Event Tonight at the Museum

I’ll be in Roseburg tonight at 6:30 for a reading and signing of my new book The Shifting Winds. I’m looking forward to this event at the Douglas County Museum where this book was essentially born.

900.DCMuseumWhen I decided to write the first of several pioneer/fur trade stories some years ago, I went to see the late George Abdill, first director of this museum, looking for information on my subject. As I noted in an earlier post, he was exactly the right guy to talk to. This was a favorite era of his and his knowledge set my course on these books, including The Shifting Winds. He gave me volumes of information on his own, and directed me to many books and other sources of information. My researches led me not only to the Douglas County Library, but to the Multnomah County and Oregon Historical Society libraries in Portland, the Clackamas Historical Society and McLoughlin House in Oregon City, the backroads around Oregon City, up the river to Champoeg, and to the reconstructed Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington.

George profile jpgPhoto courtesy of Douglas County Museum

I will offer a brief tribute to George tonight, and to his wife, Joyce, who plans to be there and say a few words. Joyce also helped me by connecting me with my first two agents, and those agents gave me a sense of hope that one day I would find the breakthrough I needed to get a publisher. I am thankful to Joyce for that and for her continued encouragement.

Also tonight, with the help of my son-in-law Robin Loznak, I’ll present a running slide show of photos related to the story–Oregon Trail shots taken when I traveled east to Kansas City with my daughter and granddaughter and backtracked that harrowing trail, a few shots at Fort Vancouver the characters visit in the story, as well as pictures of the main setting of Oregon City and a couple of the story’s real-life characters, Joe Meek and Dr. John McLoughlin.  Then, just for fun, we’ll show photos from a signing event I had near the beginning of the Oregon Trail in Lexington, Missouri, when a shirttail cousin, reenactor Robbie Maupin, rode in with a band of Rough Riders to visit the event. The man does know how to make an entrance. In that small town that looked like a place out of the past, these riders helped take us back to a time close to the days of The Shifting Winds.

After the tribute to George and Joyce’s remarks, I’ll do a short reading from The Shifting Winds, then sign some books. I will also have copies of my first book, A Place of Her Own. If you purchased one of these books elsewhere and would like them signed, feel free to bring them and I’ll happily sign them too.

The event will last from 6:30 to 8:30, and folks at the museum will be offering refreshments of cookies and coffee. My thanks to Karen Bratton, Research Librarian and Collections Manager, for setting all this up, and to Museum Director Gardner Chappell. The museum seems a perfect venue for this book, which got its start there.

The event is open to the public. Welcome.





Willamette Falls

As we continue the countdown to the launch of my new book, The Shifting Winds, today’s historical factoids focus on the developing settlement of Willamette Falls, soon to be named Oregon City, the first Euro-American settlement in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the destination for many American settlers who would cross the Oregon Trail.

Society208-Clackamas County Historical Society Photo, All Rights Reserved

The above lithograph was created in the 1840s by lithographer J. H. Richardson who traveled to Oregon City during the settlement’s early days, one of several artists sent out to record images of the West during that period. The picture shows the bluff and the heavy forest above, which will become familiar to readers of The Shifting Winds.

A dramatic horseshoe-shaped falls gave the place its first name. Long before the white men came, the remarkable cascade drew Native American tribes like the Clowewallas, one of several Chinookan tribes who found excellent fishing at the site, and it became a place for the tribes to gather for trade. Some said the salmon were so thick a person could walk across the river on the salmons’ backs. Men built scaffolds right in the plunging water and climbed up to use spears and dip nets to catch fish struggling to leap the falls for the great return to their spawning grounds upriver.

When British fur traders entered the region they quickly recognized the potential power of the falls, and in 1829 Dr. John McLoughlin, HBC Chief Factor at nearby Fort Vancouver, laid out a two-square-mile claim at the site. By the time the characters of my story arrive, he’s in the process of building a sawmill on an island there.

The construction work brought HBC employees to the place which they called Willamette Falls. Then Americans began to arrive, and contentions stirred at this focal point, as well as across the Oregon territory. When the story opens in 1842, the Oregon country has been jointly occupied by the British and Americans for almost twenty years, because the two nations still can’t agree on a boundary. The British have been entrenched for years with their fur trading operations, and only a few Americans have trickled in—some missionaries, a few mountain men escaping a dying beaver trade in Rockies, and a scattering of emigrants who’ve come by land and sea.

Protagonist Jennie Haviland isn’t happy her father tore her away from her prestigious academy in Utica, New York, to come to this wilderness, but her one hope is that she’ll find a place she can call home in Willamette Falls. As she and her family follow their Indian guides through the dense woods to an overlook of the mighty cascade, she hopes to get her first view of this town. Awed by the spectacle of the falls, she can’t help admiring the beauty, but she doesn’t see a town, only some shacks on the island and a couple of log cabins with a few outbuildings on the flat bench of land below. Homes of isolated settlers? She turns to her father.

“‘But where is the town? Where’s Willamette Falls?’ She wanted to find the town of proper houses.

“The young guide mumbled to Pa again, and Pa nodded. ‘So that’s it,’ Pa said. ‘That’s our settlement.’

“Jennie scanned the tree-cloaked hills. ‘Where?’

“‘Those cabins are it.’ He pointed to the flat bench of land. . . .

“Jennie darted a quick look at the cabins on the flat, then jerked her head back to stare at Pa. ‘What do you mean?’”

NEXT: Mountain Men