The Oregon scout
Union, Union County, Oregon
The town of Union, nestled in the fertile Grand Ronde River valley of Northeastern Oregon, was platted in 1864 along the Oregon Trail, named in reference to the Union side of the Civil War. As an important freight transfer station for mining districts near the Columbia River and Eastern Oregon, early settlers engaged in the freighting business, and railroads eventually encompassed the region. Over time, lumber and saw mills, wheat mills, and agricultural endeavors contributed to the local economy.
The Union Oregon Scout [LCCN: sn93051670], a Democratic newspaper founded in July of 1884 by photographer and editor Amos K. Jones, photographer Charles M. Jones, and printer Emery Clingham, began as “a semi-weekly paper devoted to news, literature, and humor,” published every Tuesday and Friday morning by the Union Publishing Company at $2.00 per year’s subscription. Originally, the Scout was a four-column folio printed one page at a time on a quarter medium job press, and was later enlarged to a six-column paper with eight pages, printed on a hand-power cylinder press.
In the early years of publication, issues featured local news and events, statewide news, and regional reports from other press sources, and soon incorporated international news stories as well. Although little is mentioned about race and ethnicity in the region, the Scout did report on the smuggling of Chinese workers across the Canadian border, and the “impudence” of Chinese highbinders. On April 20, 1888, the Scout reprinted news of the 1887 Snake River Massacre, recounting the brutal murder of several Chinese gold miners that was never brought to justice. The Scout also reported on civil rights issues, bringing attention to the unjust treatment of women in China.
Publications in the later years of the 19th century included agricultural columns “devoted to the interests of farmers and stockmen,” as well as “Women and the Home” articles on how to care for children and other domestic responsibilities. Education of children was a primary concern among the men and women of Union, as reflected in the Scout’s columns on the “Rights of Children,” and advocacy for women’s rights is apparent in “Woman’s World” sections featuring new fields for women’s work, such as piano tuning, horticulture, and sanitary engineering, as well as college education opportunities for women.
As the paper matured, it truly lived up to its self proclaimed description as being “Newsy, Spicy, Bright.” The Scout featured jokes, amusing scenarios and dialogue exchanges, short stories with illustrations, poetry, comics, plays on words and witty sayings, editorials, “Queer Stories” from around the world, and fiction such as “Finding the Pole” by Jules Verne. At the same time, the Scout offered updates on politics, often covering local Democratic Conventions as well as national political debates and presidential candidates. In its last several years of publication, the Scout included friendly reports on local Native Americans on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, news of new railroads, and the excitement of city and community building.
Ownership of the Scout passed to B. Chancey on March 5, 1891, but founder Amos K. Jones soon took over again until 1899. William H. McComas published the Scout until 1901, at which time W.A. Maxwell purchased the paper and continued publishing until his son, Floyd W. Maxwell, took charge in 1916 with contributions from Christ Christensen, Lowell & Sheets, Rodney J. Kitchen, and B.F. Wilson. On February 11, 1918, Floyd Maxwell left Union to serve in World War I, and the Scout plant was sold to the Eastern Oregon Republican [LCCN: sn00063534], the Scout’s local competitor. Upon his return from the service, Maxwell became editor of the University of Oregon’s student newspaper, the Eugene Oregon Emerald [LCCN: 2004260238], and later became motion-picture editor of the Portland Oregonian [LCCN: sn83025138].
Prepared with reference to:
Oregon Genealogy. “Union, Union County, Oregon History.” Union County: Oregon Genealogy and History. Accessed July 14, 2011. http://www.oregongenealogy.com/union/union.htm.
Oregon Historical Society. “News Article, The Chinese Murders.” The Oregon History Project. Accessed July 14, 2011. http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/historical_records/dspDocument.cfm?doc_ID=5AAC99B2-DA97-A22B-5D8146345304E51C
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
- Written by Sheila Rabun