Thursday, August 30, 2012

Community Hall

Community Hall
Marion County Courthouse
April 2012

      Each of these twenty framed collections of photographs and memorabilia offers what that Marion County city considers significant to tell its story. The exhibits were constructed by local committees or by an individual volunteer. Above each exhibit is a wood carving representing the shape of Marion County with the locality of the city clearly distinguished.

        This was all a revelation to me. Many names were only vaguely familiar and I had visited only a few even though the most distant was only an hour away. And, I realized, as I strolling along the exhibit, that each city had a unique history.

        This was a challenge we could not resist.

        After several years of Salem historical research, Tom and I prepared for the adventure of discovering Marion County. As the driver, he made detailed maps of byways though our handsome Marion County countryside. As official photographer, he shouldered the bag that carries his camera and iPad. I prepared questions to ask when we arrived at each city.
         Before leaving on this odyssey, I learned that residents seek incorporation to establish an identity for their community. So we wanted to learn each locality's heritage, describe the city today, and discover the attractions it offers visitors. In several cities, local historians had collected the community’s history in charming small museums. Residents told us that a city’s present economic success had little to do with my inquiries about employment, schools, ethnicity or even natural resources, but was defined in one word: Leadership. If the city had it, things were going well.
The last question on the list was, “How do you welcome visitors?” Since a historical society (if there is one) is usually maintained by volunteers, it was rare to find a personally guided city tour. However, a printed tour guide, or a simple map with markers for places of interest, can be all one needs ~ and is a great souvenir to bring home. If these can be on hand for distribution (in the City Hall, library or in a museum), they would allow visitors to stroll a few blocks or for drive in a wider area.
       With or without these guides, it was a pleasure to explore places completely unknown, but so close to home!  We watched fishermen along the Santiam, ventured across yet another railroad track, wandered streets lined with homes that had sheltered families for over a hundred years, visited old structures converted for new uses, discovered artifacts that recalled our own memories, chatted with new acquaintances and had lunch in local cafés.  Although it was great to return to our homes each night (Tom, also serving as photographer, had to edit his pictures and I had to settle down at my Mac to compile information and begin composing another text), we were tempted to look around to see if there was a welcoming B & B for future reference.
       This is an introduction to a new series of Statesman Journal articles to be published in the first half of 2013, accompanied by this “Marion County 20” web blog offering links to additional information and albums of pictures. We may also be able to broadcast interviews on KMUZ.
       I offer a sincere “Thank You” to Marion County Commissioner Brentano for his advice! And to Sara McDonald, Policy and Research Manager, Board of Commissioners Office for introducing us and this enterprise to the communities. She made our project so much easier, whether we were visiting a city where there were 124 residents or one with 150,000. 
       To test your knowledge of the cities' histories, we offer a short quiz, 20 Marion County Questions. The city profiles begin with the city we know best, our hometown, Salem. As we visit other cities, our historical information is based public records or online resources available to anyone. The guidebooks we quote are sold at the sites. Our impressions of cities we visited were formed by a few hours' visit and conversations with people we met. My comments are personal observations.
       We now encourage you to join us in enjoying Marion County’s natural beauty and historic communities. You will receive a warm welcome from your neighbors when you, too, get out of town.
        Virginia and Thomas N. Green, Jr.

The courthouse exhibits from each city can be seen here in Tom's album of photographs. Click an image for an enlarged view.

All historic photographs in this series are from the Oregon Historic Photograph Collections of our Salem Public Library.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

20 Marion County Questions

Which Marion County city

      Was founded by a woman?

      Was named for a soft drink popular in Idaho?

      Still uses a 1892 tabernacle for religious conventions?

      Was named for the town of Engelberg in Switzerland?

      Moved to a new location?

      Is a misspelling of a founder's name?

      Was named for a son-in-law of a founder?

      Was named for a railroad engineer?

      Was established after a US Supreme Court decision resolved land ownership?

      Has its post office in another county?

      Became almost deserted during the Civil War?

     Was named, despite objection, for a woman?

     Had a popular mineral springs resort?

      Has a museum in a former church?

      Was founded as a religious colony?

      Celebrates being the "Mint Capital" of Oregon?

