Spring Issue 2014, 115:1
Pow Wow Tree

Pow Wow Tree, Summer 1910, Gladstone, Oregon (OrHi 51917)


THOUGH PEOPLE HAVE LIVED in the lower Willamette Valley for millennia, few identified sites remain from the times before the arrival of newcomers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. One such place is The Pow Wow Tree, a big leaf maple tree (Acer macrophyllum) that grows near the Clackamas River. Near this tree, the Clackamas and Multnomah tribes would meet with other people to conduct business and settle affairs. The tree is now the emblem of the city of Gladstone.


Located on Clackamas Boulevard, the area around the tree has been the site of many events. Local Indians had a racetrack next to the tree. Peter Rinearson, whose donation land claim included the tree, used the track to train his racehorses. In 1861, the first Oregon State Fair was held on the site with the racetrack serving as the parade ring and the Pow Wow Tree standing at the fair’s entrance.


In 1979, the Pow Wow Tree was named as a Bicentennial Tree (alive at the time of the American Revolution). In 2004, it became an Oregon Heritage Tree. The Pow Wow Tree is as seventy feet tall, spreading eighty feet wide, with a trunk circumference of seven feet. The tree was damaged in an ice storm in 2004, but determined efforts by the city have preserved the tree. It still stands on Clackamas Blvd., between Bellevue Avenue and Beatrice Avenue.

Winter Issue 2013, 114:4

Raising the Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks, July 11, 1940, OHS digital no. bb008972


Crossing the Columbia River has long been a major undertaking. During much of the nineteenth century, ferries and boats provided the only means of moving from one side of the river to the other. During the 1890s, railroad bridges began to allow trains to move between Oregon and Washington, and in 1917 the Interstate Bridge opened, connecting Portland with Vancouver, Washington. A few years later, work began on another river crossing — this time at Cascade Locks.


The impressive Bridge of the Gods opened in 1926, allowing wagons, trucks, and cars to pass ninety feet above river traffic. In September of the following year, aviator Charles Lindbergh flew along the river on his way to Portland as part of a cross-country tour celebrating his famous Atlantic flight. He circled over the bridge and flew underneath the central span before continuing on to the airport at Swan Island. Unfortunately for history, he decided to do the stunt on the spur of the moment, and no cameras were on hand to record the event.


When the Bonneville Dam was built in the 1930s, the Columbia River began to change from the wild river that Native people had lived with for millennia and that was documented by the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the navigable stream it is today. The water that backed up behind the dam widened the river, and in 1940, the Bridge of the Gods was raised 50 feet and lengthened by over 700 feet to accommodate the changed river. That project took about three months, and this photograph documents the process about ten days before the bridge reopened.


The Bridge of the Gods is located near the site of the Bonneville landslides where parts of Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak slid into the river, choking the river’s flow by creating a dam approximately 200 feet high and 3.5 miles long. Those slides occurred several times between 1060 and 1760 ad. As the river turned the slide debris into the treacherous Cascades rapids, it created a natural bridge. Native American legends tell the story of the destruction of that natural bridge and the creation of the rapids.


A Puyallup version of this legend tells of Loowit, who tended a sacred fire in the center of the natural bridge.* In return for her faithfulness at her task Tyee Sahale, the great chief, granted her eternal life as a young and beautiful woman. One day a young man, Wyeast, approached the bridge from the south, and his brother Klickitat approached from the north. The brothers both fell in love with the beautiful Loowit and began to fight over her, destroying the land around them. Tyee Sahale became so angry at their behavior that he destroyed the bridge and killed the three. Because Tyee Sahle loved his sons, he raised monuments to each. Loowit became the beautifully symmetrical Mount St. Helens (as it was before the 1980 eruption). Klickitat became Mount Adams, which leans toward his love, Loowit. And Wyeast became Mount Hood, the proud mountain south of the river.


* “Oregon Focus: Native American Legends: Bridge of the Gods,” (accessed December 16, 2013)

Summer Issue 2013, 114:2

"Romeo and Juliet"

by Helen Plummer Gatch, 1894



Eight-year-old Orytha “Ryth” Gatch poses for her mother, Helen Plummer Gatch, with seven-year-old Asahel Bush IV in front of Asahel's grandfather's house — now known as the Bush House Museum — in Salem. The photograph was published in The Photo-American in May 1894 as the $25 first-prize-winner in the magazine’s photo contest.


