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The Offbeat Oregon History Podcast is a daily service from the Offbeat Oregon History newspaper column. Each weekday morning, a strange-but-true story from Oregon's history from the archives of the column is uploaded. An exploding whale, a few shockingly scary cults, a 19th-century serial killer, se… (finn @

    • Sep 20, 2023 LATEST EPISODE
    • weekdays NEW EPISODES
    • 10m AVG DURATION
    • 1,027 EPISODES

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    Latest episodes from Offbeat Oregon History podcast

    For Oregon pioneer family, highway robbers were lifesavers

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 20, 2023 5:57

    Two armed men who apparently came to rob travelers helped pull them over the pass instead after discovering there were six children in the wagon. (McKenzie Pass, Lane and Deschutes County; 1890s) (For text and pictures, see

    Quest for lost gold mine led to 12,000-acre jewel

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 19, 2023 11:07

    Searching for a fabulous source of gold formerly belonging to a friend who'd mysteriously disappeared, miners stumbled across Crater Lake. They never found the gold, though; could it be that it's still out there somewhere? (Yreka, Siskiyou County (Calif.); 1850s) (For text and pictures, see

    Mount Angel Abbey owes grandeur to colorful monk

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 18, 2023 9:05

    Jovial and gregarious, Adelhelm Odermatt locked his sights on a vision of a hilltop monastery — and then deployed himself like a jovial, glad-handing, never-sleeping bombshell to make it happen. It was a near thing, but he pulled it off. (Mt. Angel, Marion County; 1880s, 1890s, 1900s) (For text and pictures, see

    Man found biggest meteorite in U.S. history ... on his neighbor's land

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 15, 2023 22:45

    IT WAS GETTING toward the end of the summer of 1902, and West Linn resident Ellis Hughes was getting worried. His neighbor, William Dale, had traveled back to Eastern Oregon to sell some land he owned there. With the proceeds, Dale and Hughes planned to buy a piece of property next to the Hughes farm. The property belonged to the Oregon Iron and Steel Co., which wasn't really doing anything with it and which Hughes was pretty sure would be happy to sell … unless, of course, they found out why he wanted to buy it. Because earlier in the summer, while trespassing on it, Hughes had stumbled across the biggest meteorite that has ever been found on American soil, before or since, lying half-buried in a remote and thickly forested part of it. (West Linn, Clackamas County; 1900s) (For text and pictures, see

    Rusty derelict turned out to be Liberty Ship lifeboat

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 14, 2023 7:30

    What looked like a rotting-away hunk of scrap steel was a rare artifact of Portland's World War II shipbuilding industry — but the discovery was made just a few days too late. (Zigzag, Columbia County; 1940s) (For text and pictures, see

    Prison break happened during “conjugal visit”

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 13, 2023 9:20

    By far the most embarrassing jailbreak in state history happened when a murderer simply walked out the back door of a Motel 6 during an unsupervised “date” with a woman officials thought was his fiancee. (Salem, Marion County; 1970s) (For text and pictures, see

    Charming gentleman by day, robber-poet by night: Charles 'Black Bart' Bolton

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 12, 2023 9:13

    Charles “Black Bart” Bolton's neighbors in San Francisco thought his money came from ownership in gold mines. It turned out it came from furtive excursions northward to rob stagecoaches in Oregon and northern California. (Siskiyou Pass, Jackson County; 1880s, 1890s) (For text and pictures, see

    Famous dance hall hosted Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, many more

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 11, 2023 9:16

    Elvis himself is rumored to have played at The Cottonwoods, a jumpin' joint near Lebanon, where thousands danced to the music of many of the 20th Century's greatest musicians. Today, it's a vacant lot — piled high with memories. (Lebanon, Linn County; 1930s, 1940s, 1950s) (For text and pictures, see

    Oregon town hired world boxing champ to humiliate local bully

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 8, 2023 14:02

    All through the summer of 1973, there was one song on the radio everywhere that you just couldn't get away from: Jim Croce's smash hit, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” The little Cascade-foothills town of Boring once had its own Bad, Bad Leroy Brown — although when the song came out, very few people then alive were old enough to remember him. His name was Free Coldwell — or at least, that was what he called himself. Like Leroy Brown, he a proud, strutting tough guy who got a humiliating comeuppance. But his downfall didn't come from making a pass at “the wife of a jealous man” in a Boring nightclub or bar. No; Free Coldwell was taken down by the citizens of Boring, who basically played an elaborate practical joke on him — with the help of a professional prizefighter. (Boring, Clackamas County; 1900s) (For text and pictures, see URLOFWEBPAGEURLOFWEBPAGEURLOFWEBPAGE)

