Columns from the Community

The Good Ol’ Days: The Scappoose-Vernonia Road

The Scappoose-Vernonia Road

Routes from Vernonia and other points in the Upper Nehalem Valley to St. Helens, Portland and Washington County were a challenge to valley residents from the earliest times into the 1920s.  The Pittsburg to St. Helens road built in the 1800s to connect the valley with the county seat was a rough and rocky road, then as now not particularly friendly to passenger cars.  With more automobiles in use and the population rapidly growing because of the new Oregon-American Lumber Mill, Vernonia’s Chamber of Commerce appointed a special committee to find a good route for a market road to the towns on the Columbia River.

William Pringle, W.C. Meyer and Postmaster Emil Messing comprised the committee to investigate the feasibility of constructing a road from Vernonia through Clark & Wilson Camp Eight (about three miles from Pittsburg along the East Fork of the Nehalem) to the existing Scappoose-Chapman county road.  In October 1925, the committee traveled up the East Fork to Camp Eight to determine what might be the best route.  According to the article in the November 1st Vernonia Eagle, they “found that at very little expense a road of water grade (i.e. graveled) could be built from Pittsburg to Camp Eight, thence down the canyon to Bridge Twenty-three of the old Portland-Southwestern Railroad (see note below).  Then, north over the tunnel and come out under Bridge Seventeen of that same line.  From there it will be very easy to connect to the Chapman Road as there will be about one half mile of road to be constructed from Bridge Seventeen.”   The committee received cooperation from A.W. Hansen, Assistant Superintendent of the Clark & Wilson Lumber Company, who placed a railroad speeder at the disposal of the committee to travel from Camp Eight eastward through the company’s timberlands.

In the prior week’s edition, the Eagle made a case for completing an eight-mile road from the One-Mile Bridge (now also known as the Green Bridge) to Camp Eight.  Only the three miles from Pittsburg to Camp Eight would have to be built as there was an existing road between the bridge and Pittsburg.  The estimated cost for the three mile road was $20,000 that could be funded by voter approval of a road tax.  The various Clark & Wilson camps within the Vernonia School District had a $100,000 per month payroll, but their remoteness held no economic benefit for the city.

The Eagle opined:  “If a good road is put in there, it is probable that at least half of the married men in the camps will live in Vernonia and drive back and forth each day, thereby letting their children attend school here and having more comfortable homes and surroundings for their families, as well as conveniences obtainable.”  And, of course, they’d spend their earnings at Vernonia businesses!  The eventual extension of the road all the way to Scappoose would create a market road of benefit to both ends of the county.   Like any other public works project, this new road was not without controversy, but that is a story for another column.


Note:  The Portland-Southwestern Railroad was built in the early 1900s. The railroad carried logs from Pittsburg to Chapman Landing on Multnomah Channel from around 1905 to 1945, passing through a 1,712-foot-long tunnel at the Nehalem Divide.  This abandoned rail line was converted to a truck route when Crown-Zellerbach acquired Clark & Wilson Lumber.  It became the basis of the new CZ Trail that connects to the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail.

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.  Like this year in the Midwest, the winter of 1916 was a very cold and snowy one.  Despite the conditions, Virgil made a trip to Houlton and St. Helens in the midst of it all, presumably on horseback.

Sunday, January 16, 1916:  Victor and I went up around East Fork in forenoon.   Just fooled around in afternoon. Awful cold but fair day.  About 18 inches of snow on.

Tuesday, January 18, 1916:  We went down the road a ways in forenoon after some hunters.  Walked over the Nehalem River on the ice for the first time in my life.  Just fooled around in afternoon.  Cold but very good day.

Monday, January 24, 1916:  Left 7 A.M. and got to Houlton 1:30 P.M.  Went on over to St. Helens then back to Houlton and stopped overnight.  Fair during the day but snowed considerable late in evening.  About three feet of snow on the mountain.

Tuesday, January 25, 1916:  Left Houlton 7:15 and got home 2 P.M.  Snowed pretty hard all day and it was certainly a hard trip.  Was sick most all night.   There is about 18 inches of snow on.


Six years later, the old Pittsburg Road was still the main route to St. Helens.  As with the above entries, he doesn’t mention how he traveled – by car or horse.  We assume because of the snow in the mountains that winter, it was the latter, possibly with a sled attached based on some other diary entries around this time.

Monday, January 16, 1922:  Over St. Helens road to St. Helens at 2:30 P.M.  Very cold.

Tuesday, January 17, 1922:  Left St. Helens 7:30 A.M.  In Portland till 3 P.M.  Out to Beaverton over night.  Awful cold and ice.

Wednesday, January 18, 1922:  Came from Beaverton home via Timber.  Frozen awful hard.


