Oakland, Oregon, will take a bow to its vibrant past tomorrow, Saturday, September 17, from 9 am to 5 pm when the historic town celebrates Living History Day with a focus on the 19th century.
I’ll be there with a table selling my books The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own, both set in the 19th-century West. People will get into the spirit of things by donning the typical garb of the day, as shown in these pictures I use to illustrate my characters from Shifting Winds.
That’s my protagonist Jennie at right, whose face you can imagine yourself. The young woman’s father brought the family west over the Oregon Trail in 1842, much against her wishes.
The dapper fellow in frock coat and top hat represents the British Hudson’s Bay Company clerk who asks to court her despite rumors of war between their countries.
The mountain man, a painting used by permission from artist Andy Thomas, represents the American who aims to shatter Alan’s plans for Jennie and British plans for Oregon.
Their clothing would be typical for the period Oakland plans to celebrate tomorrow.
Oakland history as a town goes back to 1846 when Rev. J. A. Cornwall came west and with another family took refuge from a fierce storm. They built a cabin on Cabin Creek near where Oakland grew up, then left in the spring to continue to their destination in the Willamette Valley.
The town of Oakland was laid out in 1849, first surveyed town in the Umpqua. When the railroad bypassed the old town in 1872, Oakland moved closer to the rail line and the new town became a commercial center.
When my great-great-grandparents, Garrett and Martha Maupin, moved to Douglas County he became a hauler, carrying goods by wagon from Oakland to Scottsburg, where things could be shipped out by boat. Garrett had just left Oakland on one of these treks when a load of wool turned over on him and smothered him. The details of that fateful day are told in my book, A Place of Her Own.
Somehow the small town of Oakland always kept one foot in the historic past, even before the reviving of historic structures across the country became popular. So it seems fitting for Oakland to celebrate its colorful past with a Living History Day. Oakland has been living its history for as long as I can remember. I have an Oakland address, although I confess I don’t often visit the town. It’s a little out of the way to get there.
Bypassed yet again, the second time by the Interstate Freeway, Oakland was left to dream of bygone days. The old buildings were maintained, perhaps for lack of need to create bigger and plainer and infinitely uglier new ones. You can walk down the street and feel the past all around you as the charming structures of an earlier time smile back at you.
So pull out the best representation in your closet of something folks might have worn in the 19th century. Ladies might choose something from the slimmer skirts of the early years to the simple calicos of pioneer times to the wide hoops of Civil War and later days.
Gentlemen, you could choose anything from frock coat and tall hat to buckskins, to jeans and shirts–and yes, they did wear jeans, sometimes called “janes,” even before Mr. Levi came on stage.
Come live in the past with us. I do that often when I walk into my stories. Such an intriguing place to explore, the past. Oakland will have spinning and weaving, blacksmiths, a trapper encampment, Fort Umpqua muzzle loaders, butter making, chuckwagon cooking, children’s activities, and more.
Abe Lincoln will be there. Who’d have guessed? And what’s that? Can-can dancing? Oh my.
Minter, Harold A. Umpqua Valley Oregon and Its Pioneers. Portland, OR: Binfords & Mort, 1967.
Except for Andy Thomas’s painting of the mountain man, all photos on this post are from antique fashion plates.