Polk Salad Interview
Our own Vickie McCubbin was interviewed by Susan Fuller on Polk Salad on February 1st.
Our own Vickie McCubbin was interviewed by Susan Fuller on Polk Salad on February 1st.
Check out our new YouTube channel. There you’ll find videos from our 40th Anniversary celebration, a recent presentation about Independence from 1945 to 1950, and a conversation with a couple who were married in the church that houses the Museum.
In this season of gratitude and giving, the Heritage Museum Society has much to be proud of and thankful for. We begin with an expression of gratitude for this space in the Independence Heritage Museum newsletter to announce our new logo and share what we’ve been doing!
The Society has been working hard this year to move forward our goal to “bring the public to the Museum and the Museum to the public”. As such, we begin our winter media campaign by announcing a December 5th celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Independence Heritage Museum. The museum opened on July 4th, 1976, the year of our nation’s bicentennial; since then it’s been a favorite place for historians, students, curious residents, and travelers.
Key to our efforts is maintaining and promoting the material value of inviting hands-on learners to engage close up and face-to-face with the resident experts, artifacts, memorabilia, and historical footprint of the Willamette Valley. We hope to expand our capacity to reach history buffs, digital natives, and media savvy life-long learners by using the tools of the Internet and social media. Additionally, we will work to expand our outreach and educational efforts plus invite the community to volunteer, contribute, and secure the future of this cultural and historical anchor of the Independence community. The Heritage Museum Society is particularly interested in expanding the Museum’s Internet and social media presence. To that end, we’ve introduce our Heritage Hoppenings blog (https://heritagehoppenings.wordpress.com), where you can keep up with Society news. We will also continue to host, support, and make available on YouTube, the Museum’s speakers series. Most recently the Museum hosted Al Oppliger’s talk about Independence, 1945-1950 (video soon to be posted). In January, the Museum is working on a presentation based on Gregory Nokes book, Breaking Chains: Slavery On Trial in the Oregon Territory.
Additionally, we’re pleased to announce the publication of the Independence Heritage Museum 40th Anniversary Digital Tour which is now available for download from iTunes. A year and a half in the making, this media rich edition uses movies, music, interviews, and photo galleries to share the narrative of the Independence Heritage Museum. Embedded text, primary and secondary documents, transcripts, plus touch screen ‘widgets’ invite distant users to learn about, visit, and support the Museum.
We look forward to sharing more information about all we’ve discussed here at the 40th Anniversary on December 5th and meeting the Museum’s loyal fans!
The HMS gratefully acknowledges Anderson Photography & Design for the HMS logo.
Check out this new book by Jo Rogers Veatch. It’s a history of life on a century farm near Independence and Monmouth. Jo is the daughter of former Polk County Representative, Joe Rogers, Jr. and the great-granddaughter of former Monmouth mayor, George Rogers.
Joe Rogers, Jr. owned and operated the Independence Creamery on Main Street in Independence from 1937-1942.
You can purchased an on-demand print version of the book at http://www.TheBookPatch.com. Click on the Bookstore tab, select Search, and enter the book name - Rogers Road.
Ms. Veatch has generously pledged $1 for every book sold to go to the Heritage Museum!
Amedee M. Smith, raised on the Iowa frontier, started for the west coast in 1865 along with a family group. They came to Oregon by way of Panama and San Francisco. The group, which included Amedee’s parents, stayed together in Albany for a time, but in 1866, Amedee and his wife and child left Albany and settled in Buena Vista.
Soon after, his brother Freeman, and later his father, joined him in Buena Vista. Aware of workable clay in the area, the three men opened a pottery factory. Amedee had learned the pottery trade under his brother Freeman who had owned and operated a pottery business in Iowa.
The family initially had difficulty establishing the business. Howard McKinley Corning in his book, Willamette Landings, noted the following:
“He (Smith) hauled his first load of earthenware to Albany, where he found the merchants skeptical of being able to dispose of it. After repeated attempts to deal, Smith in discouragement was about to haul his unsold load back to Buena Vista when a merchant, John Conner, motioned him to take the entire lot of stoneware to the store’s back door. Impulsively, Conner had decided to buy the entire lot and take a chance on selling or trading it away. Eventually Conner paid him at the rate of fifty cents per gallon capacity.”
The pottery plant, on land where the Methodist Church is now, was an industrial powerhouse in Buena Vista. At its height the plant employed four artisans and ten Chinese workers to mix the clay. In 1870, Amedee purchased his father’s and brother’s business interests and in 1881, established a headquarters in Portland, renaming the company the Oregon Pottery Company. According to Blaine A. Schmeer’s Pottery on the Willamette, sewer pipe became its principal product. This was due in part to the fact that glass containers had replaced stoneware in most Oregon homes. In 1873 the plant manufactured pipe for Portland’s Stark Street sewer.
The Portland plant was destroyed by fire in 1890, but Smith soon rebuilt, this time with brick. He continued on as company president until he was succeeded by his son. At that time, in 1897, the company was reorganized and renamed Western Clay Manufacturing Company.
Amedee had much to keep him busy in retirement. According to family papers, he was, throughout his adult life, involved in politics, charitable organizations, various businesses, community activities and institutions, and labor issues, including the 1934 Portland waterfront strike. His various interests were the Masons, the Manufacturing Association, the Republican Party, Multnomah County Commissioners, Realty Associates, Willamette Iron and Steel Corporation, Oregon Terminal Company, Willamette University, YMCA, Chamber of Commerce, Farm and Home Owners Association, Oregon Society Sons of the American Revolution, First Methodist Church, and the Arlington Club.
