Monday, July 23, 2018

Fruits of Benton County

It's the time of year for enjoying local raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, whether you buy them at a farmers market or pick them yourself. Benton County residents have been picking berries at home or at U-pick businesses for years.

As commercial wheat production moved to eastern Oregon in the late 1800s and early 1900s, local farmers began diversifying, raising a wide variety of crops., as celebrated in displays at the state fair and the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915.
Visitors to the latter were offered samples of some of these products, including loganberry juice and prunes, “fresh and stewed.” The Groves family had one of the several Italian prune plum orchards in Benton County.
By 1920, Benton County famers were producing 261,768 quarts of small fruits (berries) in addition to 164,000 bushels of orchard fruits, primarily apples and prune plums.

To process some of these crops, the Corvallis Canning Company was incorporated in 1908 and subsequently opened a plant near First and Van Buren Streets in Corvallis.   
The Brownsville Canning Company also processed fruits and vegetables at its plant on Ninth Street in Corvallis, including some berries as in this 1920 photograph.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Historic Columbia River Highway

The Historic Columbia River Highway, constructed between 1913 and 1922, sought not only to make it easier to transport goods and people through the Columbia River Gorge but also to enable more people to see the scenic beauty of the area. And they did come to marvel at both the road and many waterfalls along the way.  Recently, I had the opportunity to do likewise. We traveled east on I-84 and at the Bridal Veil Falls exit drove along part of the original highway.  I noticed the stone guard rails like those in this photograph taken about the time the highway opened.

Historic Columbia River Highway
The stone retaining walls and guard rails were built by expert masons from Italy.  They often had to work dangling over the edge of the cliff. The arches and rounded tops helped keep water from standing on the road and helped preserve the stonework. 

Although the historic highway east of Bridal Veil was closed as a result of last summer's Eagle Creek fire, we were able to visit Multnomah Falls, which is close to the highway.  It looks much like it did in 1915.

June 2018
 I had traveled along more of the historical highway many years ago but one portion I never got to see was the Mitchell Point Tunnel. The Mitchell headland protruded into the path of the road and the highway engineers decided that tunneling through it was the best option. Explosives were used to break the rock but the work had to be carefully done to protect operations of the railroad below. The rock was then removed by hand, and carried away in horse-drawn cart.  Viaducts were built to access the tunnel with the holes for the concrete supporting piers dug by hand! What I would really like to have seen were the five windows created in the outer wall. 
Unfortunately, I first visited to Oregon in 1972 and the tunnel had already been closed during construction of I-84 and then demolished in 1966.

To build these enduring highway structures with the limited equipment (mostly hand tools) then available is awe-inspiring.  It’s no wonder the highway was designated as a National Historical Civil Engineering Landmark.  

An illustrated Columbia River Highway map is part of the Circa 1920 exhibition at Benton County Museum in Philomath.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon