Willamette Valley Heritage; Barns and Structures

She Celebrated Nature’s Cathedral

Perhaps some of the most majestic structures of the Willamette Valley are those that are home to nature’s creatures and plants. In the early 20th Century it was a precocious 5 year old in the Cottage Grove area who began to put such ideas to paper, but it wasn’t until Benjamin Hoff, of Tao of Pooh fame, explored and delivered an engaging biography of this girl genius that we can truly appreciate Opal Whiteley’s acumen.


Benjamin Hoff’s biography of fellow Oregonian and nature lover, Opal Whiteley, has aided in dispelling many myths concerning Whiteley’s mental stability while adding credence to many of her early fanciful claims. Web sites, memorials, parks, venues, and books about Whiteley have become popular in recent years, and she is becoming one of the more intriguing literary figures of the 20th century. So many, many questions spring from her writings and lectures. Was she schizophrenic?  Adopted? A genius? Did she talk to fairies among the fir forests surrounding her home near Cottage Grove? It is entirely possible that a more interesting, multi-layered individual may not have ever graced the natural cathedrals of the Willamette Valley.

Steve McQuiddy has written a nice piece about Whiteley which can be downloaded here, and the University of Oregon maintains a fantastic web site which contains Whiteley’s complete diary here. Cottage Grove maintains a The Opal Center, a venue operating within the strictures of Whiteley’s philosophy of art/nature/knowledge accessibility to all. The Cottage Grove Historical Society has a concise yet excellent bio of Whiteley on their websiteopal_whiteley


Walking Tour of Willamette Oregon



It doesn’t look as if  West Linn Oregon is technically in the Willamette Valley. Because West Linn and Oregon City are sooo very close to the Willamette Valley, I am going to include them on this WV blog just this once. There is a historical section of that area which used to be the town of Willamette Falls, a name that was shortened to Willamette at some point. There are many historic buildings to see, as well as a historic meteorite  (replica).

Just take a look at the brochure liked below and see if Willamette doesn’t make it’s way onto your bucket list.


Poems From Old Champoeg

Having just renewed my library card (I have a fee based card on account of living outside the city limits), I went wild over at the shelving area known as the Hugh Morrow section. Okay, it was a toned-down wild, as I was in the library for goodness sakes.

I brought home a lot of books. Some with maps, some with newspaper clippings, some with old photographs, etc. All those kinds of books that history buffs like to read.

I found something that surprised me while I was handling every book I could on those book shelves. I found a book of poetry. Poems about Oregon. Poems about History. Poems about…the history of the Willamette Valley!!!

I have read this book, and plan to read it again before I return it. I would actually like to buy a copy, but can’t find it anywhere. I don’t know how many were printed, and all I can find out about it is that it was self published by Clinton Frederick Blake in 1925, but I believe the author used a pen name. I will surely search the records, if at all possible, of the sources that the author mentions, but so far I have come up with no leads about this book or the author. I wonder why the poets were not named, because in the one edition of “The Lariat (1927, volumes 9-10)” that I found online, the poets were indeed mentioned. Of course, the poems from “The Poems from Old Champoeg” were not in that particular volume of the “The Lariat;” they are from a previous edition.

This book is a curiosity indeed!

Please, read and enjoy this book.





This year I intended to chronicle the 13 dams that make up The Willamette Valley Project. I made it to two, which means that I have eleven to go and only two months to do it (Not counting the Scoggins dam which is part the Tualitin River reclamation project).

Dorena Dam, Fall 2016dsc_0160


Fern Ridge Dam, Spring 2016dsc_0523


Cottage Grove Dam,


Detroit – date

Glen Mills

Here is a short article about Glen Mills, an inspiration to countless people, who has inspired  This kickstarter.




Boston and Shedd

About fifteen miles south of Albany along HWY 99 E is the town of Shedd. Shedd is a town which used to be located about a mile and a half due east of its current location and was called Boston. Now, when the railroad was coming up through the area the tracks weren’t due to lie down in Boston, so the good folks of Boston picked up their town, buildings and all, and headed west where today, sure enough, the railroad tracks run right through the middle of town. The town of Boston is a State Park which is open for tours nearly every day of the year. During these tours, people can see some of the buildings that stayed put for one reason or another and also tour the mill and watch the water-power produce flour.







Early Agriculture from West Salem to Dayton



The Kalapuya tribes were the first to cultivate crops in the Willamette Valley. Because they were a semi-nomadic people, they did not build any permanent structures which will attest to either their ingenuity or their conservation-minded agricultural practices, but it is known that the Kalapuya tribes maintained a practice of flash-burning, or controlled field burning, which made pastureland conducive to the growing of camas, tarweed, berries, and hazelnuts.

Not only were the Kalapuya astute at manipulating their environment for growing produce, but all of the fresh vegetation in turn attracted deer, elk, and other wild game which they hunted for food and clothing.

The Oregon trail brought thousands of settlers into Oregon City between 1840—1850, but it was the Willamette Valley that drew the farmers.

