Tag Archives: Vernonia Pioneer Museum

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: 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 Old Days

Museum News

If you passed by the museum on April 6th, you would have seen a dozen or so young people hard at work moving and removing plants, pulling weeds, edging flower beds, and tearing out the wooden sidewalk in front of the museum so that a new concrete walk can be put in.  The museum was delighted to have several of the Sierra Service Project volunteers help us get on top of what had seemed like an overwhelming task.  We thank Pat Stacklie for her part in bringing this program to Vernonia.

Stop by and see our newly framed photographs of Vernona Cherrington, for whom the town was named, and her granddaughter who visited here in 1992.  We also have lovely new frames on two Malmsten family portraits, all thanks to a grant from Mark and Helen Greathouse and the fine work done by Grey Dawn Gallery and Archive Photo Restoration.  Read More

Sierra Service Students Back to Work in Vernonia

SierraMuseum1-webAbout sixty students and ten adults were in Vernonia during the weekend of April 6-7 working on several projects to help the community.

The students were part of the Sierra Service Project and were all high school and middle school aged.  They came from all over the western United States to spend their spring break doing service work.  A handful of local Vernonia school students and citizens joined the Sierra Service students as well.

SierraLegion1-webThe students worked at the Vernonia Pioneer Museum where they  did landscaping work, planted trees at the new Vernonia Schools campus, cleaned bricks from the old high school that will be used to build pathways in the Community Garden, painted at the American Legion Hall, cleaned up some City owned properties and did yard work for several senior citizens.

SierraSchool-webSierraLegion2-webThe students camped out for the weekend in the Vernonia Schools Campus where they were able to use the  showers and the kitchen.

Sierra Service Project is an independent, interdenominational Christian 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization affiliated with the United Methodist Church. They provide life-changing experiences for youth of all denominations through acts of service.SierraMuseum2-web

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! Read More

The Good Old Days

Museum News

The Board of the Vernonia Pioneer Museum Association (VPMA) elected officers for 2013 at its January meeting:  President, Jay Anderson; Vice President, Ralph Keasey; Secretary, Barbara Larsen; Treasurer, Tobie Finzel.   The board bid a fond farewell to Carol Davis who has ably led VPMA for the last seven years but resigned to pursue other interests.  Jay Anderson has volunteered in a number of ways during this past year, and he was warmly welcomed to the board.

There is a new structure on the museum grounds.  After the collapse of the former outdoor display shed during a heavy snow in 2010, the museum board applied to the Columbia County Cultural Coalition for a grant to help replace that structure.  This spring the area under the roof will be graveled and several of items will be moved there with explanatory placards added to describe how they were used. Read More