Finn J.D. John

"Offbeat Oregon:" Unusual stories of historic Oregon ... suggestions welcomed.

Image: Portland City Archives##Nattily dressed Portland businessmen carry on during the 1894 flood, using a makeshift bridge to cross flooded Third Street at the intersection with Washington Street.

Offbeat Oregon: High-stepping in Portland

For most modern Oregonians, the most intriguing part of the old stories of the 1894 Portland and Willamette Valley flood is how undaunted people were by it. Today, most Willamette Valley residents expect ...

Image: Library of Congress##A drawing of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse from the Annual Report of the U.S. Lighthouse Board in 1881, just after the structure had been built.

Offbeat Oregon: Lighthouse finished 18 days too late

The third of January, 1881, was a typical winter day for the construction crew working on the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. That is to say, it was awful. A terrific gale was blowing out of the southwest, ...

A circa 1910 postcard shows the Ashland Chautauqua building when it was new, with the great wooden dome over it. After the dome was removed, this building became the first home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Offbeat Oregon: Bowmer set the stage for Shakespeare

In 1931, at the height of the Great Depression, a young, charismatic drama teacher named Angus Bowmer got a job at Southern Oregon Normal School in Ashland. Bowmer, a fresh graduate of Washington State ...

##This advertisement for an Erector Set appeared in the December 1929 issue of Popular Science Magazine.

Offbeat Oregon: Even as a boy, toy inventor seemed larger than life

From about 1913 on, every small boy in America knew who A.C. Gilbert was. Somewhere on an advertising page in practically every youth-oriented magazine, his cheerful, immaculately dressed image could ...

F.J.D. John photo##White Eagle Saloon and Hotel building as it appears today, with vintage advertising painted on the side.

Offbeat Oregon: Saloon a souvenir of the age of shanghaiing

Low on the east bank of the river, in the shadow of the Fremont Bridge, stands a narrow brick building that looks like it’s right out of the 19th century. It’s not — almost, but not ...

Image: Salem Public Library##The aftermath of a train wreck on the Oregon Pacific Railroad line during the 1880s, when T. Edgenton Hogg was running the line.

Offbeat Oregon: Pirate, jailbird, swindler, tycoon

Next time you’re heading over Santiam Pass from the Willamette Valley, you might take a second to glance over at the side of the big potato-shaped promontory around which the highway bends ...

Image: St. Nicholas Advertisements##A 1915 advertisement for the Erector Set, featuring a portrait of A.C. Gilbert.

Offbeat Oregon: 'Anti-Grinch' saved Christmas

It was late in the afternoon, on a late autumn day in 1918, when Oregon native Alfred Carlton Gilbert, president and CEO of the toy company Mysto Manufacturing Company, was shown in for his scheduled ...

News-Register file photo##The Hoover-Minthorn House Museum in Newberg.

Offbeat Oregon: Lonely Newberg orphan grew up to be president

One wintry November day in 1885, a passenger train pulled into the depot in Newberg, and a lone little plain-dressed Quaker boy stepped onto the platform. He was 10 years old, this boy, with a serious, ...

Image: F. Gleason/Wikimedia##An 1840s hand-tinted engraving of Sutter’s Fort as it appeared in its heyday.

Offbeat Oregon: California Gold Rush sparked by a failed Oregon farmer

Most residents of Western Oregon complain about the rain — especially this time of year. But arguably nobody has ever had more cause to complain about the soggy Willamette Valley climate than James ...

Image: FOX Network##A screenshot of Bart Simpson with a Polybius video game cabinet in an episode of The Simpsons that aired in September 2006.

Offbeat Oregon: Did video game control kids' minds?

It’s a scenario that would have chilled the blood of any parent of a teenager in the early 1980s: One day when the Beaverton Mall opens for business, there’s a new coin-op videogame cabinet ...

Image: Lostwagonman/Wikimedia##At the spot in the Deschutes River where this bridge is today, members of Stephen Meek’s wagon train built a pulley system to get people and wagons across the river.

Offbeat Oregon: Quest for mine led 'suckers' to riches

Oregon, like other states, has an official state bird (Western Meadowlark), animal (beaver), tree (Douglas Fir), gemstone (Sunstone) and so forth. But if the state were going to designate an official ...

Image: F.J.D. John##The eastern shore of Abert Lake, one of the remnants of the inland sea called Lake Chewaucan, as seen from Highway 395. Abert Lake, the waters of which are very salty, is home to a dense colony of brine shrimp on which migrating waterfowl rely for food.

Offbeat Oregon: Small, salty lakes hint at network of inland seas

Westward bound on the old Applegate Trail in the early 1850s, the party of settlers halted in confusion at the shore of a vast, placid lake. Its waters stretched nearly all the way to the horizon, with ...

Image: Smithsonian Institution##One of the millions of “wanted” posters printed and distributed across the country during the four years in which the DeAutremont Brothers were on the lam.

Offbeat Oregon: Bungled train robbery-murder solved, CSI-style

University of California Professor Edward O. Heinrich had helped the Southern Pacific out with a few minor robbery investigations before. Now, in late autumn of 1923, SP had a big one on its hands. ...

Image: Smithsonian Institute##Unidentified officials pose with the wreckage of the mail car blown up by the DeAutremont Brothers in a bungled attempt to rob it on Oct. 11, 1923.

Offbeat Oregon: Last 'great' train robbery was a brutal fiasco

Few people realize it, but modern forensic detective work — the kind showcased on the “CSI” series on television — was born in southern Oregon, back in October 1923. Before ...

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