May in Oregon History


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Born in Talbot County, Maryland, on May 12, 1824, Matthew Deady was an influential lawyer, politician, and judge in the Oregon Territory and Oregon's first U.S. district court judge. 







Congress authorized the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842), also known as the Wilkes Expedition, in May 1938. Its purpose was “to extend the bounds of science, and promote the acquisition of knowledge" of the Oregon Country.




Born near Troy, Pennsylvania, on May 18, 1844, George Henry Himes was an influential historian, archivist, printer, and journalist in Oregon, serving for over forty years as the first curator of the Oregon Historical Society in Portland.


On May 21, 1850, court proceedings begin in Oregon City on the trial of the Cayuse Five, the men accused of murdering Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and twelve others on November 29, 1847. Lead defense counsel is Kintzing Pritchette, the newly appointed secretary of the territory. The men plead not guilty.    


Anson Dart and Willamette Valley Treaty Commissioners signed five treaties with the Kalapuya and Molalla tribes of the Willamette Valley and the Cascade Range.     


Congregation Beth Israel, the oldest and most prominent Jewish Reform congregation in Oregon, has its first meeting in May 1858.


myrtle miller



Minnie Myrtle Miller dies of pneumonia and consumption in the New York Infirmary for Women and Children on May 15, 1882. Known as the "Poetess of the Coquille," Miller moved to Oregon in 1859 and settled on a farm in Curry County, not far from Port Orford.

Oregon writer Margaret Jewett Smith Bailey dies in Seattle on May 17, 1882. Writing under the pen name Ruth Rover, she wrote one of the earliest works in Oregon, The Grains, or, Passages in the Life of Ruth Rover, with Occasional Pictures of Oregon, Natural and Moral, published in 1854 by Carter & Austin.


At what is now known as Chinese Massacre Cove, as many as thirty-four Chinese gold miners are ambushed and murdered by a gang of horse thieves and schoolboys from Wallowa County in May 1887.


The Portland camp of Coxey’s Army, a protest movement of unemployed workers, closed on May 10, 1894. After marching with union workers on May Day, when the U.S. marshal called unsuccessfully for federal firearms to confront what he feared was an “insurrection,” the Oregon contingent of Coxey’s Army began to leave for Washington, D.C., on eastbound freight trains.    


Dorothea Lange was born on May 25, 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey. As a photographer for the Farm Secuturity Administration, she captured some of the most evocative and recognizable images of Oregon during the Great Depression.


President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the bill that created Crater Lake as a National Park in Oregon.


Lewis L. McArthur, the author of four editions of Oregon Geographic Names, is born in Portland on May 22, 1017.


In May 1926, Maud Baldwin, who took thousands of photographs of Native Americans, loggers, ranchers, Crater Lake, paddlewheel steamboats, wildlife, reclamation projects, and local events, drowns in the Link River.

  elsinore   Named after the sixteenth-century Danish castle in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Elsinore Theater in Salem, Oregon, opened for silent films and vaudeville shows on May 28, 1926. It was heralded as the “largest and most lavish theater between Portland and San Francisco.”  



In May 1933, Camp Zigzag on Mt. Hood was constructed as Oregon’s first Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. Most of the men who lived at the camp, working in reforestation, building trails and camps in the national forests, and terracing for Timberline Lodge, were from Oregon.  


Woody Guthrie arrives in Portland in May 1941 to begin writing songs for the Bonneville Power Authority, including "Roll On, Columbia," a Northwest anthem and the official folk song of Washington State.



On Memorial Day, May 30, 1948, the Columbia River, swollen by weeks of heavy rain, crested at Portland fifteen feet higher than its flood plain, held back only by dikes. At 4:17 p.m., the water breached the Northern Pacific Railway embankment and backfilled the low-lying community. While water filled sloughs and low spots, the community’s 18,500 residents had thirty-five minutes to escape. The rising water tumbled automobiles and swirled Vanport’s wooden apartment buildings off their foundations like toy boats. Fifteen residents died.


The first Oregon Museum of Science and Industry opened its doors on May 17, 1949, in an old house at 908 N.E. Hassalo Street, where stuffed animals, mounted birds, sea shells, phosphorescent minerals, American Indian artifacts, and some small live animals were displayed.









The Eugene Future Power Committee places an initiative on the ballot in May 1970 to impose a moratorium on a nuclear project proposed by the Eugene Water and Electric Board. It was the first time in the nation’s history that voters stymied nuclear construction plans.


Gay Liberation in Portland led to the formation of local organizations such as the Second Foundation, which opened the first gay community center in Oregon on May 7, 1972.


Oregon Senate Bill 100 is signed into law on May 29, 1973, requiring every Oregon city and county prepare a comprehensive land-use plan in accordance with a set of general state goals. While preserving the principle of local responsibility for land use decisions, it simultaneously established and defined a broader public interest at the state level. 


Constance Fowler, an Oregon painter, printmaker, author, and educator, dies on May 11, 1996, at age 88. Fowler was best known for the expressive realism of her wood engravings and oil paintings produced in the 1930s and 1940s in Oregon, and she later worked in personal variations of abstract movements that dominated American art after 1950.






On May 21, 2006, Portland General Electric demolishes the most visible structure at the Trojan nuclear power plant, on the Columbia River near St. Helens, the 499-foot-high concrete cooling tower.




Eighty-seven-year-old Arthur “Artie” Wilson threw out the first pitch when the Yankees played the Mariners in Seattle on May 13, 2007. Wilson played for the Pacific Coast League for most of his baseball career and was the first African American player hired on an integrated team, the Oakland Oaks.


Trombonist and singer Cleveland "Cleve" Williams Jr. dies on May 27, 2007. Williams was an important musician in a jazz scene that thrived in the African American neighborhood along Portland’s Williams Avenue during the 1940s and 1950s and was at the forefront of players who developed the bebop style in the city.


Kam Wah Chung, a Chinese-owned grocery, dry goods store, and clinic in John Day, reopens in May 2008 after a large fundraising campaign and public investment spearheaded by the Friends of The Kam Wah Chung and Oregon's first lady, Mary Oberst.