      Was the boyhood home of a US president?

      Provided clean water for pioneer Salem?

      Is named for a voter at the provisional government meeting at Champoeg in 1843 ?

      Has the grave site of Oregon's only authenticated Revolutionary War veteran?



     The answers are found in the following articles about these cities on this web blog.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Salem ~ Oregon's Capital City

Artist's aerial view of Salem, 1876
        Do all Marion County roads lead to Salem? It seems so. The north-south River Road, US 216, I-5 and 99E all funnel through the Willamette Valley into the city. US 22, traveling east toward the Cascade Mountains, crosses our L-shaped county. Salem sits almost in apex of the triangle. It straddles the western border of the county at the Willamette River and is only a few miles north of the Santiam River and its tributaries, flowing along the southern border of the county.
        The geographic features of the Salem settlement that attracted Oregon Trail settlers were its location in the richly agricultural Willamette Valley and its access to transportation on the Willamette River. But there was also its early political influence. Already the territorial Capital, Salem was incorporated in 1860; a year after Oregon statehood was achieved. Three men of national political importance have lived in Salem: President Herbert Hoover; Oregon Governor and US Senator Mark Hatfield; and US Candidate for Vice President and Senator Charles McNary.
        To live in Salem is an ongoing experience in American history. Here we find legendary Indian cultures, the pioneering spirit of the new nation, industrial enterprise of the late 20th century, our political and social evolution of the last half-century, as well as current economic concerns. Heritage features of the city, perhaps our most valuable community asset, are all within a mile of the Salem Downtown Historic District.
       The present Oregon State Capitol, of Art Deco style architecture, was constructed after a fire in 1935 destroyed the sixty-year old Classic Statehouse. The Capitol is located on one of the most important historical sites in the city, platted by William Willson when the city was laid out in 1844. The most prominent of the early pioneer families lived in the residential areas that surrounded this center of political activity. State buildings have replaced these homes, but Willson Park, adjoining the Capitol is still a pleasant open space and is host to numerous memorials to Oregon heroes.
       Willamette University, directly south of the Capitol, dates back to the founding of city by Jason Lee. The site of the original Oregon Institute is memorialized here. The 1867 Waller Hall, the first dormitory and classroom, and the 1986 Hatfield Library are prominent features of this outstanding private university.
       Willamette Heritage Center, just to the east of Willamette University, is a leader in interpretation of Oregon's early history as well as Salem's pioneer period. It houses several historic structures including the former Thomas Kay Woolen Mills (1889-1859), designated an American Treasure by the National Park Service. Also at the site are relocated landmarks that relate to the settlement of the Oregon territory: the Jason Lee House, the Willamette Parsonage (both 1841) and the Boon House. These are physical connections to Lee's original Willamette Mission that played an integral role in Oregon's beginnings.
        Salem's past is also reflected at Bush House Museum, Elsinore Theatre, Historic Deepwood Estate, the Grand Theater, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, the historic structures of the A. C. Gilbert Discovery Village (Gilbert House Children's Museum) and the adjacent, award-winning Union Street Bridge.

Salem City Hall and Peace Plaza
       Today Salem is a city of 46.4 square miles, a population of 154,637 (2010). The State of Oregon remains the largest public employer and the Capitol is most compelling reason for visits to Salem, both for business with state institutions or as a tourist. Salem Hospital is the largest private enterprise involving many professionals, patients and their families. Both are within easy walking distance of downtown shops, restaurants, parks and heritage tourism attractions.
      Since 1866, Salem has been the location of the Oregon Department of Corrections with four state correctional facilities, including the Oregon State Penitentiary, Oregon's only maximum-security prison. In 1894, the Oregon State Hospital was established here, serving the state's mentally disabled. It was the featured in the 1975 award-winning motion picture, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". Although important industrial enterprises, including Boise-Cascade and nationally recognized canning companies, have disappeared with the changing economy of our nation, there have been positive environmental advantages. Urban redevelopment has eliminated the former air pollution, enhanced its historic downtown shopping enterprises, and encouraged new "green" construction. Urban parks are significant civic assets. Riverfront Park, along the east side of the river hosts numerous public events. Pedestrians crossing the Union Street Bridge into West Salem, will find the popular softball complex of Wallace Marine Park.
      As not only residents, but also as local historians, we have discovered each section of Salem has an appealing heritage of its own. In addition to our Downtown Historic District, two residential neighborhoods have also received the National Register designation. Others have homes of over a hundred years old, lovingly relocated as the state occupied their original sites. The raw, post-World War II tract-house developments have now become handsome residential blocks on tree-lined avenues. Urban parks make city-walking a pleasure. However, despite its growth into a large urban community, relative to other Marion County cities, it still retains its friendly, "small town" atmosphere. This quality of life for residents, as well as business opportunities, gives Salem potential economic value, although the city budget for 2012-13 continues to decline. Both reductions in city services and opportunities for increased revenue are annually considered by the city administration. Despite economic concerns, Salem is a beautiful and culturally rewarding Oregon city in which to live and to visit.

