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)
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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.

Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

C.C. Beekman, Jacksonville banker

The former miner and Wells Fargo stagecoach agent outfoxed would-be stagecoach robbers by shipping gold in candle boxes.

Table Rock, in Southern Oregon -- the promontory after which
Jacksonville was originally named. (Postcard image, circa 1905)

This is an interview by WPA Writers Project writer Manley M. Banister with Portland attorney Benjamin B. Beekman, done on July 11, 1939, at Banister’s office, in the Platt Building at 2071 S.W. Park Avenue. Mr. Beekman lived in the historic Portland Hotel at the time.


Mr. Banister had this to say about his subject:

Benjamin Beekman is the son of C. C. Beekman, Wells-Fargo agent and banker of early historic days of Jacksonville, Oregon. Left the community when he was seventeen to go to school; studied law at Yale, and returned from thence to Portland. He has lived in the same room in the Portland Hotel, using the same key, for the past 40 years.

He is a tall, spare man with grayed hair and mustache. Wears pince-nez glasses. He is seventy-six years old. Offers annual prizes through Oregon Historical Society to students between ages of fifteen and eighteen on subjects of Oregon history. He thinks the younger generation ought to know more than it does about Oregon history.


Following is Mr. Beekman’s story, as told to writer Banister:

My father, C. C. Beekman, came west in 1850, landing in San Francisco. His father had been a contractor and he had taught his boys the trade. He found plenty of work in San Francisco and went to work at once. He came to Jacksonville in 1852, mining for a while nearby. He made quite a bit of money and sold out and commenced buying gold, which was the start of his banking business.

A vintage postcard image showing the stagecoach in a frontier Oregon
mining town — in this case, Canyon City.

Later, when the Wells-Fargo express-company put in its appearance, he was appointed agent. The stage stopped at his door where all goods and passengers had to be loaded, so he worked under an advantage so far as robbers were concerned. No one knew when he was going to make a shipment of gold.

Another thing to his advantage was that he never shipped gold in the iron-bound express box. When bandits hold up the stage, it was customary for them to ask for the registered mail and the express box. My father would take an ordinary candle box, put in fifteen hundred or three thousand dollars' worth of gold, and fill up the remaining space with paper, straw, or excelsior, so that the weight of the loaded box was about equal to what it would be if it were loaded with candles. This he would ship, confident in the knowledge that no highwayman would rummage around among the baggage, looking for gold in an old tallow box.

A postcard image of the old county courthouse in Jacksonville.
This building was a later addition to the town.

The only time there was any danger of a hold-up was along in 1910 when the Pinkerton agency, under whose protection he had placed his bank, unearthed a plot in Portland to rob the bank. Officers stayed around across the street for several days with pistols and rifles, waiting for the would-be hold-ups to arrive, but they must have got wind the bank was being watched, for none of them ever came.

If you go into a newspaper office or pick up the usual history book, you will find that the usual reason for the railroad's passing through Medford instead of through Jacksonville is that the citizens of Jacksonville failed to gather in a bonus required by the railroad; but this is not true at all.

The railroad made two surveys, one passing through the present site of Medford (which was not in existence then), and another that passed within two and a half miles of Jacksonville. Medford is five miles distant. The present route is the longer, while the other ran along the base of the foothills, it all depended on Ashland. If the closer survey more adhered to, the line would wind up into the hills above Ashland; otherwise, on the flats below.

It so happened that Ashland was placed in a strategic position to be a division point of the railroad, and this determined the survey as the one in present use. The other would not have permitted the building of roundhouses, workshops, and necessary appurtenances of a railroad division.

Considering these things the citizens of Jacksonville saw it was useless to raise the money required, for the difference in a distance of two-and-a-half miles from town to the railroad, and the present distance of five miles was not enough to get fractious about. Either would have spelled doom to the town of Jacksonville, either by creating a new town (viz. Medford), or by moving the business district of the old, two-and-a-half miles to the railroad. This is the real reason why the railroad now runs through Medford instead of through Jacksonville.

(Original story at https://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/S?ammem/ wpa:@field%28DOCID%28@range%28wpa229010107+ wpa330020403%29%29%29 )