September in Oregon History

Alert America civil defense show in Portland, 1952
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On September 19, 1847, Archbishop Francois Norbert Blanchet conducted the first ordination of a priest in the Oregon Country in St. Paul Church.


exclusion laws       Oregon’s Territorial Legislature enacted its second exclusion law on September 21, 1849. The law specified that “it shall not be lawful for any negro or mulatto to enter into, or reside” in Oregon, with exceptions made for those who were already in the territory. Targeting African American seamen who might be tempted to jump ship, the law addressed a concern that African Americans might “intermix with Indians, instilling into their minds feelings of hostility toward the white race.'' The law was rescinded in 1854.



On September 10, 1853, near Lower Table Rock (which overlooks the north bank of Rogue River, across the river from the mouth of Bear Creek), Takelma leader Apserkahar ("Chief Joe") and former Oregon territorial Governor Joseph Lane met to negotiate a peace treaty.


On September 11, 1854, Charity Lamb appeared in the U.S. District Court at Oregon City on a charge of murdering her husband. She stood before presiding judge Cyrus Olney, cradling an infant in her arms, as James Kelly, her court-appointed attorney, pled her “not guilty.” At trial, Lamb claimed what would one day be called extreme “wife abuse.” No such defense existed in law at the time, but its premise was couched in a combination of two legal defenses: insanity and self-defense.


Camp Abbot was named for Brig. Gen. Henry Larcom Abbot, who graduated from West Point with a degree in military engineering and was selected to lead a Pacific Railway Survey party for the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers. On September 4, 1855, Abbot and his detachment camped at a site along the Deschutes River that became Camp Abbot almost a hundred years later, in a very different world.


Nursing activist Grace Phelps was born in Westfield, Indiana, on September 5, 1871. In 1909, she began a career that would define her significant contributions to Oregon nursing. Superintendent of nurses at Multnomah County Hospital, Phelps's activist agenda included advocating for the registration of nurses (1909-1911), founding a professional association (now the Oregon Nurses’ Association), and organizing home-nursing courses for the American Red Cross.



Fr. Edwin O'Hara—Roman Catholic priest, educator, social reformer, and historian—was born on September 6, 1881. He was instrumental in shaping innovative Catholic educational practices and social action in Oregon and the nation.



Poet and suffragist Sara Bard Field was born to strict Baptist parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 1, 1882. Her poetry, her support of women’s suffrage, and her controversial relationship with C.E.S. Wood, a Portland cultural icon, made an indelible imprint on the history of Oregon.



Harriet Jane Lawrence, one of the earliest female pathologists in the United States and the first known woman pathologist in Oregon. was born in Kingsbury, Maine, on September 13, 1883. In 1912, she moved to Portland, where she worked as a surgical and clinical pathologist for more than fifty years before retiring in 1967.


la grande  





During the late nineteenth century, La Grande, like many towns in the rural West, had a significant Chinese population. Many had come to work in the mines and on the railroads, and they stayed on as small business proprietors and agricultural laborers. On September 24, 1893, a mob of about two hundred armed men looted and burned some of the city’s Chinese businesses and homes and forcibly removed many Chinese residents by marching them to the nearby rail depot at Oro Dell and demanding that they leave the country. According to accounts in the La Grande Gazette the next week, some of the mob victims returned to settle their business affairs before leaving La Grande permanently. While the newspaper reported that the sheriff and others attempted to protect the Chinese, articles also noted that public sentiment opposed the presence of Chinese in the community. Over fifty men were arrested, ten of whom were indicted and charged with arson. All were found not guilty.


A letter from Pvt. James G. Cole, a Buffalo Soldier at Vancouver Barracks, was published in the Oregonian on September 26, 1899. In it, he related how he witnessed white officers of the 35th Volunteer Infantry voicing “a certain prejudice against serving in colored regiments.” Cole wrote that he "would have spoken, but their rank being so superior to mine, my tongue cleaved.” He ended his letter with a plea that black army regiments be led by black officers. "If this is done," he argued, "it will mark a distinct step in advance of any taken hitherto. It will recognize…the manhood of the colored troops, and break down the bar of separation now existing….The colored soldier has proven to this nation…that he is competent to command—providing they give him show."


Joseph “Ted” Francis, the dean of Oregon’s single-screen cinemas, was born on September 12, 1900. A descendant of pioneer Jesse Applegate, Francis spent decades climbing the well-worn carpeted stairs of the historic Cameo Theater in Newberg. “I don’t drink or chase women,” he often laughed. “This is my life.” Francis's career—and his memory—spanned much of Oregon's movie theater history, from silent films to digitally enhanced Surround Sound.


