Union County Museum Announces Annual Meeting Guest Speaker

Richard Engeman, a history researcher and writer and Restore Oregon volunteer, is the guest speaker at the Union County Museum Society’s Annual Meeting, Friday, October 6, at 7 p.m. in the Little White Church. Richard is visiting Union County as one of the speakers at the Restore Oregon Barn Restoration Workshop, October 7.

Richard will talk about how his interest in the history of Oregon’s foodways led him to volunteer with the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program, and then with Restore Oregon’s taskforce on barns and other historic agriculture structures and to help with the annual barn workshop.

“A sense of place has always been important to me,” said Richard. “I look at how the buildings we build reflect our values and interests.” Richard says the red livestock barn at Union Research Station is a noteworthy landmark that is visually striking for those who live near it, and it is a reminder of how things were done in the past. As an evocative link to a former way of life, “don’t you think we should find a way to keep it?!”

Founded in 1977, and originally called the Historic Preservation League of Oregon, Restore Oregon is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization which advocates for sound preservation policy and legislation. Their mission is to preserve, reuse and pass forward the historic places that create livable communities. Each year, the organization provides statewide educational programming and technical assistance, while working to save the sites and structures featured on their annual list of Oregon’s Most Endangered Places. They hold over 40 conservation easements on historic properties, thereby protecting them in perpetuity. Learn more at www.restoreoregon.org.

Third Tuesday Event Focuses on the French Canadian Influence in Union County

Why is Ramo Flat called Ramo? Who was Mose Lore? Was Nelson Murray born in Canada as Narcisse Morais? The answers to these questions will be revealed when the Union County Museum continues their Third Tuesday event, July 18, 7 p.m., in the Little White Church across Main Street from the museum, in Union.

At the end of the 18th century, the big fur trade companies – Northwest Company, Hudson Bay Company – built trade forts throughout northwestern North America, from Vancouver on the Columbia up to the 60th parallel in what is now British Columbia. These companies employed French Canadian voyageurs as guides and river men. When the fur trade ended, these men stayed in the Northwest. Many married Native American women and settled in communities near the former trading posts.

In the 1860s and 1870s, some of the French-Canadian settlers – trappers, carpenters, gamblers, horsemen, blacksmiths, farmers, and saloon keepers, many with their wives and children, came to Catherine Creek. They came from French Prairie in Marion County, from the Red River settlement in Manitoba, and from Frenchtown in Walla Walla. Almost all were born in Canada; almost none came here directly from Canada.

The Union County Museum invites you to discover the French Canadian settlement of Union – how it came to be, how it was connected to the other Frenchtowns of the northwest, and how it was written out of history.

Presenter Sarah Hurlburt is an associate professor of French at Whitman College and the secretary of the Frenchtown Historical Foundation in Walla Walla, WA. Her research specializes in the French-Canadian communities of the northwestern United States in the 19th century.

John Sheehy, a board member of the Union County Museum Society, grew up hearing stories about the old French Canadians in High Valley. He has been researching the French Canadian community of Catherine Creek since 2012 and contributed to this presentation.

Do you have an area of expertise you would like to share, concerning the area’s social, geological or cultural history? If so, please contact John Sheehy, 541.805.1001, to talk about your speaking experience and topic of choice. The next Third Tuesday takes place August 15.

Third Tuesday Presentation Examines Local Japanese-American Wartime Experience

The Union County Museum launches their Third Tuesday, June 20, with a presentation by Cassie Gray-Jeffries, a resident of Union County and 2016 graduate of Eastern Oregon University. The new monthly event is designed to give people the opportunity to hear local history experts speak on a variety of topics. The casual hour-long event takes place in the Little White Church, across Main Street from the museum, in Union. It begins at 7 p.m., and includes time for questions and answers and refreshments.

Following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December of 1942, the United States government ordered the evacuation and internment of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who were living on the nation’s west coast. The wartime imprisonment of these men, women, and children, many of them U.S. citizens, is widely known amongst both scholars and the general public. What most do not know, however, is that select groups of Japanese Americans were able to escape this fate through various means. This presentation will primarily focus on upon the history and archaeology of a site within Union County, Oregon, where a small group of Japanese-Americans were able to both avoid internment and make vital contributions to the national war effort by laboring in the timber industry.

With degrees in both Anthropology/Sociology and History, Cassie Gray-Jeffries specializes in the historical research and archaeology of the Japanese-American Internment Period. She has been awarded a fellowship with the Oregon Heritage Commission for her work involving the history and archaeological study of the forgotten lumber company camp in Union County. Join us for an enlightening presentation and discussion. The museum will open at 6 p.m., to allow time for attendees to view the exhibits before the presentation.

Do you have an area of expertise you would like to share, concerning the area’s social, geological or cultural history? If so, please contact John Sheehy, 541.805.1001, to talk about your speaking experience and topic of choice. The next Third Tuesday takes place July 18.