Helen Gatch established a national reputation for her fine art photography, which often featured her daughter. Gatch was a member of the Portland Society of Photographic Art and the Salon Club of America, and her work was selected for exhibitions in Philadelphia (1901) and San Francisco (1902). Two of her photographs were exhibited in the 1904 American Salon exhibit that toured nationally and came to Portland during the Lewis & Clark Exposition (1905). She presented three images in the second American Salon show that toured the country in 1905–1906 and three more in the Salon show of 1907. Several of her photographs were published in national magazines during the first decade of the twentieth century.


The Gatch and Bush families were close friends. Helen often used the Bush House — built by Asahel Bush II — and the surrounding pastureland as settings for her photographs. Asahel Bush founded the Oregon Statesman (now the SalemStatesman Journal) and cofounded the Ladd & Bush Bank, where his son A.N. Bush and Gatch's husband Claud worked. The families would sometimes gather for dinner at the Bush House.


The Gatches and Bushes shared an interest in photography. Sally Bush, Asahel’s daughter, built a portrait studio upstairs in the Bush House. She took hundreds of glass-plate photos of her family, her friends, and local society. She did not exhibit her photos as Gatch did but enjoyed photography as a hobby. A.N. Bush had a small panorama camera that he used to take photos of Salem. His images show many streets and buildings that are no longer standing. The photographs taken by Sally and A.N. are part of the collections held at the Bush House Museum.


Helen and Claud moved from Salem to Berkeley, California, in 1912 when he became the national bank examiner in that area. She seems to have left her photography behind in Oregon. Her work no longer appeared in exhibitions or in print, and when she died in 1942, her occupation was listed as "housewife." But Helen Plummer Gatch remains a part of Oregon history in the Helen Plummer Gatch Photographs Collection in the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Spring Issue 2013, 114:1

Russian railway commission at the west portal of the Great Northern Ry. Co. 8 mile Cascade tunnel, March 11, 1930.


In the late 1920s, the then Soviet Union began a program to modernize its railroad system, reported to cover about 50,000 miles. The centerpiece of the first Five-Year Plan was the Turkestan-Siberian Railway, constructed in 1926 to 1931. The Soviets used many American railroad building methods and construction equipment, and dozens of American workers were employed by Stalin’s government for railroad projects.


Near the end of the Plan, a commission of twenty men and one woman came from the Soviet Union to inspect railroads and operations around the United States, spending three months touring the country and looking at rail lines, equipment, and building techniques. They arrived in the Northwest in 1930 to study the Great Northern Railway and ride the Southern Pacific into California. On March 11, 1930, the group stopped at the west portal of the Cascade Tunnel in Stevens Pass, Washington, to pose for this photograph by Lee Pickett. The man standing on the coupling in the middle of the image is probably Daniil Sulimov, Deputy Commissar of Railroads and Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR).


The group included P.S. Shushkov, chief of inspection of transportation; D.C. Ulanov-Zineviev, president of Doneta Railroad; N.F. Cosorea, chief engineer of the bridge bureau of the commissariat for transportation; S.V. Chernov; K.V. Lauer; V. Bratin; L. Genes; B. Dokukin; M.A. Abramov, director of the Kazan railroad; V. Haritonov, Moscow-Kursk railroad; S.A. Vassiliev, consulting engineer; W. Ladejinsky, interpreter; A.A. Terpeugov; A.M.J. Dmitriersky; S.G. Phillpoff; and Mrs. F.S. Markova, secretary to the commission. Unfortunately, the newspapers did not identify specific individuals in any of the photographs.


In turn, Jan Ernestowitsch Rudsutak, Chief Commissar of Transportation and vice president of the Council of People’s Commissars of RSFSR, invited several U.S. industry leaders, including Ralph Budd, president of the Great Northern, to the Soviet Union to inspect the modernized system. Budd planned a three-month inspection tour and vacation beginning in June 1930.


The modernization efforts paid off for the Soviet Union during World War II — the railroads helped move troops, equipment, and ordnance. Two of the officials primarily involved in the 1930 inspection tours, however, did not survive to see the railroads aid in the war effort: In company with hundreds of thousands of others from the Communist Party and the government, Sulimov and Rudsutak were executed in the Stalinist purges of the late 1930s.


— Mikki Tint, former special collections librarian, OHS Research Library

Winter Issue 2012, 113:4

Corner of the Oregon State Motor Association sign department

The Oregonian, December 1, 1929, bb008970


Local and state transportation agencies erect signs marking city streets, country roads, and interstate highways, but in the early days of the automobile era, such signage was not supplied by the government.


