The Good Ol’ Days

Museum News

We wish everyone the best for Christmas, the other December holidays and the New Year.  If you’re looking for a last minute gift for someone with Vernonia connections, stop by the museum during our open hours, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 – 4 pm.  We have copies of both books on Vernonia history and music CDs by Hobe Kytr and Timberbound as well as a selection of DVDs of photos and videos of Vernonia events.  The Vernonia books are also on sale at R&S Market (formerly Sentry).

We also want to thank our members, donors, visitors, and volunteers for helping us keep Vernonia history alive and accessible.  Thanks to Mike Snow of ArtAttack! we’ll soon have a new sign in the outdoor equipment shed thanking those who helped make our two most recent projects possible.

The Malmsten Family in Vernonia, Part 2

After his return to Vernonia from the odd jobs he’d taken in the St. Helens area, Franklin continued to work his homestead.  By 1895, his father, Olof, had proved up his own homestead and decided to return to Minnesota.  Franklin and his brother Otto accompanied him on the long walk to St. Helens, each carrying a suitcase weighing from fifty to seventy-five pounds.  They took a steamboat to Portland where Olof boarded the train to St. Paul.  Otto and Franklin returned to Vernonia on foot.

Franklin resumed timber falling and other odd jobs around Vernonia.  He befriended Dorr Keasey, grandson of Eden Keasey whose land claim was five miles up Rock Creek; much of that land remains in the Keasey family to this day.  Franklin and Dorr worked together in a local sawmill.  When the engineer at the mill was fired for not keeping the steam power steady, Franklin got the job as both engineer and fireman.

Franklin went back to logging for a short time with Frank Brown, a former sheriff from Maine.  He next took a job as a dump cart driver on a new railroad that was being built between Rainier and Astoria and Seaside followed by a stint with Northern Pacific near Warren.  When his parents, his brother Sidney, and Olof’s brother Andrew, returned to Vernonia in December 1897, Franklin rejoined his family.  Olof and his wife, Louisa, bought seven acres on two adjoining lots on the Nehalem River by what is now Mist Drive.  The family lived in an existing home that burned in later years; the barn they built still stands at Farmwoman’s Nursery.

Franklin, still a bachelor, wasn’t sure about remaining in Oregon; in April 1898 he returned to the family farms in Minnesota where he partnered with his brother, Elon.  He traded half interest in his Vernonia quarter section for half interest in Elon’s farm equipment.  They farmed both Malmsten family farms until Olof sold them in 1902; the brothers then rented nearby properties and continued farming.

Two weeks after Franklin returned to Minnesota, his brother Charles came to Vernonia and filed for 160 acres on Pebble Creek Road.  Elon married in 1899, and Frankin attended the state agricultural college in St. Paul where he studied agriculture, animal husbandry, mathematics, and steam engineering.  He then went to a business school in Minneapolis for a three month course in bookkeeping, arithmetic and language.  Shortly after the sale of the family farms, Franklin visited Iowa and met Bessie Anderson to whom he was married in 1903. His wedding coat and their wedding picture are among the Malmsten artifacts on display at the Vernonia Pioneer Museum.

Franklin harvested the 1903 crop on the rented farm and moved to Swea City, Iowa, where he went into partnership with his brother-in-law in a hardware business.  Franklin and Bessie came to Vernonia in late 1906 with their baby daughter, Hazel, to visit his parents who had not yet met his wife or child.  They decided to remain in Vernonia.  Franklin sold his share of the hardware business, and Bessie and Hazel returned briefly to Iowa to sell the household goods that they didn’t ship to Oregon.

In 1907 Franklin decided to build a saw mill with his three brothers (Charles, Sidney and Elon, the last brother to come to Oregon) and a Mr. Hurt.  They called their business “Vernonia Lumber and Fuel.”  The mill was located near where the New Hong Kong Restaurant stands today.  With all the brothers and parents now in Vernonia, they set up a telephone line between their homes and let other neighbors join in.  At first known informally as “The Swede Line,” it became the foundation of the Nehalem Telephone Company.

Part 3 will complete our brief history of the Malmsten Family in our January column.

 

From Virgil Powell’s Diary

Virgil Powell (1887-1963) was a long-time resident whose family 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.  It appears that a woman named Alice was his sweetheart in 1906 and 1907 but, as usual, the details are definitely lacking!   At the end of his 1907 diary, Virgil noted that he had sent 38 post cards to Alice in 1906 through January 15, 1907, and 23 leather post cards.

Friday, December 20:  Went down to the Pringle School House in the morning and took one of the library books down.  Also hunted for some pheasants.  Pretty fair day but awful cold.

