Exploring Oregon’s Past

I took a research trip over the hill and across the Willamette to Champoeg (pronounced “shampoo-ee”). If you’re curious what life was like in Oregon in the 1850s, then I highly recommend a trip to the Newell Pioneer Village.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I came on a Saturday afternoon, and since I was the only guest at that time, the docent gave me a personalized tour. There’s a replica (a bit larger than the original) of a log cabin, with authentic furnishings, many of them donated by descendants of pioneers who came west on the Oregon Trail. Up the path is the Newell house, which was the “posh” house on the hill when it was originally built. When the town of Champoeg was destroyed in a great flood, the Newells ended up sheltering most of the town. The attic houses a collection of inaugural gowns worn by the First Lady of each governor of the state of Oregon. There’s also a selection of quilts and of native baskets and tools.

My interest on this trip was the school. The original Butteville school and jail are on the grounds. The jail is sited about 10 feet away from the school. I needed to research details about schools in Oregon, so the docent unlocked the cupboard and brought out several textbooks from the era to show me. She also provided lots of information, the sort of details that often get missed. It was like having access to my own personal historian.

When you’re writing history, there’s always the worry that you’re going to get some details wrong. It really helps to be able to walk through a piece of history, to stand where your characters would have stood and experience something of what life would have been like for them. If you get a chance, go for it. This site is less than a quarter-mile from Champoeg State Park, which has a nice exhibit on the native people of the area as well as some bike trails and a campground. Fun!

Author: Evelyn Hill

Writer of inspirational historical romances. Crazy cat lady (i.e., I have a crazy cat) who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

2 thoughts on “Exploring Oregon’s Past”

  1. Isn’t it a fascinating place? Some of my husband’s ancestors settled near there. In the museum we saw a quilt by Irene Goodrich Zumwalt. Another relative, Jacob, moved from there to far northeastern Oregon and established the first post office, a place that became Zumwalt, Oregon, in what is now Zumwalt Prairie, a national preserve.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s