The Portland Automobile Club was organized in 1905, the same year that the first transcontinental automobile race ended at the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland. Club members spent their Sunday afternoons on organized auto tours to their clubhouse outside Portland, and sponsored races to show off their latest mechanical wonders. In 1907, the club spent $1500 erecting directional signs along the roads of Portland and Multnomah County. The club later changed its name to the Oregon State Motor Association, and the membership appropriation rose to $3,000 to continue the signing project. By 1927, every important intersection or turn in Multnomah County had been marked.


In 1913, the legislature created the State Highway Department and its overseer, the Oregon Highway Commission. Although the public agencies concentrated on paving Oregon’s muddy roads, they also contributed funds to the auto club’s sign project. By 1930, the combined funds allowed signs to be installed in eighteen counties around the state.


In this 1929 photograph, club employee Charles Heaney works in the storage area filled with signs soon to be distributed around the state. Heaney was an accomplished painter and printmaker whose work is still exhibited in many Northwest museums and in the historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. He loved his time with the automobile club, remembering it as “the best job I ever had in my life. It was in the sign department, covering the whole state, thirty-six counties.  We covered twenty-four of the counties. Up one road and down the other, criss cross, zig zag, you name it, getting the road information to put up the signs, getting all this data and going back to the shop and making the signs and then going out and putting them up." Source: OHS Digregorio interview, May 15, 1978, quoted in Roger Hull, Charles E. Heaney: Memory, Imagination, and Place (Salem: Hallie Ford Museum of Art, 2005), 30.

Summer Issue 2012, 113:2

Repairing mattresses at Camp Namanu

by Al Monner for the Oregonian, June 22, 1960, bb008968


Summer camp has been a part of American life for more than a century, and the Camp Fire Girls’ Camp Namanu has been a part of Oregon summers for ninety-one years, the past eighty-eight at its current location on the Sandy River. In the earliest years, girls slept in surplus army tents, but leaders planned more permanent structures in 1925. Architects A.E. Doyle and Pietro Belluschi designed the lodge and several of the cabins. Supporters gathered donations of materials, and the Carpenters Union donated the labor to build the structures. In 1940, additional land was acquired to build the Ranch and riding trails for the teenaged campers. Electricity was brought to the camp in 1946.


In 1928, the camp added a unique system of flush toilets, which “consisted of several stalls with a trough running through the entire length, and all were flushed automatically at the same time at regular intervals by water flowing through from a large tank at one end” (as recounted by camper Jean Marie Ackerson Spring, in Camp Namanu, Portland: Portland Area Council of Camp Fire, 1998).


By 1960, when this photograph was taken, Camp Namanu was one of the largest Camp Fire camps in the nation. Many campers attended the same camp and lived in the same cabins as their mothers had, and those mothers (and fathers) made sure the camp was ready for the girls. There was a work party every weekend in May to get ready for the June opening of camp. Here is part of one of the final work parties for the summer camps of 1960. Julie Maudsley (standing at far right) is keeping an eye on her mother and (from left) Mrs. Ralph Magness, Mrs. Carl Sandoz, and Mrs. S.D. Small as they repair mattresses just a few days ahead of the opening of the thirty-sixth year of Camp Namanu.


In 1975, the sixty-five-year-old national Camp Fire Girls organization became co-ed and changed its name to Camp Fire USA. Camp life continued to thrive and is still popular in the twenty-first century. For 2012, Camp Namanu expects to have at least 1,100 campers enjoying the same activities and cabins that their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents enjoyed.


— Mikki Tint, former special collections librarian, OHS Research Library

Spring Issue 2012, 113:1

The end of World War II brought millions of G.I.s back to the United States, creating a housing crisis throughout the country. Few new houses had been built during the 1930s, as the economic realities of the Great Depression kept most people from building or buying a new home. Young couples often started their married life residing with their parents or other family members. People made do.


During World War II, manufacturers introduced prefabricated housing to quickly build communities on the homefront. Communities such as Vanport, Oregon, and Hanford, Washington, were ready for residents in just a few weeks. One of the major manufacturers was Prefabrication Engineering Company, a subsidiary of C.D. Johnson Lumber Company of Toledo, Oregon. Starting in 1938, Prefabrication Engineering, often known as Prenco, made houses in a factory next to its parent sawmill. By 1944, it was making houses in prefabricated sections at the rate of twenty minutes for a one-bedroom house, thirty minutes for a two-bedroom house, and forty minutes for a three-bedroom house. The assembled sections of these buildings were trucked to Portland, where they were furnished by B.P. John Furniture. Furnished sections then were hauled to Hanford, where they were installed on the foundations already poured and waiting.


