Friday, June 28, 2019

This Old House: Cabins and Tents

An exhibit “This Old House:  residential architecture of Benton County” has opened in the upstairs gallery at the Benton County Historical Museum in Philomath.  It includes photos of some of the earliest residential structures:  log cabins and hewn log houses —the earliest residential structures. 
I like this photograph of an area log cabin because it shows the use of stones at the corners of the cabin and mud or moss to fill the spaces between the logs. The plank roof may have been placed over a sod roof.

But even log cabins were not the first residences of some early settlers.  Some lived in a more temporary structure – a tent—until they had time to build a cabin.
This photograph shows Odina Gravel with his wife and child, in front of the tent where they lived while Mr. Gravel worked as a carpenter on the Benton County Courthouse, 1887-1888.

I found this photograph especially interesting because my husband’s paternal grandparents also lived in a tent with a wooden floor when they first moved to Oregon in the early 1900s. They later built a frame house on the same property in Northeast Portland. 

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

Saturday, June 22, 2019

U.S. Coast Guard History

The Benton County Historical Museum's Circa 1920 exhibit is continuing in the downstairs gallery.  There are still some stories left to tell about the 1914-1925 era so I will sometimes return to that topic in my posts. 
The flag is the ensign of the United States Coast Guard and shows the seal of the United States in the upper left and the Coast Guard logo on the right.  The U.S. Coast Guard was established in 1915 by legislation merging the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service.  The Revenue Cutter Service, established in 1790, was part of the Treasury Department as its main job was to enforce trade laws and tariffs by stopping smuggling and piracy. Rescuing shipwreck victims had been carried out by volunteers until 1848 when the federal government established a series of stations equipped with boats and other life-saving equipment.  The new organization carried out these functions.  In addition, it was responsible for monitoring iceberg activity and scientific observations on the oceans.

Once the United States entered World War I, the Coast Guard came under the direction of the navy.  It sent ocean-going ships to convoy troops and supplies to Europe while smaller ships patrolled the U. S. coast line.  During the war the coast Guard rescued seamen from sinking ships, moved nine train cars of explosives away from a fire at a rail yard in New Jersey, and delivered medical supplied by dog sled to natives suffering from the influenza epidemic in Alaska.  Also during the 1914-1925 period, the Coast Guard helped to enforce Prohibition by preventing the importation of liquor.  They continued their oceanography research work for the Ice Patrol.

For a more detailed history of the coast guard, visit their web site at

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

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Ancient Artifact

The object below from the Benton County Historical Museum collection looks a bit like a shoe.
It isn’t!  It is an oil lamp that donor Louis Raymond acquired near Nippur Iraq.  He estimated it was from the second or third centuries B. C.

Oil lamps have been found from as early as 70,000 years B.C.  Original, people filled rocks or shells with a shallow depression with moss soaked in oil.  The burning material provided some light. 

Over time, rims were added to keep in the oil; a pinch in the rim held a wick in place allowing for a longer burn.  In the shoe-shaped oil lamp, the oil was poured in the large hole in the top.  The wick would have fit into the hole in the toe area. The protrusion in back allowed the lamp to be carried.

Louis Raymond also donated another oil lamp which he said was from Babylon around 500 B.C. 

This terra cotta lamp has a more conventional shape that the first one shown but functions the same way.

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