Sounds and Scents of History

Photo by Robin Loznak

Big booms ricocheted across the smoky air this weekend as Elkton, Oregon, celebrated the annual Fort Umpqua Days event near the reconstructed Hudson’s Bay Company fort along the Umpqua River, and Robin caught one of the cannon blasts with his camera. Historians tell us the Native Americans used to keep the brush down with fires every fall, so maybe that smoky air is historic too.

Folks enjoyed another successful event despite some heat and smoke. Locals and visitors gathered over the Labor Day weekend to explore the area’s historic past and have a good time, while vendors offered food and wine, crafts and books and more for sale. In the evening Cathy Byle directed the pageant of historic vignettes–a little longer on fun than fact.

A Hudson’s Bay Company man by the name of Mark stopped by my booth Sunday where I was selling my books that focus on this period of history.

He bought a copy of The Shifting Winds, which has scenes set at Fort Vancouver, the HBC headquarters north of the Columbia River–where Vancouver, Washington, stands today.

Fort Umpqua was the southernmost HBC outpost in those days. Both forts were reconstructed with great attention to accuracy of detail.

So you can visit and get a real sense of the history, stepping right back in time. Folks like Mark enjoy dressing the part, and it’s not unusual to see a few mountain men wandering through.

Smoke from surrounding fires clouded the skies the first day and actually kept us a little cooler than expected. But Sunday afternoon a much thicker haze moved in, along with a sweltering heat. By the time I got home it was in the upper 90s and I couldn’t even see the higher mountains across the river.

The smoky fall days may be historic, but I’ll be glad when a good rain comes to clear the air.

I snapped the above photo off my back deck when I got home Sunday. The photo below shows the missing mountains on a clear day–just so you know they’re there.




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. 🙂