Nature Trails (Oct 2006), by Reida Kimmel
September is the harvest month on our farm.  Most days see me picking
and canning or drying some goodies from the garden and orchard.  It is
also the month when we spread the summer’s aged manure and bedding
on the hill pasture, before the rains come and the hill becomes too slippery
for the ‘powerwagon’ Finally there is wood to bring down from the slash
piles on clearcuts behind our land, cords of it to saw and split and fit into
the woodshed for our winter’s heat. Most of the hard work is done now, and
soon it will be time to make apple juice and butcher turkeys and lambs.  All
this sounds like real farming, but let me assure you, it is just play compared
to the daily work routines of the people who lived on farms a century or
even a half a century ago. The history of Eugene and its environs is
fascinating.  I think we all long to know more of what the land looked like in
the past, how it was used, how people lived, how they worked, and what
they did for enjoyment.

We are so fortunate to live in a recently settled part of America, where the
stories of the pioneer past are still alive in the memories of the
grandchildren and great grandchildren of the early settlers.  Many families
have invaluable collections of letters, and some of the earliest houses
survive.  So much has been preserved, but so much is on the verge of
being lost as the old timers pass on.  That is why a book like the new
edition of Patricia Ann Edwards’ history of Lorane, Oregon and the Siuslaw
Valley is such a treasure.  Originally published as Sawdust and Cider with
co-authors Nancy Seales O'Hearn and Marna Lee Hing in 1987, the new,
greatly expanded and richly illustrated edition is titled From Sawdust and
Cider to Wine. [ISBN: 0-9788558-0-9, Maverick Publications, Drawer 5007,
Bend OR 97708, or go to the web site at].
The book presents short family histories of people who settled in the
Lorane area, starting with the earliest settlers who came in the 1850s.  The
genealogical history, though very important, will not capture the imagination
like the stories of subsistence hunting and fishing, clearing the land and
planting crops, and the commentaries on life and housekeeping in early
Oregon. The section on the one-room schools, which provided instruction
for all the grades, is delightful.  Picture boys at Letz Creek School setting
fishing lines behind the school each morning, gathering their catch,
[sometimes a salmon!], at recess and lunchtime, and keeping the fish fresh
in the school sink on the front porch. The book is full of really fascinating
new information.  Did you know that the settlers raised all their own grain,
wheat and oats, but rarely corn, which demanded a warmer climate? The
grain had to be hauled to Drain or Cottage Grove, to be milled, a full day’s
trip because of the hills, until Lorane had a mill of its own.  In a letter dated
December 23, 1883, from Jerusha Petrie to her son in Wisconsin, we learn
that “Flees are the worst pests we have here in Oregon”.  Jerusha and her
husband Jost’s letters are a fund of information on farming practices,
crops, weather and household affairs. [Two very dry summers in a row
were hard on the crops. Jerusha felt very well paid to have received $2.50
for six dozen eggs and two pounds of butter.] Jost complains of poor land
use practices, primitive farming that had been hard on the land, land which
had only been cleared and cultivated for a bit over thirty years.

There were thriving tiny towns in the area, Hadleyville and Gowdyville,
which no longer exist, and more schools.  The early settlers of Lorane
hoped that the town would be reached by the railroad but that never
happened, which meant the town would never have the numerous and
elegant buildings we find in the historically richer communities of Drain or
Cottage Grove.  Probably the lack of great wealth or a single major
industry has meant that less has changed in Lorane.  You can still
recognize the town and surrounding farmland that you see in the book’s
illustrations. Nonetheless, the history of Lorane and its countryside must
be the history of its economics.  Pat chronicles the backbone of the
traditional economy, logging and farming.  There were so many sawmills,
even though this area had poor connections to markets.  Dairying was
once important and of course there were the famous Lorane Orchards,
thousands of acres of apples and pears, which flourished in the 1920s.
Wonderfully, this new edition of
Sawdust and Cider, as the final part of its
title To Wine reveals, tells the story of the many people who are reinventing
Lorane’s economy in ways which are creative, earth friendly and diverse.  
Besides the five wineries in the area, there are B&Bs in historic houses,
organic farms, nurseries, an elegant dressage establishment, a soap
company, artists’ studios, and of course the Edwards family’s Lorane
Family Store.

We got our copy of the newly published
From Sawdust and Cider to Wine a
week ago, and I confess that I have actually not quite finished it, probably
because it is such a treat to spend time with the old photographs, and
savor the ‘old-timey’ tales.  If you like history and want to find out more
about the early days in the south part of Lane County, you should
definitely add this book to your library.   Reida Kimmel     
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