Posts Tagged ‘Oregon history’

A little less than 99 years have passed since my great uncle was living in the Willamette Valley and trying to put himself through college. 1916 was a rough year for finding the right temporary job, and so he missed out on a semester. He detailed his struggles in missives to his parents back “home” in Wisconsin.

Wages, board, and “hospital fee, of course”…


Eugene, Ore. Nov. 18, ’16

Dear Folks,

           I didn’t write last week because I didn’t know where I would be by the time you would get the letter.

          I am going up in the mountains near here to work in a saw-mill. The wages are $2.00 per day and board is $5.00 per week with a dollar hospital fee, of course.

         I worked today for Harvey’s and made a dollar putting in wood. I can’t begin before Monday at the mill, so I am not going out until tomorrow afternoon.


      I noticed that the old maids have gone out of business. I guess they couldn’t run the place without my help.

       I saw Longworthy in Portland and he told me that Jim Hess was married to a widow who had a place near his homestead. He told me last summer that he intended to build up his place. Queer way to do it though.

       The University is a lot larger this year than last. Prof. Reddie isn’t there any more. He is with some theatrical company now – I think on Broadway.

      How much money could you let me have on a 20 year endowment life insurance policy? I understand that they go at nearly face value. There will have to be some scheme like that if I get through much more school, I guess.

     While I was in Portland I looked around for a job. I found some good propositions but they wanted a permanent employee. The Y.M.C.A. offered me a job teaching German and superintending dramatics, but I would have had to have waited a couple of weeks for it, and they wanted me to work there the full year. The ship yards wanted men at 32 cents an hour as soon as their lumber came, but that meant waiting too.


     Garfield Johnson is working for a wholesale grocer firm. He gets $75.00 per month for 9 hours work per day with Saturday afternoons off and two weeks vacation per year on full pay. That is pretty good for a kid!

       I had a letter started to you while I was in Portland but I wont send it now. I wasn’t feeling good and it sounds too blue.

       My address will be the following.

Dale D. Melrose



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017018The letter of October 19, 1915 was the last missive for that year. I then have three empty envelopes with 2¢ postage. Three are postmarked Eugene, Oregon. Feb 15-16, Feb 29-16 (someone doodled on it), Mar 13-16 (with a side note When Dale was in Grantsburg with Parke & Harry– Except that was during the summer of 1915). The last one is postmarked Vida, Oregon, June 19, 1916. Vida is just west of Eugene. I place the following letter inside this envelope despite the odd date in the upper right corner. I know Dale didn’t write it in 1919 – he didn’t live that long.

Vida, Ore. June 18, ’19

Dear Folks,

     I must write this in a hurry and get this away at on o’clock with Brown when he goes to the store.

    I saw Grace. She’s changed a lot since I saw her last. Next morning I came out here. Got a ride on the running board of a car as far as the fish-hatchery so I had to walk only about seven miles. I was here in time to eat breakfast about noon.

    We have been working hard the past week. It takes about an hour to climb to the slashing and about an hour to come back. We work ten hours slashing between times. The work will be finished about the last of this week.

    Dad you know lots about measuring land. How would you measure a slashing that is not in rectangular form? Brown says that we should measure the distance around it in rods, divide that number by 4 times the number of rods in an acre, and square the quotient. I say that we should take the number of rods around it and treat the piece as a circle, find the diameter, and the area in sq. rods. then divide that number by the number of sq. rodds rds. in an acre. We want some scheme so that we can figure 16 acres out of a piece 1100 yds in circumference.

    One of Brown’s neighbors wants us to cut seven acres of clover for him. We could get about $1.50 per day and board. We may do it, but it would not be a very long job just to run the scythe over seven acres, would it? How many acres should one man cut in a day?

    We went fishing last Sunday afternoon an hour or so and caught a few small ones. There are three men from Portland on the creek to day but they cant catch anything. It is funny to see them try.

    I am standing the work fine, better than I expected. The wages are $1.50 per diem but I will not collect over $1.25 if I have anything to say about it.

    Did you hear that the cannery at Newberg had been burned and that the company is working on the new building both day and night to get ready for fruit.

    We have nothing in sight after the hay job. We may go down to Portland and look around. There is nothing here but section work and the board is high.

    I must stop now. Your letter hasn’t been here yet for this week. I will send my grades as soon as I get to Eugene.


Comments: who wants to take on the math question posed?

Slashing – Clearing up the left over debris after logging (commonly referred to as “slash”)

You may note Dale said they would go “down” to Portland when Portland is clearly to the north of Vida. He is correct: the Willamette River flows north and Portland is downriver from Eugene.


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The letters from 1911 and 1912 amount to four total. The bulk of Dale’s letters were written from 1915-1917. All I have from 1912 are a letter and a postcard and the postcard isn’t even from Dale. There’s nothing from 1913, and only one letter from 1914.

001002Newberg, Ore. Jan, 18, ’12

Dear Folks,

       I just got your letter this morning and will answer right away, though I suppose you have got my card long ago. I have got exempt from tests again so I get two half holidays. I bought a raincoat the other day from a fellow here, it is a good one and I got it cheap it only cost $(?).50 and he had to pay ten dollars in Portland for it about two months ago. The botany is all right but I cant use it in school for the state course is taken in an all together different books and of course you can’t use any other.

Say do you think that I had better drop Latin as it is not a required subject unless you intend to graduate and the only thing that it helps is to learn other languages such as French, Spanish, Italian and the like, which after you get Latin it is no trick at all to learn them.

