Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lincoln turned down appointment as Oregon governor

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is celebrated every Feb. 12 as a national holiday. Lincoln is one of the United States’ best-loved presidents, the man who brought an end to slavery and saw us through the Civil War. But how many people know that he was once offered the governorship of Oregon? And how would history have changed if he had accepted?

According to a Feb. 12, 1964, Associated Press story by Paul W. Harvey Jr., Lincoln completed his service as a U.S. representative from Illinois on March 4, 1849. He didn’t want to return to Springfield; instead, he was hoping to land an appointment as a U.S. land commissioner. President Zachary Taylor had promised the job would go to an Illinois man. But since Lincoln had opposed Henry Clay at the 1848 Whig convention, Clay retaliated by blocking Lincoln’s appointment to the plum job. President Taylor then named Lincoln a secretary of the Oregon Territory and offered him the governorship.

Lincoln’s presidential secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay, wrote in their biography that Lincoln wanted to go west and some of his friends urged him to accept the appointment. They claimed Oregon would soon become a state and then Lincoln could return to Washington, D.C., as a senator. But Oregon statehood did not come about until 1859 — the eve of the Civil War. And by then Lincoln was well on his way to becoming president.

Lincoln did not accept the appointment, his biographers said, “on account of the natural unwillingness of his wife to remove to a country so wild and remote.”

But while Lincoln did not become governor of the Oregon territory (he did not, in fact, ever visit Oregon), he did change life in our state through three key pieces of legislation, according to an Oregon Public Broadcasting story from 2009. The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 gave railroads thousands of acres of land and brought many people west. Lincoln’s Homestead Act also brought thousands of homesteaders to the area. And Lincoln was also responsible for “land grant colleges,” where senators and congressmen were given land for state use. Oregon State University, Washington State University and the University of Idaho are all located on land from these grants.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Prohibition leads to local moonshining

Prohibition began in the United States on Jan. 17, 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution went into effect. The temperance movement first gained ground in 1826 with the formation of the American Temperance Society, but the consumption of alcoholic beverages was a contentious subject as far back as colonial times.

Prohibition did not, of course, stop the making or consuming of hard alcohol. “Moonshiners” set up their own distilling equipment wherever it could be hidden from local lawmen, and Umatilla County was certainly no exception when it came to hidden stills. For example: In Freewater, a washboiler still in the bedroom of Claude Anderson’s home near Crockett Station was raided by Sheriff W.R. Taylor and officer Robert Sinclair Dec. 21, 1920. As no one was home at the time of the raid, the officers waited for Anderson so he could be arrested. Anderson disclaimed ownership of the still, but frequent visitors to his home, with quite a line of autos calling, had aroused suspicion and Sheriff Taylor confiscated a 50-gallon barrel of fruit mash and two jugs of alcohol during the raid. Another still was raided five miles from Milton on Dec. 28, 1920, in a three-room cave in a hillside on the Upper Walla Walla river. A Kentucky native was caught red-handed when officers waded waist-deep through the river to reach the cave undetected. Four hundred and fifty gallons of corn mash was confiscated along with a 50-gallon capacity copper still and five gallons of finished liquor. Both men was arrested and taken to the justice court in Athena for trial the following day.

The Jan. 5, 1921, edition of the East Oregonian had a short story about the downfalls of making your own liquor:

In Omaha, Neb., a gory drunken battle broke out on a farm owned by George Fred, an alleged moonshiner. Five were wounded in the battle, a two-on-three fight. Since the trio had imbibed more freely than the other two combatants, they received the worst of the injuries, but not without inflicting serious damage on their foes. The wounded? A dog and a hog against three goats. All the animals had become inebriated by eating corn mash from Fred’s still. Local officers found six operational stills and confiscated 600 gallons of corn whiskey.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pendleton family follows mission call to Africa

Andrew and Barbara Clark of Pendleton met in Africa while both were members of the Peace Corps. A Jan. 6, 1978 story in the East Oregonian interviewed the couple and their children as they were preparing to return to the continent on an agricultural mission in Kenya. Excitement was running high for the family. “We have a long-term romance with Africa,” Andrew said.

Andrew Clark served the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a veterinarian for five Eastern Oregon counties, and also had worked as an employee for the African government after his Peace Corps service was finished. Because of his experience, he was picked for the three-year stint in a cattle-producing area in Kenya, helping to build up production of both cattle and crops. Though the area did not place an emphasis on farming, the Clarks hoped increasing the water supply to the region might change that.

Barbara planned to home-school their five children, Sam, Jamie, John, Benjie and Mary, with help from a correspondence course available to missionary families. The flexible school situation would allow Andrew to take the children along on his extensive travels around the region. The Clarks also vetoed the idea of placing the children in local schools so as to not take up space that African children could use.