Mark Rothko, arguably the most renowned visual artist to emerge from Oregon in the twentieth century, was born on September 25, 1903, in Dvinsk, Russia (now Latvia). In the spring of 2012, the Portland Art Museum celebrated Rothko’s work, which had achieved international acclaim, by staging its first retrospective of his paintings. Although many of the physical traces of Rothko’s youth in Portland have disappeared, such as the houses he lived in during his teenage years and the businesses his family owned, his ties to Portland were revived by the PAM exhibit.


Heinmot Tooyalakekt (Thunder Rising to Loftier Mountain Heights), also known as Chief Joseph, died in his lodge on the Colville Reservation on September 21, 1904, probably of a heart attack or stroke. His grave, marked by a large monument, is in Nespelem, Washington.


Reed College opened its doors as Portland’s first nonsectarian college on September 18, 1911. Considered one of the most demanding colleges in the nation, Reed enrolls nearly 1,400 undergraduates each year from all over the world. Notable alumni include Northwest poets Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Mary Barnard; chef James Beard; Tektronix founder Howard Vollum; Apple founder Steve Jobs; and Wikipedia cofounder Larry Sanger.


Educator George Katagiri was born in Portland on September 22, 1926, to Japanese immigrants Chiharu and Teruye Katagiri. The family, including George’s two older sisters, Rose Senda and Mary Uno, lived in a rented house in southeast Portland. His mother ran Cookie’s Grocery, a neighborhood store, and his father worked for Furuya Company, an import and export business in Japantown in northwest Portland.


The Port of Portland completed the city’s airstrip on Swan Island in time for a visit by Charles Lindbergh in September 1927. The increase in air traffic over the next decade necessitated a larger airport, and in 1940 the airport was moved to its current location in northeast Portland along the Columbia River.


Jack Ward Thomas, a wildlife research biologist who focused on conservation during a career that spanned more than thirty years, was born on September 7, 1934. In 1974, he was named chief research wildlife biologist and project leader at the Forestry and Range Sciences Lab in La Grade. His tenure there began with the controversial issue of the last broad-scale application of DDT in the forest environment in the United States, battling a widespread infestation of tussock moths that were attacking Douglas-fir. President Bill Clinton appointed Thomas to lead the development of the Northwest Forest Plan and later persuaded him to take charge of the U.S. Forest Service. In spite of opposition from environmental groups, the timber industry, and old-guard agency personnel, Thomas was appointed the Forest Service's thirteenth chief in 1993.


Bill Hanley, known as the Sage of Harney Valley, died on September 15, 1935, in Pendleton, a day after attending Hanley Day at the Pendleton Roundup. Born in Jacksonville, Oregon, he settled south of Burns and became one of the most influential men in the region, spurring economic development and establishing important transportation networks. At his funeral in Burns, Oregon Journal editor B.F. Irvine said: “Too bad the whole world could not have known him.”

Writer and countercultural icon Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado, on September 17, 1935. The author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, he lived on a seventy-five-acre farm in Pleasant Hill in Lane County, taught at the University of Oregon, and lent his support to the Oregon’s efforts to control growth with comprehensive land-use planning.

Central Elementary School in Newberg opened to first- through eighty-grade students on September 23, 1935, with a $15,500 grant from the federal government’s Public Works Administration, plus a local bond for $35,000. The school opened to first- through eighth-grade students on September 23, 1935. To meet Oregon's evolving requirements for a standard school, classrooms were added, space was reconfigured, and the main entrance was moved to ground level in 1958. The building was not kept in good repair, however, and was closed in June 1995. It is now the site of the Chehalem Cultural Center.


On September 28, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. The president and Eleanor Roosevelt left Bonneville Dam in an open touring car, accompanied by a motorcade of forty vehicles. As they drove on the Mount Hood Loop Road, mounted Forest Service personnel lined up to salute and wave. After entering the lodge, Roosevelt took the elevator to the main floor and went out on the terrace (now known as the Roosevelt Terrace) overlooking the main entrance, facing south toward Mt. Jefferson. "This Timberline Lodge marks a venture that was made possible by WPA emergency relief work," he said, "in order that we may test the workability of recreational facilities installed by the Government itself and operated under its complete control." About 150 invited guests went inside for lunchand were entertained by members of the string ensemble of the WPA orchestra.


On September 25, 1948, at a ceremony held at an abandoned oil well, the City of Portland formally dedicated Forest Park. Sitting atop the Tualatin Mountain Range, Forest Park is comprised primarily of Douglas-fir, western red cedar, western hemlock, and various deciduous varieties of trees and other native plants. More than 110 bird species and 62 mammal species can be found in the park. Portlanders revere the park for the seventy miles of recreational trails, including the thirty-mile Wildwood Trail, which is designated a National Recreation Trail.


