Visiting the Beaver State

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
June 16, 2015

Very early on Saturday, May 16th, I flew from Boise, ID to Portland, Oregon where Past Librarian General Joan Hunter, my Page, Kate Freitag and Marvin Parnell, husband of State Regent Cindy Parnell, greeted me at the airport.  It was my first visit to Portland so Marvin drove us through the downtown area along the Willamette River to the hotel in Wilsonville. Cindy’s theme is “Celebrate Oregon, Rain or Shine!” and her conference theme was “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella.”  Oregon has 37 chapters and 1850 members. With over 200 in attendance, the conference was full of umbrellas and happy faces. 

Oregon’s nickname is “The Beaver State” which originated when fur hats were fashionable and Oregon’s streams were an important source of beaver pelts.  The trapping routes used by early mountain men later became known as The Oregon Trail, traveled by thousands of pioneers in the 1840’s.

Each meal had a theme tied to the support of one of DAR’s missions.  The theme for the Literacy Luncheon was “It’s Raining Books” with children’s books serving as the centerpieces at each table.  The members generously donated 500-600 new and gently used books to the Children’s Book Bank. According to the Children’s Book Bank, one of the biggest obstacles to literacy development is the scarcity of books in low income homes. The Oregon Daughters are making a difference!

Awards were presented to the Junior American Citizens contest winners, including Rebecca Freitag, the daughter of my Page, who won the national award for Creative Expression. Winners of the American History Essay contest, Christopher Columbus Essay Contest, DAR Good Citizens and Outstanding Teacher of American History were presented.  James Diemens, the National Winner of the DAR Service for Veterans Outstanding Youth Award was also recognized.  Twenty-six of the 37 chapters are Commemorative Partners for the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.

The business session resumed with chapter regents processing in by District, each carrying a small banner with their chapter’s name.  As each chapter regent gave a brief report, a large map was shown indicating their location in the state. Since this was my first visit to Oregon, it was very helpful.  Each chapter must have contributed an item to the large Pendleton Leather tote bag.  It was full of Oregon goodies!

The Gala Banquet Saturday night featured the Newell Pioneer Village Performers as the entertainment. It was a privilege to speak to the assembly and share the progress made towards the President General’s Project and to present awards to the twenty-two chapters which have attained 100% participation in the President General’s Project.  We were all in awe when the 2015 Outstanding Junior Member was announced as she had graduated that day with a Pharmacy degree! That reminds me of the adage “If you want to get a job done, give it to a busy woman.” The Pages were introduced and each received a certificate and roses.  Due to vacancies, two new state officers were elected and I had the pleasure of presenting the Oath of Office.  Cindy presented a generous contribution to the President General’s Project as well as a charm for my bracelet. 

Oregon’s deceased Daughters were lovingly remembered at the Memorial Service Sunday morning.  As names were called, roses of different colors were placed in a large vase.  White roses indicated membership up to 24 years; yellow roses indicated membership from 25-49 years and red roses indicated membership of 50 years and more.  Not only was the arrangement beautiful, but it reminded me of the variety of ages and stages we have in our membership. DAR is one of the few places in which women of different generations can share their common interests.

Following the Memorial Service, a large group of donors attended the Heritage Club Breakfast.  I was able to share photos of Constitution Hall and our impressive complex of historic buildings and to answer questions.

As you know, maintaining a historic property is a huge commitment of time and resources.  I am so impressed that Oregon DAR maintains four historic properties. As the conference concluded, Cindy drove Minnesota State Regent Diane Cone and me the short distance to the Newell Pioneer Village while explaining a bit of the early history of the area and Oregon DAR’s involvement. Martha Ann Hartzog, National Chair, Historic Preservation, was also a conference guest.

Arriving at the Newell Pioneer Village, we toured the Robert Newell House. Robert Newell was born in Ohio in 1807 and went to the Rockies at 22 with Joseph Meek, who was a lifelong friend. Robert was so skilled at rudimentary surgery and healing, that he was thereafter called “Doc” Newell even though had no formal medical training.   By the end of the Fur Trade Era he had become a famous fur trader, trailblazer, and explorer. His first wife, Kitty, was the daughter of a Nez Perce sub-chief. Kitty's sister later married Joseph Meek. These early pioneers were one of the first three families to pave the way for the original Oregon Trail route to the Willamette Valley along the Columbia. In 1843 Robert Newell was one who voted for the divide that established the Provisional government that led to Territorial status and Oregon becoming the first state on the west coast.

His married his second wife, Rebecca in 1846 and they settled in Champoeg in 1852 and built the house. When a devastating flood hit the area in 1861, they opened their home to the entire community and he nearly paupered himself sheltering and feeding the flood victims for months.  His house was the only surviving structure at Champoeg.  The upstairs has several very impressive collections of Indian artifacts, quilts, textiles and historic gowns of the First Ladies of Oregon.

The celebration on that day included the rededication of the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin. Built on the banks of the Willamette River in 1929 to honor early pioneer mothers, the cabin is constructed of peeled hand-hewn logs with a massive stone fireplace at one end of the main living room.  The cabin is an enlarged replica of the type of log cabin erected by early pioneers.  Today, it operates as a museum and history exhibit for school children. Did I mention it has a great gift shop?

It became apparent a few years ago that the cabin must be relocated to higher ground in order to save it from the high waters of the Willamette River.  The ambitious project involved logging and tagging the artifacts within the cabin, deconstructing the structure and then reconstructing the cabin on the new site near the Robert Newell House.  The cost of relocating the project was over $400,000.  Oregon DAR members spent Arbor Day landscaping around the cabin and the grounds were beautiful!

The grand opening and dedication was held on May 17th.  The Village was open to the public at no charge. The Newell Pioneer Village Docents were on hand in historical costumes to greet the guests and “Heartstrings” provided the music.  Demonstrators throughout the Village included a blacksmith, hand carved spoons, weaver, Drop Spindle and Bobbin Lace. Also at the Newell Pioneer Village is the 1849 Butteville Jail and 1848 Butteville Schoolhouse.

In addition to Cindy, speakers including Martha Ann Hartzog, Ellen Hopkins, the Honorary State Regent under whose term the project began, Marilyn Olson, Champoeg Building and Grounds Committee Chair, Judy Van Atta, Newell Pioneer Village Director and me. The Ribbon was cut with sheep shears followed by a soup and salad lunch in Rebecca’s Tea Porch.

All of the Oregon Daughters are to be commended for their commitment to preserving the early history of Oregon’s pioneers.  Please explore the websites of their properties and make plans to visit them when you are in Oregon:

The Robert Newell House:       

The Newell Pioneer Village:

The Caples House Museum:

Schminck Memorial Museum:

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