The Civil War


Diverse views of Oregon

We have arrived in Baker City, Oregon. Baker City is the county seat of Baker County both of which were named in honor of Edward D. Baker, the only sitting senator to be killed in military combat. Baker died in 1861 while leading a charge of 1,700 Union Army soldiers up a ridge at Ball’s Bluff, Virginia during the American Civil War. The Civil War, oddly enough has come up several times in today’s travels.

August 07, 2017 003 (2)

Heavy Smoke followed us all day from fires in Montana and British Colombia

When we left Moscow this morning we came through Uniontown, Washington. The founder of Uniontown was Thomas Montgomery, who was thought of by his family as “a bit of a wanderer”. Montgomery left his home in New York for some unknown reason in 1863 during the Civil War. He reached the area now known as Uniontown in 1867 and set up a homestead. In 1878 he obtained a post office for Uniontown and in 1879 he filed the plat for the town of Uniontown. Montgomery’s own roots in the northeast inspired his naming of this little town after the Union. It is said that Thomas Montgomery was difficult to get along with and several businesses who disagreed with him wound up moving 3 miles away to Colton. He continued to sell property in Uniontown until December 8, 1883 when he was killed in a dispute!  Uniontown had other colorful characters as well. The Roman Catholic priest, Anton Joehren, started to build St. Boniface’s Church in Uniontown until a dispute with parishioners stopped the construction in 1892. The church was finished in 1905 under the leadership of a new priest. The town notes that its residents have a reputation for being strong-minded, interesting and not afraid to try new things!

We next drove through Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. Meriwether Lewis obviously left his stamp and part of his name on Lewiston which is also home to the Lewis Clark State College Warriors! On the other side of the state line, William Clark donated his last name to the Washington town of Clarkston. Lewiston sits at about 740 feet elevation along the Snake River. The Clearwater River meets the Snake River in Lewiston but if you follow the Clearwater River upwards across the state line Clarkston will be found at an elevation of about 810 feet. I can only imagine the high school rivalries that happen here!

We drove through and around the Wallowa Mountains during the day. We climbed to over 4,500 feet at times to high plateaus where cattle ranches flourished and rich hay fields were being harvested. Around and down the next several curves we were in a rocky canyon with sage brush and small streams. The diversity of the area we drove through left us grasping for words to describe it. In the afternoon we came to the Minam Summit at around 4,000 feet and entered another open valley of huge farms. This time wheat fields stretched as far as you could see from  rocky barren hills in the west to evergreen covered hills in the east. I thought the farms I had seen the day before were mammoth but these farms were flat and stretched forever it seemed.

Heading into the very head of this valley we took a turn towards Cove, Oregon. In Cove we found the Diocesan Offices of the Episcopal Diocese of East Oregon. These were not your typical diocesan offices! It is also Ascension Camp and Conference Center and in the midst of these small brown buildings is Ascension Episcopal Church.  Ascension was established by a circuit riding priest, Reuben D. Nevius in the 1870’s. Nevius was also a botanist who worked in this area of Oregon. The Diocese of East Oregon was established as a missionary diocese in 1907 and became a diocese in 1980. It’s hard to sit in a church which is 150 years old and not think about the people who sat in the pews over those years and met the joys and sorrows of their lives with faith. On each side of the altar were small vases with simple sheaves of ripe wheat in them. It was a treat to say my prayers in this place.

Ascension Church in Cove – Canterbury Cross outside Church

One last story: We passed through Union County, Oregon this afternoon which was named for the town of Union, Oregon. It was platted along the Oregon Trail in 1864, and the name referenced the Union States or the Northern States of America in the Civil War. That didn’t seem unusual after our travels today. Then we read that in 2006, Kyle Corbin, an eighteen year old college student was elected Mayor of Union after an overwhelmingly successful write in campaign. He told the reporters who questioned his abilities, “I’ve run a meeting with a bunch of high school kids.” I think he was saying, “What could be so hard about running a town council after that? I might agree with him!

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