After the war, prefab housing manufacturers turned their new expertise to civilian housing. In 1946, President Harry S. Truman estimated that an additional five million homes were urgently needed. Prenco was one of the companies that rose to the challenge, making hundreds of prefab houses every month. The company opened a second factory, in a surplus war plant on NE 55th Avenue in Portland, in 1947. Prenco built homes for local residents and also produced components for prefab housing in other parts of the United States. This prototype house was erected on SE Tenino Street.


Prefabrication Engineering Company continued to build prefab houses until 1951, when, a few months after several officers of the company died in an airplane accident, the Georgia-Pacific Corporation purchased the C.D. Johnson Lumber Corporation and its holdings.


— Mikki Tint, former special collections librarian, OHS Research Library

Winter Issue 2011, 112:4

Aerial view of Fort Rock

Delano Photographics, Org. Lot 980, Delano 61355, bb008680


Northwestern Lake County hosts striking Fort Rock, among the least visited landmarks of Oregon. A tuff ring, the circular formation was formed over 100,000 years ago when hot magma encountered water-saturated rocks below a shallow lake. The resulting steam explosion produced a circle of rock debris around the volcanic vent.


Humans have lived near this area for thousands of years. Fort Rock Cave, a mile west of this formation, contained many artifacts from that lengthy habitation, including sagebrush sandals now in the Oregon Historical Society collections. Nineteenth-century ioneers often used Fort Rock as a livestock corral. Oregon author Reuben Long, who owned the landmark at one time, imagined a different use for this ancient site: “I have a plan for the Rock. It would be perfect for a football stadium. The sides would encircle the playing field in the center and it would be simple to arrange tier after tier of seats on three sides, leaving the open side for parking and easy exit. All other universities were going for a long time before they got around to building a football stadium. I have this stadium all built and now I need a university to use it” (E.R. Jackman and R.A. Long, The Oregon Desert (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1966, 372–73).


This oblique aerial view was made on August 10, 1961, as forest fires were burning throughout Oregon and Washington. The one visible at the top of this image was to the northeast, near the town of Fort Rock. The image was taken by Delano Aerial Photographics, one of the leading aerial services in Oregon for decades. In 1945, Leonard Delano purchased the studio of pioneering aerial photographer William C. Brubaker, who he had worked for during World War II. Delano continued the business into the 1990s. In 1998, part of the business was sold, and the remaining thousands of negatives and prints were given to the Oregon Historical Society photographic archives. The collection is indexed and covers hundreds of towns, businesses, and locales in Oregon and Washington.

Fall Issue 2011, 112:3

Wreck of the Peter Iredale, by Woodfield

OrHi 25553


The Peter Iredale is 121 years old this year. A four-masted iron and steel sailing bark, it was the largest sailing vessel built in the Ritson shipyards of Maryport in northwestern England and was launched in June 1890. Named for her original owner, head of the shipping firm P. Iredale & Porter of Liverpool, the bark made eight successful trips to the Pacific Northwest over sixteen years. In late September 1906, it sailed from Salima Cruz, Mexico, to for Portland to pick up a load of wheat. It was Captain H. Lawrence’s fifteenth trip to Astoria.


On October 25, 1906, the ship ran aground on Clatsop Spit during a squall while waiting for a pilot to guide it over the Columbia River bar. The crew of twenty-five sailors, along with two stowaways, was rescued by the men of the U.S. Life-Saving Service stationed at Hammond. Although the ship first rested lightly on the beach, leading many to hope it could be refloated, winds and tides continued to drive it higher onto the sand. Eventually, the Peter Iredale was sold for scrap.


The wreck was a major tourist attraction from the first morning. So many people wanted to see the ship that the Astoria & Columbia River Railroad instructed their conductors to stop near Skipanon for passengers to alight from the morning train and walk a mile and a half to the wreck site. After a few hours at the beach, the sightseers would return to the tracks, where the afternoon train would stop and pick them up for the return to Astoria.


This photo shows the Peter Iredale just three days after the wreck. Since then, it has survived the shelling of Fort Stevens during World War II, battering by storms, and souvenir hunting by tourists, remaining a fascinating and haunting landmark on our coast after 105 years. But while we may applaud its survival today, a writer for the Morning Astorian saw things very differently on October 27, 1906: “As she lies divested of every attribute of advantage, disfigured and forsaken, she is but a startling type of that more dreadful wreck, the man of power, or grace, and honor, dead upon the low levels to which some accursed weakness has cast him.”

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