Thursday, June 22, 2017

Class project recreates Great Wall

Pilot Rock Elementary School teacher Glen Dyer didn’t mess around when teaching his students about geography. In May of 1995, Dyer’s sixth grade glass finished a recreation of one of the seven modern wonders of the world using a very tasty building material.

Amidst a papier-mâché landscape, students used more than 2,000 sugar cubes to recreate the Great Wall of China in their classroom, and topography challenges abounded. “You have a river right here and a valley right here and you have to build between them,” said Andy Anderson, 11, while pointing out features of the class project, which took almost a year to build. The class was given little more than building materials and a map, and Dyer left the students to suss out dimensions, craft the landscape and glue together thousands of sugar cubes along the humps and bumps of their painted terrain.

Andy Anderson, far right, talks about a class project to recreate the Great Wall of China in this May 24, 1995 East Oregonian photo

Students worked in teams on the eight-foot-long project, assembling the wall in segments before linking them together. At times, they said, it seemed like their structure took as long to build as the Chinese counterpart, which spans 4,000 miles and took 1,200 years to build, beginning in the 5th Century B.C. “If you didn’t get something glued in the right place, you had to tear it all down,” said Jennifer McLean, 12. “It was frustrating at times.”

The project was not the first for students of Glen Dyer. Other classes built a replica of the Nile River, and created balloon rockets and water-powered bridges, among other things. “I like to see them discover it on their own,” Dyer said. “I don’t want to give them anything that says, ‘Make it my way.’ There are many ways to do it.”

Along with creativity and construction skills, students used applied math and science to build the wall, and social studies and English while exploring the reasons why the Great Wall was built and writing formal reports on the project.

China’s Great Wall was originally built as a tribute to the country’s strength, but successive generations extended the wall to keep out invaders. The wall is wide enough for 10 people standing shoulder to shoulder or six people on horseback.

“It’s a pretty good idea because it paid off,” Anderson said. “It kept everybody out and kept in their own religion and culture. It kept them from the outside world.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chicken dinner lures lumber industry to Pilot Rock

Al Moltke, one of the founders of the Pilot Rock Lumber Company, wrote a booklet about the early history of the company for a union get-together in 1954. He told Virgil Rupp of the East Oregonian in a June 1977 interview that it was a chicken dinner in the “wild and wooly cowtown” of Ukiah that brought him, Elmer Kerns and R.B. Fields from Wenatchee, Wash., to Eastern Oregon in 1939.

The three men, who worked for Wenatchee Box Corporation, were looking for a new field of operations because their timber supply was running out. Kerns had already made an initial trip to the area near Pilot Rock, and reported that not only was there a stand of virgin timber worth drooling over, the cattle also roamed the area in grass up to their bellies. Moltke took a look with Kerns in the fall of 1939, and liked what he saw. But it was the 50-cent all-you-can-eat chicken dinners in Ukiah that sealed the deal for Fields.

Moltke was a little disappointed with Pilot Rock at first, however. He was expecting “a picturesque Columbia River port,” not realizing that the rock for which the town was named was a stony butte that had been used as a landmark for early settlers.

But the forests impressed the trio, and Kerns set about tying up 300 million feet of timber that Merritt Griswold and the Eastern Oregon Timber Syndicate had tried to exploit as early as 1906 but gave up on during World War I. And while the 55-mile haul over Battle Mountain was a daunting prospect, Moltke envisioned a day when big diesel trucks and trailers would solve the problem.

The Wenatchee men negotiated with Newt Toyer, Rupe Erwin and George Carnes to develop a mill site in Pilot Rock, which broke ground Feb. 19, 1940, and opened June 19, just four months later. The Kerns Co. remanufacturing plant opened in June 1943 to make ammunition boxes for WWII. It converted to peacetime commodities such as ironing boards and furniture parts at the end of the war in 1945.

The original mill is still in operation today, under the ownership of Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weston hotel destroyed in tragic fire

The Hotel Royal in Weston was destroyed April 30, 1911, when a mysterious fire broke out in the early morning hours. Several nearby businesses were damaged in the blaze, and one guest staying at the hotel later died from his injuries.

