McKenzie River Reflections - Make the McKenzie Connection!

Articles written by Finn J.d. John

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Body-snatchers planned to ransom ex-mayor's corpse

“It is very clear that the purpose of the robbers is to conceal the remains, in the hopes that a reward will ultimately be offered for them,” the Portland Morning Oregonian’s reporter wrote, in...

 

Offbeat Oregon History

The nineteenth century was a kind of golden age of body snatching. Digging up the freshly dead to cash the corpses in at the back door of a nearby medical school was — well, not common exactly, but...

 

Oregon residents had the jump on California Gold Rush

If you’d been lucky enough to live in Portland in July of 1848, you would have been able to say, literally, that your ship had come in. The ship in question was the sailing ship Honolulu. And,...

 

Frontier land-fraud swindlers plundered Oregon thoroughly

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1904, Stephen A.D. Puter had just arrived at the office of U.S. Marshal Jack Matthews. He was expecting some friends to come by … and bail him out of jail. Puter had just b...

 

World's clumsiest drug smugglers - also its most audacious

As you will have gathered, it didn't exactly take brilliant detective work to figure out what was going on over at Dunbar Produce and Grocery. By November of 1893, word of what they were up to had...

 

World's clumsiest drug smugglers were also its most audacious

It's not clear when William Dunbar and Nat Blum, owners of the Merchant Steamship Co. in Portland, started smuggling opium on their steamships, the Wilmington and the Haytian Republic. They may have...

 

World's clumsiest drug smugglers - also its most audacious

NOTE: In last month's Offbeat Oregon column, we explored the unlikely origins and career of Yosuke Matsuoka, the foreign minister of Imperial Japan who was responsible for Japan's military alliance wi...

 

Oregon had friends in high places ... in Imperial Japan

When Yosuke Matsuoka accepted his appointment as Imperial Japan's foreign minister, it was the fulfillment of a dream for him. The gregarious 13-year-old boy who had been informally adopted into...

 

Oregon had friends in high places ... in Imperial Japan

Yosuke Matsuoka left his Oregon home for the last time in 1902 when he was 22 years old; he'd lived in Oregon and, briefly, California, since age 13. His Oregon years had been happy ones, and he would...

 

Oregon had friends in high places ... in Imperial Japan

Part 1 - The opium smuggler's foster son It may be true that the movement of a butterfly's wings on one side of the world can seed a tornado on the other. But whether that's literally true or not, it...

 

Bloody manhunt for "King of Western Outlaws"

The "Golden Age of Outlaws" had a good run - almost 40 years. It kicked off just after the Civil War when thousands of battle-hardened Confederate veterans with nothing to lose spread out across the...

 

From White House to whorehouse to historical treasure: The McLoughlin House's unlikely journey

To the average Oregon City resident, there wasn't much to celebrate in the vacant, dilapidated old house by the foot of Willamette Falls. The house had, until a few years before, been known as the...

 

Iconic Hollywood movies filmed in Oregon, Part Three

In this third and final part of a 3-part series on iconic Hollywood films shot in Oregon, we'll talk about six films rather than five. Our survey ends, rather arbitrarily, with the end of the 1980s, a...

 

Iconic Hollywood movies filmed in Oregon, Part Two

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on iconic Hollywood movies shot in Oregon. Last week, we looked at the era from the dawn of filmmaking through the 1950s. Today, we'll talk about movies made between...

 

Iconic Hollywood movies filmed in Oregon, Part One

In the past 25 years or so, Oregon has come into its own as a place to make movies. The iconic projects have come thick and fast, especially in the last 25 years or so. The last 15 years of the...

 

After frontier murder, suspect was auctioned off as a temporary slave

In the first month of 1852, everyone in the frontier community of Cynthian was talking about the big crime wave. Well, it was big by frontier Oregon standards. Although it was (and still is) the seat...

 

Legendary Oregon hell-raising rustler Hank Vaughan: The early years

Crime, they say, does not pay. Yet it's pretty easy to look back through history and find examples of a certain kind of criminal for whom it did, handsomely, and for decades. With charisma, moxie and...

 

Portland's Vaudeville mayor made his city famous

George L. Baker, the big, bluff, hail-fellow-well-met owner of Portland's Baker Theater, was flabbergasted. As he and his fellow Portland Rosarians were getting ready to march in the 1917 Rose Festiva...

 

Newspaper's black-bag job fixed election for Portland mayor

Late on the evening of June 2, 1917, the Portland Morning Oregonian sprang a trap – a cunning and dirty trap. The always-formidable daily newspaper, owned and edited by Henry Pittock following the...

 

Vanport residents built nearly half of US WWII aircraft carriers

During the first year of the Second World War, the conflict in the Pacific was all about aircraft carriers. With a carrier, one could take the fight to the enemy. Without one, one could only huddle...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    July 7, 2022

It wasn't easy being German during First World War

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...

 

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...

 

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...

 

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