Monday, January 18, 2010


I have been doing a little research about Oregon, and found out some interesting things. 

Did you know that the origin of the name Oregon is unknown? It is speculated that it may have come from the French word Ouragan (which means Hurricane) and was a former name of the Columbia River. French explorers called the Columbia River "Hurricane River" (le fleuve aux ouragans), because of the strong winds of the Columbia Gorge.  We all know those winds can be very powerful!!

Did you all know that we have a state song?  It was written for a song contest in 1920, and the 16-line, 2-verse song became the state's official song in 1927.

Lyrics by J.A. Buchanan and Music by Henry B. Murtagh
Land of the Empire Builders,
Land of the Golden West;
conquered and held by free men,
fairest and the best.
Onward and upward ever,
forward and on, and on;
hail to thee, Land of the Heroes,
my Oregon.

Land of the rose and sunshine,
 land of the summer's breeze;
laden with health and vigor,
fresh from the western seas.
Blest by the blood of martyrs,
land of the setting sun;
hail to thee, Land of Promise,
my Oregon.

Other facts:
Oregon was the 33rd state in the USA.  It became a state on February 14, 1859.
The area of the state is 98,386 square miles, which makes Oregon the 9th biggest state.
The highest point is Mount Hood at 11,239 feet (3,426 m) above sea level.

photo by Rose Lefebvre
State Nickname is the Beaver State.  I am sure you ALL knew this!
And the state animal is the American expected!
Our state tree is--yea, you guessed it--the Douglas Fir!
photo by Rose Lefebvre
Did you know we have a state mushroom? Yep, we do, and it is the Pacific Golden Chanterelle.
Oregon has the largest number of historical covered bridges in the western United States.
Everyone knows about the state rock, the geode, which we Oregonians refer to as a Thunderegg.

Oregon's state gemstone is the Oregon Sunstone.  Guess we all now need to run out and get a piece of jewelry made with one to be true Oregonians.
image from internet
Our lovely state bird is the Western Meadowlark.  I think I have actually had one in my backyard!
internet image

State Motto is "She Flies With Her Own Wings" (translated from the Latin-Alis Volat Propriis).
In 1957, the motto was changed to “The Union.” According to former Senate historian Cecil Edwards, “The Union” goes back to earlier years in Oregon when citizens “were torn over the issue of slavery.”
Senate historian Cecil Edwards, Secretary of State Barbara Roberts and former state Senate President Jason Boe were the sponsors for the 1987 Senate Bill 1036 which proposed changing the motto back to “She Flies With Her Own Wings.” Supporters of the bill felt that “She Flies With Her Own Wings” reflected Oregon’s tradition of independence and innovation.

Oregon's official state flag was adopted in 1925. It is the only US state flag that still has a design on both sides. Both sides of the flag have a deep blue background and yellow designs. The reverse of the flag pictures a beaver (Oregon's state animal).
The front of the flag features the words "STATE OF OREGON" and the year "1859," the year Oregon became a state. Between these is a heart-shaped seal that pictures a landscape with mountains, trees, elk, a covered wagon, and a British warship leaving and an American steamship arriving. The ships symbolize the transfer of the Oregon Territory from the British to the US in 1846, when President James K. Polk signed a treaty with England giving this territory to the United States. The covered wagon represents the early Oregon pioneers who traveled on the Oregon Trail to settle in Oregon.

I bet you didn't know that Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state. I didn't!
High above the city of Portland sits the International Rose Test Garden, which features more than 500 varieties of roses cultivated continuously since 1917.

Mill Ends Park in Portland, the world’s smallest official park, measures two feet across. It was created in 1948 for the leprechauns, and a place to hold snail races on St. Patrick’s Day.
Haystack Rock off Cannon Beach is 235 feet high and is the third largest coastal monolith in the world.
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and is formed in the remains of an ancient volcano.

photo by Rose Lefebvre
The hazelnut is Oregon's official state nut. Oregon is the only state that has an official state nut. The hazelnut is also known as the filbert.
The Oregon Legislature designated the Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) as the Oregon state flower by resolution in 1899.
Oregon Grape

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, built in 1880, is currently used as the site of the final resting place of up to 467,000 cremated individuals.
Navy blue and gold are Oregon's official state colors.
The Chinook salmon is Oregon's official state fish.
The Oregon State Insect is the beautiful Oregon Swallowtail Butterfly.
Photo by Rose Lefebvre

internet photo
Oregon also has a state seashell!  It is the Oregon Hairy Triton.  It does look a bit hairy!
In 1880 a sea cave was discovered near what is now known as Florence. Sea Lion Caves is known to be the largest sea cave in the world.

Here are some interesting facts about the Oregon Trail:
Historical photo
Most wagons on the Oregon Trail were NOT Conestoga wagons. These were slow, heavy freight wagons. Most Oregon Trail pioneers used farm wagons.  Most pioneers traveled the trails west by oxen. However, the Gold Rush of 1849 depleted the supply of oxen in the departure areas along the Missouri River, so gold seekers had to use more horses in 1850.  Indians called the Oregon Trail "the Great Medicine Road."  From 1840 to 1860, the total number of people who traveled the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails is estimated to be between 315,000 and 320,000.  Most of the emigrants on the Oregon Trail survived the trip. Between four and six percent of the emigrants died along the way - between 12,500 and 20,000 people. This is about one grave for every 200 yards of trail (the length of two football fields). Most of those who died were either children or elderly people.  The four most common causes of death on the Trail were cholera, wagon accidents, drownings during river crossings, and accidental gunshots- not Indian attacks! In the period 1840 - 1860, fewer than 350 emigrants were killed by Native Americans.  Most people think that those who headed west in wagon trains were poor, impoverished people desperate for a "second chance." They were mostly middle class, successful people, aiming to become more successful in the west! It took from one to three years' wages JUST to buy the supplies needed for the journey. 
Wagon trains traveled in single-file "lines" - right? WRONG! Whenever possible, the pioneers spread out their wagons across in order to avoid choking on each other's dust. It was only through narrow passages where they had no other choice that the wagons traveled single file.  Why did the wagon trains form a circle overnight or during rest periods? Was it for protection from Indian attacks? NO! It was simply to make a corral for their animals, making them less likely to stray away.
The pioneers ate a lot of pickles on the Oregon Trail.  Although the pioneers didn't know the scientific reason for it, the they knew that eating fresh fruits and vegetables would keep them safe from the deficiency disease, scurvy. Because fresh fruits and vegetables were hard to come by over much of the trail, pioneers would bring a lot of pickles along, which also were an excellent source of Vitamin C.