    Storm-tossed ships shared a double date with destiny

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 7, 2023 8:26

    The Mindora and the Merrithew had docked next to each other in San Francisco, arrived within a few days of each other, wrecked within a few hours of each other, and washed up on the beach within a few miles of each other. (Columbia River Bar, Clatsop County; 1850s) (For text and pictures, see

    ‘Desperado' became Portland's first police chief

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 6, 2023 9:24

    James Lappeus came to Portland from the gold fields of California, where he was a gambler, saloonkeeper and general mining-town rowdy. His career as a cop was dogged by rumors he'd offered to spring a murderer for a $1,000 bribe. (Portland, Multnomah County; 1850s, 1860s, 1870s) (For text and pictures, see

    Frontier murder was even darker than it appeared

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 5, 2023 9:52

    When first reported, it looked like a simple murder-suicide. But it quickly became clear that it was something far more sinister — and the motives of the killer were uglier and more sordid than anyone had thought possible. (Brownsville, Linn County; 1860s) (For text and pictures, see

    Historic lighthouse saved by a nonexistent ghost

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 4, 2023 9:52

    But did Lischen M. Miller create the story of Muriel Trevenard, the mysterious young woman who came to Newport in the 1870s and vanished ... or did she merely write down a story that locals whispered to each other on stormy nights? (Newport, Lincoln County; 1870s, 1890s, 1940s) (For text and pictures, see

    The heroic final flight of Cottage Grove's Jim Wright

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 1, 2023 27:10

    He'd spent thousands of hours re-creating history's most mysterious aircraft. Something had gone wrong, and he was about to crash it. When he did, somebody would die. Who that would be was up to him. (Cottage Grove, Lane County; 2000s) (For text and pictures, see

    Bing cherry has roots on Oregon Trail

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 31, 2023 7:02

    World's most popular cherry was bred by pioneer nurseryman who brought its progenitors in a wagon across the Oregon Trail, with Native Americans' help. (Oregon Trail; 1840s) (For text and pictures, see

    Frontier journalists settled differences with a gunfight

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 30, 2023 9:02

    The nationally notorious “Oregon Style” of newspapering involved vicious personal attacks and a take-no-prisoners style of cutting invective; but it was ink being spilled, not blood. That is, until one day in downtown Roseburg ... (Roseburg, Douglas County; 1870s) (For text and pictures, see

    The world's smallest natural harbor used to be even smaller

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 29, 2023 6:44

    The tiny coastal town of Depoe Bay was once known for the oldest privately owned aquarium in U.S.; today it's a popular place for stormwatchers. (Depoe Bay, Lincoln County; 1920s) (For text and pictures, see

    Secretary imposed martial law on rowdy town

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 28, 2023 10:13

    Don't be fooled: Fern Hobbs was a secretary in the “Secretary of Defense” sense of the word. A practicing attorney, she was the highest-paid woman in public service. Copperfield's city fathers thought they could charm her ... they were wrong. (Copperfield, Baker County; 1910s) (For text and pictures, see

    Frankie of 'Frankie and Johnny' fame lived in Portland, hiding from 'her song'

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 25, 2023 15:50

    Sometime in 1915, a 40-year-old Black woman named Frankie Baker stepped off the train at Portland's Union Station. She had come to stay; Oregon would be her home for the rest of her life. At that time, Portland had a a reputation as a good place to hide out when you were on the lam. It was far off the beaten path; but the town had all the cultural perquisites of civilization, or most of them anyway. Plus, the people of Oregon had a reputation for minding their own business. So a lot of people who got into trouble back east came to Portland hoping for a fresh start. And yes, Frankie was one of them. But she wasn't running from the law, or from an abusive spouse. She was running from a popular song. Frankie Baker, you see, was the Frankie — of “Frankie and Johnny” fame. ... (Portland, Multnomah County; 1920s, 1930s) (For text and pictures, see

