Unearthing Oregon History: The Buck Rock Tunnel

February 9, 2021

By Chelsea Rose

This detail of a page from John Quincy Adams Hurlburt’s journal shows a map and length and cost tables for proposed Oregon and California Railroad routes from Roseburg, Oregon, to the California border. OHS Research Library, Mss 1113, box 4, folder 9.

I am excited to partner with the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) on a new Dear Oregon series, “Unearthing Oregon History.” As a research archaeologist at Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) and a member of the Oregon Historical Quarterly’s editorial advisory board, much of my work intersects with OHS’s mission. Through my work, I have spent countless hours digging through OHS collections, and in December 2019, I reached out to the Dear Oregon editorial team with an idea for a new series that would highlight the ways that objects held in OHS’s collections help archaeologists reveal Oregon history.

The blog posts and mini-documentaries that will be produced for this series are part of the larger Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project (OCDP), a grassroots multi-agency collaboration focused on education and research about early Chinese Oregonians, which both SOU and OHS are program partners. OCDP is designed to be embedded into local communities, while generating high-visibility public archaeology that will allow the widest audience possible to learn about the significant, yet underrepresented, role of Chinese Americans and immigrants in Oregon history.  

In this video, I highlight a journal held in OHS’s research library collection that John Quincy Adams Hurlburt used to map out Oregon and California Railroad routes stretching from Oregon into California. The archaeological work featured in the video was done in partnership with the Medford District Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is using archaeological research and public history to explore the Chinese contributions to the construction of the Oregon and California Railroad.

OCDP spans the state and includes research on the Chinese miners of the Blue Mountains with the Malheur National Forest, investigations into the John Day Chinatown and the Kam Wah Chung & Co. museum with Oregon State Parks, and the evaluation of several sites associated with successful mining boss Gin Lin with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The partnership also includes museums and historical societies including OHS, the Southern Oregon Historical Society, the Grant County Museum, and more. OCDP was a recipient of the 2020 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award, and is continuing to expand its research across the state.

I have also teamed up with Jennifer Fang to guest edit the Winter 2021 “Chinese Diaspora” special issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly (OHQ). In collaboration with OCDP, the issue will make visible the long, complex, and geographically diverse history of Chinese Oregonians and will offer both new research and new conclusions about that history. OHQ is a benefit of membership in the Oregon Historical Society, so be sure not to miss out when it mails out in mid-December!

Unearthing Oregon History Images Provided by:

Oregon Historical Society Research Library: ba018120.jpg, bb007429.jpg, bb016650.jpg, G4241_P3_1880_O73.pdf, Mss1113_B4F9, OrgLot311_B5F30_202007_001.jpg, OrHi50082, 0226S102.jpg, 0230S125.jpg, 0301P083.jpg, 0305P020.jpg

Southern Oregon University Hannon Library Special Collections, Peter Britt Photograph Collection: BRIT01i_25-48.tif, BRIT01i_21-21.tif, BRIT01i_25-41.tif, BRIT01i_4-3b.tif, BRIT01i_4-3b.tif

Stanford University Libraries, Alfred A. Hart Collection: PC0002

Bureau of Land Management Oregon/Washington

Southern Oregon Historical Society: image nos. #06215, and 08216, 20171108c

Washington State Library: SL_WestShore_1883_November.pdf

Chelsea Rose

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