Articles written by Finn J.d. John

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 By Finn J.D. John    History    August 22, 2019 

Oregon's "Miner 29ers" beat the Great Depression with a gold pan

It was, most historians agree, the nadir of the Great Depression. The entire country had gone from singing "Happy Days are Here Again" to "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" in a few short months at the...

 

Mining law answered plan to seize gold mines with military force

In the years that followed the American Civil War, the American federal government was gasping for cash. The war had been largely financed by borrowing huge sums of money from abroad, mostly from...

 

Chasing a golden rumor, prospectors turned their backs on a fortune – twice

By Finn J.D. John Chronicle contributor It was the spring of 1862, and prospector William C. Aldred had been in the gold fields of California since the Gold Rush first broke out – about a dozen...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - Was the Bridge of the Gods a real thing? Almost certainly, yes

The opening scene of The Warlord of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs' third "John Carter of Mars" book, has the hero paddling up the great River Iss as it flows out of a long, dark underground passage, in...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - How a humble banana peel changed the course of Oregon history

On your next visit to the beach, you might want to bring along a banana. One of these humble fruits played a small but important part in the historical chain of events that led to the state's beaches...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - Surge of Confederate refugees made big changes in Oregon politics

The urban-rural divide in Oregon is something that's gotten quite a bit of press recently, after a group of Republicans left the state to deny a quorum for a bill they opposed. But it's a problem that...

 

Offbeat Oregon: The 'Hold-Up Session' of 1896-97 featured a giant house party

At the time of this writing, the Oregon Legislature is stuck, unable to do anything; a group of lawmakers has gone off to Idaho for the express purpose of denying the legislature's leaders a quorum....

 

Bungling attempt by old crimps marked the end of the shanghaiing era

The election of 1904 didn't end the practice of shanghaiing in Portland, but it did put a huge and (eventually) fatal dent in it. Larry Sullivan, the socially poised and politically connected prince o...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - Monopoly legislation throws crimp in waterfront boarding business

Things were looking a bit grim for former welterweight champion of the world William "Mysterious Billy" Smith and his partners in almost-crime, brothers Harry and Jim White. They had learned the...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    June 6, 2019

Offbeat Oregon History - World champion boxer by day, kidnapper by night

In 1903, Larry Sullivan was at the height of his power in Portland. Hard-fisted and belligerent, yet socially polished and with what passed in old Portland society for refined manners, he was able to...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    May 30, 2019

Offbeat Oregon - Portland's 'shanghai Tunnels' are mostly myth, but not entirely

One of the most popular tourist attractions for visitors to Portland is a tour of the "Shanghai Tunnels" that run beneath Old Town's streets. Historians of old Portland tend to scoff at the whole...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    May 23, 2019

Offbeat Oregon History - Hillboro's 'Diamond Bill' Barrett: 'The Heiress Whisperer'

Every now and then, one runs across a man who can sweet-talk absolutely anyone into anything. Such a man was William "Diamond Bill" Barrett Jr., the black sheep of a solid, respectable family of...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    May 16, 2019

Offbeat Oregon History: Ship captain doubled down on ill-considered wager ... and lost

One gray October day in 1898, three British ship captains were sitting in the parlor of the Seamen's Rest, a sort of YMCA for sailors located in the bustling port of Tacoma. They were in a betting...

 
 By Finn J.D. John    History    May 2, 2019

Offbeat History: Lava Lake murders are still officially unsolved, but...

BY THE TIME THE ICE over Lava Lake melted in the spring of 1924, no one had any illusions about what they would find underneath it. Trappers Edward Nickols, Dewey Morris and Roy Wilson had...

 

Offbeat Oregon History

As the first day of March 1924 arrived, L. Sarah Wilson's worry and alarm mounted. Something had happened. Something bad. Her son, 36-year-old Harry "Roy" Wilson, had promised he'd be back at her home...

 

Offbeat Oregon History: Old-time loggers and millworkers were tough, stoic characters

Nearly everyone whose family has been in Western Oregon for more than one or two generations has an older male relative who’s missing some parts — one or more fingers perhaps, or part of a foot...

 

Offbeat Oregon History: Skunk's 'beautiful pelt' would have been best admired from afar

One of the most appealing things about life in rural Western Oregon, around the middle of the last century, was the wildlife. Loggers and mill workers in places like Valsetz and Wendling might not hav...

 

Offbeat Oregon History: Umatilla mayor's wife had an 'election-day surprise' for him

It was around 2 p.m. on Election Day, in December of 1916, that Umatilla's mayor, E.E. Starcher, first discovered that he was not running unopposed for re-election. That's when someone mentioned to...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - Flying saucer stories got their start in Pendleton

If you were getting ready to take a UFO-themed road trip around the western U.S., there are several places that would naturally be at the top of the list. There's Roswell, New Mexico, of course. And...

 

Offbeat Oregon History: Old-time country doctors led colorful and interesting lives

One of the most colorful and rewarding occupations in human history was that of a country doctor in the first half of the 20th century. By about 1900, breakthroughs in medical science had put some...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - Youngsters' summer shipwreck adventure couldn't happen in today's world

The first day of summer vacation in 1930 was a real red-letter day for Washington High School students Stan Allyn and Wally Stenlake. Of course, every high-school kid looks forward to that first day...

 

Offbeat Oregon History: Portland's 'Temperance War of 1874:' The backstory

The temperance movement, when it came to Portland in the early 1870s, really shouldn't have taken anybody by surprise. What was surprising, though, was the form it took when it got there. Portland's...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - Plain-talking preacher was too blunt for Legislature's comfort

Back in 1859, when the pioneer lawmakers of the very first Oregon State Legislature extended an invitation to Missionary Baptist circuit preacher "Uncle Joab" Powell, the most famous man of the cloth...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - Filming of 'Worst Western ever' was an unforgettable spectacle in Oregon

If you've never heard "Harold Hecht's 'The Way West'" referenced as a legendary box-office bomb, that's probably because of Michael Cimino. Cimino's epic testament to directorship run amok, a baroque...

 

Offbeat Oregon History - Dry town's sting on local drugstore's secret saloon didn't go well

In 1899, the spiritual leaders of Forest Grove had a problem: There was a serpent in their Garden of Eden. Forest Grove was founded by members of the Congregational Church - a denomination directly...

 

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