Rolling Right Along

I apologize that my posts aren’t better written, I’ve just been so busy with valuable research that I don’t have much time to be picky about my blog posts! Which is a good thing I suppose.

It’s been non-stop with progress on the project! I’ve stumbled upon so many historic newspaper articles that are going to be incredibly valuable in piecing together a lot of historical information we don’t yet have on Wendling and the Mohawk Valley. I wish I had a full-time team of people just to gather all the data I’ve found. But I’ve been working non-stop at compiling it all. I’ve been excited to find lots of new information that was difficult to find. One thing I’m currently stuck on is finding the people that owned the mills at Wendling before it was actually Wendling. Almost every article I’ve read cites the same names; but I can’t find any official or original mention of these people whatsoever. So this is my current area of focus, although I’m kind of juggling several areas at once.

I tracked down the family of my childhood landlord who spent her life in Wendling, and they’re going to meet with me on my upcoming trip next week to share everything they remember hearing about Wendling. I know they have some stories and information no one else would know, so that’s fun. I also talked with another gentleman who grew up in Wendling and had new information for me. I’m starting to feel pretty confident that I have a very comprehensive list now of all the publications, books, newspapers, etc. that I need to track down. Just knowing whats out there is quite a feat, tracking them down now that I know what i’m looking for will actually be the easy part.

One of the things I’m most excited for on my trip is to get copies of all the Wendling Conveyor’s. It would seem that there has been no preservation of these incredibly informative publications. They were produced for at least 10+ years and are full of stories and valuable information. From what I’ve found I don’t believe any library, historic society or other official organization has copies of these. So I’m very eager to get them scanned and make sure they’re preserved as well as reading them of course!

Well, less than a week till the trip. I doubt I’ll be sleeping hardly at all while I’m there, so much to do! We were invited to a Salem radio show to talk about the project, but I just don’t think we’ll be able to squeeze it in, but were excited for the interest. They said we can do it again later in the summer instead. I know after next weeks trip I’m going to have so much more great information to share and it’ll really help build interest and awareness in the project. Well that’s a brief update for now, gotta get back to working on it!  Thanks for following the project!



Sheriff Who Died in 1937 Wendling Shoot-Out

This information is a repost, the original post can be found at the Lane County Sheriff’s website here:

Deputy C. Rollin Wicks, Died 5/14/1937

Deputy C. Rollin Wicks, Died 5/14/1937

Deputy C. Rollin Wicks

May 14, 1937

IN MEMORY OF…”Those who asked so little and sacrificed so much.”

Deputy C. Rollin Wicks was killed by a neighbor during arrest after the man shot and wounded another neighbor while engaged in a dispute. Deputy Wicks was unarmed at the time.

The suspect later died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound after holding off deputies, state police officers, employees of the nearby Booth Kelly Mill and 500 residents of Wendling.  Deputies surrounded the house for five hours while tear gas was rushed to the scene from Salem.

2001 Register Guard Story About Wendling

This was a story printed in the Eugene Register Guard in 2001 that really inspired me to move forward with this project when I re-read it just a few months ago. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I have.

Eugene Register Guard


Bob Welch

Town lives on in recollection


Marcola – A FEW days before his 77th birthday, Ron Byers gets out of his pickup and peers into a grove of 50-foot-high trees.

What I see is just that – trees.

But what he sees is a country store and Curley Bailey’s picket fence and the swimming hold in Mill Creek and his father heading to work at the same lumber mill where nearly everybody’s father worked.

Like a surprising number of people of his generation, Ron Byers still quietly celebrates a town that has been swallowed by trees and time: Wendling.

In 1896, the Booth-Kelly Lumber Co. bought about 40,000 acres of land about four miles from Marcola. It built a steam-powered mill that would product enough lumber to build more houses than Lane County has today. It built a community, a company town.

Then, in 1946, after nearly half a century of nurturing the people who called it home, the town folded with the suddenness of a power outage. The old growth timber that had been Wendling’s lifeblood was gone; replanted clear-cuts weren’t mature enough to log. The mill closed. Everyone left.

Byers and others of his generation returned from serving in World War II like relatives called home to be at the bedside of a dying parent.

Today, Wendling isn’t even a ghost town. The only remnants that suggest it even existed are a scattered house here and there, and the concrete vault of the Wendling General Store.

But it lives on in a way that frankly, amazes me – in the memories of people who cling to them with passion. “Remembering the Wendling of our childhoods is like hugging a favorite teddy bear,” Byers says.