Portland's first television station, KPTV (Channel 27), went on the air on September 20, 1952. Not long after, representatives of the old Heidelberg Brewery in Tacoma, Washington, in search of a way to exploit the new advertising medium, showed up at boxing promoter Don Owen's farm west of Eugene. Portland Wrestling went on the air live at 8:30 pm on Friday, July 10, 1953.


On September 27, 1955, at 3:05 in the afternoon, sirens signaled the start of a civil defense exercise in Portland. By 3:59, 29,423 vehicles and 101,074 people had evacuated the test area; the majority of downtown had been cleared within thirty minutes. It was the largest evacuation in the nation to date and received national attention because of its efficiency. Based on the success of Operation Green Light, in 1957 CBS filmed a documentary, A Day Called X, highlighting Portland’s program.


On September 8, 1956, fire broke out in the basement of the Venitian Theater in Hillsboro, leaving the building in a pile of rubble. While the city was stunned by the loss of the landmark, the optimistic owner, Orange “Pappy” Phelps, turned his attention to rebuilding. Within a year, he reopened the theater under a new name, the Town Theater.


The Columbia River Treaty, an agreement between the United States and Canada to manage dams on the river, was implemented on September 16, 1964, after nine diplomatic negotiating sessions. President Johnson and Prime Minister Lester Pearson signed the treaty documents at Blaine, Washington, near the Canada-U.S. border.

September 20, 1974

James Beard Day in Portland


On September 14, 1985, Ma Anand Sheela and several other leaders abruptly left Rajneeshpuram—previously the 64,000-acre Muddy Ranch in southern Wasco County—in the wake of mounting evidence that the community's top leaders had conspired in a series of crimes. They were accused of arson, wiretapping, attempted murder, and the planting of salmonella bacteria in the salad bars of several restaurants in The Dalles, sickening 750 people.


Novelist and poet Richard Brautigan, who was raised in Eugene and attended South Eugene High School, died from suicide on September 14, 1989. His troubled life and struggles with mental illness included a stay in the Oregon State Hospital in Salem in 1956. Oregon scenes and landscapes were featured in his international best-selling novel, Trout Fishing in America (1967), which sold more than four million copies.


Jefferson Public Radio, a network of satellite radio stations serving southern Oregon and northern California, transmitted the first airing of "As It Was" on September 1, 1992. Months earlier, the Southern Oregon Historical Socity and JPR had agreed to the program to raise awareness of the region's rich history. The two-minute segments were researched and written by SOHS volunteer Carol Barrett. The program host was Hank Henry, a well-known radio announcer and reporter, former Jackson County commissioner, and SOHS Board member. The editor-producer was Bob Davy, aided by John Clarke.


On September 9, 1998, Keiko the whale was flown from the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport to a sheltered bay in Iceland. Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society took over his care and trained him to swim in the ocean outside the bay. Keiko disappeared on one of these excursions and eventually turned up 870 miles away, off the Norwegian coast.


The house where Vladimir Nabokov wrote part of his famous novel, Lolita, at 163 Meade Street in Ashland, burned down on September 17, 1999. On a wall in front of the townhouses that now occupy the site is this memorial plaque: “On this site in 1953, Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) completed his notorious Lolita.”


In September 2000, a landmark decision by Judge Liam Gallagher overturned Portland’s ban against camping in the city, judging it to be "cruel and unusual punishment." Galvanized by Judge Gallagher's decision, eight Portland homeless men and women took the first steps of civil disobedience by camping on unused city land. In mid-December, they created shelters for themselves on public land in Northeast Portland. In 2001, the Dignity Village site was established on city-owned land adjacent to the Sunderland Recycling Facility near Portland International Airport.


Jerry Turner, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from from 1971 to 1991, died of heart failure on September 2, 2004, at his home in Olympia, Washington. He assumed artistic leadership of OSF during a period of rapid growth, which saw the addition of two new theaters, an expanded non-Shakespearean repertory, an extended season, soaring attendance, and professional status for the company as an Actors' Equity Association house. Under Turner, the festival earned national recognition, winning the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award in 1983. In 1991, after Turner refused a National Endowment for the Arts grant because of its restrictions on freedom of expression, he received commendations from the Society of American Journalists and Authors and the American Civil Liberties Union. In that gesture, Turner expressed his deep belief in the value of theater.


On September 28, 2008, Titan Salvage removed the last visible piece of the New Carissa, which had aground on February 4, 1999, from the southern Oregon port of Coos Bay.