Historic Deepwood Estate is a popular destination for visitors
        Visitors to Salem are introduced to the city by Travel Salem, a city-supported marketing agency that publishes an annual magazine highlighting area attractions. Their website offers an interaction map that describes and locates member tourist attractions in Salem and in the surrounding area. We regret there is no city tour guide or booklet available for visitors. The heritage and tourism sites here mentioned may require reservations and fees so must be contacted independently. However, to preview our heritage attractions and urban parks online, six walking tour slideshows are illustrated on SHINE, Salem Historic Network. Five of these walking tours begin at the Grand Hotel downtown; the sixth is adjacent to the Willamette Heritage Center.

      In addition to heritage and recreational sites open year round (listed above), seasonal attractions are offered:
June ~ World Beat Festival of the Salem Multicultural Institute, Riverfront Park
July ~ Fourth of July Celebration, Salem Art Association Art Fair, Bush's Pasture Park
July, August ~ Bite and Brew of Salem, Riverfront Park
August ~ Summer in the City, Downtown
Quarterly ~ Salem Chamber Orchestra, Hudson Hall, Willamette University
The Prewitt-Allen Archeological Museum at Corban University contains artifacts from Eastern Mediterranean cultures.
        We invite you to read news items about an earlier Salem in Ben Maxwell's Salem Oregon, edited by Scott McArthur, 2006. It contains brief, but highly entertaining Capitol Journal items from 1888 to 1957.
        Each Tuesday, after a city was featured in that Sunday's Statesman Journal, KMUZ broadcasted "Marion County 20". To learn more about Salem, listen to the podcast listed on the station's website archives.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Aumsville: From Flour Mill to Corn Festival

      We began our Marion County visits in August, a perfect time to visit Aumsville. The Sunday afternoon weather was fine and the Corn Festival was underway. Driving from Salem, Tom took various backroads unfamiliar to us, and it was just by accident that Porter Boone Park and the festival sprang up before us as we entered the city near 11th Street. But the fair was only one of four attractions in Aumsville we can recommend.
      First, a bit of local history:
      As early as 1843, Oregon immigrants cultivated land in this area. Within a dozen years, William Porter, with family and neighbors, erected a small frame building in 1855 the Mill Creek Church of Christ on his Donation Land Claim that served as a church and school in the same time frame. A post office followed (1862), some distance away, and then the important general store (1866) where most of life's necessities could be purchased - grain for the farm animals, nails, rope, lanterns and lantern oil, material and thread for making clothing, salt, flour, and other food.
       Henry L. and Judith Turner left Ohio in 1852, bringing their family by covered wagon to Oregon. Mr. Turner purchased part of the McHaley Donation Land Claim, including the homestead. In 1863, Henry, his sons, and son-in-law built a flourmill in what would become the town of Aumsville. The community at that time was often called Hoggum as so many pigs were raised and roamed in the area. Before the mill was completed, Turner's son-in-law, Amos Davis, died. Turner was very fond of Amos, possibly called "Ah-mus." After his death in 1864, Turner named the community Aumusville, which came to be called Aumsville. Henry Turner also built flourmills in Turner (which was named after him), and Scio.
     After some settling began at Turner's Mill, attendance at Porter's church decreased and eventually the church ceased to function. The Christian Church in Aumsville was built by direction of Henry Smith. His Donation Land Claim shared a boundary with the original McHaley DLC, down the middle of Main Street, partway through the present town. Smith donated land for the church and paid for construction. William Porter's son Henry served fifty-one years as its Sunday school superintendent.
     In 1893, a school was built between Main and Church Streets on 9th Street and was called the "Old Wooden School". In 1922, the Amos Davis School was opened and was used until 1972. Cornelia Turner Davis, widow of Amos Davis, donated money to build the school. It contained elementary grades through high school. (She also donated money to build Turner School, the Christian Church Tabernacle, and what became the Turner Memorial Home.) Mrs. Turner stipulated that there would be no dancing and portraits of herself and her husband would be displayed in the school. 
      The Oregonian Railway Company began operating through Aumsville in 1880. Before 1925, when service was discontinued, passenger train made two trips a day, going north in the morning and south in the evening. Teenagers rode the train from Scio and attended high school in Aumsville. The main rail line from Salem, through Aumsville toward the east, eventually to Bend, was called the "Road of a Thousand Wonders." Picture post cards from around the turn of the century proudly mention the fact that the town is on this road. Aumsville was a rail-trading center for many years because it was centrally located for many farmers in the area. In the last century and well into the first part of this century, roads to Salem were either non-existent or very poor, and considering that everything had to be pulled by horse or oxen, the distance was prohibitive.
      (Carol Roller supplied much of this historical background.)