I found it sad to learn that an Indian population of perhaps a million people and complex cultures that had evolved over thousands of years were nearly lost to disease.  Most disease came from the emmigrants.

Now a bit about Dr. John McLoughlin, Father of Oregon:

Dr. John McLoughlinInternet photo
Dr. John McLoughlin left the Hudson's Bay Company in 1846 to take up his personal land claim at the Falls of the Willamette. McLoughlin became a US citizen in 1851 and was elected mayor of Oregon City. For his generosity and leadership-- to both British and American subjects-- Dr. McLoughlin is know as the Father of Oregon.  Dr. John McLoughlin, baptised Jean-Baptiste McLoughlin, (October 19, 1784 – September 3, 1857) was the Chief Factor of the Columbia Fur District of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver. He was later known as the "Father of Oregon" for his role in assisting the American cause in the Oregon Country in the Pacific Northwest. In the late 1840s his general store in Oregon City was famous as the last stop on the Oregon Trail.  After resigning from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1846, McLoughlin moved his family back south to Oregon City in the Willamette Valley. The Oregon Treaty had been ratified by that time, and the region, now known as the Oregon Territory, was part of the United States. The valley was the destination of choice for settlers streaming in over the Oregon Trail. At his Oregon City store he sold food and farming tools to settlers. In 1847, McLoughlin was given the Knighthood of St. Gregory, bestowed on him by Pope Gregory XVI. He became a U.S. citizen in 1849. McLoughlin's opponents succeeded in inserting a clause forfeiting his land claim in the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 by Samuel R. Thurston. Although it was never enforced, it embittered the elderly McLoughlin. He served as mayor of Oregon City in 1851, winning 44 of 66 votes. He died of natural causes in 1857. His grave is now located beside his home overlooking downtown Oregon City.
I don't know about you, but he looks rather scary to me!!

Did you know that we have a Mother of Oregon?  I didn't!
Her name was Tabitha Moffatt Brown, and here are the facts about her:

Internet photo
Despite her children’s protests, in 1846, 66-year-old Tabitha Moffatt Brown joined a wagon train from Missouri to Oregon. Tabitha had made up her mind: She would travel with most of her family to a land that so intrigued her son.
The journey took far longer then the family anticipated and left them near starvation. Deep into the trip, they were abandoned by a man they hired to lead them on what he billed as the Applegate Trail short cut. They lost almost everything but eventually made it to Salem, arriving on Christmas day of 1846.
With her last six cents, the ever-resourceful Tabitha bought three needles and traded some clothes for buckskin. Thus began her first business of fashioning gloves for the men and women of her adopted state.
Tabitha Brown, who taught school in the Midwest to support her family after her husband died, joined with Rev. Harvey Clark to build a home and school for orphans. She also helped start the Tualatin Academy in Forest Grove to educate young children. The academy’s charter later expanded to launch Pacific University.
Many came to know the small frail woman with a big heart as “The Mother of Oregon.”  Brown died in Salem while living with her daughter on May 4, 1858.  She is buried in Salem at the Pioneer Cemetery. There is a tree dedicated in her memory at Champoeg State Park.  Tabitha Brown was proclaimed the "Mother of Oregon" in 1987 by the Oregon Legislature.

In my research, I also discovered some  strange facts and laws:
It is against the law in Myrtle Creek to box with a kangaroo.
While it is illegal to buy or sell marijuana in Oregon, it is legal to smoke it on your own property. (Did any of you know this??!!)
Whorehouse Meadows in Harney County was exactly that during the days of the Old West. Setting up facilities under a canvas tent in the secluded meadow about a mile east of Fish Lake they would then meet up with cattle and sheep herders. In the 1960's the Bureau of Land Management issued a recreation map renaming the meadow, “Naughty Girl Meadows” But in 1971 the Oregon Geographic Names Board took strong objection to the change and brought their argument before federal arbiters. After ten years the old name was restored to Whorehouse Meadows in 1981. (I have not been to this historical site yet!!)
In Marion, Oregon, ministers are forbidden from eating garlic or onions before delivering a sermon.
Oregon is home to the world’s shortest river. The D River, located in Lincoln City, is only 121 feet long.

In Hood River, juggling is strictly prohibited without a license.
In Willowdale, Oregon, no man may curse while having sex with his wife. (Who would know???)
Oregon has 7 Electoral Votes for President.
And every Oregon household should always keep a supply of milk because
it is the state beverage!


  1. You've been having fun, haven't you? Is the banana slug still the state gastropod?

    A very entertaining post. thanks!

  2. Oh Rose, I love these facts. There are so many avenues for a story here, especially the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse as a storage for all those souls.

    I think we should declare a trip to Whorehouse Meadows!! Now where is Harney county anyway.

    Great Job. Super photos.

  3. Fascinating.

    As a matter of fact, I did know we had a state song, and I've sung it on many occasions.

    Next time I'm in Lincoln City I'll have to look up that river.