Charmed by Brownsville

Historic Downtown BrownsvilleEstablished in the 1840s, Brownsville is a small, rural town about 50 miles north of Cottage Grove. Today it has a population of just under 1,700 people, but while it might be slight in human numbers it is big in charm and friendliness.

Lately, I have been doing a little freelance writing for a regional magazine called Oregon Community Connection. They asked me to write an article on the filming locations of the movie Stand By Me. I am very familiar with our local filming sites (along what is now the Row River Trail) but I’ve never spent much time in Brownsville, which becomes “Castle Rock” in the movie. With all the sunshine we’ve been getting recently, I took the opportunity to make a trip up the freeway and look around.

Scouting out the filming locations for Stand By Me was fun and will be the topic of a future blog post. What I most want to write about now is the town of Brownsville, which began to charm me the minute I stepped out of my car.

Brownsville Stitching Parlor

Brownsville Stitching Parlor

Downtown historic Brownsville is just a few blocks wide in either direction. Most of the buildings date from the 1880s to the 1920s, and they still hold the charm and character of the original buildings. When I look at old photos of Brownsville, even those from the turn of the last century, many of the buildings are still remarkably similar to what they look like today.

What impressed me the most, though, was the friendliness of the people. I guess in some regard they are used to Stand By Me fans coming to town and standing in the middle of the road to get just the perfect shot to recreate a scene from the movie. I made no attempt to blend in, and spent my time wandering the streets with my camera and little map in hand. Most people I passed, regardless of age or gender, smiled and said “hi” with genuine warmth. One shop owner rushed over to move some machinery out of the way for a picture. In other towns, I would suspect that residents would have gotten tired of that by now, but not, seemingly, in Brownsville. But it wasn’t just me, everywhere I went people were stopping to talk with each other. I’ve spent a good share of time in small, rural towns and none can compare to the friendliness I experienced in Brownsville earlier this week.

Linn County Museum

Linn County Historical Museum, composed of the original Brownsville train depot and six railroad cars.

Beyond seeing Stand By Me filming locations, I also took a bit of time to enjoy other parts of the town. They have a beautiful yarn store – the Brownsville Stitching Parlor – in an historic building in the center of town. And, after hearing many good things about the Linn County Historical Museum, I stopped by there and enjoyed their well-done exhibits. For lunch, I was tempted by a humongous, fresh made cinnamon roll from Randy’s Main Street Coffee (if you want a healthier lunch, they make their own bread for their sandwiches). With more time, I would have enjoyed the antique and gift shops that also dot Main Street, or the Brownsville Art Center.

I hope to make it back to Brownsville sometime soon. It can either be a destination by itself or part of a more adventurous day trip, say a wildflower hike up Iron Mountain or a tour of Linn County’s Covered Bridges.

Schwarz Campground Interpretive Trail
Brumbaugh Cemetery

Comments

  1. Bruce Webb says:

    Like you, I love that little town of Brownsville, it was a wonderful place to live and grow up. The next time you visit there please let the mayor know that if he continues to push for and support a medical marijuana dispensary there how it will hurt the town’s image ! Thank you .
    Bruce Webb

  2. Jan Bartunek says:

    I love your blog on Brownsville. I have stopped there a number of times and found it a great little town.
    And you are right….with friendly people. They used to have a outdoor antique sale that used to draw some great vendors selling some wonderful things. Thanks for sharing your experience

  3. Mel McGuire says:

    It took awhile, but I finally found the Brownsville downtown area in Google street-level view. The buildings all look vintage 1950 or earlier. The jewels in the view are the large flower planters hanging from the vintage street lamps. A big part of what makes downtown work is that the buildings have been nicely maintained: they’re painted and clean. I don’t care about the movie locations, but walking and driving around would be a lot of fun. (I did a Yahoo search and found 5 restaurants in town, but I couldn’t find a hotel or motel–no apt buildings either.)

    • Unfortunately, when I visited it was too early in the spring for big flower planters, but I looked on Google maps and they are pretty. The historic downtown area seemed very well maintained to me, and the historic houses that dotted the area around downtown were also nice. I’m not surprised there isn’t a hotel/motel given how small the town is.

  4. Troy Davis says:

    I currently moved to Brownsville, love the small town and learning the history of it. My Parents bought a large chunk of land south of Brownsville a couple summers ago and I know there is some history there since it had been in the same family for many, many years, but I keep running into dead-ends. About all I have been able to find out recently is that before Gap road is where it is now and before it as a automobile road, the horse and buggy road was with-in feet of the front door of the old house. If anyone has any info. on the old Newmen or Bonstead ranch I would love to know about it. Thanks to all of you who read this and know anything. Troy.

    • Good luck finding out more about the history of your parents’ property, Troy. Hopefully, you’ll find the right piece that brings it all to light.

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