Today, for example, about 40 people who either lived in Wendling or married someone who did are expected to gather at the Springfield Elks Club for a monthly luncheon.

Thursday, I joined 14 Wendling lovers for their weekly – yes, weekly – breakfast, this time at Lyon’s Restaurant on Franklin Boulevard.

Then of course, there’s the Polar Bear Outdoor Potluck each winter and a summer picnic.

Byers is in his 13th year of publishing the Wendling Conveyor, a newsletter that goes out to about 250 members of the Wendling Preservation Association. (“Published every once in a while by a few of us guys.”)

Considering that, at its peak, the town had a population of only 1,000 and that the Conveyor’s list of deceased “Wendling friends” is growing fast, having 250 members is incredible. Particularly because Wendling, on the surface, would seem to have nothing to preserve.

“But if we don’t preserve it now, this Wendling history is gone,” Byers says. “Our group runs on food, birthdays and memories.”

“Mohawk High made it special,” Erma Ratterree says. “We all went there.”

And so they gather, not only to update each other on present-day lives, but to return to past lives. You sit with them at Lyon’s and are struck by how rare this is: people in their 70s who once played together as kids gathering as grandparents and great-grandparents.

Don’t picture a group of cane-carrying codgers hobbling their way through some mundane ritual. These folks act like there’s no place they’d rather be – unless it were, say, back in Wendling building a “Go-Devil”  go-cart taking turns riding the Aldous family bicycle or dancing at the 4L Hall (Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen).

They exchange gifts, pull pranks and rib each other relentlessly. When Ike Thomas is introduced as an honorary member of the Wendling Preservation Association, Lorraine Byers can’t help herself.

“Make that ornery member,” she says with Letterman aplomb.

The stories return each year like spring birds: the many fires that swept through town, including one that leveled the mill six months after it shut down … the time Byers and three buddies witnessed the town’s only real crime: the fatal shooting of the sheriff after a dispute between two neighbors involving chicken manure … the rough-hewn part of town called “Battle Row” and “Silk Stocking Row,” where mill managers lived.

“We may have left Wendling, but Wendling never left us”, Ron Byers says.

In “Landscapes of the Soul,” Robert Hamma write eloquently of the meaning of “place” in our lives. He contends that, as a culture, we’re becoming more fixated on time than on place.

“We must remind ourselves of the power of place,” he writes. “Place triggers memories of the past, it impels us to act in the present and it spurs us to hope for the future.”

Even if, like Wendling, the place no longer exists, and even if there’s nobody to pass on the memories, “This is the last Wendling generation right here,” says Byers, glancing at his fellow breakfast-eaters. “After this group is gone, that’s it.

How strange to think that an entire town could, in just a few generations, be lost – even to memory. But how heartening that so many have ridden the winds of Wendling for so long.

George Xavier Wendling

George Xavier Wendling

George Xavier Wendling

My most recent research has centered around Wendling’s namesake; George Xavier Wendling. I was ecstatic to find lots of information about Wendling, but it also brought me just as many unanswered questions.

As with a lot of research from this time frame, there’s a lot of conflicting information. One of the biggest issues has been determing where George X. Wendling was born. Thus far New York City appears to be the strongest possibility. However, on various documents Wendling listed Iowa as his place of birth although on most documents he lists it as New York. However, there is one other definite possibility; that he was born in France. In interviews and statements made by Wendling, it would almost seem that he was a very proud American and wasn’t too thrilled about acknowledging his European roots (French and German). Since he was an extremely successful business man and active in the civic realm, we could only guess that he might prefer to be thought of as an American first and foremost. In several sources it is states that “back in his family tree is a trace of French blood, though it is so remote that Mr. Wendling rightly claims to be what is commonly termed a “Yankee.” Yet Wendling himself often indicated his parents birth being in Alsace France. Therefore it seems odd that he often stated this French blood was so far “back in his family tree” and “so remote”. This makes it seem that he might not want to have been thought of as a foreigner first. We have run across ship manifests stating that a George X. Wendling, about his age, came over from France at approximately the age of 3 years old to New York. Those documents alone aren’t enough to determine for certain, but it is research I’ll continue working on until finding a conclusive answer.

Rolling Along

So since no one is really reading these as of yet, I’m going to resort to simply tracking what I’m working on for now. As the project transpires I’ll start keeping a bit more interesting notes, but for now I’m just going to try to track our progress.

Talked to Lane County Historical Society again, got a few more contact suggestions. They’re so very helpful. They have lots of resources we can get copies of.

