Back to the Fort

It’s time for Fort Umpqua Days again. It happens every Labor Day weekend in Elkton, Oregon. So step into the past there on Saturday and Sunday, August 31 and September 1, and have some fun. There will be music, food, crafts, books (I’ll be there with mine), and of course the reconstructed fort.

Cannon at Fort Umpqua. Photo by Robin Loznak.

Hold your ears. Mountain men will be there with their black powder rifles. And others from bygone days. Even cannons maybe. Folks at the reconstructed fort will offer some rich history of the area with the realism of places restored to their former charm. If you check out this restoration of the fort’s store (below) you may find someone with a story about the Hudson’s Bay Company that built the original fort during the heyday of the fur trade in Oregon back in the 19th century. They might tell you that this was the company’s southernmost outpost. And they might explain how the trade worked and what some of those items on the shelves are, and the pelts on the wall.

Store in the Fort

It all happens just west of Elkton at ECEC at 15850 Hwy 38 and down the hill at the fort. I’ll be in one of the vendor booths near the butterfly pavilion with my books that fit right into that past, stories of pioneers and the fur trade in the mid-19th century, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds. I hope you’ll stop by.


Fort Umpqua Days Fun!

Two beautiful days brought good crowds to the Fort Umpqua Days annual celebration in Elkton, Oregon, on Labor Day weekend. People from as far away as Kansas City came by my booth to buy books. I was surprised to learn that my first customers Sunday were from Overland Park, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb about a 10-15-minute drive from my daughter’s home in Fairway.

Pioneers and mountain men roamed the grounds of ECEC, the Elkton Community Education Center where the event took place, and the occasional harrumph of black powder rifles down at the fort ripped through the air, giving us a start.

Fort-Umpqua-Days1At the evening pageant the deputized sheriff caught the suspects in the stagecoach gold robbery, and photographer Robin Loznak caught them on camera as the sheriff led them away. Justice done in the “Mystery on the Elkton Stage,” the 13th annual Echoes of the Umpqua pageant, ably directed by Cathy Byle.

As many as 100 community members work to put on these somewhat historic dramas. I have fun serving on the writing team, but did only a small part this year due to the distractions with my new book coming out. Cathy and Linda Warncke did most of the writing and the actors, kids and adults, brought it to life with their own interpretations, all good for plenty of laughs.

Fort-Umpqua-Days-2It wouldn’t be ECEC without the butterflies, this being the well-known “butterfly place,” and Robin’s gift with wildlife photography led him to the Butterfly Pavilion to capture this shot of a Monarch having a sip.

From the opening parade to the BBQ lunches and music and fishing contest and local craft booths (where I spent the days) to the pageant and activities down at the fort, folks seemed to have a great time.

I was delighted that my writer friend Lynn Ash shared my book-selling booth on Saturday. I sold and signed copies of my Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own, and Lynn sold and signed her Route from Cultus Lake and Vagabonda. We both had good sales and many wonderful conversations.

434.fort umpqua interiorFt.Ump.Inside 76So another successful Fort Umpqua Days has come and gone. The fort turns quiet for a little while. The Hudson’s Bay Company flag still flies, but business in the storehouse waits for another day.

Memories dream on after a glimpse into the past, some truer than others.

Ft.Ump.Inside 68COMMENT

Reviving Fort Umpqua

Tomorrow the people of Elkton will bring the old Fort Umpqua back to life with a flourish in their annual Fort Umpqua Days celebration. Folks from around the state and beyond will join in the fun, whether history buffs, reenactors, the simply curious, or those just looking for a good time or a good buy. Welcome to the party.

Ft.Ump.Inside 69Activities in the palisade walls will run from 10 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday, September 3 and 4. While things are happening down at the fort, a lively market behind the ECEC library will offer crafts, books, and other items for sale. I’ll be there both days with my books set in the fur trade and pioneer era, and my friend Lynn Ash will join me with her books Saturday.