Being within such close proximity to the Willamette River, the area NW of
Salem is a region which exploded with farms whose wheat and produce was so abundant that much of it was often shipped down to the California gold miners during the Gold Rush. The city of Lincoln (named for Abraham Lincoln, and also known as Doak’s Ferry) was a town that shipped out more wheat than any other Willamette River City other than Portland.

Much of the farmland of this area is now blushing with vineyards, nurseries, fruit trees, and berries. According to the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, the Willamette Valley is where 99% of all hazelnuts grown in the United States come from. The Willamette Valley’s rich soil coupled with the gentle climate and abundant rainfall all work together to make the region ideal for agriculture.

A barn between W.Salem and Dayton

Robert Stuart Wallace


Robert Stuart Wallace (1851-1891)


Just north of the hub of West Salem is a development of homes known as “Salem Towne.” This area was not always known as home to hundreds of people, for it was these 330 acres which Robert Stuart Wallace once developed into a thriving pear farm with its own packaging plant.

In the short time that Wallace lived in Salem, in fact in his short life of merely 41 years, Wallace was successful in many things both in Salem and before his arrival in Salem.

While living in Chicago, Wallace did quite well for himself as a seed merchant, then he became an accomplished grain merchant, shipping flax as far as France and Germany. When told by his doctor that his ailing health would improve if he would leave his stressful work, Wallace moved to Salem Oregon.

Mr. Wallace spent the last six years of his life in Salem Oregon, though it does not seem that he slowed down much. As the 847 word obituary published in the Oct. 31 1891 Oregon Statesman Newspaper can attest, Mr. Wallace had quite a busy life in Salem.

Besides planting and maintaining fruit orchards, Mr. Wallace was also a key figure in getting the Willamette Bridge built in Salem, he helped start a local cannery as well as a fruit evaporator (drier).

Along with the growing of fruit and processing it in Salem’s first cannery, Mr. Wallace was also the founder and president of the Capital National Bank in Salem, instrumental in the development of Salem’s water supply and was also involved in the generation of electricity for Salem residents via a water wheel generating system near Jefferon, Oregon (Sydney Power Company) which operated a flour mill while running a river powered electric generator.


Capital National Bank (Pioneer Trust)

“What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.”

—- Alain de Botton, “The Architecture of Happiness.


Modern-day barn just north of Salem Towne.

State HWY 221



The 21-mile long stretch of road known as the Salem-Dayton Highway is a relatively flat-road bike ride. There are just a few moderate hills, and these are nearer to  W. Salem than to Dayton. The traffic is heavy at times, and the shoulder seems narrow when all those large trucks begin passing, but as the rider gets nearer to Dayton there is a nice, wide bike path, which is a lot less terrifying for those of us who are amateur bicyclists. A LOT.

Wallace RD NW leads from W.Salem to the Willamette Valley Cheese Company where you can sample an array of farmstead cheeses, to the Wheatland Ferry which carries all manner of vehicles across the Willamette River, and to the Maud Williamson State Park which is home to the historic farmhouse of the acreage’s original donor (Maud Williamson), then onto some Dayton Oregon Wineries which proffer numerous wine tastings. It is hard to believe that all this can be found on that short stretch of road sometimes known as Oregon State HWY 221. Seeing some of the most beautiful scenery in the upper Willamette Valley is a certain bonus while traveling through here.

According to their website, Willamette Valley Cheese Company is one of the first cow’s milk farmstead cheese makers in Oregon, defining “farmstead” to mean that they milk their own cows and make it into cheese that same day. The family at Willamette Valley Cheese Company has been in the dairy business in the United States since 1962,
having for many generations been dairy farmers in Holland.

Among the award-winning cheeses made at Willamette Valley Cheese Company such as Havarti, Eola Jack, Farmstead Fontina and Gouda, are their much sought after specialty cheeses such as French Prairie Brie and Aged Asiago. While visiting and sampling cheese, perhaps you will notice the heritage barn which sits on the farm.

The Wheatland Ferry has been ferrying people across the Willamette River between Marion and Yamhill counties for over 150 years. The first ferry was a wooden raft powered by men who controlled the ferry with wooden poles. Daniel Matheny started the ferry and each new boat is named after him.

Across HWY 221, just west of the Ferry landing is Maud Williamson State Park, which is home to a sprawling family of second growth Douglas Fir and a historic farm house, and in the spring, trillium grow abundantly (please don’t pick the trillium. They can die and take years to recover, if at all).

According to a recent map of wine makers, there are 7 wineries in Dayton Oregon, so it may not be possible to tour all of them in one stint. Touring at least one would be a wonderful way to cap off visiting all the other highlights along this route. After noting the beautiful scenery along with all those charming barns during this tour, a glass of wine just might hit the spot.



Note: The route I took when I first traveled this area and took photos was from River RD N. to Wheatland RD, across the ferry and S. back to Salem along 221. I did not make it to Dayton during this trek. I did, however, stop to buy some amazing jalapeno jack  cheese at the Willamette Cheese Factory and was captivated by Daum’s big red barn pictured here.

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