    Steam excursion train line is now a new bike path

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 24, 2023 6:57

    Until the 1980s, you could ride the "Blue Goose" up the Row River past where "Stand By Me" was shot, near Cottage Grove.. Today, it's a 15.6-mile bike trail. (Near Cottage Grove, Lane County; 1900s) (For text and pictures, see

    After 80 years, Oregon Vortex still keeps experts guessing

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 23, 2023 6:07

    Water seems to run uphill, and people's height appears to change from one end of a plank to another. Is it a fantastic optical illusion, or a mysterious force? Opinions vary. (Gold Hill, Jackson County; 1930s) (For text and pictures, see

    America's first highway rest area had marble walls

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 22, 2023 7:58

    Legendary Crown Point Vista House looks out over the Columbia River and was the highlight of the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway — built when roadbuilding was as much an art as a science. (Crown Point, Multnomah County; 1910s) (For text and pictures, see

    Alcoholic shipmate guzzled naturalist's snake-preserving whiskey

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 21, 2023 9:39

    Stranded for the winter on Sauvie Island, the members of Nathaniel Wyeth's trading post struggled to get enough to eat. But for some of them, the greater problem was finding something to drink. (Sauvie Island, Multnomah and Columbia County; 1830s) (For text and pictures, see

    Oregon's Doolittle raiders and their startling stories

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 18, 2023 8:06

    Two of them had movies made about their wartime exploits — “30 Seconds over Tokyo” and “The Great Escape”; a third, captured and imprisoned in the raid, returned to Japan after the war as a Christian missionary. (Pendleton, Umatilla County; 1940s) (For text and pictures, see

    japan oregon tokyo great escape pendleton doolittle raiders startling stories
    The Oregonians who flew over Tokyo with Doolittle

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 17, 2023 8:58

    Robert S. Clever, Everett “Brick” Holstrom, Henry “Hank” Potter and Robert G. Emmens were four Oregon aviators who did the Beaver State proud in what seemed like a suicide mission over enemy territory. (Pendleton, Umatilla County; 1940s) (For text and pictures, see

    Famous ‘Doolittle Raid' roots in Pendleton air base

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 16, 2023 7:43

    Oregon played a vital role in America's answer to Pearl Harbor — the daring daylight airstrike on Tokyo and other Japanese cities that provided a much-needed morale boost during the dark days of 1942. (Pendleton, Umatilla County; 1940s) (For text and pictures, see

    Corvallis man found out that cows make lousy boat engines

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 15, 2023 9:10

    The “Genius of Corvallis” hoped his cattle-powered riverboat would give the upper-Willamette sternwheelers a run for their money; and so it did, so long as it didn't try to go upstream... (Corvallis, Benton County; 1850s) (For text and pictures, see

    Schemers' plans to exploit Multnomah Falls failed

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 14, 2023 10:31

    Original owners of the falls tried for years to log it, but the steamship and railroad moguls were making a lot of money on excursion trips, so they blocked the scheme, preserving the falls for today's park. (Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah County; 1890s, 1900s) (For text and pictures, see

    First policewoman was a municipal Rescuer

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 11, 2023 21:49

    BY THE TIME Walt Disney Productions released “The Rescuers” in 1977, the idea of a “Rescue Aid Society” dedicated to the eradication of kidnapping felt quaint, old-fashioned, and fun. But not many years earlier, when memories of the Progressive Era were fresher, it would not have scanned that way. In fact, “The Rescuers” was first pitched in 1962, at which time Walt Disney himself killed it. And that was probably a good call: members of the real Aid Societies were still alive and had matured into one of the fiercest and most serious cohorts of old ladies the world had ever known. A cartoon that seemed to poke fun at the great accomplishments of their younger lives, even gentle and good-natured fun, would have brought them out of retirement ready for battle. And Walt knew what they were capable of — he had been there in those Aid Society ladies' heyday. And he'd been working in show business — one of the industries they regularly locked horns with. No, “The Rescuers” would not come out in 1962. It would have to wait until every society lady who in her youth had made it her life's work to stamp out “white slavery” was gone, along with Disney himself, before it could be safely made. For that was what the Aid Societies were about. They weren't dedicated to finding and rescuing little orphan kids who had been kidnapped by evil flame-haired swamp witches to steal diamonds. They were anti-human-trafficking organizations. And one of their most prominent and effective members was a Portland woman named Lola Greene Baldwin, known to history as the first paid female police officer west of the Rockies. (Portland, Multnomah County; 1900s) (For text and pictures, see