  Few historic structures can be seen in Aumsville today, but here's a short tour that will reveal a few as you pass the municipal and business facilities. If you approach the city by Highway 22, it's about 12 miles southeast of Salem. Entering the city at 1st Street, you see the historic railway crossing. The railway once had a depot here, between First and the tracks, north of Main, but that is gone. Across the street from that site, however, is a branch of the Riverview Community Bank that has an outreach program to serve the city's residents. Traveling west on Main Street, the 1978 Post Office is near 3rd Street and the 1974 fire station is on 5th Street. In the 500 block, the city administration operates out of the fine new 2009 City Hall with a faux brick facade matching the old city facility, now the Aumsville Museum and History Center. A Community Center completes this municipal complex. In the next block is the newly enlarged Nichol Plumbing building, rebuilt after considerable damage by the December 14, 2010 tornado that touched down in the center of the city. Photographs in the museum display the demolition from winds that destroyed homes and caused substantial damage to businesses. Fortunately, the only damage to city-hall-police complex was a broken window. Two historic residences are near 7th and 8th Streets: The Jensen house on Main and the Swank home, a block south near Mill Creek.  This is another must-see, if only from the exterior: the Swank mansion is reputed to have 40 doors, but it is a private home, not open to the public. An undated historic photograph shows an aerial view of area when the flour mill was across the road from the Swank residence. The elementary school is now on Eleventh Street and is part of the Cascade School District. (Since 1950, classes for grades 6-12 have been held at a location central to the district.) To the east of 11th Street is the Maude Porter Boone Park where the annual Corn Festival is held. And now we are back where we first entered the city on our first visit.
        Although the population is only 3,584 and encompasses less than one square mile, the residents are proud of local services not always found in a small town. It prints a monthly newsletter, which is delivered, free of charge, to every residence in the city. Civic groups include the Aumsville Corn Festival Committee, Aumsville Historical Society, Cascade Country Quilters, 4H Groups, Boy Scouts, Aumsville Area Seniors and the Aumsville Community Theatre Group.
       Children are a focus of attention. There are various day camps, a summer schedule of free movies in the park, an Easter egg hunt, and at Christmas Santa on the fire truck tours the entire city, distributing a lunch sack of candy and treats to any child who comes to the curb. Countless volunteers help with community activities and every summer the city holds a volunteers' picnic to honor them.
       Aumsville currently has an award winning monthly newsletter and a city website
       Here are four, not-to-be-missed visitor attractions in Aumsville:
       The Brian Haney Memorial Skatepark (Mill Creek Road and 11th Street) draws visitors from all over the world. It was built in memory of Brian Haney, a young man killed in a car accident on his way to skating in 1997. Skateboarder magazine rated the park number one on their list the "Five Gnarliest Skateparks" in 2003. Funding for the project came from youth fundraisers, businesses, city park SDC funds and a matching grant through Oregon State Parks. Oregon National Guard donated labor and equipment plus endless hours of volunteer effort.
Even if you are not a skateboarder, it's fun to watch.
       In 1963, Maude Porter Boone donated the last 5 acres of her father's land to the city of Aumsville. Her father, Henry Porter, had purchased the land. This is now Porter-Boone Park. Every year, the community holds the Corn Festival in this park that is situated on Mill Creek. The free corn is a big attraction as are the corn sales, crafts booths and civic exhibits. The festival is held on the last Saturday in August ~ come early, the lines can be long!

