by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: OREGON STATE PARKS - Earlier living history demonstrations at Champoeg feature actors in period dress and tools. Oregon is a state filled with people who were born somewhere else. More than half the state’s population hails from outside its borders.

But it’s always been that way, even before Oregon became a state in 1859. Now, the Champoeg State Heritage Area will host a series of lectures and demonstrations aimed at educating the public about the lives of those who moved to the Willamette Valley to live alongside now-extinct Indian tribes and in long-disappeared towns.

“We do all manner of living history events through the summer season, as well as interpretive programs in the camp and park itself,” said Oregon State Parks Interpretive Ranger Daniel Klug, who will lead each the three planned presentations. “But I started doing this last winter because most people think you have a slow season, and some people think the park is shut down, so it’s our way of getting out to the public that we’ve got some interesting programs going on.”

Presented jointly by the Oregon State Parks Department and Friends of Historic Champoeg, the winter “history cache” will feature three live demonstrations, presentations and talks about the history, people and crafts of the 19th and early 20th century at Champoeg. Each event will run from noon to 3 p.m. and feature three separate lectures lasting roughly 40 minutes each. The first event, “A Look Back at Joe Meek,” is set for noon Jan. 18 in the park’s visitor center located at 8239 Champoeg Road NE, west of Donald.

“We have hands-on demonstrations about everything to do with history of this area,” said Klug. “The thing about Champoeg is it’s connected to everything in the West, from the Hudson’s Bay Company and England and the War of 1812, to the expansion of western United States. The first farm west of the Rocky Mountains was established at Champoeg by a French Canadian.”

“A Look Back at Joe Meek” will feature independent scholar and local historian Rick Tabor leading the discussion. Meek was a farmer, U.S. marshal and more, all before Oregon even attained statehood. The presentation will highlight his progression from mountain man to provisional government legislator in the Oregon Territory.

The remaining events, “Scots of the Fur Trade” and “Hide Tanning,” will be held Feb. 15 and March 15, respectively. “Scots” will feature Klug and his overview of the contribution of Scottish immigrants in Oregon, while “Hide” will have hide tanner and artist Shaun Deller discuss tanning methods used by Native Americans, French-Canadian trappers and how hides were transformed into clothing and other valuable products.

Each event is free with the purchase of a $5 per vehicle day-use parking permit or a state parks season pass.

Klug said he really enjoys Champoeg’s living history series of events. They allow Oregonians to experience, at least vicariously, what life was like long before the state became a haven for people fleeing the crowds of the East Coast or California.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Champoeg State Heritage Area west of Donald and Hubbard is open year-round, despite impressions to the contrary. “This is where everything took place,” he said. “So the history cache that we present to people is connected back to the town site, the history of French Prairie, the people who were here.”

One example is the work of Deller, a Portland resident who makes his own clothes and teaches classes on tanning hides, survival skills and edible plants, among others.

“(He) makes a connection to the local tanneries built in the neighborhoods here,” Klug said. “There was such a hub town there that it had all the amenities of a small town. It was a crossroads, basically, with your Willamette River as the I-5 of the day.”

Also upcoming at Champoeg is a Feb. 8 presentation by author R. Gregory Nokes of West Linn, who will speak about and sign copies of his book “Breaking Chains,” a nonfiction account of the slave trade in Oregon and a landmark 1853 Territorial Supreme Court case.

For more information, contact Klug at 503-678-1251 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit

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