The owner of the Hotel Royal, J.N. Klein, and his family were asleep in the hotel when the fire started at around 2 a.m. Klein first awoke to the sound of falling glass and rushed to his office, which was totally consumed in flames. After getting his wife and younger son to safety, he stood at the bottom of the staircase and shouted to awake his older son and two guests who were sleeping on the second floor, but they later told him they did not hear him. All three were able to escape the flames, but were injured in the process.

Klein’s son fashioned a rope out of bedsheets and was lowering himself to the ground when the knots slipped and he fell, injuring himself on broken glass. He was also burned on the face and hands. A guest at the hotel, Eph Williams, also attempted to lower himself from a second floor window on a makeshift rope that failed, and he broke his hip when he landed. He also sustained a head injury in the fall, and later died from his injuries. In the excitement, none of the three staying on the second floor made use of ropes left in each of the rooms for the purpose of escaping a fire.

Local fire crews and Weston residents rushed to the scene to help quell the fire, but by the time they arrived the blaze was too well established, and wooden buildings near the hotel also caught fire. The heat was so intense that windows and glass doors were broken on nearby businesses. The Hotel Royal was completely destroyed, and five other businesses were damaged.

The local baseball team was part of the firefighting efforts, and worked until almost prostrate with fatigue to subdue the fire. But when they contacted the Walla Walla team the next morning in an attempt to cancel a planned game, the Walla Walla team refused.

Klein temporarily moved his hotel business a few blocks up the street to the Marshall building, which he had previously leased as an annex to his hotel. Klein rebuilt his hotel, christening it the New Hotel Royal, but sold the business in December 1911 and moved his family to Los Angeles in July of 1912 to work in the brick yard business.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Germans surrender to Long Creek man as WWII winds up

In the final days of World War II in Europe, as the charred body of Adolf Hitler was dug out of his secret bunker, a Long Creek man took part in a raid on German territory in June 1945 that garnered the surrender of more than 2,000 Nazis, including six generals.

Second Lt. Harold Willingham of Long Creek was part of the Signal Corps attached to the U.S. Third Infantry Division, Seventh Army that was searching for a German command post near Bernau, Austria. Headed by Lt. Col. George Fezell, a group of three wire trucks and a reconnaissance car rolled into Bernau in early June but retreated due to small arms fire. Fezell turned his men loose with a 37mm gun that convinced the bourgomeister of the town to surrender. The headman was also directed by Fezell to call three adjacent towns with orders to give up to the advancing Third Division.

One of the surrendered towns contained the command post Fezell and his men were searching for. Four generals and 300 men at the post were ordered to pile into whatever transportation they could find and report immediately to Bernau, where they surrendered to 2nd Lt. Willingham and 1st Lt. Gilbert of the signal company.

Also bagged in the raid was a nearby airfield, though one pilot jumped into a plane and made his getaway. Following the surrender, Lt. Col. Fezell and his men went to work setting up an advance command post for division headquarters.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Major Lee Moorhouse a Pendleton legend

One of Pendleton’s most famous and beloved residents, Major Lee Moorhouse, died of an embolism on June 1, 1926, at the age of 76.

Moorhouse was born in Iowa in 1850 and came to Oregon with his family in the Morgan train of pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The family settled first near Pendleton in 1861, and then near Walla Walla where Moorhouse lived until the age of 14. He then set out to work in the mines in Idaho and British Columbia where, despite his young age, he was quite successful.

Later he returned to the Walla Walla area, where he studied civil engineering with the Oregon & California Railroad. He was appointed county surveyor in Pendleton soon after finishing his studies. He also went into business with merchant Lot Livermore in Pendleton and John Foster in Umatilla.

Moorehouse was appointed assistant adjutant general of the Oregon state militia in 1878 during the Bannock War, with the rank of major, and held that post for four years while serving as secretary to Governor Stephen Chadwick. At the same time, he was named superintendent of Prospect Hill Farm, a 4,000-acre grain business owned by a company of Portland men 18 miles west of Pendleton.