Tuesday, December 24:  Started down for the shooting match at Natal at 9 and got back at 4:30.  Had a pretty good time.  Started for Vernonia doings at 6 and got back at 12:30.  Had a pretty good time.  Did not rain any all day but cold.  Received two postals from Alice.  Got 7 altogether.

Wednesday, December 25:  Did not do much but stay in the house all day because it rained awful hard all day.  Received a postal from Dee.

Thursday, December 26:  Went up to Pittsburg the first thing in the morning to mail some letters.  Pretty fair day.  Sent a postal to Alice.  Received a note from Alice asking me down next Saturday night.  The mail has not been over from Clatskanie since Monday.

Saturday, December 28:  Went down to Pringles in the morning and heard the phonograph for a while.  Snowed a little and a terrible bad day.  Received a short letter from Alice.  Started down to Petersons at 6:45 p.m. and had one of the best times I have had for a long time.  Got home at 2:30 a.m.

Tuesday, December 31:  Was getting ready for the dance at Vernonia most of morning.  Started for Vernonia at 3 p.m.  Got there at 4.  Alice was my partner for the evening.  Had a fair time.  Left the dance at 3:30 a.m. and got home at 5:30.  Slept till 9.  Myrtle and Henry came.

 

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. 

The Good Ol’ Days

Museum News

We were pleased to have a visit in early November from Mark and Gordon Greathouse, sons of Kathryn Malmsten Greathouse, and their niece, a recent Pacific University grad.  Their great-grandfather Olof  Malmsten and several of his children were some of Vernonia’s early “movers and shakers.”  Mark and his wife, Helena, established the Malmsten Family Fund at the museum.  That fund has enabled us to restore and display Malmsten photos and artifacts in addition to supporting other projects.

The Malmsten Family in Vernonia, Part 1

Vernonia had its share of boom and bust cycles before the turn of the 20th century. Following the first wave of farming homesteaders in the 1870s, rumors of a railroad that would link Portland to the coast brought new residents who hoped for the economic benefit of rail service through a remote rural town.

Olof Malmsten, a master blacksmith, emigrated to the United States from Sweden in 1852.  After several years of working in his trade and buying and selling farm properties in Minnesota, Upstate New York and Pennsylvania, he acquired a 160 acre farm in Vasa, Minnesota, to which he brought his fellow Swedish immigrant bride, Maria.  In 1887 he traveled to eastern Oregon with one of his four sons, Elon, to visit an old friend and to investigate land around Pendleton.  He returned home to Vasa when his family sent word about an insect infestation that was threatening their crops.

Still interested in Oregon, Olof and his oldest son, Otto,  left for Oregon on June 12, 1889, arriving in Vernonia eight days later.  He had heard of the famous Nehalem Valley from his friend, Simon Johnson, of Mist, Oregon.  Olof and Otto both took up homesteads in Oregon three months later, in part because a railroad survey had been made.  The railroad was expected to be built soon, but that didn’t happen for another thirty-two years.

Otto contested a claim of 160 acres one and half miles southeast of Vernonia on Pebble Creek Road where Pebble Creek empties into the Nehalem.  William Adams had forfeited his right to the homestead by being absent over six months; Otto and Olof moved in.  Olof then went northeast of Vernonia on Crooked Creek where a settlement of Swedish people lived.  He filed for 160 acres northeast of Vernonia.   Both Olof and Otto got various jobs in Mist, Scappoose and Vernonia.  Olof, a horseshoer and blacksmith, had no problem staying busy.  Read More

The Good Ol’ Days: Fish Tales

Fish Tales

Even with the near-record dry summer, the brief rains in mid-September brought the salmon back to Rock Creek to spawn just in time for Vernonia’s Salmon Festival.  Thanks to Maggie Peyton, Director of the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council, Claudia Chinook, the walk-through salmon, also paid a call.  Maggie recently came upon an article about early-day fishing and the need for clear streams that she shared with Council members, one of whom gave me a copy of the fascinating story.  This writer doesn’t know when it was written or the author’s maiden name; if any reader can supply additional information to the museum on the source of this article or the author, it would be appreciated.

Dora Marlin (presumably her married name) was born in 1916 and at eight years of age moved with her parents and four sisters to a 160 acre farm on Deer Creek and Little Deer Creek near Natal.  She attended Mist School and later Vernonia High School.  Her father was a dairy farmer, and the 160 acres of virgin fir and cedar only had forty partially cleared acres on which they grew crops to feed the family, their cattle and other farm animals.  As was true for many, fishing and hunting provided most of the family’s protein as their only cash income was from the cream they sold to the Raven Dairy in Portland.

