Emily Blakely

As It Was Contributor

Emily Blakely writes from her rural farm nestled below Sutherlin’s Mt. Scott, a setting rich in natural beauty and inspiration. She has published poetry and prose, and frequently displayed framed works at the Umpqua Valley Arts Center as well as restaurants and libraries in the area. Her interest in writing for JPR’s "As It Was" program came from hearing Kernan Turner speak at her writer’s group meeting, and she has found it to be beneficial in developing her writing skill. Researching local history has become one of her favorite pastimes.

Early fur trapping companies established outposts, known as forts, before the Oregon Trail opened.  One example was the rendezvous point along the Umpqua River known as the “Old Establishment” or “McKay’s Old Fort,” built in the early 1820s by the North West Company, a Canadian firm active in the fur trade from the 1780s to 1821.

The first woman to become a senator in the Oregon Legislature was Kathryn Clarke in 1915.  She had more than a little help from her cousin, Gov. Oswald West.

Travelers often ponder its name when they visit the Steamboat Inn at the confluence of Steamboat Creek and the North Umpqua River, some 40 minutes east of Roseburg on State Route 138.

In the summer of 1932, America's already famous author and sportsman, Zane Grey, made his first camp along the North Umpqua River in Douglas County, Ore.  His guide on the river was Joe DeBernardi, a resident of the little community downstream known as Glide.  Among the party accompanying him were his son, Romer Grey, and Romer's motion picture cameramen.

In the early 20th century, the North Umpqua River drew anglers to Douglas County, Ore.  They fished for Chinook and Coho salmon, as well as sea-run cutthroat trout.  Summer fishing camps were established, leading to a storied angling history.

The Civil War had been over for a year when inebriated supporters of opposing sides in the conflict clashed on Christmas Day in Roseburg, Ore.  The brawl left two dead and several injured in what became known statewide as the “Champagne Riot of 1866.”

Predictions of rain were threatening disaster at the fourth annual Strawberry Festival in Roseburg, Ore., in May 1913.  But the clouds cleared and the festival had three days of perfect sunshine that drew thousands of enthusiastic travelers from around the state.

Sutherlin's Calapooia Free Methodist Church was established in Douglas County, Ore., in the summer of 1918 following revival meetings. The first pastor was the Rev. Ernest Lee; however it was Sylvanus Payne White, a Civil War Veteran, who promoted the idea of its establishment for 20 years.

One of the first women pilots to get a private pilot's license after World War II, 19-year-old Connie McCoy, lived in Lane County, Ore.

One of Oregon’s most prolific and imaginative architects of his time, William C. Knighton, designed the National Guard Armory in Roseburg, Ore., that became a prominent site in the city’s downtown district in 1913.

Mount Elijah, a peak formerly known as Sand Mountain, overlooks the Oregon Caves in the mountainous terrain of the Illinois Valley in Oregon’s southwest corner.


Early pioneers demonstrated their value of education by building the first schoolhouse in the English Settlement area of Oakland, Ore., in the 1850s.  A one-room schoolhouse that replaced it in 1910 is part of today’s Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park on Elkhead Road. The federal government’s Registry of Historic Places listed the second school building in 2007.

In the early 1970s, a roving herd of Angora goats grazed along the slopes of 1,200-foot Mount Nebo, in Roseburg, Ore., blissfully unaware they had become four-footed weather forecasters.

What some call “Oregon’s Secret Garden” features more than 300 species of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. It’s an early-1900s-style woodland garden from the O. Howard Hinsdale Estate near the Dead Creek elk viewing area along Hwy 38 east of Reedsport. Largely unnoticed for years, it is better known as Spruce Reach Island.


Excited by reports reaching Boston in 1850 of gold and new settlements in the West, a merchant named Gardiner outfitted a ship for trading along the Oregon Coast. A Capt. Coffin commanded the vessel, named the Bostonian, and Gardiner’s nephew, George Snelling, took charge of the expedition.


Small-mouth bass are not native to the Umpqua River that flows through Douglas County, Ore. The unusual story of how they were introduced begins with the Christmas flood of 1964.

After a freeze followed a heavy snow, temperatures suddenly increased by 30 to 40 degrees, melting the snow and leaving the soil frozen and impermeable. A storm moved in and dropped 38 inches of rain where the average rainfall in December is 12 inches. These weather extremes all happened around Christmas time.


The co-founder of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, Eugene “Debbs” Potts, also built the Historic Pottsville Museum north of Merlin, Ore.  He started work on the museum in 1959 in conjunction with the Oregon Centennial celebrations.


The World War II draft called thousands of Oregonians into the armed forces, many of them with backgrounds similar to Dick Rone of the Nonpareil neighborhood east of Sutherlin.

Born on Dec. 23, 1908, Rone attended school in Nonpareil and worked at the Bonanza and Nonpareil mercury mines, where he earned about $4 a day with a half hour for lunch, time enough, he said, to eat two or three sandwiches and an apple.

 Douglas County, Ore, once had 171 school districts stretching across more than 5,000 square miles, compared to 13 school districts serving 47 schools today.

  Central Park in Sutherlin, Ore., displays one of 59 surviving steam locomotives in Oregon. It has a wheel arrangement called a “prairie” with two leading wheels, six coupled driving wheels and two trailing wheels.