UCM Third Tuesday 2017 flier

Museum Open for the Season

The Union County museum is open for the season and volunteers are ready to welcome you to this jewel of Eastern Oregon heritage. We used the winter months to upgrade facilities, update and improve exhibits and to give the hard working volunteers a rest!

The restored pine floor looks fantastic!

One of the recent accomplishments is the refinishing of the floor in the Little White Church, located across Main Street from the museum and owned by the museum society. Moe Cabinets of North Powder used their wood working expertise to expose and refinish the pine floor, which is over 100 years old. The results are stunning! Book the Little White Church for your small wedding or event. Contact Carol, 541.562.5279 or cjmulvany@charter.net, for information or to schedule a visit.

Thank you, to all who visit and continue to support the museum. We’re proud of the work the volunteers accomplish each year to preserve and present the history of Union County, Oregon.

Please stop by!

Pioneer Day at the Museum


Merle Miller perfects his Dutch-oven recipe.

The Union County Museum invites you to join us for our annual Pioneer Day, Saturday, August 13, 2016 during Union’s annual Grassroots Festival.

Throughout the day volunteers will demonstrate a variety of pioneer skills, including making hand-dipped candles, using black-powder, carpentry and blacksmithing. Dutch-oven cooking will be demonstrated by Merle and Pat Miller, with samples made available at noon. Mark and Judy Wing of Union will give rides in a horse-drawn wagon and talk about the history of Union’s commercial buildings. 

The event takes place in the museum courtyard, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All of the wonderful interior museum exhibits will be open for touring, as well, with docents on hand to answer questions and show visitors around. Kids are welcome to try out the cowboy gear at the tack station in the Cowboys Then & Now Exhibit and can learn how to make wooden tools. 

“This year, we decided to again join in on the festivities happening during the popular Grassroots Festival,” said Sharon Hohstadt, President of the Union County Museum Society. “We have lots of fun activities planned and hope people will take the opportunity to enjoy the exhibits and get to know the museum.”

Admission for the event is free, but donations are appreciated. The museum is located at 333 South Main Street, in the heart of Union’s Victorian era downtown. Newcomers are always delighted with the depth and quality of exhibits. 

Pioneer Day at the Union County Museum

All of our exhibits will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, we will have the following pioneer skills demonstrations in the courtyard:

  • Peter Clark will demonstrate blacksmithing and hand-forged cooking utensils and skillets.
  • David Schmidt will demonstrate wooden tool making. (This is especially popular with the kids.)
  • Lee Sancoy will do a black powder demonstration.
  • Dana Musgrove will make hand-dipped candles.
  • Merle & Pat Miller will demonstrate Dutch-oven cooking.
  • Kids can try out cowboy gear in the Cowboys Then & Now exhibit.
  • Mark & Judy Wing will provide rides in their horse-drawn wagon.

Waiting for passengers.


Union County Museum’s Concert in the Courtyard

Luke McKern, Greg Johnson, Joy Patterson, Matt Bell

The Union County Museum hosted a free concert in the courtyard, Saturday, July 16, 2016. The Museum Courtyard Concert featured The Bad Penny Pleasuremakers, performing great songs from the vast music library of traditional jazz, Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley from the teens through the 1930s.

“We play the “good old-good old ones,” says Matt Bell, guitar player and vocalist for the group. “These time-tested tunes can play themselves, but the Bad Pennies really bring them to life – and make the spirit felt all around the room! The Bad Penny Pleasuremakers are not just a band, they are an entertaining band!” 

Since late 2005, the Bad Pennies have been crafting their sound in New Orleans. From the reckless energy of blasting away as street musicians to delivering charm at intimate low-lit bars, the range of a night’s music will have an audience laughing, shouting, feeling randy and making puppy dog eyes. Matt Bell plays acoustic chord melody style guitar and sings. Joy Patterson sings, plays her trusty Kazookaphone, finesses the washboard and drags all kinds of noisemakers out of her hat. Joining the band for the evening were local Union County songsters, Luke McKern on upright bass and Greg Johnson on clarinet.

The music is described on the group’s website as: Traditional Jazz, Swing and Novelty – sweet, hot and SILLY! For more information, call (541) 377-0889, email Matt Bell at emayataytay@mac.com, or go to the Bad Penny Pleasuremakers website. Get a taste of their music on the video from Abita Springs Opry. We thank Matt Cooper and Sharon Porter for sponsoring this concert.

The evening began with music by the Sheehy Brothers, who invited the audience to sing along as they performed nostalgic tunes from the distant past.

The Union County Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a mission to gather, preserve and present the history of Union County and the surrounding area. The museum is governed by the Union County Museum Society and managed and staffed entirely by volunteers. Please ask about membership and support the museum. Donations are appreciated and help us maintain and improve the facilities and exhibits.