Dora was the only one of her sisters who loved to fish, and so she was allowed to get out of her regular farm chores save one when the salmon runs began.  Before first light, she took a lantern to the barn and chopped up carrots, turnips and other root crops to put in wooden buckets for each cow. She then got hay from the hay-mow and grain and molasses from wooden buckets in the barn.  A rich diet for the cows meant high butterfat-content cream which brought a higher price.  This required chore complete, Dora went off to fish with a pole crafted by her father from strong maple wood.  She had to be careful with her fishing line and hooks as these had to be purchased with the family’s scarce cash. Read More

Good Old Days: End of an Era

On Wednesday, September 11, 1957, at 11:30 AM, the last log was cut by the giant saw at the former Oregon-American mill, just little more than thirty-three years after the first.   Over the next three months, this log and the rest of the remaining cut timber were transformed into finished lumber in the dry kilns and planing department.  The last shipments of finished lumber left Vernonia for IP’s Longview operations in April 1958.  By May, only three office staff, three watchmen, three caretakers, and three workers in the timberlands remained on the payroll that once had over 700 workers.  During its thirty years of operations over two and one half billion board feet of timber were processed into finished lumber; the mill was closed for three years during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

International Paper (IP), Long-Bell Division, had acquired all of Oregon-American’s holdings in 1953, well aware that the supply of logs near the Vernonia mill would run out in a few years.  IP was focused on the 20,000 acres of timber-growing land that would be improved and replanted for future harvests.  During the last months of mill operations, plans for disposition of company-owned assets including the sixty-six homes on O-A Hill were also underway.  By the end of 1957, over a fourth of the homes were vacant but the remainder was being rented by former O-A/Long-Bell employees.  In November 1958, IP deeded the homes plus a building lot in the business district and other acreages to the City of Vernonia.  The homes were sold over the next several years to individual homebuyers. Read More

The Good Old Days

The War is Over 

A radio announcement on Tuesday afternoon, August 14, 1945, informed the nation that the Japanese had accepted the American terms of surrender, and World War II finally, formally came to an end.  As was true across the country, Vernonia erupted into a jubilant celebration that lasted well into the night. Sirens and whistles sounded, the city’s fire alarm brought firemen in to drive the trucks with sirens wailing in a spontaneous parade through the suddenly crowded center of town.  Flags appeared everywhere borne by the happy citizens.  On a more personal level, families rejoiced that their loved ones were now out of danger and motorists looked forward to the end of gas rationing when they could once again say “fill ‘er up.”  A street dance with music from a local band ended the day.

The Last Log Train

On August 27, 1957, Locomotive 105 brought the final load of logs to the mill in Vernonia, signaling the end of an era that began in 1924 when the first cargo from Camp McGregor rolled into town.  Chet Alexander, engineer, drove as a bigger than usual crowd watched and waved. The train also bore some of the logging machinery and tool sheds from the camp.   Chet came to Vernonia in 1922 as the tracks to the camp were being laid, and worked as engineer for all but the years when the mill was closed during the Great Depression.  Over the lifetime of Oregon-American, its 28,000 acres of timber yielded two and a half billion board feet of lumber, the bulk of which was delivered by this daily run.

Camp McGregor was built in 1922 far up Rock Creek beyond the rail yard at Keasey in the center of O-A’s timberlands.  Logging operations commenced while the big lumber mill in Vernonia was under construction.  The camp consisted of bunkhouses, dining hall, cook house, commissary, offices, and a school.  It housed nearly 300 loggers at its peak.  Several families established homes there, too, but it all burned down in 1933’s Wolf Creek Fire.  It was left abandoned during the Depression-caused mill closure that began in 1933.  When the mill reopened in 1936, bunkhouses needed for the camp were built at the mill and sent by train back up into the woods.  In 1947, with logging operations now too far from Camp McGregor, Camp Olson was built further south in the Coast Range.   It was dismantled and its buildings moved by train back to Camp McGregor in 1955.  On August 16, 1957, with logging operations nearly over, the cook house closed and the end of Camp McGregor was nigh. Read More

Good Ol’ Days: Pauline Dial King, 1919-2014

Pauline Dial King 1919 – 2014

Vernonia lost another of its honored citizens last month with the passing of Pauline Dial King.  Pauline and her daughter, Christine King Redmond, were active volunteers at Vernonia Pioneer Museum until Pauline moved to her daughter Marilyn’s home in Florence following the 2007 flood.  The museum held a special place in her heart; her family has established a Pauline King Memorial Fund to which contributions may be made in her honor.  In 2005, we interviewed Pauline as part of the museum’s oral history project.   The following is an excerpt from that interview.

Pauline was born in Renton, Washington, and lived her first years in Cut Bank, Montana, on the family homestead and then a wheat ranch in Oregon.  When she was three, her father got word of the big mill being built in Vernonia, so the family came by sternwheeler to Rainier and from there to Vernonia in 1922.  When her parents divorced, Pauline returned to Cut Bank with her mother until March of her junior year in high school when they came back to Vernonia.  She graduated from VHS in 1936.