The Vernonia Pioneer Museum is located at E. 511 Bridge Street and is open from 1 to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays (excluding holidays) all year.  From June through mid-September, the museum is also open on Fridays from 1 – 4 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.    


Living On a Lake: My Best Christmas Ever

Lake-Best Christmas ever photoRichmond Virginia, Christmas Eve 1968.  Mom and Dad stick my sister and I in our guest room, close the door and we  promise not to come out til Christmas morning for any reason. I remember several things: lots of noises, bumps, a bit of yelling or grousing from our parents on the other side of the door throughout the night. I also remember having a little television and of all things, watching Lawrence Welk (oh my) and The Miracle on 34th Street—a Christmas classic. In those days, we had only a few TV stations and it probably got late and we were either not tired or bored and Lawrence Welk was one of the few shows to choose from. For those of you who are old enough to remember, there was a lot of old-fashioned music, bad hair-dos and clothing (that haven’t come back into fashion thankfully) and BUBBLES! It was the first and last time I ever watched it, so I am still clueless as to the significance of the bubbles. 

Fast forward to Christmas morning…we woke our parents up early, and though they were quite bleary-eyed and utterly exhausted, they allowed us to drag them out of bed and were thrilled by our over-the-top reactions to what they had done for us for Christmas. In ONE NIGHT, they had completely transformed both of our bedrooms! I’m talking about furniture and everything!  Many small individually wrapped presents were discovered in the drawers of our new night stands beside our new beds.  For any of you who have staged a room or two, just think about MOVING EVERYTHING OUT AND MOVING NEW STUFF IN up a flight of stairs and arranging it all in less than twelve hours with just two people! I truly can’t imagine how they managed to not hurt themselves, or do it without blowing a head gasket!!

It was the best Christmas EVER. One of my fondest memories of those three days was actually the smell of incense. In that day, incense burners were the new craze. That was one of the little presents found in my night stand. The incense burner was made of brass in this East Indian sort of small configuration, with a flattish round bottom and a small center where you placed the cone of incense, along with a rather Mosquish-looking top with cut-out stars on the sides so that the incense could filter through in an aromatic drift of smoke. The day after Christmas we had a freak snow storm and lost power for three days.  Even though the temperatures upstairs were freezing, I spent hours up there in my newly refurnished room burning my incense and letting it waft around. I was in heaven!

As a neighborhood we all gathered together in whatever warmth and light we could find during the power outage and so, post-Christmas, we asked our neighbors over to sit around in our den near our only source of heat, our fireplace. It also had a piano, someone brought a guitar, we had the fireplace going and candles lit and we sang Christmas carols.  I recall my dad backing up into a candle and lighting his new Christmas sweater on fire!

Other than burning toast in the fireplace and Dad’s mishap, I have only fond memories of spending three days with no electricity right at Christmas. We all managed to stay warm no matter what the temperature because we were happy and truly embraced the feeling of Christmas in every way! The smell of incense still takes me immediately back to my youth and is a reminder of how incredibly generous our parents were.

This season is one to embrace generosity. Don’t forget those who are less fortunate and give freely…even if it’s just of your heart. That’s the best kind of gift – free, but priceless.

Creature Comforts – Your Pet’s Diet

Happy New Year!

Anyone planning to change your pet(s) diet as a New Year Resolution? If so, it warrants looking at the new pet food craze of grain free foods.

Grain free and foods with grains are usually both meat based, and both contain carbohydrates and starches. The “grain free” foods contain different forms of starches in the way of vegetables rather than rice or barley, etc. These non-grain ingredients break down into sugars just like the grains however. So the new things to look at are the quantities of sweet potatoes, potatoes and peas in the servings. These are all forms of starch/carbohydrates and can also lead to too many sugars in the system feeding an overabundance of yeast.

The point here is to continue to read the labels on the foods you choose for your pet to ensure the best nutritional balance.  Yeasts feed on sugars in the system. The symptoms of yeast can take many different forms coming out through the ears, the pores and can cause a lot of itching, scratching and discomfort. Another symptom of yeast overgrowth is a distinct odor coming from the skin even after a bath. One way to help cut the level of yeast is to wash the ears, and bathe your dog with a gentle shampoo containing Tea-tree oil or other cleaners with anti-bacterial properties.

However, the  best way to reduce the levels of yeast in the body is to change the diet. Feeding mainly meat proteins coupled with vitamins is a great way to provide the vitamins and minerals your pet needs to build up a healthy immune system. Creatures stocks Taste of the Wild and Diamond Naturals grain free foods in varieties of flavors and can also order many reputable brands.

