive D.B. Cooper peeks into the page from behind his signature shades. The story of his skyjacking exploit starts with episode 237, from June 2, 2013. Meet Kitty Kat, the wealthiest feline in the state of Oregon and landlord to the City of Tangent. Kitty Kat, until he died at a ripe old age in 1995, owned City Hall. (Story No. 163, Jan. 8, 2012) This crazy-looking speedboat was the invention of Portland wizard Victor Strode. The city commissioned a harbor patrol boat based on his design, but it didn't work out. (Story No. 201, Sept. 23, 2012) The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho -- yes, THAT Osho) as he appeared when he lived in Wasco County with his followers. That's also him in the white Rolls-Royce surrounded by followers, in a scene from Rajneeshpuram. (Four-part story starts with Column No. 73, May 9, 2010 This is the roof of the Franz Bread Rest Hut at Pixieland, the Oregon Coast's ill-starred answer to Disneyland, which opened in 1969 and went out of biz in 1974. The Rest Hut consisted of a giant fiberglass loaf of bread sticking out of the top of this giant fiberglass hollow log, the whole thing towering over a log-flume roller coaster ride. It's probably the most campily awesome example of the proud display of crass commercialism that was Pixieland. (Column No. 52 - Dec. 6, 2009)
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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.

Did Elvis play here? Probably not, but Johnny Cash did.

The Cottonwoods, a jumpin' dance joint between Albany and Lebanon, hosted a dizzying array of music legends. Today, it's just a vacant lot.

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.

the most awkward prison-break scenario — ever.

The bad guy, a convicted cop killer, simply walked out the back door of the Salem Motel 6 during a conjugal visit. Here's the story.

Jim Wright, at the stick of his Hughes H-1 Racer, flies a low pass over the airfield at Cottage Grove State Airport - which has since been renamed Jim Wright Field in his honor.

the heroic pilot who had to choose who would die in crash-landing.

Jim Wright built a perfect replica of one of history's most important airplanes, and for a time, all was good. But one day he was forced to choose between landing it in a crowded field of tourists, and dying in a giant fireball. Here's what he did.

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.

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, from the Portland Morning Oregonian.

Railroad Murder mystery solved with the victim's help

The thieves, cornered in a boxcar, shot their way out, mortally wounding a railroad "bull." But the dying man was still a pretty good shot. 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.

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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.

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).

Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Before newspaper “crusade,” tainted milk was killing babies

State regulators didn't care, so neither did some dairy farmers, who left dead cows to rot among their dairy herds and brought milk to market in the same cans they used to slop the hogs; Portland led the nation in baby deaths as a result.

A lantern slide from around the turn of the last century, depicting an
unidentified “modern dairy farm.” (Image: OSU Archives)

In the late summer of 1909, a dairy farmer near Portland started getting worried. His barn cats kept dying, and after a few days he’d figured out what was killing them: The milk from his cows.

This whole time, of course, he’d been shipping gallons of the same milk off to Portland to be fed to babies and young children.

So he went to the state dairy and food commissioner and asked what he should do.

The commissioner’s advice, in essence, was, “It’s just tuberculosis; don’t worry about it.”

“Tuberculosis milk may kill cats,” the commish reassured the worried farmer, “but it will fatten babies.”

That didn’t sit right with the dairy man, so he stopped by the offices of the Portland Journal on his way home.

And that was how the great Portland “pure milk crusade” was launched.

An investigation starts with a fistfight

Two Journal reporters immediately set out for the offices of the dairy commissioner to learn the truth. When they got there, the older of the two, John Wilson, set the tone for the interview by calling the commissioner a “baby killer.”

The commissioner backpedaled, explained, denied, and finally demanded to know what business of the newspaper’s it was, anyway.

“You’re a liar,” Wilson shot back, and somebody threw a punch, and the fight was on. The other reporter — Marshall Dana, who was at the time brand-new on the job — had to physically separate the two before somebody got hurt.