Called Mohawk H.S., found out what they have in their library, sounds like its mostly things we’ve already gotten a hold of, but on my trip I’ll definitely stop by and make sure. Also left a message for the superintendent asking if there’s anyway to let students and faculty know about the project, he called and left a message today confirming he received it and would pass that on to faculty and check out the website.

Found some amazing resources online today. It amazes me there’s actually a ton of info spread out on the internet about Wendling, but it’s all really hard to find. If you simply type in Wendling, Oregon there are very limited results, but as I’ve started following leads I’ve discovered great resources hiding out there in various spots. Today I found several articles on Wendling history written in the 60’s and 70’s. One had an interview with a resident I’ve not heard of before now, so exciting!

Perhaps the most valuable find of all today was a map of Wendling that showed where all the logging camps used to be. I’m incredibly excited about this resource and am blessed to have an expert map reader friend, so I’m gong to see if I can enlist his help and expertise in deciphering the map of Wendling compared to maps of today.

Talked to the owners of the Mary Cole house yesterday; they’re so very nice. They offered to give me a tour of the house when I’m there. They also have some historical information it sounds like.

Yesterday I got ahold of one of the daughters of my previous landlord. My landlord had settled in Wendling with her husband and she used to tell me stories about it. She has since passed, but I was able to track down one of her daugthers and we’re going to meet up along with her sister when I’m in town and she said they’d tell me the stories they remember from their parents. I’m really excited for these kinds of contacts because these are often the stories that aren’t recorded anywhere else.

I was contacted by a popular magazine two days ago that’s interested in learning about our project, so that was exciting. I’m almost done with some materials they requested which will give them some detailed information about what we’re doing. Getting some exposure in a national publication such as this would really help propel our project.

I put together a press release over the weekend and sent it out to almost all Lane Eugene & Springfield media sources I could find. Not sure if anything will come of it, but it would be great to get some media coverage which could help me find more relatives of previous Wendling residents. I’ll keep bugging them with press releases and info in the hopes that eventually this will help us.

I found a blog from the relative of a Wendling resident, posted a comment and she got back to me. This person has a sibling which might be willing to share stories and information, so hopefully that will work out. I’m certainly always empathetic to people being shy about wanting to share personal stories. As such I try to demonstrate to them that I’m incredibly respectful about that and certainly would not share any details that I wasn’t given full permission and blessing to do. Hopefully as the project grows and people see that our goals are simply preserving history with respect to those willing to share, they’ll all feel comfortable talking to us. So far everyone has been incredibly helpful.

Almost forgot the most important thing of all, I booked my ticket yesterday! So the trip is on.

Started transcribing some video and audio tapes that have interviews from past Wendling residents. That information is going to be incredibly useful, so it’ll be good to have it down on paper so I can properly index and categorize this information with the rest.

Started building a database to begin tracking, indexing, categorizing and cross-referencing all the information I’ve been getting. That’s going to be an incredibly tedious job, but the most important job of all.

Can’t remember if I mentioned in the last post that I spoke to a guy who specializing in ghost town history and he gave me detailed information on how ghost towns are categorized. That was really helpful. Apparently Wendling does qualify as a ghost town class A, for entirely abandoned with little remains whatsoever.

Well I know there’s a lot other small little things I’ve done in the past couple days, but those are the primary things. So I’ll sign off and be back in 2 or 3 days with another update. Thanks for reading!


Productive Day!

Today has been an incredibly productive day and gave me the kick in the pants I needed. After launching the Facebook page, website, blog and kickstarter page I was feeling pretty weary. I just wanted to get back to doing historical research and take a break from the promotional end that’s a necessary part of a project such as this. But today was a morale booster for me. I started calling all the folks I need to meet with for interviews and information to firm up dates before I buy my airlines ticket, which I am going to do in the next hour. Yay! Then, I received two emails from the website from people who had lived in Wendling and have information they’re willing to share. To say I was thrilled would be a gross understatement. Next I got some new information from the most unexpected place. I simply called a business in Eugene about doing VHS to DVD conversions and the guy happened to be a 4th generation from the Mohawk and had done videos of Lou Polley, a former Wendling resident, historian and author who has since passed. What were the chances?! I just found this video service through the internet. He also had some other sources of information that I have not heard mentioned before from anyone. By this time I feel like doing cartwheels in my living room. So all in all today has been incredibly productive and uplifting. Next I’m working on writing a press release for local news outlets in Lane County in hopes that one of them might do a story on the project in order to help us find more folks with information and get more awareness for the project. I’m very excited to have my trip firmed up for later this month so I can start getting some more in-depth research done. Can’t wait!!!