Also available are the Pet Naturals of Vermont supplements for both cats and dogs and new in the store for January is the new Lumino Wellness line of pet products out of Vancouver, WA. These use a combination of organic and natural ingredients from Nose and Paw Butter to oral supplements for fighting yeast!

Come by and check out what’s new Mon-Fri 10-6, Sat 10-5 and Sun 12-4; 503-429-PETS(7387).


On the Shelves: What’s Happening at the Vernonia Library

By Jennifer Moloney


Columbia County Reads 2014

January, February, and March will once again feature reading and events as part of “Columbia County Reads.”  What is this you ask?  In an attempt to provoke thought and discussion by all residents in Columbia County the local libraries unite to choose a common theme and from there books to be read, discussed, and events planned.  This year’s theme is ‘Survival, Self-Reliance, and Sustainability’.  Featured books for Columbia County Reads 2014 are:


Adult Selections - 


by Cheryl Strayed

Feeling she had nothing left to lose after the death of her mother and a painful divorce, Cheryl Strayed impulsively decided to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Coast Trail.  With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would travel from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – and she would do it alone.  Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.


OnShelvesBill_Bryson_A_Walk_In_The_WoodsA Walk in the Woods

by Bill Bryson

The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America – majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes.  If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go.  And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find.  He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way – and a couple of bears.  Already a classic A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

Young Adult Selection –

OnShelvesTheDarknessAfterThe Darkness After 

by Scott B. Williams

When massive solar flares send an intense electromagnetic pulse to Earth, every electrical device is fried instantly.  The modern world that sixteen-year-old Mitch Henley has always known comes crashing down.  Anarchy, looting, and chaos explode all around him.  Stranded in New Orleans, Mitch escapes into the Mississippi backwoods he knows so well, hoping to stay alive using the survival and hunting skills he learned from his game-warden father.



Juvenile Selection –


by Gary Paulsen

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single engine plane in which he is flying crashes.  Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother has given him as a present – and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart ever since his parents’ divorce.  But now Brian has no time for anger, self-pity, or despair – it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.

Book descriptions supplied by


Events will begin around the county on January 7th with “A Demonstration of Spinning” at the St. Helens Public Library.  Please stop by a Columbia County Library to check out a ‘Columbia County Reads’ selection book and for a list of scheduled events or visit the Vernonia Public Library website for more information.

WOEC Current: Introducing New General Manager, Bob Perry

SarahRossi-color-webAt the December 17th West Oregon Electric Cooperative Board Meeting, the Board of Directors appointed Sarah Rossi as Acting General Manager to lead the co-op during the interim until the newly hired GM, Bob Perry, takes the helm. Bob Perry will be moving here from Indiana and plans on being on board at WOEC by February 1st.

Below is an introduction letter from our New General Manager:

Hello, I’m Bob Perry, your new general manager here at West Oregon Electric Cooperative and I’d like to take a few minutes to introduce myself to you.

BobPerry-color-webI’ve been working with the electric cooperatives now for eighteen years.  I got my start in Indiana working in the Member Services department at the local electric cooperative. I still remember my first assignment was to read meters.  Working in Member Services allowed me to be involved in many different aspects of member contact from billing concerns to energy advisor, from school safety programs to 4H Electric programs and more.

It was during my years with the cooperative in Indiana that I decided to take on the challenge of earning a college degree. Starting in the summer of 1997, I signed up for night classes at Indiana University and seven years later I received my bachelor’s degree in business administration.  I went on from there to earn a master’s degree in management from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2006.

Three years after completing my studies, I went on to manage two electric cooperatives, one in upstate New York and one in Kansas.  Someone asked me once what my story was and I said “I’ve gone from meter reading to general manager in fourteen years.” Electric cooperatives are great organizations and I’m proud to be associated with them.

I’m married, my wife’s name is Linda and we just celebrated our twenty-sixth anniversary. I have two step-daughters and we’re expecting our first grandchild in February. And then there’s Megan, our five year old chocolate Labrador retriever who is a registered therapy dog.

Outside of the office, Linda and I enjoy a ride on the motorcycle or a quiet afternoon on the water in our kayak.  Linda is a quilter and enjoys gardening.  I enjoy shooting sports, fishing, and amateur radio.

We’re both excited to be coming to such a beautiful area of the country and look forward to meeting many of you in the years to come.

Bye for now!  


On the Shelves: What’s Happening at the Vernonia Library

“Food for Fines” Returns to the Vernonia Public Library!

