January in Oregon History




Captain William Clark (1770-1838) and members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, including John Colter (ca. 1775-1813), visit the salt camp near present-day Cannon Beach to see “that monstrous fish," a whale that had washed up.


Socrates Hotchkiss Tryon (1816-1855), whose land between Portland and Oregon City became Tryon Creek State Natural Area in 1975, is born in Pawlet, Vermont, on January 24.


Tanner map    



Congressman John Floyd from Virginia introduces a bill in the U.S. Congress to establish a “Territory of Origon” on the Pacific Coast.


On January 19, Philip Leget Edwards signs receipts for HBC Chief Factor John McLoughlin and missionary Jason Lee for their investments in the Willamette Cattle Company to help bring cattle to the Willamette Valley.


Six Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) leave Antwerp aboard L'Infatigable, bound for the Oregon Country. Accompanied by Jesuit missionary Pierre Jean DeSmet (1801-1873), they would arrive at the mouth of the Columbia River in July as reinforcements for Catholic missions in the region.


The ferryman for the Randolph Ferry, which carried gold miners across the Coquille River to their diggings at Whiskey Man Creek, has an altercation with a member of the Nasomah Band of Coquille, presaging what Indian Agent S.M. Smith would later describe as “a most horrid massacre…a mass murder perpetrated upon a portion of the Nasomah.”


Superintendent of Indian Affairs Joel Palmer meets with representatives of the Kalapuyan, several bands of the Clackamas Chinook, and northern Molalla peoples at Dayton to negotiate a treaty.



Mary Stillwell (1862-1947), the founder of the first Salvation Army corps in Portland, is born in Corfu, Greece.


Modoc War map

On January 17, not far from Linkville (present-day Klamath Falls) in southeastern Oregon, U.S. Army troops attack Modoc combatants led by Kientpoos (also known as Captain Jack). With fewer than sixty warriors, the Modocs repulse a force six times its size, leaving the army with twelve dead and thirty-seven wounded. 

Map: Seat of the Modoc War, 1873 (?). This hand-drawn map of the site of the Modoc War identifies landmarks and army camp sites , including the Modoc stronghold and Gen. Gillem's camp. Click here to enlarge it.


More than sixty members of Am Olam (Eternal People), a reform organization fleeing the pogroms against Russian Jews, leave Odessa for New York. Part of the group would go west to Oregon, where they would establish New Odessa, a colony near Glendale in Douglas County.


Poet, playwright, and journalist Louise Mohan Bryant (1885-1936) , the wife of radical political activist John Reed, graduates from the University of Oregon.

On January 6, workers break through the last snowslide blocking a Pacific Express passenger train at Starvation Creek in the Columbia River Gorge, freeing hundreds of people who had been trapped by a winter storm for twenty-one days.


Edith Louise Starrett Green (1910-1987), who served as Oregon’s representative in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1955 through 1974, is born on January 17 in Trent, South Dakota. Green will become known for her leadership in shaping federal education policy and her advocacy for equal rights for women.


On January 2, Governor Oswald West (1873-1960) declares martial law in Copperfield in response to a petition charging illegal gambling and alcohol sales in the small Baker County town.


Lawyer Mildred Schwab (1917-1999), longtime Portland city commissioner, was born on January 9. Known for her sense of humor and her love of music, she would be instrumental in the establishment of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.


Montgomery Ward The nine-story Montgomery Ward building, constructed on Northwest Vaughn Street on the site of the 1904 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, opens on January 1.



KOAC radio, the progenitor of Oregon Public Broadcasting, begins broadcasting from the Oregon Extension Service in Corvallis to disseminate information to the state’s farmers.


Ethnographer, folklorist, and psychotherapist Elizabeth Louise Derr (1903-1983) marries anthropologist Melville Jacobs (1902-1971) in Seattle. Together, they would conduct field research among the Indians of western Oregon, documenting their languages, history, and cultural practices.


The Dora Friendly Club, a rural women’s club in eastern Coos County, holds its first meeting on January 20 with nine charter members.


Richard Brautigan (1935-1989), the author of the international best-selling novel Trout Fishing in America (1967), is born in Tacoma. Raised in Eugene, he used Oregon scenes and landscapes in his writing, which included eleven novels, ten books of poetry, and several screenplays.




The director of Oregon’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) turns over Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood to the U.S. Forest Service. The lodge opens to the public on February 4.


Friends of Chamber Music, the oldest continuously operating chamber music series in Oregon, has its first concert on January 20, featuring the Curtis String Quartet of Philadelphia.


Construction begins on Camp White, a U.S. Army Cantonment near Medford and the home of the 91st “First Tree” Division. The first troops would arrive by summer, and eventually 40,000 solders would be stationed at the base, including German POWs.


Frank T. Hachiya (1920-1945), a Japanese American soldier born in Odel in the Hood River Valley, is killed on January 3 Leyte Island in the Philippines, while his father is imprisoned in a War Relocation Authority camp in Minidoka, Idaho.

Near Medford on January 4, two men see the explosion of a Japanese balloon bomb, one of more than nine thousand such bombs launched from Japan during World War II. When a balloon bomb killed six people near Bly, Oregon became the only place in the continental United States where Americans were killed by enemy action during the war.


Bernie Fagan, Portland Timber soccer player (1980-1982) and coach at Warner Pacific College (1982-1990) and Portland State University (1990-1998), is born on January 29 in Sunderland, England.


On January 30, the U.S. Senate creates the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, known as the McClellan Committee, to investigate corruption and racketeering in the nation’s labor unions, including those in Portland.


Rancher and writer Alice Day Pratt (1872-1963), who worked her homestead near Prineville from 1912 to 1930, dies on January 11. She wrote several books about her experiences, including Homesteader's Portfolio (1922) and Three Frontiers (1953).


The Corvallis Arts Center, a project of the first arts council in Oregon, opens on January 26 in the Corvallis Episcopal Church building, which would be moved to 7th and Madison Streets in 1972 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


On July 2, the Oregon legislature repeals a sodomy law that had passed on July 2, 1971, the first major gay rights victory in the state.



The Portland Timbers soccer club prepares for its first season. With a record of 16 wins and 6 losses, thousands of fans attended games in Portland’s Civic Stadium—33,503 people at the NASL championship game a few months later—to earn the city the name Portland Soccer City, USA.



The Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, Oregon’s only nuclear-generating plant, shuts down after operating for seventeen years.


At the U.S. Figure Skating Championship in Detroit, three Oregonians hired by Jeff Gillooly (now known as Jeff Stone) attack Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan to prevent her from competing. Gillooly was the husband of Portland’s Tonya Harding, a championship skater who was the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition.


Keiko, an orca whale who starred in the Warner Brothers film Free Willy, arrives at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport on January 7. He had been moved from an amusement park in Mexico City, where his health had been deteriorating.


The Simon Benson House, built in Portland in 1900 by timber baron Simon Benson, is moved to Southwest Park and Montgomery on the Portland State University campus to serve as the university’s alumni association and visitor center.