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As It Was: Roma, Also Known as Gypsies, Reach Oregon in 1890s

Oregon has a substantial population of Roma people, mostly in the Willamette Valley and around Portland.  The Roma, also known as Gypsies, trace back to Northern India with tribes living primarily in Europe. 
The Roma emigrated from Europe to America in the 1850s. The earliest account of their presence in Oregon dates to 1893, when several were accused of abducting a child from Summerville, although no trace of the child was ever found among them.

The accusation fit the stereotype of the Roma being thieves, kidnappers, and con artists.  Southern Oregon newspaper stories inflated that characterization.

A 1915 article about an attempted purse theft in the Grants Pass Daily Courier described a tribe of Roma passing through as “quite pestiferous.”  An Ashland paper said their thievery was “inborn,” and when a Grants Pass farmer reported a bag of barley missing from his wagon, the Courier said the sheriff and a deputy tracked down a Roma leader.  Even though no barley was found on him, they made him pay for the missing bag. 

The Courier noted the Roma didn’t look poor and were driving “Hudson-Supers” and a Cadillac.

Sources: Silverman, Carol. "Oregon Roma (Gypsies) A Hidden History." Oregon Historical Society, Oregon HistoricalSociety, 2017. Oregon Historical Society, www.ohs.org/research-and-library/oregon-historical-quarterly/joel-palmer-award/upload/Silverman_Roma-in-Oregon_OHQ-Winter-2017_Final.pdf. Accessed 20 Jan. 2019; "Gypsies Could Not Put One Over On Sheriff." Grants Pass Daily Courier, 8 May 1919, p. 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088181/1919-05-08/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=01%2F01%2F1846&city=&date2=12%2F31%2F2018&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=sn96088181&index=12&words=murder&pro. Accessed 20 Jan. 2019.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.