Ft.Ump.Inside 63Something new this year: The second building reconstructed at the fort, shown above, now has furnishings displaying living quarters where the Hudson’s Bay Company men lived. The rustic but comfy interior gives an idea of the kinds of gear they had–the typical Hudson’s Bay Company blanket, animal-skin rug, moccasins.

Ft.Ump.Inside 67The simple table setting illustrates the difference between the simplicity of life here in the southernmost outpost of the Company and the finery back at headquarters.

Ft.Ump.Inside 66No Spode china here, like that enjoyed by the senior officers at Fort Vancouver.

This project in Elkton has been a work in progress for several years, and as I mentioned in a previous post or two the reconstructed fort found its home a little downriver from the original.

When history buffs, modern mountain men, academics, and reenactors began contemplating the project, they discovered that the original site was not available. So this location down the hill from the Elkton Community Education Center was offered as an alternative.

If you drive south from Elkton on Highway 138 you’ll see a historical marker on your right which points out the original location of the fort across the river. The setting has many similarities, and the new site was selected.

Ft.Ump.Inside 77After the palisade walls went up, volunteers constructed the first building, the Company store and storehouse. Come inside and you’ll find the treasure that brought the British Hudson’s Bay Company into the region.

Ft.Ump.Inside 73The beaver pelt.

Ft.Ump.Inside 71There’s a touching table where you can stroke your fingers over the furs and feel how soft they are.

The sad news for the beaver was that his soft inner fur could be made into exquisite felt for the popular hats of the day.

That made the pelts extremely valuable and trappers combed the creeks of the wilderness to find them. Competition grew fierce between the British traders and the American mountain men, and rumors of war stirred as Britain and the United States shared the Oregon Country while London and Washington tried to come to terms on a boundary.

Ft.Ump.Inside 75Trappers, both white and Native American, could trade their furs for goods here in the Company store. Or today you can ask a knowledgeable young helper your questions about the history of the fort and the fur trade. Tomorrow and Sunday they’ll be dressed for the part in period costume, adding to your sense of stepping back in time.

Following the activities at the fort and market each day, the traditional historic pageant will be performed at the amphitheater, both nights. That’s always fun too as we play with history. I have the pleasure of serving on the writing team for that. Others did the lion’s share this time, but I had fun doing my little bit.

For more information on daily activities see the Fort Umpqua Days website.


Fort Umpqua Farming

Visitors to the fort during Fort Umpqua Days this coming weekend will be drawn back in history through several activities for children that commemorate the fort’s importance as a historic agricultural site. These children will water the garden, make cornhusk dolls, grind corn, and sort beans from the fort’s gardens of heritage vegetables. And they’ll make apple cider from fruit out of the fort’s heritage orchard.

Ft.Ump.orchard signAs usual they’ll have plenty of 1800s games to play. And after they try samples of tasty food that workers at the original fort might have eaten, they can lead their parents out to take a look at the large gardens and orchards surrounding the reconstructed fort.

My books, The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own, tap into this same era, so the celebration has special meaning for me. I won’t get down to the fort during the day between 10 am and 5 pm because I’ll be up near the butterfly pavilion selling books in my booth, offering my own look at these intriguing times. On Saturday my writer friend Lynn Ash will join me to sell her travel memoirs, The Route from Cultus Lake and Vagabonda, describing her own pioneer spirit as she goes camping solo around the country.

Ft.Ump.gardens-1 (2)Like the Fort Vancouver headquarters for the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trade operation in the West, Fort Umpqua was a trading post, not a military fort, although both forts had tall picketed walls for protection. And the people who worked there had to sustain themselves in this wilderness.

The Oregon Country in the 1800s lay far from suppliers in eastern North America and Britain, so the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Dr. John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of this western region, placed self sufficiency high in the order of business. He chose a broad plain north of the Columbia River for the Company headquarters site of Fort Vancouver because he needed a fertile place to grow food to feed employees.

So it’s not strange that when he proposed a site for an outpost in the Umpqua region he wanted a place that could grow orchards and gardens for food.