    Dispute over reservation land lasted a century

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 10, 2023 7:00

    Warm Springs Indians struggled from 1871 to 1972 to get back a piece of land taken as a result of a survey everyone admitted was in error. (Warm Springs Reservation, Umatilla County; 1870s) (For text and pictures, see

    Bits of 1926 Hollywood train wreck are still in Row River

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 9, 2023 5:28

    The movie was 'The General,' starring Buster Keaton; in the scene, a real locomotive is crashed through a real burning bridge into the river, at a cost (in 2010 dollars) of more than half a million dollars. (Cottage Grove, Lane County; 1920s) (For text and pictures, see

    Gov. T.T. Geer is Oregon's ‘patron saint of bike commuters'

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 8, 2023 10:08

    Hopping on an old steel one-speed and pedaling 30 miles, then mowing a half-acre of lawn with a push mower, chopping down an oak tree twice, and riding 30 miles back again — it was all in a weekend's work for Gov. T.T. Geer. (Champoeg, Marion County; 1890s) (For text and pictures, see

    Portland home of world's only working World War II P.T. boat

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 7, 2023 8:52

    Twenty years ago, PT-658 was a weatherbeaten hulk, rotting away at a pier in San Francisco Bay. Today, it's a priceless piece of American history that you'll occasionally see on the waters of Portland Harbor. (Portland, Multnomah County; 1990s) (For text and pictures, see

    How Marie Dorion earned title ‘Oregon's Revenant'

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 4, 2023 8:34

    Marooned in a frozen winter wasteland after a hostile tribe attacked and killed everyone else, she kept herself and her two children alive through the winter and then led them home to safety. (Snake River basin; 1810s) (For text and pictures, see

    Astorian party's decision to follow river proved fatal

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 3, 2023 11:50

    Charged with blazing a trail to the West Coast, the voyageurs in the party decided to paddle down a strange river, hoping for an easy ride to the sea. Only the charity of local Native American tribes saved them all from starvation. (Snake River wilderness; 1810s) (For text and pictures, see

    Marie Aioe Dorion was a wilderness-survival ninja

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 2, 2023 9:39

    As the Native American bride of a French-Canadian interpreter, she joined the Astorian Party on its overland voyage to Oregon to set up a trading post on the Columbia River. Did she know what they were getting into? (Snake River area, 1810s -- Part 1 of 3 parts) (For text and pictures, see

    Did this tiny, soggy, scary road save Oregon's public beaches?

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 1, 2023 7:23

    Until Highway 101 was built in the 1930s, the beach was Arch Cape's only road to the outside world — a fact that was Exhibit A in Governor Oswald West's plan to save the beaches. (Arch Cape, Clatsop County; 1910s) (For text and pictures, see

    French sailors miraculously saved from death on the bar

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 31, 2023 8:52

    As they hung in the riggings of the sailing ship Etoile du Matin waiting for death, they felt their ship start to break apart — but the piece that broke off first was the keel, enabling the ship to float upriver to safety. (Columbia River Bar, Clatsop County; 1840s) (For text and pictures, see

    ‘Diamond Bill' Barrett was a modern Mr. Wickham

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 28, 2023 12:56

    'Diamond Bill' Barrett earned his nickname by sweet-talking a jewelry store into letting him borrow a $55,000 diamond, which he promptly hocked. Later, he deployed that legendary charm to sweet-talk two heiresses into marrying him, then disappeared with showgirl-turned-trophy-wife Sidi Wirt Spreckels' $100,000 string of pearls. But the mystery remains: Did he really steal Sidi's pearls ... or did he fence them for her? (Hillsboro, Washington County; 1910s) (For text and pictures, see

    Iconic movies filmed in Oregon, Part 3: 1975-1989

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 27, 2023 10:39

    As a filming location, Oregon really started to come into its own in the 1980s, and many locals can point to key cultural touchstones that played out right in their home towns. (Deschutes, Clackamas, Lane, Clatsop, and Multnomah County) (For text and pictures, see