Despite the fact that the Buena Vista pottery plant is no more, crockery can still be found in the area and is considered quite collectable because of its hand-thrown primitive charm.
Reason Bowie Hall, according to family legend, got his middle name from family friend Jim Bowie of Bowie knife and Battle of the Alamo fame! R.B. hailed from Kentucky by way of Georgia where he was born in 1794. He later moved to Illinois. He most likely served in the War of 1812 and again in the Black Hawk War of 1832. While in Illinois he met and married Martha Wright, his second wife, in 1823. He and Martha had 10 children; 8 of them survived to adulthood.
In 1846, with Martha pregnant with twins, R.B. and his family crossed the plains from Illinois headed for the Oregon Territory. Upon arrival, R.B. took possession of a large donation land claim along the Willamette River in Polk County. He established the town of Buena Vista, naming it first Liberty, then later changed it to Buena Vista, some say after the U.S.- Mexican War’s Battle of Buena Vista to honor family members who had served. At any rate, the name translates to “beautiful view” and such surely was the view from the banks of the Willamette.
In 1852, R.B. established a ferry service in Buena Vista. This service is still in operation today and is considered one of Oregon’s longest, continuously operated ferry services. R.B. died on his donation land claim in 1869. Martha passed away in Marion County in 1887.
Reynaldo Cantu came to Independence with his family from Texas in 1962 at age 19. They were farm laborers who lived at Greenvilla Farms and worked in fields around Independence, including Mitoma and Alluvial hop farms, until apple season when they went to Cowiche Washington (near Yakima).
He knew that the farms had no future, as far as societal advancement went, so he decided field work was not for him and education became his passion. He knew only through education could he (or anybody) progress from their current position to another.
In 1971 Rey was hired by the Valley Migrant League, a non-profit that worked to educate and improve the lives of migrant workers throughout the Willamette Valley. While there he was in charge of helping migrants in Salem and Independence further their education. The VML also helped migrants navigate the US citizenship process and he was in charge of getting immigration paperwork where it needed to go.
Rey took night classes to earn his GED and started attending college in Mt. Angel in 1972. The next year he transferred to OSU, and then in 1976 to Oregon College of Education (now WOU). He graduated from OCE in 1978 with a BA in Spanish Education.
During his college years he served on the Independence City Council (1974-75) and was the first Hispanic on the State Welfare Review Commission under Governor Tom McCall (1975-76). When asked why he wanted to serve on the latter he said, “I don’t want to see people on welfare!” Both posts took too much time away from his studies, however, so he had to resign after a couple years.
After earning his degree Rey was hired as a bilingual alcohol and drug counselor in McMinnville in 1979 for four and half years. Then he spent the rest of his career as a DUII Drug & Alcohol Specialist for Multnomah County, retiring in 2007.
He is married to Irene and has two sons who live nearby, a daughter in San Jose and another son in Detroit. Three sons from a previous marriage live in Washington. Rey and Irene enjoy their dozen grandchildren.
After living in Oregon 52 years, he now has the time to be part of the community by serving on the museum board, which is itself an important part of the community.
He says, “Our parents were not educated so they did not push us to get educations. But education should never stop. Education is the heart of my heart.”
One of many consequences of waging war is the amount of resources required for the war effort, including manpower. This need tends to draw people from “day-to-day” jobs to jobs that directly fuel the “war machine.” This was most definitely true in the United States in the 1940s, including Independence. An article in the Independence Enterprise newspaper from March 12, 1943 claimed that agriculture needed 8.5 million workers. As of early 1943, it appeared that the best Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard could do was hope that 3 million men, women and children not involved in the war industry could “take the places of skilled and regular farm hands” no longer on the farms. Even while predicting the greatest harvest on record the numbers simply did not add up and the newspaper contributor J.E. Jones was understandably concerned. The primary reason cited for the exodus from farms was the higher pay to be found in war production plants, sometimes twice what could be made on the farm.
Rationing for America’s citizens was just beginning, price ceilings had been imposed on fresh vegetables, and yet “incentive payments” or “subsidies” were not in favor with Congress. The article concludes with obvious frustration: “Senators, congressmen, admirals, generals, administrators, and all other classes of politicians apparently have not discovered that it takes something more than speeches to make farm workers stay on the farms.”
Several weeks later, April 9, an article appeared in the Independence Enterprise with instructions for farmers on how to get the necessary labor to harvest their crops. The first step was to apply at the local Farm Placement office. If they could not fill the request it would be referred to the Farm Security Administration for transported workers. These workers were “recruited in small farm and tenant sections of southern states and do have some farming experience. Coos and Curry county dairymen are generally well pleased with the first group of 25 workers brought out from Arkansas.”
Several months passed and then, on the front page of the July 23 Independence Enterprise one headline reads, “Mexicans to Assist in ‘43 Crop Harvest: Group to be housed at Horst Company Ranch; 100 to work in prunes.” The US government finally realized it was in desperate need of outside labor and contracted with Mexico to bring 50,000 workers into the United States. Oregon’s quota of that, was 4,000, though according to the article, it appears only 500 were sent this first year of the program.
Under the treaty with the Mexican government working conditions for the employees and the responsibilities of the employers were very strict. In addition the workers were responsible to their own government in matters of conduct. “Already these workers have built up a very favorable reputation in communities in Oregon where they have been employed,” the article reports. “In every community where they have been used they are exceeding well pleased with them and have requested more than could be allotted them.”