McKenzie River Reflections - Make the McKenzie Connection!

Articles written by Finn J.d. John

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Frontier Oregon's favorite game, Faro, was a crooked gambler's dream

In November 1892 in downtown Portland, a "fast" young man named J.P. Cochran stepped off a passenger train from St. Louis, Missouri. J.P. was the dashing 22-year-old son of a railroad executive. In...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    June 23, 2022 

Steamboat explosions on the upper Willamette

It was a peaceful, happy spring morning in the little river town of Canemah, situated just above Willamette Falls - or, rather, it started out that way. It was April 8, 1854 - the very dawn of the...

 

Deadly '64 tsunami hit Oregon Coast, did a lot of damage

On the evening of March 23, 1964, Seaside resident Margaret Gammon hadn't been asleep more than an hour or two when she was awakened by howling. It was the community fire siren, blaring at full blast...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    June 9, 2022

Taming the Rascal: Chambreau's redemption

In 1853, a French-Canadian gambler, fighter, and all-around rascal by the name of Edouard Chambreau arrived in the brand-new town of Portland, ready to go into business. Chambreau had just come from...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    June 2, 2022

A swindler's-eye view of frontier Oregon

In its early years, Oregon was at the outer limits of the known world, and that remoteness attracted all sorts of interesting characters. There were Joe Meek types, driven by a spirit of adventure;...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    May 26, 2022

Valsetz Star, edited by 9-year-old, won nationwide fame

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,...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    May 19, 2022

Popularity of "Blue Ruin" drove Oregon lawmakers to drink – and to Prohibition

Most people know Prohibition in the United States started in 1920 when the Volstead Act went into effect. But in Oregon, Prohibition started quite a bit earlier than that. Actually, it started before...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    May 12, 2022

Treasure of lucky beach-gold prospectors may still be out there

Imagine you’re a gold prospector from the Willamette Valley, on your way to the California gold fields in the first year of the 1848 gold rush. You’re a little late to the party, and you’ve...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    May 5, 2022

Did 'Boneyard Mary' murder Thomas McMahon in 1878?

This is the story of Portland's coldest cold-case file - a suspicious death in the worst neighborhood of the old Stumptown waterfront, almost lost in the mists of time, 135 years ago. Was it an accide...

 

Shevlin: Oregon's wandering timber town

The U.S. Post Office inspector was puzzled. He'd just arrived at the tiny logging-company town of Shevlin, deep in the ponderosa pine woods south of Bend - and found it gone. Shade trees still...

 

Tawdry love triangle ended with sensational murder trial

On June 20, 1907, a retired military man named Charles Reynolds was hurrying home as fast as he could - with a .38-caliber revolver in his pocket. Charles was an old U.S. Cavalryman in his 50s who...

 

Oregon's biggest uranium mine was found by amateur rockhound

During the go-go years of the uranium-mining rush of the early 1950s, the character of the uranium prospector became iconic. He was basically the gold-seeking "miner 49er" updated for the atomic age:...

 

Mob, corrupt union men battled over pinball

If you were a fan of the classic ABC television sitcom "Happy Days," you know The Fonz had a special relationship with two particular machines: His trusty '49 Triumph motorcycle, and the pinball...

 

Harry Lane resisted nation's rush into WWI

Many historians, when asked to cite the single biggest and most far-reaching government misstep in American history, will immediately start talking about the First World War. By getting involved with...

 

Oregon's Chautauquas: Summer camp for grown-ups

The Oregonian summarized the whole movement as "a great university whose students are scattered in homes, on farms, in shops and factories ... wherever a human soul carries the love of learning." A ty...

 

Oregon's Chautauquas: Summer camp for grown-ups

In the decades before the First World War, an organization called Chautauqua arose that was something like a summer camp for grown-ups. People would take vacation time and travel to the Chautauqua...

 

The McCarty gang's Oregon story: "Bonanza" meets "Unforgiven"

Imagine yourself as a television network executive at NBC in 1973. The bright, happy Western classic "Bonanza" is about to be canceled. In a last-ditch effort to save it from the ax, you've been...

 

The Samurai pilot who bombed Oregon

It was a little after 6 a.m. on September 9, 1942. A tiny seaplane with red balls painted on its wings was making its way through the skies over Brookings, Oregon. At the controls was a young man...

 

Did Oregon miss a chance to stop a serial killer?

As urban legends, go, it's one of the oldest and scariest: A teenage couple drives to a secluded spot late at night and parks, planning to do some of the usual canoodling. But before they do, a news...

 

Rival Roseburg newspapers settled their differences with a big gunfight, right downtown

The “Oregon Style” of newspaper journalism was already a thing in 1871, when upstart newspaper publisher William “Bud” Thompson got in his famous gunfight in downtown Roseburg. But until that...

 

Legends of lost cabins and gold mines

Lost or abandoned cabins pop up so often in legends of missing gold mines and buried treasure that they are almost a cliché. Most of them follow a clear pattern or formula - in fact, all...

 

Bank robber became vice-president of the bank he robbed

When the First National Bank of Joseph, Oregon, picked David Tucker as vice-president in 1928, it didn't look like a particularly unusual thing to do. Tucker was a widely respected part of the communi...

 

Bridge-building scandal aroused fury of 1920s Portland

Early Portland was a relatively corruption-friendly town. But even the best of us have our limits, as three Multnomah County Commissioners learned the hard way in 1924. In that year, the Portland area...

 

Early anti-prostitution crusade was an embarrassing fizzle

One November evening in 1885, Portland residents walking past a row of tiny houses at Third and Yamhill heard screams coming from one of them. Bursting in, they found the mutilated and lifeless...

 

"Shoe-string railroad" beat Southern Pacific

Very few people outside Coos County, and probably not that many inside it, know what a big deal Coos Bay is. It's the biggest deepwater har-bor on the Northwest coast -- that is, between San...

 

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