Ft.Ump.gardens-2 (2)Company trappers in the Umpqua had been using a couple of temporary sites, and in 1832 McLoughlin assigned the French Canadian Jean Baptiste Gagnier to supply those. But McLoughlin sought a more permanent outpost. Gagnier selected a site, but McLoughlin, wanting a second opinion, sent his son-in-law William Glen Rae down to be sure the place had enough suitable land for growing vegetables.

Gagnier had in fact found a lovely open meadow with the fine treelined Umpqua River on one side and scattered oaks and swaths of fir forest crowning the hills on the other. The rich bottomland soil would grow fine vegetables and fruits from orchards and possibly vineyards.

Ft.Ump.orchardRae proceeded with the fort, dubbed Fort Umpqua, and the Company maintained this post for fifteen years, from its construction in 1836 until 1854, their southernmost outpost in the entire Oregon Country.

Once the United States acquired the area after the 1846 boundary settlement with Britain, the British cut back on business south of the new border, but they kept a trader at the site until 1854. The fort burned in 1851, but they stayed on, working out of some kind of structure for three more years. By that time the meadow thrived as an agricultural center.

Of course, all this happened a short distance upriver from the Fort Umpqua structures and plantings you see today. More on that in my next blog post. But that small factoid does nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the annual Fort Umpqua Days at ECEC, happening this next Saturday and Sunday, September 3 and 4.

Beckham, Stephen Dow. Land of the Umpqua: A History of Douglas County, Oregon. Roseburg, OR: Douglas County Commissioners, 1986.


Book Launch Party

A wonderful crowd braved the rain to come out to my book launch party at the Elkton ECEC Sunday afternoon. I was surprised and delighted to see so many from my Roseburg writers group. They nearly filled one of the tables. table From left to right (above): Arvilla and Don Newsom, Kari Clark, Heather Villa, Bill Isaac (longtime friend who’s not in the writers group but just happened to sit at this distinguished table), me standing, Wilma Mican, Emily Blakely, President Dianne Carter, and Marlene Daley. Thanks so much for coming.

book5.andrew.musicWe had fantastic guitar music by Andrew Arriaga, Elkton music teacher, here in front of the fur trade display in the ECEC Library, appropriate for my story set in the fur trade days of nineteenth century Oregon. Thank you very much, Andrew. Such great listening!

Book4-1.wineWe had wine with cheese and crackers, the wine compliments of Jim Wood, formerly of Napa Valley, now of Elkton. He offered Elkton wines from Brandborg Winery and Hundredth Valley Winery, as well as selections from the Napa Valley winery that used grapes from the Wood family vineyards there. That’s Jim, beyond the camera’s focal point, standing in the background next to Andrew. Thank you, Jim, for your wonderful generosity and for adding this touch of class to our party.

Book3-1.table.caseyJim enlisted his family to help serve the wine, son Nathan, Nathan’s friend Casey Zarnes, and Jim’s daughter-in-law Sarah Wood, wife of son Chad. Here Casey is chatting with one of my cousins, Karen Maupin Jackson in the striped top, Arvilla Newsom from the writers group in the green coat, and Emily Hunt behind Arvilla. And I love the flowers I found at the Bookmine in Cottage Grove, the deep pink carnations with lavender-colored spray that almost matches my book.

book8.readingThen came the reading from The Shifting Winds, clearly a serious moment in the story here.

book7.signingAnd the signing.

I had a lovely time, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it too.

All the photos are by Robin Loznak, my son-in-law. Thank you, Robin. And thanks also to my daughter, Carisa, for handling the guestbook and helping at the signing table.

Many thanks to Sue Butkus, Site Coordinator at ECEC, for all your help in setting this up, and to Executive Director Marjorie Hammon and to Kris Hendricks, Education Coordinator, for all your help. And a great big thanks to everyone who came and made this such a happy occasion.

NEXT UP: A signing and reading at the fabulous Douglas County Museum in Roseburg Thursday evening, March 10, from 6:30 to 8:30. It will be a very different kind of venue. I’ll do a tribute to George Abdill, the first director of that museum, a man who helped me so much in my research for this book. We’ll also show photos from the Oregon Trail and other historic pictures related to the story–the visuals Robin has been encouraging me to do. So he’ll help with that and I’ll do a reading–a different segment than I read in Elkton.