The Historical Society maintains the Aumsville Museum & History Center displaying local artifacts and city historical records.This well-organized and attractive site is an excellent introduction to Aumsville's community spirit. The museum is located at 599 Main Street and is open 11 am to 2 pm on Saturdays, April through October. Museum facilities are also available by contacting the Aumsville Historical Society for an appointment.

       Each Tuesday, after a city was featured in that Sunday's Statesman Journal, KMUZ broadcasted "Marion County 20". To learn more about Aurora, listen to the podcast listed on the station's website. 

Heritage is an Enterprise in Aurora


Aurora is one of the county's most visited historic sites, but for us, a recent visit was special. Gwen Carr, another Salem historian, was at the museum when we arrived. "What are YOU doing here?" we asked each other. She was continuing research for Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers. Tom and I were there to verify the following Aurora history with Pat Harris, Curator of the museum site:
     Joel Palmer’s 1847 wagon train brought numerous people who played instrumental roles in the development of Oregon and also later proved to be supporters of Keil’s Christian Communal Society known as the Aurora Colony. Palmer’s group included, among others, Henderson Luelling, who brought over 700 fruit starts, the source of fruit trees for many homestead orchards in the Oregon Territory. John Walker Grim purchased some of this nursery product and planted apple starts. William Whitney and Willard Hall Rees were in a group that traveled to the newly discovered gold mines in California.  While few struck it rich, many acquired enough gold to invest in Oregon farms that soon were providing much needed fruit and agricultural product to the California market.  
Whitney, Rees and O.H. Thomas invested their gold in the establishment of saw and gristmills in the previously almost impenetrable bottomlands of the Pudding River at the site that eventually became Aurora Mills.
      In 1853 Wilhelm Keil sent ten scouts from Missouri to look for a new western site for his Christian communal society. Upon arrival at Fort Vancouver, the scouts were directed north into the Willapa Bay region. When Keil arrived there in 1855 with his first group of settlers he was bitterly disappointed by the terrain and the climate and he retreated with his people to Portland.
      In 1856 Dr. Keil met Grim in Portland preparing his next shipment of apples to California.  “Where did those apples come from?” Keil inquired. 
After being told about the French Prairie, Keil asked whether any of that land was still available.  Grim told Keil that much land could be acquired and he invited Keil to travel to his land claim in French Prairie.  Grim then introduced Keil to other residents. Keil took advantage of the opportunity to purchase land along with the saw and gristmills owned by David Smith and George White.  He then named the new site Aurora Mills after his daughter. (In 1897 she married she married Henry Ehlen. His name was given Ehlen Road between Aurora and an intersection with Donald Road, west of that city.)
     Nearly 600 people, almost all German and Swiss emigrants, established and lived in the Aurora Colony from 1856 to 1883. Individuals of specific family groups, unlike other Christian colonies that practiced celibacy, carried out communal living in the Aurora Colony.
   In 1893, ten years after the death of Keil and the dissolution of the Aurora Colony, the City of Aurora was incorporated. Many colony descendants continued to live in the area, and several colony buildings survived, although the Colony Church and the Gross Haus (Keil's home) were lost to fire. The classic, three-story Colony Hotel (see to the right),across the street from the railway depot, was demolished in the 1930s when Highway 99E and Main Street were reconfigured. In 1963, a group of descendants and other interested individuals formed the Aurora Colony Historical Society to preserve the buildings and artifacts of the Colony. In 1966, the Old Aurora Colony Museum was dedicated and in 1974 twenty sites in Aurora were placed on the National Register of Historical Places. It was the first historic district of its kind in the state.  (Excerpts from Jim Kopp, Oregon Encyclopedia)
Aurora City Hall
      Aurora, where the city's heritage is now its primary business, is appealing to almost any traveler in the northwest. Highway 99E wandering north is endlessly interesting as it parallels the busier I-5.  Our goal was City Hall, so Tom had driven north from Salem for about 25 miles and turned right at 4th street, driving one block to Main Street. The small white building is sheltered by the tall water tower and, across the street is the fire department/medical facility. We were warmly received by city staff and learned that Aurora is less than one-half square mile and is home to about 900 residents. A mayor and City Council govern Aurora with two commissions, Planning and Historic Review. The median household income is well above the national median. The city is proud to have recently renovated a park on Main Street. The one school facility, accommodated by buses, serves pre-K through high school. In addition to the historic homes in the center of town, new developments outside the historic district are adding a few homes each year. Yes, Aurora's quiet small town life-style, half-way between the bustle of Salem and Portland, is attractive for raising a family, but the parents often need to find employment in other localities. 
       Our next stop was in the cultural heart of the city. Tom turned east at 2nd Street and drove one block to Liberty. Here is the Old Aurora Colony Museum, a complex of structures in the heart of one of Oregon's outstanding National Historic Districts. We had a great time, exploring the museum's exhibits dedicated to the city's history. Since it was a beautiful fall day, we stepped out a rear door to enjoy peeking into buildings displaying necessary pioneer skills when industry was most often undertaken at home as a family enterprise.
We discovered that site offers a variety of museum exhibitions throughout the year, encouraging us to return. When you visit, we recommend purchasing (for $3) the Aurora Colony Historical Society Walking Tour booklet. This is an item any visitor will need to use while in town and will be a valuable souvenir of the visit.

