Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current, June 17, 2021, Page 13, Image 13

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    In Other Words
June 17
The Good Ol ’ Days
By Tobie Finzel
While it’s hard in current times
to appreciate what railroads meant to
the development of the West, we’ve
mentioned several times about the im-
portance of the railroad to this remote
location. From the false hope of a
railroad going through Vernonia to the
coast from Portland, it took the timber-
land acquisition and construction of the
Oregon-American Lumber Mill to final-
ly make it a reality the summer of 1922.
In the early spring of 1922, get-
ting to Vernonia was quite a different
story. An article in a 1960s rail publi-
cation told of Weaver Clark, the man
who in later years saved Engines 104
and 105 from the scrap heap, and his
first journey to Vernonia. At the time
he was operating a small sawmill in Al-
bany, Oregon, but prices were low. He
sought “greener pastures.” His brother-
in-law and he “put bows on the wagon
one rainy day in February and hitched
up Dick and Coaly, two handsome geld-
ings, and set off for Vernonia, a four
days’ drive.”
It was so cold that the men car-
ried lighted lanterns under a blanket to
keep from freezing. Rain froze on the
lines so solidly that they could push the
lines ahead to urge the horses onward.
Their route went through the town of
Jefferson and cross country on the west
side of the Willamette Valley via Yam-
hill where they stopped for the night
with a hospitable family. Their hands
were so cold they could hardly unhitch
the team.
After an early breakfast they
drove all day and stayed the night north
of Gales Creek near Glenwood. The
route followed Gales Creek to Timber
and at last down into the Nehalem Val-
ley. Much of the road was barely pass-
able in winter. The road that today is
Highway 47 was not built for another
four years. “Our first view of Vernonia
was from the old plank road along about
four o’clock in the afternoon, and a wel-
come sight it was… We put the horses in
an old red barn near the Grange Hall, a
building built many years earlier. Then
began a new life for Weaver Clark.”
Clark’s first job was for the man
who was supplying timbers for some of
the trestles being built for the Portland,
Astoria & Pacific (PA&P) Railway. A
construction company was grading
the rail line by mule teams and scrap-
ers along with men working grabbing
hoes and axes. Clark hauled the sawed
timbers that measured 8x16x32 from 4
am until 9 pm and earned $14 per day.
Clark felt like he was getting rich with
that good pay.
The steel rails for the PA&P
were laid the summer of 1922, and the
first train of mixed freight and passen-
ger cars rolled across them on August
3. The PA&P/United/Seattle, Portland
& Spokane (SP&S) rail line from the
Columbia/Clatsop County line through
Vernonia to Wilkesboro (near Banks)
and to the Willamette River at Burling-
ton was part of the rail boom that peaked
in the mid-1920s. The Pacific North-
west’s timber belt boasted 460 railroads
and 1,230 locomotives that traversed
6,700 miles of privately owned track-
age. By the 1940s, log trucks began to
replace the railroads, and the rail line to
Vernonia ceased commercial operations
shortly after the closure of the Oregon-
American Mill in 1958.
In the 1960s an excursion train
– the Vernonia, South Park & Sunset
line – ran twice on Sundays from Banks
to Vernonia and back, a 42 mile round
trip with a one hour stop in Vernonia for
passengers to have lunch or an early sup-
per and see the town. The big Baldwin
locomotive #105 that had hauled logs
daily to the O-A Mill was named “Old
Chet” in honor of Chet Alexander who
had been its engineer for nearly four
decades. A round trip ticket cost $3.50
with half fare for children. The cost of
maintaining the locomotive and the line
ended the VSP&S line, and eventually
the tracks were taken up and the Banks
to Vernonia Linear Trail was established
over the former line.
From Virgil Powell’s Diary
Virgil Powell (1887-1963) was a long-
time resident whose family had a farm
in the Upper Nehalem Valley between
Natal and Pittsburg. Each year from
1906 until 1955, he kept a regular diary
of his activities. His spring and summer
entries mention working on the road,
but we are unsure if this was paid work,
a community project, or done just to
keep the rough roads passable.
Saturday, June 10, 1911:
Worked on the road all day up
above. Awful hot all day. The
first automobile of the season
passed at 5 A.M. Willie and I
went up to Vernonia horseback
after supper. Started up at 7
and got back at 11.30.
back over in the rig about 7
P.M. Got over this side of Mist
and broke the coupling of the
tongue and had a runaway.
Walked on home and got here
at 12. Will and Effie came over
in an automobile. Very fine
Sunday, June 11: Did not get
up very early. A bunch of us
got in the boat about 10.30
and went up to Pittsburg and
fooled around a long time.
Got back about 4.30. Washed
the buggy off in the evening.
Very warm day.
Tuesday, June 20: Worked on
the road all day. Will and
Effie started back to Portland
at 1 P.M. Pretty warm day.
Thursday, June 22: Did not
work on the road today.
Harrowed the potatoes in the
forenoon and hauled some
wood in the afternoon. Cloudy
and looks very much like rain.
Took Pringle’s hack and took
a load up to Vernonia to the
show in the evening. Started
up at 7 and got back at 1 A.M.
Monday, June 12: Mr.
Durbeary came down in the
morning so I did not get to
work on the road till after
dinner. Pretty warm day.
Willie took the dog over across
the river after supper and I
went down to Crooked Creek.
Willie ran one (deer) in the
river here by the house and
killed it.
Friday, June 23. Worked
on the road all day. Pretty
cool day. Took a load up
to the show at Vernonia in
the evening. Started up at
7.30 and got home at 4 A.M.
Certainly had a dandy time.
Wednesday, June 14: Worked
on the road till noon. In the
afternoon we went up Rock
Creek after the scrapers and
back by Vernonia. Got back
home about 6 P.M. Cloudy and
pretty cool all day.
Saturday, June 24: Did not
get home from the Vernonia
doings till 4 A.M. Went to bed
and slept till 7 A.M. Worked
on the road till noon. Went to
bed about 2 P.M. and slept till
about 6. Very good day.
Saturday, June 17: Got
up at 3.30 A.M. Started for
Clatskanie at 5 A.M. Got out
there at 9 A.M. Had a pretty
good time during the day and
an extra fine one at night.
Very good day. The rose show
did not amount to much.
The Vernonia Pioneer Museum has re-
sumed its normal schedule. The mu-
seum located at 511 E. Bridge Street
and is open all year from 1 to 4 pm on
Saturdays and Sundays excluding holi-
days, Easter and Mothers’ Day. We will
change our telephone message (503-
429-3713) should that change, and we
will keep our Facebook page (Verno-
nia Pioneer Museum) and webpage on current
with our schedule.
Sunday, June 18: Was in
Clatskanie almost all day.
Got the automobile about
1.30 and brought the girls
over to Nehalem for a ride.
Had a dandy trip. Got back to
Clatskanie about 6.30. Started
Miller Named Administrator
of the Year continued from front page
Miller was recognized for his
work improving the finances of the
District, expanding campus facilities,
improving student achievement, imple-
menting Trauma Informed Care strate-
gies, collaborating with other adminis-
trators across Columbia County and the
state, and successfully navigating the
COVID pandemic.
834 Bridge St., Vernonia (503) 429-6364
, D
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622 Bridge Street Vernonia, OR 97064
phone (503) 429-0880 -- fax (503) 429-0881