Book to Launch

My debut historical novel, The Shifting Winds, is about to launch. As you may have seen in the sidebar, I have a couple of book signings scheduled already. The first launch party will be at the Elkton Community Education Center (ECEC) library in Elkton, Oregon, better known as the butterfly place, on Sunday afternoon, March 6, from 2 to 4 pm. Less than two months away now. This is the same place I launched A Place of Her Own two years ago, and everyone there helped me make that a wonderful sendoff for Martha’s story. I look forward to another great beginning this year.


The photo above shows the ECEC library building. Elkton is about seven miles from my home on Martha’s Century Farm.

My next party will be later in the week at the Douglas County Museum in Roseburg, Oregon, Thursday evening, March 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. At this event I will offer a tribute to the late George Abdill, former director of the county museum. George offered me considerable information and inspiration for The Shifting Winds, which portrays one of his favorite periods of history when fur traders and pioneers came up against each other on the American frontier of the mid-nineteenth century. And I did have a lot of fun putting this story together.


The Douglas County Museum, shown above, is at the county fairgrounds just south of Roseburg’s downtown.

ShiftingWinds cover jpegI hope many of my local friends will be able to attend one of these opening parties. We’ll have refreshments, readings, signings, and plenty of conversation with book-loving people. In addition to The Shifting Winds, I plan to have copies of A Place of Her Own available.

In the coming days I’ll be adding more events around Oregon and beyond. Those will be listed on the right-hand sidebar as they’re arranged and also on the “Events” page, where you can see not only where we’re going but where we’ve been.

Cheers!!! 🙂


Fun at Fort Umpqua Days

Elkton history enjoyed a dash of fun at the annual Fort Umpqua Days celebration Saturday and Sunday. From the parade Saturday morning until the final show of the pageant in the ECEC Amphitheater in the Park, history echoed through the festivities with this year’s theme, “Woods to Wine.”

605.fort umpqua boothIn my booth there I enjoyed presenting my own bit of local history with my book, A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin. Robin Loznak took this picture of me.

Right next door to me was Leta Lovelace Neiderheiser with her history of her famous pioneer ancestor, Jesse Applegate: A Dialogue With Destiny. Nice meeting her.

606.cousins at fort umpqua

I was also pleased to meet another cousin, Cheryl Miller, a third cousin whose line runs through Martha’s son Cap and Cap’s daughter Lois. Cheryl and her husband live in Cottage Grove, where she works in Safeway. During my years in Cottage Grove I had no idea I lived near cousins. I’ve met so many since this book came out, it’s one of the pleasures I hadn’t expected.

435.campfireWhile people in the booths kept busy on the hill, down at the old Fort Umpqua replica near the river, kids were delighting in getting a taste of history, pumping water to wash clothes, cooking in a Dutch oven over an open fire, and other activities.

Then each evening we gathered at the amphitheater for the pageant “Echoes of the Umpqua 2014: Woods to Wine.” The theme recognized the shift in the local economy from one based on timber and logging to one highlighted by the winery business. Just last year the federal government designated Elkton an American Viticulture Area (AVA) in recognition of the high quality cool climate wine grapes produced by local wineries and vineyards. As usual, the pageant presentation had some fun with the history. I enjoyed being on the writing committee for the play–although we’re sworn to secrecy on who wrote which part. 🙂

607.gram & gramps pageantA right sassy granny enjoys a taste of the local wine and reminisces about the good old days when loggers ruled. Did somebody mention lady loggers?

We flash back to those early days when a new teacher comes to town and struggles with an unfamiliar culture of loggers and farmers who expect their kids to skip school while helping out with the harvests. How can she possibly teach them?

608.pageant square dance



But a square dance is fun. And she can’t help noticing the charming young logger who enjoys a bit of Shakespeare.


611.pageant musicians



The band offers some good old-time music. And as the saying goes, a good time was had by all. 🙂