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Mother’s Day is 2016 Season Opening

Following a long-standing tradition, the Union County Museum opens for the 2016 season on Mother’s Day, May 8, from noon to 4 p.m. A visit to the museum is a nice way to enjoy the holiday while exploring life in Union County over the last 150 years. Admission is free and refreshments will be offered. We thank Starbucks of La Grande for donating coffee for the event.

Music will be provided by Grande Rondolin, a local stringed instrument group that will perform using the museum’s two very rare instruments, the mandocello and the mandobase. Come enjoy the music, visit with friends and get to know the museum.

A new addition to the museum this year is a World War One exhibit, with highlights about people with ties to Union County who served in the war. Volunteers have been working on the project over winter, researching and collecting items for the exhibit. The collection replaces a replica of a turn-of-the-century school classroom. Other exhibits include the General Store; Agriculture, Timber & Transportation; Cowboys Then & Now; and the Livery Station.

While admission to the museum on Mother’s Day is free, the museum board of directors asks you to join the Union County Museum Society to support the collection, preservation and presentation of our area’s history. Membership starts at just $10 a year for individuals and allows entry for free throughout the year. You can be a supporting member for just $50 a year.

“We receive comments from visitors from around the world, praising the quality of exhibits and the depth of the collection,” said Sharon Hohstadt, Museum Society President. “We invite people to come see why the museum is worthy of your support.” Days and hours of operation after Mother’s Day are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact Hohstadt to learn about becoming a museum volunteer, shohoho2@gmail.com or 541-963-8624.


Getting Ready for the 2016 Season

Spring cleaning has started at the Union County Museum, as volunteers prepare for our 2016 opening on Mother’s Day, May 8. It’s time to remove covers, dust, and prepare new exhibits and update old. If you would like to get involved, please contact Sharon, our museum board chair, shohoho@dishmail.net. We appreciate the help.

Mark your calendar to visit the museum on Mother’s Day and help kick off the season. Every season there is something new to share.

Museum Society Announces 2015 Annual Meeting

Historic photos from the museum collection show residents of Camp Carson.

Eastern Oregon University Professor Linda Reed-Jerofke will speak at the Union County Museum Society’s annual meeting Friday, October 16, at 7 p.m. The event takes place in the Little White Church, beside City Hall and across Main Street from the museum in Union. Admission for the event is free and everyone is invited.

ProfessorReed-Jerofke will talk about the historic Camp Carson mining camp. Reed-Jerofke and Eastern Oregon University Professor Rory Becker have recently conducted archeology projects in the area of the camp with their students, in hopes of learning more about the site and the people who mined there.

The camp is located near Tanner Gulch, about 21 miles south of La Grande. Gold rush speculators and Chinese miners mined the area. War Department Maps of 1877 also mention the camp, suggesting it might have been a military establishment.

Dating back to the 1860s, Camp Carson was a mining camp on the upper reaches of the Grande Ronde River. Early gold seekers may have named it after the Carson City area of Nevada. 

The annual meeting also includes a brief recap of the season, election of the board of directors and approval of the 2016 budget.

Refreshments will follow the presentation and discussion. Membership is encouraged and is required to vote.

After a rewarding season, the museum closes October 9 and opens again Mother’s Day, 2016.

Museum to Host Pioneer Day August 29

Merle Miller is shown preparing Dutch-oven main dishes, breads and desserts during a past Pioneer Day.

Union, Oregon__The Union County Museum is hosting Pioneer Day, Saturday, August 29. Come watch a variety of pioneer skills demonstrations, including candle making, sheep shearing (yes – with live sheep!), wool spinning and weaving, tool making, Dutch-oven cooking, and blacksmithing. Mark Wing of Union will give rides in a horse-drawn wagon and talk about the history of Union’s commercial buildings. 

The event takes place in the museum courtyard, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as part of the Union County Museum Society’s community outreach program. The interior museum exhibits will also be open for touring. 

“Our goal is to entice more people to get to know, enjoy and appreciate the museum,” said Sharon Hohstadt, President of the Union County Museum Society. “We have been pleased with the response to such events in recent years and are happy to meet and acquire new patrons.”

We are delighted to have three exceptional music groups perform in the afternoon. The Tailgate Trio will perform from noon to 1 p.m.; The Huitts will play from 1 to 2 p.m.; and the Twisted Willows (Cindy Frick, Leslie McMillan, Anna Leslie, Matt Cooper and Sharon Porter), perform from 2 to 4.

Admission for the event is by donation. Refreshments will be offered for sale by the Union County Museum Society Board. 

Gary Kohler discusses his black-powder gun and gear collection.

The Union County Museum is dedicated to presenting and preserving the history of Union County and the surrounding area. The museum is continually adding and upgrading exhibits, including the General Store exhibit, new this season. Newcomers always remark on the depth and quality of our exhibits.

Owned and operated by the Union County Museum Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, the museum is an all-volunteer effort by a small but very dedicated group of individuals. Ask how you can get involved!