The Good Old Days

Museum News

With the slightly warmer and occasionally sunnier weather, we have welcomed the return of visitors who are bicycling in the area.  It’s always fun to show the museum to those who are exploring the area for the first time.   That is not to say that local visitors aren’t equally welcome.  We have many visitors who tell us they have lived here for years and have never been inside.  One day, a young man about twelve years old came into the museum.  “I’ve lived here all my life and never been in to see this,” he said.  It happened that he was a descendant of Clark and Melissa Parker who were the first to settle here in 1874, so it was especially rewarding to show him all the Parker family pictures we have on display.

We were saddened to learn of Norbert Pelster’s passing at 100 years of age.  Norbert used to visit the museum regularly and enjoyed telling tales of his days working at Oregon-American Lumber.  During the Great Depression the mill suspended operations from 1933 to 1936.

Norbert was one of the few people kept on the payroll as a security guard.  He regaled us with many stories of his duties as a night watchman during those years.  How we wish we had recorded those stories!  We miss him and extend our condolences to the entire Pelster family.

The Museum board welcomes a new and enthusiastic new volunteer, Angela Bettencourt.  She recently received her training and will be holding the museum open at least one Sunday per month.  As always, we appreciate our volunteers and invite you to become one, too!

Depression-era Reminiscences from Bob New, VHS 1947

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, jobs were almost nonexistent. The Oregon-American mill didn’t reopen until 1936, and Bob remembers that men would show up at the gate of the re-opened Oregon-American Lumber Company and stand around each morning, hoping they might be hired for a job, any job.

There was a man in Vernonia who walked each day from the top of Corey Hill to the mill for many weeks, bringing his lunch in case someone didn’t show up for work and he could get a day’s wages.  He eventually did get a coveted permanent job in 1938.

A 1934 Vernonia Eagle article listed the forty young men from the Vernonia area who were stationed at the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp near Mist.  There were many Depression-era programs established to help address the widespread unemployment; the CCC was designed to put young men to work on public projects including forest fire suppression.  They received lodging, meals and a paycheck – most of which had to be sent home to help their families – in exchange for their work.  The article noted that these local men were lucky to be stationed so near their homes as this was not often the case.

From Virgil Powell’s Diary

Virgil Powell was a long-time resident who had a farm in the Upper Nehalem Valley between Natal and Pittsburg.  Each year from 1906 until 1955, he kept a regular diary of his activities.  Here’s what Virgil wrote during the changeable weather of March 1914, his original spelling intact:

Monday, March 16:  Plowed a piece down by the river for potatoes and finished 4:30.  Some peddilars  here over night.  Bright and fine all day.

Tuesday, March 17:  Plowed the piece back of orchard by the river.  Dave & Booth were here for dinner.  Awful warm all day.  Inez & I went over to Elliott place and got some cattle out in evening.

Wednesday, March 18:  Went over to Elliott place and plowed all day for Bill Brown.  Awful hot all day.

Saturday, March 21:  Plowed over on the Elliott place all day.  Very good all day.  Ed. Webster & Kelly were here for dinner.

Wednesday, March 24:  Built some fence over across the river.  Snowed and rained all day and was a terrible bad day.  Went over to Elliott place in afternoon and got Chief.

Friday, March 27:  Took a sow up to the boar at Tuckers.  Started up at 8 and got home 12:45 P.M.  Snowed and stormed terrible all day.


The Vernonia Pioneer Museum is located at 511 E. Bridge Street and is open from 1:00-4:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays (excluding holidays) all year.  From June through mid-September, the museum is also open on Fridays from 1:00-4:00 PM.  There is no charge for admission but donations are always welcome.   Become a member of the museum for an annual $5 fee to receive the periodic newsletter, and if you are a Facebook user, check out the new Vernonia Pioneer Museum page created by Bill Langmaid. The museum volunteers are always pleased to enlist additional volunteers to help hold the museum open and assist in other ways.  Please stop by and let one of the volunteers know of your interest in helping out.