Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area: Sumpter, Oregon

In the middle of the 19th century, all around our newly established state, people began discovering gold. The southern Oregon gold rush in Josephine County began in the 1850s, Bohemia Johnson discovered gold in the Bohemia mines in 1863, and the town of Canyon City in eastern Oregon swelled to a population of 10,000 (larger than Portland at the time) once gold was discovered there. Further east, in the town of Sumpter, gold was discovered in 1862. Mining for gold in Sumpter happened very … [Read more...]

Wigwam Memories: Swisshome

"Daddy, Ed, and I spent an hour or two pulling slab wood off the Erskine sawmill conveyor belt leading  to their wigwam burner," writes Joe Moreland in A Place to Rest My Head, his memoir about growing up in the coast range after WWII. Needing to build a chicken coop, they drove to Swisshome one evening to get scrap wood from the sawmill. Joe writes: "... in those days, every mill had a burner. The whole region was covered with an acrid, blue haze from the burning scrap. Slab wood that Daddy … [Read more...]

Lost Towns: Lane County Historical Museum Exhibit

In the days before log trucks, automation, or heli-logging, sawmills were built closer to the woods. Here in south Lane County, they sprang up along the O&SE Rail line (now the Row River Trail) to take advantage of the railroad. In some instances, whole communities would surround the mill, like the sawmill at Prune Hill. When I think of early sawmills, I usually think of teams of guys working big saws or riding logs in the mill ponds. With those men, though, came families. Women worked in … [Read more...]

Luper Cemetery: Eugene

Just north of Eugene, surrounded by farmland, is one of the oldest pioneer cemeteries in the southern Willamette Valley, Luper Cemetery. I love wandering through old graveyards, looking at the headstones, and piecing together the family relationships. I wonder about these people's lives and history and I enjoy the markers their families had created for them. In this regard, Luper Cemetery makes for a great visit. Luper Cemetery was established in the mid-1850s with over half of the … [Read more...]

Connecting the Present to the Past: History Here, Eugene

As traffic streams by along West 11th in Eugene, four brick workers from the J. Marsh Martin brickyard silently observe the bustle from their poster adhered to a metal utility box. Three feet wide by four-and-a-half feet tall, the poster is basically a large photograph with a brief description of the people and places within it. Taken in 1908, the photograph shows the men going about their daily lives making bricks for building local homes, yet at the same time, establishing the history for this … [Read more...]