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Oregon's statehood began on Valentine's Day, 1859

Photo Credit: RITA A. LEONARD - At a recent special program at the Sellwood Library: Erik Harper, with Tarin Dicianno (age 5) and Sorel Johnson (8), is holding the book Apples to Oregon, with its author Deborah Hopkinson - and with Ben Rubin (4), who is consuming an apple himself. On February 14, 1859, President James Buchanan signed a bill officially admitting Oregon as the 33rd State in the Union. Some pioneers, explorers, and other settlers had already arrived here, but on Valentine’s Day 156 years ago the U.S.A. gave our state official sanction.

During the following century and a half, residents and industry developed Portland into a transportation hub, creating one of the largest west coast cities. As historical articles in THE BEE over the years have made clear, Inner Southeast had important parts to play in the development of the region and the City of Portland.

The Inner Southeast history of Pendleton Woolen Mills closely parallels Oregon’s. In 1863, English weaver Thomas Kay traveled to Oregon, considering it an ideal place to raise sheep for wool. The family eventually established the Pendleton Woolen Mills, producers of quality wool trading blankets that Native Americans used for tribal clothing and ceremonies. The blankets were also a standard of value for trade and credit.

Over a hundred years ago, a horse-drawn wagon delivered Pendleton blankets to a trading post in Arizona. This wagon can still be seen at the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store, at 8500 S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard.

Fruit is another important aspect of Oregon history. The tall tale “Apples to Oregon”, an award-winning children’s picture book by Deborah Hopkinson, was the focus of a harvest celebration last fall at the Sellwood-Moreland Branch Library. The story is loosely based on pioneer orchardist Henderson Luelling, who brought his family and two wagonloads of grafted fruit trees from Iowa to the Willamette Valley in 1847. This helped begin the Pacific Northwest’s fruit industry.

Author Hopkinson gave a presentation celebrating apples and family reading to honor the 10th anniversary of her book, an “A.L.A. Notable” selection. She has written much historical fiction for children, and she pointed out elements of writing and illustration that enrich reading.

Children read “Apples to Oregon” aloud with her, then asked questions. Hopkinson listed apple facts, and provided free apples for tasting. She also mentioned that Luelling planted his first fruit trees in Garthwick, at the south end of Sellwood, and in Milwaukie.

Hopkinson also pointed out that “Luelling” is a Welsh name, and has several different spellings. The Seth Lewelling School in Milwaukie is named after Henderson’s brother, a fellow orchardist who founded the Oregon Horticultural Society. Westmoreland’s Llewellyn Elementary School is named after another man, but its name is also drawn from the same Welsh root.

The author lives nearby in West Linn, but frequently travels to visit schools and speak at conferences. She also works as a fundraising professional for colleges and universities. For more information, and lesson plans based upon her books, go online to: www.deborahhopkinson.com.

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