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.

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

The ghost town of Ellendale,
in Polk County

An interview with the elderly Newton McDaniel about life in western Polk County during the Gold Rush era, long before statehood, conducted by Ardyth Gibbs of the WPA Writers Project.

The main street in Dallas, a few miles away from Ellendale, as it looked
in 1874. (Image: Salem Public Library)
Editor's Note: This is one of the very earliest of the Oregon stories from the Works Progress Administration’s Writers’ Project. It was conducted by Ardyth Gibbs sometime in the winter of 1937-1938, when she spoke to Mr. Newton McDaniel at his home in Portland, 1413 S.W. 14th Ave.; the paperwork was partially filled out, and it languished in some government vault until Oct. 10, 1940. By that time, Ms. Gibbs was no longer working with the project, and Mr. McDaniel had died. So a lot of follow-up questions that we would have loved to have the answers to — how old Mr. McDaniel was, how he fit into the story, how he came to be in the Willamette Valley — can only be speculated about.
It’s anyone’s guess whether McDaniel lived through the times he was talking about, but he would have had to be incredibly old to have done so. If he’d been 10 years old in 1848, that would put him right at age 100 when the interview was done. Some of the stories he tells also have that too-perfect feel that often means they’ve been augmented over the years; for instance, when he says the newspaper editorialized against a lynching and every single subscriber canceled. That’s not the kind of thing that happens in real life, especially not in a frontier town where the editor of the local newspaper is part of the community and knows lots of people.
Nonetheless, it’s a valuable if fleeting glimpse into an era in Oregon that was rough, sketchy and profoundly lawless, when the beautiful pastoral Willamette Valley was part of an edgy, dangerous wildland at the far corner of the world. For that reason, if for no other, it’s worth preserving.
With that, here is the statement Newton McDaniel gave to Ardyth Gibbs that winter day:

Ellendale was founded in 1845 by James O'Neal, in Polk County, four miles west, above Dallas. He went into the flour mill business and chose, because of the water, the spot on which a little town flourished for a few years and then died, and now is as if it had never been.

He ran the mill about four years and then sold it to Colonel Nesmith and Harry Owens. They in turn sold it to the Hudson's Bay Company, in 1854. A post office had been established there in 1850, and was named O'Neal's Mills. There never at any time was more than a handful of residents but that handful accommodated a great many travelers with meals and lodgings for the night.

A group of students at the Rickreall Academy in Dallas in the 1850s.

Parties of miners in '48 and '49 used to came there to buy flour for their pack trains.

Ellendale was named for Ellen Lyon. She married Judge R. P. Boise, Circuit Judge in Polk County, and two of their sons are Whitney and Reuben Boise.

Most of the people thereabouts, the Hallocks, Lyles and Lyons, were farmers. Ellendale probably perished because it was destined to perish, and because folks started to take another road, and because the water failed.

They had some colorful murders, though — if not right in Ellendale, at least in Polk County. A bartender killed a hot-headed fool of a man in a fair fight, and later, also in a fair fight, he killed the man's son, who had burst in, guns popping, to get revenge.

When the citizens, avid at the sight of all the spilled blood, and hoping against hope for the ineffable thrill of another such sensation, went to the only son left, a younger brother of the dead lad, and asked him if he was going to kill the bartender and "get even," he said, "Hell, no. I'm not a very good shot anyway, and I'd be killed as sure as blazes, and besides I don't want to get even, and Bub hadn't ought to have butted in to other people's business. Pop had what was comin' to him." (Which indeed he had had, being one of the most disagreeable men in the country).

He grew to be an honored and respected citizen, and was lauded as a level-headed gentleman to the end of his long life. The bartender was killed ten months after in a brawl over cards in Prineville.

Once an infuriated mob hanged a part-Indian because, in a drunken frenzy, he had hacked his meek blonde wife and her unborn child to pieces. His father, J. P. Kelty, a rich man, would not put up a cent for his defense, which made little difference as an angry group took justice into their own hands and the second day of the trial strung him up "higher than a kite," before nightfall.

When the Editors of a Polk County paper protested against such an action, every single subscriber stopped taking the paper and they had to sell out.

Two items of no particular importance:

"Lid" was the name given to a man's hat by the Indians and not by the buckaroos, as some suppose.

And do you know where the names Big Nestucca and Little Nestucca came from?

This is the story that was told in Portland:

General Grant, Sherman, and Colonel Nesmith went over into that country. They thought some of taking Indian wives — temporarily, of course — and would have, only there was just one Indian woman available. The rest were gone into the mountains, for herbs, or had passionately jealous husbands.

They all tried to win her but the successful one was Colonel Nesmith. Nes' tuck 'er. (Nestucca).

At any rate, that's the story that went the rounds in Oregon, much to the merriment of the pioneers.