In 1907, members of the Hood River Pioneer Society began to collect items which they felt should be preserved for future generations. In 1978, The History Museum was opened to the public. The museum seeks to tell the unique story of Hood River County, Oregon.
Hood River is located on the Columbia River. Just outside the museum is the paddle wheel for the sternwheeler Henderson. Steam-powered paddlewheelers could reach Portland in about six hours on a good day. The Henderson was built as a combination freighter and tow-boat in 1901 and remained in service until 1956 when she encountered heavy swells near the mouth of the Columbia and had to be breached as a total loss.
Shown above is a steam engine that was used to power one of the river boats on the Columbia River.
The American “Pioneers”:
Trees and Timber:
This was a heavily timbered area. Trees were, and often still are, viewed as a valuable commodity to be harvested as timber and as a nuisance to be removed to make way for the “progress” of modern living. The display shown above shows some of the logging tools which were used in harvesting the trees.
Farming and Apples:
From the earliest days of European agriculture in the Americas, it was well-understood that the best way to increase profits was to convert agricultural products into something that would be easy and cheap to transport, that would be consumable, and for which there would be an insatiable demand: in other words, alcohol. On the other hand, America’s rulers have often felt that they have a god-given right to prohibit substances and activities that might be pleasurable. The impact of prohibition at both the local and national levels was to increase the profitability of alcohol. Prohibition came to the Hood River Valley on November 4, 1904. According to the museum display:
“In July 1911, Tom Warren, a resident of The Dalles, decided to take matters into his own hands. He bought a small launch and named her Eagle. He stocked here with liquid refreshment and ladies of the night. He quietly pulled into the local wharf under the cover of darkness, loaded up thirsty residents, and pulled out into deep water. There he was out of reach of the authorities. The Eagle made several trips from the river to the dock for new loads of thirsty locals.”
Japanese families began arriving in Hood River as railroad laborers. Many of the workers stayed, purchased land, and brought their families over from Japan. In 1917, legislation was introduced which would prevent land purchases by Japanese immigrants to Oregon. By 1923, Issei (first generation) were ineligible for U.S. Citizenship and could not have leases or make land purchases. According to the museum display:
“The History Museum feels that this story, while sad and still somewhat hurtful to many in the Hood River Valley, is a story that must be told and preserved.”
Following World War II, in 1945, the Japanese-Americans were allowed to return home. Of the 462 who had been removed during the war, only 186 returned. In January 1945, the local post of the American Legion removed the names of 16 Japanese-American servicemen from a military service honor role in front of the county courthouse.
The History Museum displays include a good video explaining the Japanese-American experience.
Arts and Crafts:
Shown above is a collection of marionettes. The Hood River Little Theater presented marionette plays at schools and granges.
Shown above is a pianola. According to the display:
“This piano player attachment sat in front of a regular upright piano and played the keys with a set of small fingers made of wood, metal and felt.”
Shown above is a melodeon which was a common parlor instrument. Air suction on free reeds produced the sound. While it looks like a piano, it produces a sound like an organ.