    Iconic movies filmed in Oregon, Part 2: 1965-1975

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 26, 2023 9:58

    By the early 1960s, word started getting out in Hollywood about Oregon's virtues as a place to shoot on location. Productions made here during these eventful years follow changes in popular culture in an almost spooky way. (Lane, Baker, Lincoln, Marion, Deschutes, and Jackson County) (For text and pictures, see

    Iconic movies shot in Oregon, part 1: 1908–1952

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 25, 2023 10:08

    As a place to go shoot pictures on location, Oregon has become pretty popular in the last few dozen years. But the Beaver State's contribution to early cinema, though more sparse, was surprisingly influential. (Clatsop, Lane, Deschutes, Hood River County) (For text and pictures, see

    Rescue station keeper's cowardice got 11 sailors killed

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 24, 2023 10:31

    At the critical moment, the keeper of the rescue station at Cape Arago lost his nerve and deserted his waiting crew. Eleven shipwrecked sailors drowned while he huddled behind the warm stove in his cabin. (Cape Arago, Coos County; 1880s) (For text and pictures, see

    ‘Hold-up session' featured big drunken house party

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 21, 2023 12:28

    The fix was in -- all the legislators who needed to be bribed had been paid off -- so John Mitchell felt comfortable 'fessing up to his plans to double-cross Jonathan Bourne and his "Friends of Silver." But Bourne had a plan to turn that around ... (Salem, Marion County; 1890s) (For text and pictures, see

    Before news “crusade,” milk was killing babies

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 20, 2023 8:15

    State regulators didn't care, so neither did some dairy farmers, who left dead cows to rot among their dairy herds and brought milk to market in the same cans they used to slop the hogs; Portland led the nation in baby deaths as a result. (Portland, Multnomah and Columbia county; 1900s) (For text and pictures, see

    When the last geyser in Pacific Northwest went still in Lakeview

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 19, 2023 8:16

    Oregon's last geothermal water-blaster, Old Perpetual, erupted for the last time sometime in the spring of 2009; a few dozen years ago, the state had two. (But now it's fixed again — see editor's note at end!) (Lakeview, Lake County; 1920s) (For text and pictures, see

    Portland Trail Blazers' fate hung on extra-long bathroom break

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 18, 2023 7:33

    Promoter Harry Glickman was late getting to the key meeting, so Baltimore Bullets basketball team owner Abe Pollin stalled for time by waiting in the bathroom until he arrived. (Portland, Multnomah County; 1960s) (For text and pictures, see

    Mona Bell was like Annie Oakley with an edge

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 17, 2023 11:21

    Although she's most remembered for being the mistress of a famous man, journalist and rodeo performer Mona Bell Hill was, on her own, one of the most interesting people ever to live in Oregon — and, to the government, one of the most vexing. (Bonneville, Multnomah County; 1910s, 1920s, 1930s) (For text and pictures, see

    Bloody 1925 jailbreak ended badly for everyone

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 14, 2023 15:23

    IT WAS A TYPICAL balmy August evening at the Oregon State Penitentiary. The bell had rung for supper, so inmates were streaming out of their cells and heading toward the dining hall for the evening meal, as they always did. But on this particular evening, four prisoners hung back from the throng, and when the last prisoner had rounded the corner out of sight, they doubled back, hurrying into the cell that had been assigned to one of their number. Working feverishly with an auger stolen somehow from the prison's shops, they cut a hole in the roof and pulled and boosted each other up through it. One of the most legendary jailbreaks in Oregon history had just started, and the die had been cast that would lead to the men's doom. It was August 13, 1925; not one of the four prisoners would live to see 1929. (Salem, Marion County; 1920s) (For text and pictures, see

    Bungling attempt by crimps bookended shanghaiing era

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 13, 2023 11:18

    Bunco Kelley was out of prison, Mysterious Billy Smith was at loose ends, and Jumbo Riley was looking for something to do ... somehow, they ended up at a table at Erickson's Saloon with the Jost brothers, talking about getting back into the shanghaiing business. Alas, it was not to be ... (Portland, Multnomah County; 1907) (For text and pictures, see

    Plan to stop shanghaiing: Give Larry Sullivan a monopoly

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 12, 2023 11:08

    Oregon's Sailors' Boardinghouse Commission seemed completely uninterested in any enforcement activity other than ordering Larry Sullivan's competitors to leave the business. Naturally, those competitors fought back as best they could. (Portland, Multnomah County; 1900s) (For text and pictures, see

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