Tune up and down the radio dial and you’ll find entertainment, news, opinion and the occasional market report. But where else can you hear history come alive? Surf the old-fashioned airwaves with us, to hear the Marion County Minute right off the air, bringing personalities from Oregon’s sesquicentennial past to your ears — and imagination!
The only thing sweeter than
the wealth of fishing and recreation
on a lake created by damming the
Santiam River, in the shadow
of the picturesque Cascades
and offering magnificent camping
and hiking areas, is the abundance of electric
power generated by that dam,
on the manmade Detroit Lake.
Many Americans have a story about
their family’s roots, but few are as
close to those roots as the Russian Old
Believers, who left their original homes
over an Eastern European church schism
centuries ago, and found a home in
Oregon’s Marion County mere decades ago.
They still live in a style that’s old-fashioned and as a
result have found occupations and industry that suit
their old-world beliefs and practices.
The breathtaking view from his farmstead might help explain why Salem’s first dry-goods dealer took early retirement to work on the sunny hillside instead. He lies there today, buried next to his wife in an old cemetery that’s still in use. They overlook a good portion of the Willamette Valley, and on a clear day you can see the coastal range over the vineyard that replaced some of the peach orchard Cox cultivated.
Ankeny was the name of a prominent Portland banker, whose son farmed and raised livestock in the country. That son’s young boy is buried in the old graveyard, too. The aging headstone is deceiving, as it says “Allie” — the name by which they called 14-year-old Henry Alexander Ankeny.
Wherever brave pioneers, hardworking settlers and daring frontiersmen go, right on their heels you’ll find the usual band of rascals, scoundrels and horse thieves. Human nature being what it is, folks in Oregon Territory soon found they had a pressing need for a clink — a hoosegow, a brig, a reformatory, a stockade, a house of correction.
It’s serious business, trying to enforce the peace, but the story of Oregon’s first jail and then its first territorial and state prison often reads like the Keystone Cops, complete with campaigns to lure the lockup to some different host city and wagonloads of cash that got mislaid by the planners and builders.
So you pick an attractive location and start building and — oops, you needed a road there!
Time goes by, a road is finally extended to the location and after a while planners make another start. They have a big win as a pioneering sanitorium, till it loses all its patients (no, not the hard way, just to the big hospital up in the big city). What do you do next with this prime piece of real estate?
No, all the prairies aren’t back east on the Great Plains, or even in the Oregon high desert. A rocky prairie with roots in Oregon’s history lies just east of the Willamette, and while its resistance to farming has saved it from being plowed under, it contains living treasures like the camas lily, a shy state bird, and hiking areas treasured by nature lovers. The Kingston Prairie was rediscovered by students in time to save it for good, and you can visit it today.
It’s not really a grape, though you can make it into jelly and it comes in colors from orange to red to purple. It’s a little prickly, but it’s the state flower of Oregon, even though its flowers aren’t exactly gigantic. Mahonia looks like the holly you see at Christmastime, and it likes the same kind of climate as its more famous lookalike.
Mahonia is the scientific term for a kind of barberry that grows in the Beaver State, and Mahonia Hall is the name given to its official Governor’s Mansion.
As teachers and leaders came up with ways to celebrate the Oregon sesquicentennial, local historians joined in with a project to remember high points in the history of Marion County.
After all, it’s in the heart of the state, it’s rich in farming, industry, timber, river navigation and other elements key to the history and present life of Oregon.
Marion County Historical Society Director Amy Vandegrift began working with researcher Diane Lewison Anderson and producer Stella Shaffer to create a series of vignettes — short articles on the history of the county — and to have them aired on a local radio station.
The Marion County Minutes were a big hit: a sponsor offered to support the broadcasts, the features were extended and renewed again, and are set to run not just for a few weeks but until the end of the year.
Here are notes on the features, and links that will let you hear the Marion County Minute historical vignettes. Special thanks to Bob Buck of KBZY Radio for production help.