It is a good day and it belongs to the pioneers.
So began the speech of William Rees at the 1874 reunion of the newly organized Oregon Pioneers Association held at the Aurora Colony Park. Nearly 1,500 pioneers, almost all of whom had crossed the Oregon Trail, many of whom had settled on in French Prairie, were treated to patriotic speeches, a performance by the Aurora Colony brass band and then a sausage and ham dinner prepared by the colonists themselves.
To celebrate the 140th anniversary of this occasion, the Old Aurora Colony Museum is opening a special summer exhibit on June 22 titled "A Face in the Crowd: A Summer Reunion 1874-2014."
Certainly amongst the pioneers was the family of Ralph C. (RC) Geer who joined the wagon train caravan of Capt. Joel Palmer and were the first group to use the Barlow Trail arriving at Oregon City on Oct. 17, 1847.
Geer family artifacts and photographs will be a special exhibit feature along with a large reproduction of the group photograph taken at the 1874 reunion in Old Aurora.
The Geers brought apple seeds, one bushel of apples and a half bushel of pear seeds. Geer took out a donation land claim in the red soils of Waldo Hills in Marion County and lost no time preparing the land and planting the precious fruit seeds.
Geer met another pioneer nurseryman, Henderson Luelling, on the Oregon Trail and the two men formed a partnership. RC traded root stock grown from his seeds and Luelling supplied the pure string of scions to be grafted. Through this agreement they provided great numbers of cultivated trees and both men eventually profited.
By 1853 Geer was advertising that his nursery "offered 42 varieties of apples, 15 of pear, five of peach and six variations of cherry seedlings" for sale. He also raised and sold fresh fruit, set out the first hop yard in the vicinity and experimented with merino sheep.
In this manner did Geer and other pioneers prepare the French Prairie for the arrival of Dr. Wilhelm Keil and his Aurora Colony.
n The Old Aurora Colony Museum was founded and is operated by the Aurora Colony Historical Society. The society is proud to present signature events like "Remembering Emma" as it celebrates its 51st year "Preserving the Past for the Future."
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and holidays. Admission is $5 for seniors (60 and over) and AAA members; $6 for adults and $2 for students. Children 5 years of age and under are free.
For more information please visit the Old Aurora Colony Museum website: www.auroracolony.org or call the museum office 503-678-5754.