      Leaving the museum, we carefully crossed the highway (there is no traffic light, but the cars will courteously let you pass), entering the commercial side of the city. In the museum, Tom had been fascinated by the many pictures of the Colony Hotel, so we headed for that site. Adjacent to the now empty lot, we found the relocated train depot and other historic buildings transformed into antique shops. Even though, like us, you think you aren't in the market for antiques, or have enough at home already, you really must enter a few shops: their collections are amazing. (Yes, we did buy a small memento of our visit.) In this area of the city, we also picked up a commercial booklet entitled Historic Aurora Antiques, a map and guide for attractions, shoppers, "edibles", city services and hobby clubs. It lists dates of annual special events in the community including Aurora Quilts & Crafts, Annual Strawberry Festival, "Preserving the Aurora Colony: Fifty Years of Donations--1963-2013" and Aurora Colony Days. Other event dates can be found online.
       In addition to Aurora Colony Historic District, there are four other National Historic Register properties in the Aurora area:
William Case House, 20755 Case Road NE (1903 ~ Queen Anne style)
Champoeg Cemetery on Champoeg Cemetery Road (1853)
William Riley Scheurer House (1890 ~ Queen Anne style), 23707 1st Street NE, is a link to days of steamboat traffic on the nearby Willamette River.
Frederick Bents House (1887 ~ Queen Anne style), 22776 Bents Road NE, belonged to the family until 1940.

There are several places for lunch, and each has its advantage. We have our favorite, the 1930s Colony Pub (for a pita roll-up BLT), but leave it to you find one best suited to your taste.

Each Tuesday, after a city was featured in that Sunday's Statesman Journal, KMUZ broadcasted "Marion County 20". To learn more about Aurora, listen to the podcast listed on the station's website archives. 

Historic Butteville & Champoeg

Butteville Store
Neither Butteville or Champoeg is a city today. They were both destroyed by flooding in 1861. However, except for that dramatic force of nature, Butteville might have been an important Oregon city. The community shipped wheat to the world between 1850-1880 and its future looked bright. Today the former city is reduced to one business, the Historic Butteville Store. in existence since the 1860s, it is the oldest operating store in Oregon. Now considered a ghost town, many early Oregonians came through bustling Butteville before continuing down the Willamette River.