Some of the guys around here have got the habit of coming up to my room when I am out nd getting in through a window or through the door with a pass key just everlastingly stack bedclothes and stuff around, they never break anything but, if I ever catch any of them up here I will teach them a lesson, maybe I will set the Marshal to watch it. It sounds funny to hear about 30 and 40 below when you can run around in your shirt sleeves and see green grass and vines, moss and stuff. I am coming good with my music I can play quite a few tunes on her already. Uncle Ern has a chance to trade his place here for a farm in Missouri and is thinking pretty strong of doing it if he can. Well I will have to quit for this time,

Dale Melrose

P.S. Write and tell me what you think about Latin. D.”

I do believe he really means botany in this letter, unlike the previous letter.

I think the cost of the raincoat was $5.50, but it’s hard to make out.

I especially love his comparison of winter in Newberg vs. winter on the Melrose homestead in western Wisconsin!




(Image was altered to go with the note on the back of the postcard, below


Postmarked: Mar. 14, 1912, Medford, Oregon & Mar. 18, 1912 in Caryville, Wis.

Mrs P.G. Melrose




“The little girl marked X is Vivian on her way to school~taken in Dec. We are looking forward to seeing you this summer. I have been working since Sept. but will probably be through by May. With best wishes (???)

I’m not sure who the postcard is from or why it is in this collection. A cousin? A friend? I did look up the “Road of a Thousand Wonders” and it was “the route of Union Pacific & Southern Pacific from Omaha to San Francisco.” overlandrouteto00compgoog_0003(Found in Internet Archives)

I do know that “Uncle Ern” was Mary Brown Melrose’s older brother, Ernest Linwood Brown.

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I had to leave work early today for an eye doctor’s appointment (I have glaucoma and have to see the eye doctor every six months). I work 15 miles from home (a drive that takes anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic and time of day).

I was in the fast lane today: a twenty minute buzz back home with plenty of time to spare to make my appointment. The sun was shining, the clouds had parted, and I had my camera.

So I decided to take some more photos to fill in some gaps. I stopped at the little rest area where I photographed Mt. Hood and took photos of the hysterical, er – historical – markers there. (When Arwen was a little girl, she hated it when we could deliberately mispronounce historical. Even though she knew we were doing it on purpose, she would always say, “It’s historical!”)

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First, a little hysterical overview of Dr. John McLoughlin who was a philanthropist and all-around good guy, and the founder of the City of Oregon City which is directly opposite the river from this view point.

365 077 This guy with the frown on his face.

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A brief history of Willamette Falls. There are still some platforms on the rocky outcrops of the falls where Indians sometimes come to fish. I haven’t seen any Indians fishing from there in years, but I don’t always pay attention.

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There is no good place to view the falls from the view point (rather makes that a misstatement, except on an uncloudy day you can see Mt. Hood from here). But that was OK, because I not only had time on my hands, but I was a quarter mile from the nearest exit and the Oregon City Arch Bridge. In no time at all, I’d cross the river and headed south on 99E to the next view point (where I photographed the bust of Dr. McLoughlin).

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I did not take a photograph of Willamette Falls on the day I photographed the bust of the good doctor because the water was low and the falls were pretty ho-hum. Today the falls were back to normal.

When we first moved to the Portland metro area there was a dramatic rescue here. Some couple (she was pregnant) missed all the warning signs down river and plunged over the falls in their boat. It takes a lot of talent to miss all the warning signs. (Don’t worry: it actually ended well and the couple survived, quite intact. There have been houseboats torn loose from their moorings that have not fared so well.) As you can see, it is quite a drop: forty feet (12 meters).

Willamette Falls are the 18th largest falls in the world by water volume and the largest falls in the Pacific Northwest. There are locks on the western shoreline that are open seasonally. They are based on a design by Leonardo DaVinci  and are levered (mitered), wooden structures. Don and I have attended the Lockfest for several years (it was canceled this year) and toured the locks several times. They’re very narrow and it is pretty impressive to watch them fill and drain.

I made a panorama of the falls to give you an impression of just how impressive they are.

willamette falls

The Blue Heron Paper Mill is the structure on both sides of the Willamette River here. They ceased using toxic chemical to process the paper back in the late 1980’s and there isn’t that offensive bleach/sulphur odor associated with a lot of paper mills. Some mornings the steam rising from the mill is thick and foggy, and if it catches the morning sun right, it is pink. I love those mornings.

There is, unfortunately, not much opportunity for me to stop and take a photo of the paper mill on those days. Gotta go to work, you know.

The falls are 1500 feet (457.2 meters) across and horse-shoe shaped. During high water, the rocks disappear. During the “hundred year flood” times (1996 was the last such flood), the falls nearly disappear. Imagine the volume of water necessary to raise the river to that level!

After I snapped the photos, I jumped back in my truck. And noticed this little brass plaque.

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Now I find that bit of history fascinating. Peter Skene Ogden was quite the explorer and fur trader. From what I have read on the man, he was controversial and violent. But he successfully negotiated the release of the survivors of the Whitman Massacre, earning himself an honored place in history.

I was so pleased to have a beautiful day in which to capture these images. I’m especially pleased with how the panorama of the falls turned out. It really is that beautiful.

willamette falls

Willamette Falls on the Willamette River, looking across at West Linn and the Blue Heron Paper Mill.

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