Finn J.D. John

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

##The Portland Morning Oregonian’s staff artist published this sketch of convicted murderer Kelsay Porter shortly before his execution.

Offbeat Oregon: Gunfight left three neighbors dead and a fourth hanged

In the 1890s, 47-year-old Kelsay Porter lived alone on a remote farm in the foothills of the Wallowas, in a tiny Union County community called Pine Valley. He was a shy, timid bachelor who had moved to ...

Image: Oregon History & Memories Facebook group##Currier’s Village as it appeared during the late 1930s, full of late-model luxury cars.

Offbeat Oregon: Little-known resort was packed with celebrities

Little-known Lakeside resort was packed with Hollywood stars   For people like Bing Crosby, Lily Pons and Clark Gable, success in show business came with some distinct drawbacks ... millions of ...

Image: UO Libraries##The original Wasco County Courthouse as it appeared before 1884, when the current courthouse was built. This view shows the sheriff’s office on the lower floor; behind was the jail with no windows on the Third Street side. The narrow door to the right leads to the outside stairway whereby the courtroom on the second floor was reached.

Offbeat Oregon: Murderer took mysteries to the grave

On the evening of December 1, 1878, all four prisoners in the Wasco County Jail, in the back of the county courthouse, were out of their cells and relaxing in the common area near a glowing woodstove. ...

Image: Oregon Historical Society##In the spring of 1901, Allen & Roberts crews work to get the Columbia Lightship No. 50 off the beach and on its way through some nearby woods to the Columbia River.

Offbeat Oregon: Beached ship had to 'sail' through the woods

Throughout the history of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, before and after it became part of the Coast Guard, there have been more than enough uncomfortable and dangerous jobs to go around. But it’s ...

Image: UO Libraries##This panoramic lithograph shows Portland as it appeared around the time John W. Murray killed his brother-in-law. It was published in an 1888 edition of The West Shore magazine.

Offbeat Oregon: Murderer learned limits of 'Unwritten Law'

The late 1880s in Oregon, and around the country, saw a substantial rise in the number of murderers who tried to invoke the “Unwritten Law” to justify their crimes. The “Unwritten Law” ...

Image: OSU Libraries##A plaque commemorating the dedication of Pixieland by Gov. Tom McCall stands on the park’s main street, with the buildings behind. The rocky lump at the far left, next to the Darigold Barn, is the Darigold Cheese Cave.

Offbeat Oregon: Pixieland told state's 'fairy-tale story'

It goes without saying that Oregon has changed in the 50 years that have passed since the Tom McCall era. People who remember Oregon in 1967 look back on a sort of Edenic place, comfortably conservative ...

Image: Oregon Historical Society##
A lithograph from the January 1885 issue of The West Shore magazine shows the Grand Ronde Valley.

Offbeat Oregon: Grand Ronde Valley was Oregon Trail's Eden

Driving through the Grand Ronde Valley today, you likely wouldn’t see it as a Garden of Eden. It’s nice, of course; the scenery is beautiful, with the Wallowas looming to the northeast and ...

Image: UO Libraries##Early coverage of the Sidney and Barbara Smith murders in the Albany State Rights Democrat took Sidney’s brother Thomas at his word. By the following week’s issue, though, the story had changed.

Offbeat Oregon: Frontier murder case more complicated than it appeared

One year after the Civil War ended, a double murder happened in Linn County. And it was one of those stories that seems to peel away like an onion, layer by layer, or like one of those Russian nesting ...

Image: Western Oregon University##State Treasurer Bob Straub looks out over Nestucca Spit as a construction worker in a tractor works on some preliminary road construction, circa 1966.

Offbeat Oregon: How Bob Straub kept Highway 101 off the beach

Tom McCall was a smart, articulate man, and not easy to swindle. But Glenn “Mr. Oregon” Jackson was, by all accounts, even smarter — and he had something he wanted from McCall. Which ...

Image: Baker County Library##A scene in downtown Copperfield, circa 1910.

Offbeat Oregon: When martial law came to three saloons

All Oregonians owe former Gov. Oswald West a debt of gratitude for saving Oregon’s beaches from being locked away in private ownership. But the progressive “father-knows-best” impulses ...

Image: Wikimedia##Naturalist John K. Townsend in his mid-30s.

Offbeat Oregon: Thirsty colleague ruined naturalist’s specimens

The history of 1800s Oregon is full of the influence of good old Demon Rum — and from the “Blue Ruin” that inspired America’s first prohibition law in 1844, to the “Temperance ...

Image: Rebecca Maxwell/ HMDb.org##This historical marker near Fort Boise commemorates the winter Marie Dorion spent in the Idaho wilderness en route back to Astoria in the winter of early 1814.

Offbeat Oregon: How Marie Dorion earned the distinction of ‘Oregon’s Revenant’

How Marie Dorion earned her story as “Oregon’s Revenant”   Marie Dorion’s contribution to whatever success the Astorian party enjoyed on its disastrous trip to Oregon was ...

Image: W.H. Vermilye##An engraving from an 1838 edition of Edmund Fanning’s book, Voyages to the South Seas, Indian and Pacific Oceans, China Sea, North-West Coast, purports to show the attack on the Tonquin in a bay on Vancouver Island.

Offbeat Oregon: Following river was near-fatal decision

When Marie and Pierre Dorion set out from St. Louis with the Astor Party in the spring of 1811, Marie was probably the only member in a position to really know how awful things could get. Offbeat Oregon Finn ...

Image: Rebecca Maxwell/Historic Marker Database, HMdb.org##A statue of Marie Dorion with one of her children, erected by the Idaho State Historical Society near Fort Boise, where she survived a winter alone in the wilderness with her two boys.

Offbeat Oregon: For Marie Aioe Dorion, a fateful decision

The history of Oregon sometimes resembles an old manuscript from which every other page has been ripped out. Throughout the 1800s and much of the 1900s, most people only deemed stories worth preserving ...

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