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)
2012 articles 2012 articles 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)

you just might ALSO
enjoy ...

A screen capture from an episode of ABC's legendary 1970s show "Happy Days." Because the show is set in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisc., "The Fonz" is actually breaking the law in this scene; pinball was outlawed in Milwaukee at the time.

The tawdriest
love triangle ... EVER.

Lulu Reynolds was having a torrid affair with her music teacher. Her husband carried a .38 in his jacket pocket. It wasn't the kind of thing that ends well. It didn't.

A screen capture from an episode of ABC's legendary 1970s show "Happy Days." Because the show is set in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisc., "The Fonz" is actually breaking the law in this scene; pinball was outlawed in Milwaukee at the time.

Graft, corruption, racketeering, and ... uh, pinball?

Until just a few dozen years ago, pinball was illegal, and the mobbed-up characters who supplied the games played for keeps.

The front cover of the May 1946 issue of 44 Western Magazine shows a scene vaguely reminiscent of the downtown gunfight between feuding newspaper editors in 1871 Roseburg.

The Roseburg "newspaper war" that was settled with a gunfight

The owners of rival papers escalated their war of words when they went for pistols on a downtown street one morning in 1871.

An artist's sketch of what D.B. Cooper may have looked like, from an FBI bulletin sent out shortly after the skyjacking.

The legend of cool-cat skyjacker
D.B. Cooper:
What happened?

The man calling himself Dan Cooper parachuted into legend, and 40 years later the case remains unsolved ... but there are plenty of theories.

The front cover art of "For Men Only" Magazine showed a scene that bore some resemblance to the scene on the day Dave Tucker robbed the bank of which  he would, 32 years later, be named Vice-President.

The bank robber who became vice-president of the bank he robbed

After he got out of prison, Dave Tucker spent 30 years rebuilding his reputation in his hometown of Joseph, and it seems he succeeded.

A detail from the movie poster for the 1915 racist move 'Birth of a Nation,' which inspired and propelled the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the years just after the Great War.

The Rise and Fall of the House of Klux in Oregon

A slick marketing campaign and a taste for political power marked the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, which spread through Oregon like a racist virus — and then collapsed.

This cover illustration from "Masked Rider Western," published in 1950, bears an uncanny resemblance to the events that kicked off Vigilante rule in Crook County.

"I can make a
six-shooter sing 'come to jesus'!"

Meet Robert Gordon Duncan, the pioneering Portland shock-jock who was the first person ever sent to prison for cursing on the air, in 1930.

This cover illustration from "Masked Rider Western," published in 1950, bears an uncanny resemblance to the events that kicked off Vigilante rule in Crook County.

When prineville was ruled by masked vigilante riders

In Crook County, the early 1880s were like a Louis L'Amour novel. And it all started with the lynching of an innocent man.

The classic melodrama villain, with sleek silk hat and waxed handlebar mustache, in the act of evicting the poor widow and children from their freshly foreclosed family homestead. Except for the mustache, Oregon's longest-serving 19th-century senator fit the trope with remarkable precision.

Senator John H. Mitchell: Oregon's own real-life Snidely Whiplash

He abandoned his family, changed his name, moved to Oregon, bilked widows and orphans in two big real-estate swindles ... and was promptly elected to Congress.

The skull of the skeleton found in the Odd Fellows hall in Scio, which is now at Oregon State University. The skeleton was that of a hard-working man who died sometime between 1860 and 1890.

Mysterious skeletons of Oregon: If these bones could talk ...

A long-dead dry-land homesteader ... a medical specimen in an Odd Fellows lodge ... what are their stories? We'll never know.

Oregon inventor Victor Strode’s revolutionary boat, the 'aerohydrocraft,' made the front cover of the March 1931 issue of Popular Science. The design didn't prove a useful one for the City of Portland, though, and the larger model the city commissioned to function as a harbor police boat didn't work out.

Buck Rogers-style police boat didn't work out for city of Portland

A local inventor developed the "aerohydrocraft" design in the early 1930s. But when the city built one as an ambulance boat, it flopped.

The remains of the barque Peter Iredale as they appear today, jutting out of the beach sands on Clatsop Spit at Warrenton as they have since 1906. In 1960, the wreck nearly was lost to a man who claimed he owned it.

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.

Commander Dave Scott salutes the U.S. flag, which has just been planted on the surface of the moon. A small piece of Oregon lava rock, carried to the moon by Scott's fellow astronaut Jim Irwin, lies within this photo, next to one of the many bootprints. (Image: NASA)

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.

During a conjugal visit at a cheap motel, the prisoner escaped

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.

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? . 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.

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.

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).

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 ...

Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Valsetz newspaper and its editor, age 9, won nationwide fame

Fourth-grader Dorothy Anne Hobson decided her tiny timber town needed a newspaper, so she launched the Valsetz Star. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Shirley Temple were among her subscribers.

The Valsetz dining-hall crew around 1937. Dorothy Anne Hobson is
in the center of the group; her parents, Henry and Ruby, are the two
people at the left side in the front row. (Image: Univ. of Washington)

If you’d taken a nationwide poll in 1939, asking people from outside Oregon to name as many Oregon towns as they could, the top three would probably be Portland, Salem — and Valsetz.

Portland, because it’s the biggest, of course. Salem, because it’s the state capitol. And Valsetz, because of its newspaper, the Valsetz Star, and the Star’s editor, 11-year-old Dorothy Anne Hobson.

