Champoeg — Where Oregon’s History Began

August 7, 2007

Those people who contend that history is boring, should have been with our leader, Mary Ellen West, as we enjoyed a delightful and educational experience.

After our coffee break with gourmet goodies at Santiam rest stop, we entered the French Prairie area at Gervais, where we learned much about Marie Dorion, whose trek west in 1811, with the Hunt Party, and whose life is more fascinating than the better known Sacajewea. Probably her burial site is at the Catholic Church in St. Louis.

Then on to Champoeg, which in 1843, was the most important town in the Oregon country. We saw a very good introductory film at the Visitor Center, followed by a conducted tour of the garden, with its authentic 19th century flowers and vegetables.

Lunch was served inside the nearby Newell House. Dr. Newell was another lesser known leader in the early days and his house has been restored as a museum. Especially interesting is the display of ballroom gowns worn by every wife of our State’s Governors at the inauguration balls. Also outstanding was the 1848 piano, on which our talented Paul Beard performed.

Then we returned to the Champoeg S.P. for a tour of the Pioneer Mother’s Memorial Cabin, which is the D.A.R.’s responsibility. The caretakers told us about the place — sadly the megafloods of 1861 and 1891 wiped out the town site.

Finally, we had ice cream at the Butteville General Store. The building dated from 1863. Driver Larry Edwards returned 32 riders, including three non-members at 5:30 p.m.

Riders were members: Ethel Allen, Ewart Baldwin, Barbara Beard, Paul Beard, Paula Beard, Mary Lee Cheadle, Barbara Chinn, Sharon Cutsforth, Rose Mary Etter, Rachele Fiszman, Jeannette Forsman, Bette Hack, Donna Halker, Dora Harris, Evelyn Hile, Ray Jensen, Dot Leland, Cleora Mersdorf, Joyce Norman, Barbara Payne, Don Payne, Bill Prentice, Margaret Prentice, Virginia Prouty, Liz Reanier, Edith Rode, Janet Speelman, Mary Ellen West (leader) and Vera Woolley; and nonmembers: Keith Claycomb, Carolyn Rayborn and Susan Reinoehl.

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