In addition to clothing, some medications and other items that would be hard to find in Africa, the Clarks were taking many tools and a “standard missionary” square-tub gas washing machine. Children at the Pendleton Presbyterian Church also bought a Polaroid camera for the family so they could send photos home to Pendleton without having to find a place to develop the film. Letters telling of their life and travels also would be routed to their friends through Dr. Myron Nichols of the church.

What would the family miss? Trick-or-treating at Halloween would be out, as would a white Christmas, though the family planned to discover new holidays while celebrating the usual ones. And what about the children’s favorite toys? “I’ve never seen African children with commercial toys,” said Andrew. The classics — sticks and rocks — and bugs, which are much bigger in Africa, were the staple for African kids. Considering each of the family members would be allowed only two duffel bags for the move, ordinary items and a little creativity would have to make do for playtime.

Being accepted by the African people didn’t worry the Clarks. They had learned on their previous stint in Africa that acceptance was dependent on how the native people were greeted, how they were entertained in the home and the respect they were shown. Also, “The African people love children,” Andrew added. Their children, two of whom were adopted and were African-American, would be door-openers for them, the Clarks said.

Renee Struthers is the records editor and book reviewer for the East Oregonian. Contact her at

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Three men born in same house, three different countries

When Fred L. Aichele of Milton-Freewater died Jan. 20, 1964, it was revealed that though he, his father and his grandfather were all born in the same house, they were each born in a different country.

Mr. Aichele’s grandfather was born a citizen of Germany. The land where the family home existed later became part of the Principality of Moldavia, part of the Ottoman Empire, and was named the Governate of Bessarabia, after a name previously used in the southern areas of the confluence of the Dniester and Prut rivers. Aichele’s father was born during this period, and was a citizen of Turkey. In the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War in 1812, parts of the principality was ceded to Imperial Russia. Aichele, born April 25, 1888, was a citizen of Russia.

Many Bessarabian people, including the Aichele family, were unhappy with Russian rule, and emigrated to the United States. They settled in Hurdsfield, N.D., where they homesteaded. Mr. Aichele later owned and operated a dray line, and still later raised livestock and grain. He moved to the Milton-Freewater area in 1920, where he farmed and raised fruit.

And Bessarabia? The land changed hands again following the Russian Revolution in 1917, when it became an autonomous republic of the federative Russian state. It joined with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918, but was integrated into the Soviet Union when the Romanian army was forced out in 1940. The area is now divided between present-day Moldova and Ukraine, independent states as of 1991.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bored truckers break sandwich-eating record

Two truck drivers from Marion, Ind., stuck in Pendleton because inclement weather had closed Interstate 84 over the Blue Mountains, stopped at Sub Shop No. 3 on Main Street Saturday, Jan. 15, 1989, to grab a bite to eat. On the wall they happened to spy an old news clipping telling the story of Pendleton siblings Jan and John Hood, who had eaten a four-foot, seven-pound sub sandwich in 1985 in record time — 39 minutes and 51 seconds. Fred Beckham and Robert Smithhart embarked on an attempt to prove they had what it takes to beat the record, with the help of shop owner Jeff Edmunson.

The pair had recently setting a shrimp-eating record on the East Coast, where Beckham ate 600 and Smithhart managed 300. They had stopped before they were done because they didn’t want to make the other contestants feel bad.

“I had the Destroyer (one of the shop’s largest standard sandwiches) last night and I wasn’t even full,” Beckham bragged as they watched the sandwich’s construction. He figured they could break the record by at least five minutes.

The first two feet of the sandwich was gone in 11 minutes but, according to Edmunson, the rest of the contest was an uphill battle. The gastronomic duo kept up a light-hearted banter throughout the contest.

“I wonder if Alka-Seltzer is free today,” said Smithhart.
“I wonder when they’ll eat their next sub sandwich,” Edmunson said.
“It won’t be for dessert,” said Beckham.

At 38 minutes about five inches of the sub remained, and Smithhart was overloaded. But Beckham had a plan. When Edmunson said there was a minute left to break the record, Beckham yanked out his dentures and chucked them into his soft drink. He then crushed the remaining segments of the sandwich and crammed them into his mouth. Official time: 39 minutes and 31 seconds — a new record.

After the record-breaking event was completed, Edmunson awarded each man a coupon for a free regular-sized sub. “I hope this doesn’t have an expiration date,” Beckham quipped.

Previous record holder John Hood later said he had a lot of respect for the pair. “All I have to say is they need to carry the crown with pride. They are carrying on a long tradition of great gastronomic effort. I doubt if there will be a rematch.”

Robert Smithhart, left, and Fred Beckham eyeball a four-foot, seven-pound submarine sandwich they will attempt to eat in under 40 minutes at Pendleton's Sub Shop No. 3 on Jan. 15, 1989. (EO file photo)