Pauline’s mother opened a restaurant, the Squeeze Inn, located where part of the Cedar Side Inn is today.  A barber shop occupied the rest of the future Cedar Side bar area.  There were just nine stools in the Squeeze Inn; a sign in the restaurant read “We can serve 1000 a day, 9 at a time.”  The Inn was open nearly 24 hours per day most days during the late 1930s to accommodate the loggers and mill shift workers.  Pauline worked long hours along with her mother.  The Squeeze Inn was famous for its chili, turkey dinners and a big $1.95 ham and egg breakfast.  Business was brisk throughout the day with the mill and all the logging camps active.  The railroad and logging crews came in early to pick up lunches that were made up in the wee hours of the morning.   Read More

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.    

 

The Good Ol’ Days: Hunting and Fishing a Century Ago

The salmon have returned to the Nehalem River and Rock Creek to spawn, and hunting season is well underway.  How different it was back in the earliest days of Vernonia’s pioneers and through the early part of the twentieth century when no licenses were required and there were no limits on what a man could take for his family’s table.  With most farms needing to be self-sufficient, wild game was a welcome addition to the limited menu.

Before the first white settlers came into the valley in 1874, Clatskanie Indians hunted and fished seasonally along the Nehalem floodplain.  The dense, tall timber in the forests beyond limited the growth of forage crops for ruminants such as deer and elk.  Brush plants and berries only grew along the streams and margins of the stands of Douglas fir and in areas burned by forest fires.  White trappers came into the valley in the mid-1800s for the abundant beavers, raccoons, muskrats, foxes, and otters.  These trappers and other itinerant hunters also found coyotes, wolves, cougars, bears, and skunks, but these men did not establish permanent homes here. Read More

The Good Ol’ Days

Eightieth Anniversary of the First Tillamook Burn 

The summer of 1933 was exceptionally hot and dry throughout the state.  In August, Governor Julius Meier ordered the state forests in southern and eastern Oregon closed.  He pleaded with the loggers on private lands in the northwest corner of the state to cease operations.  The humidity dropped to 22% in the Coast Range foothills, and the main logging camps sent runners with orders for the local operators to shut down until moister and cooler conditions returned.  According to what may be fact or local legend, shortly after one p.m., the messenger reached a gyppo operator working in Gales Creek Canyon on lands owned by Crossett and Western.  Wanting to bring in one more log, the operator’s donkey engine pulled the huge Douglas fir over a rotted windfall.  A spark ignited the forest floor and the first conflagration began.  A second fire of unknown origin had ignited about the same time.

With the next day bringing a temperature of 104 degrees and a gusty east wind, the fires grew and suddenly reached the tops of the tallest trees, a condition called crowning.  The winds blew hot sparks and burning limbs into the air and ignited other blazes in the forested lands beyond the immediate fire.  Hundreds of loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) youth were brought in to battle the multiple fires.    By August 18th, the inferno had spread to more than twenty-five square miles.  The fires increased and merged and on August 24th literally exploded, sending a 40,000 foot high column of smoke across a fifteen mile front.  By the end of August, over three hundred thousand acres of dense, virgin timber were damaged by fire.  Nearly twelve billion board feet of timber went up in smoke.  Subsequent fires in 1939, 1945 and 1951 destroyed an additional billion and a half board feet; in all, the four fires consumed enough timber to build over one million five-room houses. Read More

The Good Ol’ Days-Vernonia Friendship Jamboree; The First Three Years

Vernonia Friendship Jamboree – the First Three Years  

When Vernonia’s lumber mill closed in 1957, city leaders decided to change the identity of Vernonia from a mill town to a “Friendship Town.”  The three day Fourth of July celebration was newly named the Vernonia Friendship Jamboree.  In May, committee members distributed 10,300 wooden nickels to advertise the event that included speeches, a horse show by the Ridge Riders, fireworks provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and concessions.

In 1958 the Vernonia Friendship Jamboree name was formerly adopted for the July 4th and 5th celebration.  During the planning stages that winter, differences of opinion among committee members led to an editorial by Vernonia Eagle publisher, Walter Kamholz, to ask everyone to pull together to make the event a success.  The wooden nickel tradition continued; the 1958 nickel bore an image of the Shay locomotive and citizens were asked to distribute the coins wherever they went.    New events were added and the resulting celebration was a success.  In addition to the fireworks, parade and Ridge Riders horse show, the Second Annual Jamboree had a golf tournament, an art show, a rock and gem display, a country store that sold local products and crafts, window displays in downtown businesses, and a Jamboree court of six princesses from whom a queen was selected.   Read More