Every summer weekend (Memorial Day though Labor Day) there are historic and other, dining and music events taking place.

The Champoeg Museum: Would Oregon be British or American?

Champoeg was an early trading post and Oregon statehood began here. It was here that the first review style self-government on the Pacific Coast was formed on May 2, 1843. The vote whether Oregon would be British or American was decided here. A flood destroyed the community in 1861.

May 2 ~ Founders Day
Every summer weekend ~ Living History
September 5 ~ Historic Farmstead Day

Champoeg has been a crossroads of cultures.
Historical Site Information:
The Visitor Center has interpretive exhibits showing Oregon's road to settlement and Native American heritage. The Champoeg State Heritage area also includes the following tours: Historic Manson Farmstead, 1860s Kitchen Garden, Historic Old Champoeg Townsite, Newell House, Pioneer Mothers Log Cabin and Birth of Oregon. There are nature walks along the Willamette River, bicycle tours, Junior Ranger and nature program in the campground.

On September 6, 2012 Jim Scheppke produced a KMUZ radio feature with Mark Hinds, historian of Champoeg, to be broadcast  in the following October. The interview began at the 1901 monument on the site where pioneer settlers discussed the vote to make the Oregon settlement a part of the United States in 1843.  Along with Virginia Green and Thomas Green, Jr. (photographer) the Walkabout group moved on to the site of the former town to hear Mark trace the story of  Champoeg's history before the flood of 1861 demolished the town.  A podcast of this program may be found in the archives listing on the KMUZ website.

Detroit Offers Year-Round Adventures

Detroit in 1912 ~ now under the waters of Detroit Lake
     Tom had driven about 50 miles east on Highway 22 when Detroit appeared like a bright roadside attraction inviting us to stop and look around. Although the city had a beginning similar to the other towns you pass along the North Santiam River, this one has had a very different history. And, as we found, has a unique personality today.

       In 1889 it was a work camp for the Oregon Pacific Railroad, cutting its railway though the Cascade forests. The 1890 bankruptcy of the company halted construction of the line four miles east of the town. Still, Detroit survived with logging the dense conifers. And sportsmen had easier access for their outdoor recreation.

      On February 22, 1893, John Hollingsworth arrived in the settlement then called Coe. He later stated "there was no town...It was solid lumber from Niagara clear up beyond Detroit... The only opening was for the railroad with every so often a clearing for cedar posts and railway wood. Above, in the lakes, thousands of fish... would swim in schools near the shore." When a post office was considered in 1891, the US Postal Service refused the name Coe, as it resembled Cove too closely. The homesteaders, most of whom were from Michigan, chose the name Detroit. Population increased and a school district opened the next year, 1894.
      In 1894, Montana timber baron A.B. Hammond bought the bankrupt Oregon Pacific Railroad, changing its name to the Oregon Central and Eastern Railroad. He established lumber camps in the area, shipping logs to nearby Mill City. By 1926, the first modern road was completed and the Hamman Stage Line provided bus service to and from the Valley. The railroad also brought sportsmen to the area, seeking fish and game in the Cascade Mountains. Other visitors passed through on their way to Breitenbush Hot Springs Resort, which Merle Bruckman opened ten miles east of town.

Two published mentions of Detroit include the following:

1900, in the Salem Capitol Journal, according to Ben Maxwell, H. Jacobs advertised himself as proprietor of Hotel Santiam at Detroit where a good pack train and saddle horse were available for Hot Springs, Marion and Pamelia Lakes.

1901, Looters of the Public Domain recalls that Charles and William Thomas (formerly involved in legal charges in Gates), but now with a post office address in Detroit, swore before C. C. Loomis, Special Agent of the Government Land Office, as to the truth of a woman's claim to having lived on and improved property in the Detroit area. The agent noted on the side of the record, "[They] do not sit well with neighbors." The Thomas brothers, with J. A. W. Heinecke, a resident of Detroit and L. Jacobs, a Detroit storekeeper, arranged for Loomis to be provided with ample liquor and to be shown cabins purporting to be those of people making claims, none of whom had been near Detroit, and few of whom were using their own names. Jacobs swore he "knew the 'settlers' well" and that they traded at his store. Heinecke and the Thomas brothers took Loomis "along some well-defined trails past other settlers in that part of the country" (none near the claims to be examined) "and circled and viewed the same cabin from the rear. Running out of cabins, [Heinecke] showed one cabin three times, front, rear and side." The June 25, 1901 proceedings of the Government Land Office describe Heinecke and Jacobs as "reliable men" and mention Jacobs operated the hotel and store "where they had to go for supplies." The record mentions that the Thomas brothers were paid $10 for their false affidavit.

