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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Actor Justus Barnes takes a shot straight into the camera at the end of a 10-minute silent Edison Films production called 'The Great Train Robbery,' the filming of which started in November 1903 – two months after Bill Miner’s gang tried to rob the train just outside Portland. It’s hard to miss the similarity between Barnes’ character and Bill Miner.

How Bill Miner learned to rob trains ... he learned the hard way.

But his botched Portland job appears to have inspired an iconic 1903 movie called 'The Great Train Robbery' a month or two later. Maybe he even watched it later ... in prison.

A scene from the Disney movie "Saludos Amigos" (1943), a sort of cartoon-character tour of South America. This scene is from the Argentina part, with Goofy dressed as a gaucho. In this cartoon and most others, Goofy was voiced by Pinto Colvig.

Goofy was from Oregon. Also Bluto, Grumpy, Sleepy, Bozo, dozens more.

Vance "Pinto" Colvig, from Jacksonville, was a pioneer in animated cartoons and a gifted show-biz man.

Earle Leonard Nelson, a.k.a. The Dark Strangler, as he looked a week or two before his execution in Canada. Nelson's hanging ended a cross-country and international murdering spree in which he murdered dozens of women.

When the 'Dark Strangler' preyed on Portland landladies

His M.O. was simple: While a woman was showing him a room or house for rent, he'd strangle her, take her jewelry and flee.

A breathless headline that appeared in the Portland Morning Oregonian after Lulu Reynolds revealed her clandestine lover's guilt in a particularly dramatic and creepy way.

The tawdriest love triangle in the history of the universe.

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.

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.

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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.

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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?

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Wives were stripped of American citizenship at the altar

Women who'd married German men suddenly learned they'd been legally (and very unconstitutionally) made stateless, and were forced to register as "enemy aliens"; those who'd married Chinese men fared even worse.

An example of the anti-German war propaganda posters depicting
Germans as bloodthirsty “huns” in order to whip up popular support
of American participation in the First World War. (Image: UC Davis)

Nobody remembers it today, because it was so long ago. But the outbreak of the First World War changed Oregon – and the rest of the United States – a great deal.

News of America’s entry into the fight was greeted with excitement, eagerness and dread. But there was one particular group of Oregonians for whom the dread was particularly pronounced: The German-American community.

The German-born cohort of Oregon residents was bigger than any other foreign-born group, totaling 18,000 in the 1910 census, with another 22,000 children of German-born parents – roughly 6 percent of the state’s total population. Before the war broke out, they had been considered among the most desirable immigrants by the lights of the day – Northern European, mostly Protestant, hard-working, clean-living, solid.

Now, all of a sudden, they were “huns.”

Three years in prison. The crime: Singing.

J. Henry Albers, one of Portland’s most prominent citizens and the president of the Albers Brothers grain-milling company, found out the hard way how much things had changed, shortly after the U.S. entered the war. On his way home from a business trip to San Francisco, in the train's lounge car, he had a few too many drinks and started singing – in German.

Upon arrival in Portland, Albers was arrested and charged with “Seditious Conduct by a German Alien.” He was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison – for singing!

Over the following four years, Albers appealed his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. The federal government fought him every step of the way, even years after the war had ended, only to drop its case on the day the Supreme Court was to hear it in 1921 – claiming that it had made a technical error. (It’s hard to read that in any way other than as a malicious move to make sure Albers didn’t get a chance to be vindicated.)

For Albers, the shame of it all was devastating. The final blow came when he was expelled from his Elks Lodge, and 10 days later he suffered a stroke and died.

Most of the German-born Oregonians didn’t suffer as dramatically as Albers did, of course. But many of them did have their lives turned upside down. President Woodrow Wilson had issued an executive order barring them from coming within 100 yards of the waterfront or a half-mile of the armory, which was a huge problem for non-naturalized Germans who worked as longshoremen (or even as owners of saloons on Front Street). This obstacle could sometimes be overcome, but not always, and it involved lots of red tape and hassle – hearings, paperwork, permits and so on.

A far more disturbing problem, though, involved the American women who’d married one of those German citizens.

Stripped of their citizenship

Back in 1907, while the battle for women’s suffrage was heating up, a little-noticed law had been passed stipulating that women who marry foreigners be stripped of their citizenship. The idea, following the now-thoroughly-discredited eugenic theories of the day, was to discourage American women from participating in “race suicide” by marrying men from “inferior races” and to encourage them to leave the country if they did. Stripped of her citizenship at the altar, a now-stateless bride on her wedding day was expected to acquire citizenship in whatever country her husband hailed from, and she was not eligible for the naturalization process to become an American again.

That meant that a native-born Oregon woman who had fallen in love with and married one of the thousands of non-naturalized foreign citizens in Oregon – be he British, Irish, Italian, Japanese or German – was now officially an alien, with no rights to vote or hold elective office.

And after the U.S. entered the European war, those girls who’d married a German were ordered to report to their local police station and register themselves as “enemy aliens.”

The "enemy alien" next door

The enemy-alien registration form for newlywed Hattie Burbank Dahrens.
Hattie was stripped of her American citizenship when she married logger
Adolph Dahrens in 1918. (Image: Oregon Historical Society, MSS 1540)

Hattie Burbank was one such “enemy alien.” Born and raised in Sherwood, she was a second-generation Oregonian in love with a German-born logger named Adolph Dahrens. Adolph had, in 1916, started the process of applying for naturalization, and in June 1917 – two months after America entered the war – he registered for the draft, offering his services to the American army for purposes of fighting against his fellow Germans.

Hattie’s parents strongly objected to her marriage – probably as a result of the anti-German sentiment with which the non-German citizens of Oregon were then saturated. What their motivations might have been, we can’t know, but two weeks after the marriage they reported her to authorities as an enemy alien.

Hattie at first refused to register. Her position – not an unreasonable one – was that as a native-born American who had never been to Germany and didn’t speak German, she was not an enemy alien, no matter what President Wilson’s opinion was.

Finally, offered the choice of registering as an enemy alien or going to prison, Hattie relented and submitted to the indignity of having the postmaster of Sandy describe her nose as “large and fleshy” on her registration paperwork.

Jilted twice — first by husband, then by country

And then there was Grace Reimers, who really was in a pickle. She’d married German citizen Paul Reimers a year or two before Germany went to war in 1914. Early in August of 1914, Paul left Portland to join the German army, leaving Grace and the baby to fend for themselves. In 1918, when she found out she’d have to register as an “enemy alien,” she promptly filed for divorce.

Luckily, courts and authorities were sympathetic to her story; after all, it played perfectly into the narrative of the cruel “hun,” abandoning his wife and baby in his zeal to crush democracy. After the divorce was granted, she was quietly restored to citizenship.

Once the war was over, and America started its quest to get “back to normal,” things quickly got better for most German-American Oregonians – particularly after the realization started to dawn on their neighbors that they had been snookered by a carefully crafted anti-German propaganda machine designed to "encourage" them to support the war.

Citizenship restored (as long as they married "white guys")

But although they were no longer “enemy aliens,” women who had married foreign men remained stateless and legally dependent on their husbands’ citizenship for years after the war ended. The Cable Act of 1922 restored the citizenship of most, but women who’d married Chinese or Japanese men were still being stripped of their citizenship at the altar until well into the 1930s.

Sources: Jensen, Kimberly. “From citizens to enemy aliens,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, winter 2013; MacColl, E. Kimbark. The Growth of a City. Portland: Georgian, 1979

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