On December 16, 2013 you can help feed our community while paying off your library fines.  The Vernonia Public Library will be sponsoring a food drive and fine amnesty program to benefit Vernonia Cares Food Bank.  For each food item donated, $1 will be credited toward your fine balance up to a maximum of $10.00.  Please note that credit cannot be applied to lost or damaged book replacement fees.  Patrons who do not have fines are also encouraged to make donations of non-perishable food items.  Home-canned items, cans that are past their expiration date or are dented or damaged, or cans with barcodes lined or scratched through will not be accepted.


On the Shelves: What’s Happening at the Vernonia Library

New Program to Extend Library Access Statewide Continues to Grow!

Beginning January 2013, a new Oregon Library Passport Program began allowing card-holders from participating libraries to register and use other participating libraries across the state.  Vernonia Public Library was signed up and an active participant from the beginning.

Here is how it works: Oregon public and academic libraries opt to become Passport Program participating libraries.  Their registered card-holders are then able to visit, register without the customary “out of area” card fees, and use the materials at any other participating library. Their home library card becomes their “passport” or ticket to registering for library cards at other participating libraries throughout Oregon. Patrons are responsible for managing their checkouts, complying with the Passport member library’s policies regarding due dates, late fees, and materials limits, and must return materials directly to the library they borrowed from; there is no library-to-library return delivery mechanism.

So, if you are vacationing at the coast and need some beach reading, you can register for library cards in Astoria, Rockaway, Garibaldi, or Florence. Or perhaps you live in Vernonia, but work in Hillsboro, and want to use Hillsboro Public Library during your lunch hour.  No problem. In addition, Oregonians who are conducting research will be able to tap into the vast resources of academic libraries, including the Oregon State University libraries, Oregon Health Sciences University and several community colleges. The key to the Passport Program is that you first need a library card from your participating local “Home” Library. Read More

WOEC Current: Saving Energy During the Holidays

West Oregon Electric Cooperative is proud to sponsor this year’s Vernonia Spirit of Christmas House Decorating contest. Start planning the decorations you are going to use now, and get ready to make your home stand out and represent the warm glow of this special season. Check out the energy efficiency tips below for some helpful hints on how to decorate with LED lights and keep that holiday spirit alive without wasting energy.



•  Consider replacing older strings of holiday lights with more energy efficient light emitting diodes, LEDs. Most stores now sell LED lights, and many of the new outside Christmas decorations are already made with them. Minimize fire hazard risk with LEDs, as they are shatterproof, shock resistant, safe to touch, and shouldn’t overload your electric circuits. LEDs save up to 80-90 percent of your decorative lighting energy costs, and use 10 times less energy than incandescent mini-lights and 100 times less energy than standard bulbs.

•  Wait until dark to turn on your Christmas lights and make sure to turn them off before you go to bed. Six hours or less of daily use is a good goal to aim for. Read More

Creature Comforts: Feral Cats and Kittens

Last month was all about controlling late hatching fleas, catching feral cats and raising kittens. This month we take it to the next level in controlling the feral cat population and preparing for the holidays.

Creatures, as have several volunteers in the community, cared for many feral kittens associated with the valiant and commendable efforts of Kim Tierney, City Council Member, and the partnership she was able to form with Feral Cat coalition of Oregon (FCCO) on behalf of Vernonia residents. Residents have been  “managing” the feral cat overpopulation for years since the flood but it has become somewhat out of control in the last year. Kim heard the complaints and concerns and took action. The last count had 104 cats and kittens caught and turned in by Kim and local residents to be spayed/neutered by the FCCO– WOW!

The OFCC provides this service free of charge, but does ask for a $30 donation to help defray the expense of the surgeries.  They are providing a great service for our community.  If you’re looking for a great cause to support with a donation this one should be high on the list. All donations are tax deductible: Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon
P.O. Box 82734
Portland, OR  97282 Read More

Living on a Lake: Selling a Home at Fishawk Lake with Furnishings

When buying a vacation or “2nd” home, especially at Fishhawk Lake which is in a remote area in Birkenfeld, quite often buyers want to make an offer that includes much if not all of the furniture. Now, that can mean several things to each buyer. It might mean just the big stuff: appliances (very commonly included in both primary home sales as well as 2nd homes) but also big furniture like couches, beds, etc. 

Let’s take it a step further. There are properties that are listed in marketing materials as being “turnkey.”  This essentially means that you can bring your jammies, your toothbrush, walk in and take over living in the house and not have to bring anything else. (After purchasing, of course!) That would include ALL things, like dishes, linens, artwork, everything that you saw when your first made an offer would go stay the home after closing.

What I like to tell my sellers is this: if you don’t want it included in a potential offer, either get it out of the home or make a list that you then give your realtor that clearly explains what will not be included with the home. There often are heirlooms that were handed down generations ago that you hold dear and you, as the seller, need to make sure you’ve got your bases covered right from the time the home goes on the market.   Read More