       Hammond’s death in 1934 and the Great Depression brought stagnation to Detroit. The CCC ~ Civilian Conservation Corps ~ brought in some activity to the 25 businesses and 65 homes. In 1946 the Army Corps of Engineers began buying land for Detroit Dam, six miles downstream. The reservoir would inundate Detroit, but residents established a new town, tractors towing 25 businesses and 645 homes up out of the valley on skids. The new Detroit was incorporated in 1952, on a former Hammond Lumber Camp #17, next to the reservoir and Highway 22. The dam and the resulting reservoir, Detroit Lake, transformed the local economy. 
Salem's Douglas McKay, then US Secretary of the Interior, dedicated the $170 million Detroit Dam on June 10 when the first of two 50,000-watt generators started operation.
City Hall in Detroit
       Today the attractive city of Detroit sits alongside Detroit Lake, one mile north of the town’s original location on the North Santiam River. It has a size of .9 square miles and a population of 205. However, the population has shifted to primarily part-time residents. Christine Pavoni, City Recorder, reports approximately 389 water accounts, meaning the city serves that many properties. Multiplied by an average of 2.5 people per household, the population swells to 972.5 or more.

       In 2010, by a vote of 47-37, the citizens voted down a measure to change the name of the city to Detroit Lake. Doug DeGeorge, a local builder and motel owner who wanted to establish a new identity for the city, had made the proposal.

       The Detroit restaurants and stores serve boaters, campers, and other tourists staying in town or at nearby Mongold and Detroit Lake State Park. The decline of the area’s timber industry in the 1990s led to increasing dependency on tourism. A drought in 2001 left the reservoir dry and kept tourists away, demonstrating the vulnerability of the town’s economy, as well as the resilience of its residents. With its many outdoor recreation opportunities, the City of Detroit has evolved from a logging town to a popular tourist destination. Detroit Lake is now the number one recreational lake in the State of Oregon.
Photo used courtesy Cedars Restaurant
          The day we visited Detroit for the first time, we had an appointment to meet someone in Detroit at the 65-year-old Cedars Restaurant. While waiting, we discovered the many local historical photographs mounted in the hall leading to the lounge. A waitress who noticed our interest remarked that a recent customer was surprised to identify himself as a logger in one of the pictures, taken thirty-five years ago. This may be as close to a museum as the young city of Detroit has today. This is a town that has used new circumstances to adjust its economy for local prosperity. 

        Most visitors arrive in the warmer months. From Mid-March through October, Detroit State Park Recreation Area (about 2 miles west of the city on Highway 22) offers nearly 300 campsites along the forested shore of the 9-mile lake. Swimming, a playground and wildlife viewing are attractions. There is a visitor center with historical exhibits and a store for supplies and gifts. In the same months, Detroit offers these events:

May ~ Fishing Derby
July ~ Fireworks: A celebration of Independence Day
August ~  Water Festival
September ~ 50s Cruz-in
October ~ Mud Run: A 6-mile trek along the bottom of the (temporarily emptied) lake bed.
          Two additional sources of information about the Detroit are the North Santiam Chamber of Commerce visitors guide (which can be picked up at the Detroit City Hall) and the Canyon Weekly, available by subscription through the online edition.

       Although a summer recreation area, we think it might be fun to drive the 50 miles east of Salem to enjoy a snowy winter vacation in an Alpine environment just an hour away from home. Tumble Ridge Trail, accessible from Highway 22 at 1,596 feet offers three options of increasing challenge for hikers or snowshoers.

Each Tuesday, after a city was featured in that Sunday's Statesman Journal, KMUZ broadcasted "Marion County 20". To learn more about Detroit, listen to the podcast listed on the KMUZ archives.