In 1883, Moorhouse was appointed by President Harrison as Indian agent for the Umatilla Indian reservation, a post he kept for many years, and he made many friends amongst the tribes during his time representing them. During his later years he also engaged in real estate, insurance and law. He was deputy clerk of the Oregon Supreme Court for 25 years and also served as treasurer of the city of Pendleton.

But perhaps he was most famous for his amateur photography. He was best known for his photos of the Cayuse Twins, taken in 1898, but his collection of negatives featuring the native peoples of the West was the largest in the United States, and his photos were used to illustrate scores of Oregon histories. He also had a large collection of native memorabilia, and he was one of the foremost historians of Oregon and Indian lore of his time.

Moorhouse’s services were attended by scores of people from all over Oregon. He is buried at Olney Cemetery in Pendleton.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Train conductor welcomes new passenger at 40 mph

A conductor for the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company (O.R. & N.) in May of 1903 was flustered when a baby boy made a surprise appearance on a regular run from Pendleton to Portland.

The No. 5 train left Pendleton on May 27, 1903, under the direction of Conductor Maher. Maher was feeling pretty good about the run, which was on time and running smoothly at about 40 mph. Checking his tickets, he noticed nothing unusual about the passengers.

Near Troutdale, however, about 30 minutes outside of Portland, Maher was approached by an elderly gentleman who turned out to be a doctor. The man told him that a woman in the chair car, a Mrs. Sears from Sumpter, was in a “delicate situation” and would be adding another passenger to Maher’s list in very short order.

At first Maher was horrified, and then annoyed, that Mrs. Sears’ impending delivery might ruin his perfect run by creating a delay. Then Maher was furious at Conductor Nash, who had turned Mrs. Sears over to his care in Pendleton without giving him a heads-up about her condition, but soon realized it was not Nash’s fault. Maher dithered about asking the advice of the train’s engineer, Jim Randall, as he usually did when he had a perplexing problem, but realized that Randall had no experience with childbirth, either — his wife generally took care of that sort of thing while Randall was away from home.

Maher finally decided he would talk to Mrs. Sears in hopes that she could be persuaded to wait to deliver until they arrived in Portland; she had waited all this time, certainly she could wait another 25 minutes? But by the time Maher had decided to just make the best of the situation, news came that a 10-pound baby boy had joined the passenger list.

Mother and child were made as comfortable as possible, and the other passengers were so impressed with the graceful handling of the incident that they assured Maher they would not hesitate to entrust themselves to the O.R. & N. in a similar situation.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Arlington relocation work unearths ancient ‘god’

Hermiston resident John Estes was working on the relocation of the city of Arlington in May 1963 when a piece of heavy equipment he was using started giving him trouble. Angry, Estes picked up what he thought was a rock to throw at the machine in frustration. Just before it left his hand, Estes took another look at it and, fortunately, had second thoughts. The “rock” turned out to be a tiny depiction of an ancient Aztec god of wind, sky and water. The original statue, Estes found after doing some research, was six feet tall and made of solid gold.

The unusual thing about Estes’ find was its location — 75 feet down in the top of a mountain. Also found in the same area were camel bones, part of an elephant and a huge tusk thought to have come from a prehistoric mammoth. The finds were carbon-dated at Oregon State University in Corvallis to around 12,000 years old.

But the little Aztec god wasn’t Estes’ first find. In 1954 he was digging near The Dalles on another relocation project and unearthed what the Smithsonian Institute thought was an Indian chief’s grave, containing a 250-year-old ceremonial hatchet made from pipe stone. One side of the hatchet showed an “Indian calendar” and a Spanish gaucho, while the other side depicted a symbolic map of the rivers. Estes learned about the hatchet from a book “as big as the front end of my car.”

Estes said in an interview that one collector offered to finance a college education, including a doctoral degree, for one of his children in exchange for the hatchet. Estes turned him down.