The 9-year-old editor

Dorothy Anne was the daughter of Henry and Ruby Hobson, the cookhouse managers for the tiny company town of Valsetz, which was owned by the Cobbs & Mitchell Lumber Company. Her newspaper was hand-crafted on a card table on regular legal-size sheets of paper, and her printing press was a mimeograph machine in Cobbs & Mitchell’s downtown Portland office.

From there, each month, it went out to a small but influential (and growing) list of subscribers — including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Wendell Wilkie, and Shirley Temple. It was read on the air by countless radio announcers, all over the country. It was a sensation.

How the Star got its start

The paper was started in the summer of 1937 when Dorothy, then 9 years old, was having lunch in the Valsetz cookhouse with Herbert Templeton, one of the logging company’s executives.

“There’s going to be a newspaper in Valsetz,” she told him firmly, and showed him the first edition, sketched out on a school tablet.

“It was at once apparent that the editor was able,” Templeton wrote later. “Valsetz surely offered a good and fertile field. Why shouldn’t Valsetz have a paper? A deal was promptly consummated whereby our Portland office, splendidly equipped with a sixty-dollar mimeograph machine, would print the Valsetz Star. Dorothy Anne chose to dignify us with the title of Publishers.”

”Hemlock, Fir, Kindness and Republicans”

Although The Star didn’t adhere to AP style, its editor was a stickler for deadlines. The Star was published faithfully every month — with the exception of a couple months very early in its run (“We didn’t have a June issue of ‘The Star.’ Nellie and I played too much. We hope nobody wants their money back.”).

Right from the start, the paper made a big deal about its political affiliation. “We believe in hemlock, fir, kindness and Republicans,” Dorothy wrote.

But she was always careful to add that Democrats were also nice people. She adored President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor; she just wished they were Republicans, that’s all.

“The Republicans are nice and sensible, but the Democrats are lots of fun,” she wrote in 1939. “We don’t know what to think.”

Precociousness in print

The tone of the Valsetz Star, right from the start, is of a sort of hilarious precociousness — the kind of thing you would expect from a really intelligent 11-year-old.

“Everyone contributed toward the entertainment,” she wrote in July 1938, describing a company event. “This is the first time we have used the word ‘contributed,’ but we will be using bigger words from now on because Mother bought the ‘Book of Knowledge’ set for us from Mrs. Shea of Portland, and she gave us a big dictionary with the set. We will pay for it later.”

For a pre-teen, though, she had a wicked wit, which her parents always seemed to get the worst of — especially her mother, Ruby.

“Mr. Frank Trower, in San Francisco, said there is a new book out about the logging woods called ‘Holy Old Mackinaw,’ but was not a book for ladies to read,” she wrote in April 1939. “Mother sent for it right away.”

“Daddy is trying to find a place for his vacation this summer where his stomach won’t get any bigger,” she remarked in the “Local News” column for March 1940.

And then there was September 1939, when an attempt by the corset industry to reconquer American fashion met with mixed success in the Hobson home.

“Mother has some new corsets for a waist like a wasp,” Dorothy noted, “but when she laces them real tight she faints.”

The Star on life in Valsetz

The Star was most known for adorable observations on life in a small backwoods town.

“Things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving day:” she wrote, in the November 1937 paper. “That our living room leaks in one corner instead of all over. That the new truck road didn’t slide into the pond. That they have snow in Seattle instead of here.”

“Valsetz is small but very exciting,” she wrote in the July 1939 issue. “One couple got married, one couple got divorced, three men got in a fight, two babies were born, and two men got in jail. Greta Garbo can milk a cow. ... Weather Forecast: Too hot for words.”

As time went by, though, the tone of the Valsetz Star underwent a subtle change. As its prose got more professional, it grew less carefree ... its editor was growing up.

The Star and politics

The 1940 election brought with it a torrent of hate mail. The U.S. is a large country, and if only one-tenth of one percent of Americans think it’s OK to verbally abuse an 11-year-old girl for backing the “wrong” presidential candidate, that’s still a lot of people.

In response to them, she penned what has to be, even today, the gold standard for responses to anonymous trolls:

“A few people have written us dreadful letters for supporting Wendell Wilkie (for president), but they did not sign their names,” she wrote. “Please don’t be ashamed of your name. We are not ashamed of ours.”

The Star goes dark

Anonymous sarcasm and other crude, abusive feedback was easily sloughed off. But other, subtler malevolent spirits seem to have been more successful at stealing young Dorothy Anne’s dreams. Probably the most poignant issue of The Valsetz Star came in February 1941, when this celebrated, nationally famous 12-year-old author wrote the following, in her monthly “Special Editor’s Note” column:

“After reading several letters written to us, we’ve decided not to be a lawyer. One man wrote, ‘Women are failures as lawyers. They lack nerve and are too soft.’ And even one woman wrote from Chicago, ‘Women talk too much, honey. Try something else.’”

“Then,” she continued, “from a very smart young man in New York who signed his name with a great dash: ‘Women? Huh, they make me sick. Law! That’s a laugh. They better look after a man’s stomach instead of his lawsuits.’ We’ve gotten quite discouraged over all this, and although we can’t see anything very interesting about stomachs we think maybe we had better just keep house.”

At the end of that year, Dorothy folded up her newspaper and threw herself into extracurricular activities at her new junior high school in Salem.

So far as I’ve been able to learn, she never published anything again.

(Sources: Hobson, Dorothy Anne. The Valsetz Star. Portland: Creation House, 1942; Carlson, Linda. Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle: UW Press, 2003)

TAGS: #PEOPLE: #doers #women #largerThanLife #journalists #horriblePeople :: #PLACES: #nowgone :: # #timberCulture #journalism #famous #underdog #literature :: LOC: #polk #250