The next day, Wilson quit his job at the newspaper. It’s not clear whether this was prompted by the scene in the commissioner’s office; getting into a fistfight with an interviewee would get a reporter canned in a heartbeat today, but 100 years ago the life of a newspaper guy was somewhat less circumscribed.

In any case, editor Jack Travis told Marshall Dana to get on the story — and get on it he did.

A cub reporter gets an educational eyeful

A Hillcrest Jersey Stock Farm delivery truck parked on the side of a
street in a residential neighborhood in the early 1920s, some time after
Portland’s milk supply had become among the cleanest and safest in
the world. (Image: UO Special Collections)

The young reporter embarked on a tour of the dairy farms of northwest Oregon, and it was quite an eye-opener.

“Out on the Columbia Slough road there was a dairy operated by a dairyman named Mike,” Dana wrote, 40 years later, in his book. “The door of the dairy barn stood open. When (we) got a little closer the disturbed flies flew up in a cloud. In front of the barn lay a dead calf. Evidently it had been there quite a while.”

The condition of the cows at the farm left little doubt in Dana’s mind as to why the calf had died. There was filth everywhere. One of the dairy cows, he could see, had an open and oozing sore on its udder in a spot that would almost certainly have contaminated milk from that cow during milking.

Mike freely admitted he had a bad reputation with the state regulators — but that wasn’t because of the filth.

“I get arrested for puttin’ water in the milk,” he told Dana cheerfully. “I pay a fine. Then I put enough more water in the milk to pay the fine.”

But then, given the apparent quality of this farmer’s milk, watering it down might have saved someone’s life.

Garbage and milk together

Dana found another dairy on Canyon Road at which the owner made a practice of bringing his milk to town in big cans and then, after delivering the milk, using the empty cans to transport garbage back to his farm, where presumably he fed it to pigs or something like that. After emptying the garbage out of his milk cans, he’d rinse them out, fill them back up with milk and repeat the process. Dana learned that one of this fellow’s customers over in east Portland had given some of this milk to a child, who subsequently died in convulsions — an event that may have been entirely unrelated to the garbage-milk, but probably wasn’t.


Dana soon learned that Portland had one of the highest rates of baby deaths from gastrointestinal complaints — a statistic that was clearly related to its cavalier attitude toward its milk supply.

Dana filed story after story, and they ran under banner headlines that shouted from the top of Page One. The paper kicked off the campaign with a massive banner headline, in red type, that read, “BAD MILK KILLS PORTLAND BABIES,” and while they didn’t all rise to that level of drama and impact, they remained on Page One for weeks and they had a considerable impact. Meanwhile, editorial writers fulminated and denounced the various players who were, as they saw it, conspiring to kill babies for a fatter profit.

The public exploded with outrage.

Portland citizens spring into action

Civic and social clubs adopted resolutions. The Chamber of Commerce weighed in on the issue, pointing out that bad milk was bad for business — nobody wants to make a home and grow a business in a town where babies die.

City and state officials responded to the pressure immediately, too. In fact, support came from every quarter save the dairy farmers — who, naturally, felt a bit singled out.

Although he had a job to do, Dana was sympathetic. “There was so much censure and condemnation that it was no longer respectable to be a dairyman,” he wrote. “The Page-One stories and the big headlines hit the good dairymen as well as the bad.”

Dairy farmers rally to solve problem

Among the dairy farmers, there was a good deal of resentment at the prospect of government interference with their business — at first. They came around quickly, though, when they realized what was really going on: The government was stepping in to protect the good farmers from the bad ones — to keep them from having to compete with men who undercut their prices by taking dangerous shortcuts.

By the following year, the statistical situation was completely turned around, and Portland’s milk supply was among the safest in the country.

That still didn’t do reporter Marshall Dana much good, though. It would be years before he could touch a drop of milk again without retching.

(Sources: Dana, Marshall N. Newspaper Story: Fifty Years of the Oregon Journal, 1902-1952. Portland: Binfords, 1951; Klooster, Karl. Round the Roses II (collection of Karl’s columns from This Week magazine). Portland: Klooster Promotions, 1992)