The Union County Museum opens for the 2015 season Sunday, May 10, from noon to 4 p.m.. As is traditional, the event falls on Mother’s Day, providing 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 served.
Music will be performed by Grande Rondelin, a stringed instrument group that plays the museum’s two very rare instruments, the mandocello and the mandobase. The group will also perform with the museum’s instruments at a concert at Eastern Oregon University, date to be announced.
New in the museum this year is a mercantile exhibit, taking museum visitors back in time to the 1890s through 1920s. Museum curator Blanche Kohler, Union carpenter David Schmidt and volunteers have been working on the exhibit over the last two months, using old photos of Union County stores to design the exhibit space. They will be gathering items from the museum collection to fill the 20 x 18’ walk-in replica of a typical small-town general store.
“We are excited to unveil this wonderful addition to museum exhibits,” said Kohler. “From the classic false-front storefront to the layout and methods of displaying products, the museum’s General Store will take patrons back to a completely different shopping experience than what they are used to today.” The exhibit is in the South Building, directly behind the Cowboys Then & Now Collection, which has been housed at the Union Count Museum since 1998.
Another highlight of the Mother’s Day event is a book signing by Richard Roth, former Union County resident and author of “The Hot Lake Story,” and its two supplements. Roth will have on hand his just-released second edition of “The Central Railroad of Oregon – Oregon’s Blue Mountain Route.” The hard-cover book is a painstakingly researched story about, “the fascinating historical development and decline of Union as a railroad town in Northeast Oregon,” as described in a brochure.
The book covers the history of one of the shortest railroads in the northwest, from the initial railroad proposal in 1889 through the final order of abandonment of the line 106 years later. The 237-page publication incudes over 200 photographs of locomotives, rolling stock, familiar faces and local railroad scenes; maps, diagrams, passes and correspondence. The narrative describes the entrepreneurial spirit that came out of the industrial revolution and fostered the expansion of transportation across the country. That same spirit eventually lead to development of the automobile, freight trucks and improved roads, which eventually brought about the decline of most short-line railroads, including Union’s.
Growing up at Hot Lake in the mid-twentieth century, Roth was interested in local railroad history and the Central Railroad of Oregon, which, rolling right through the heart of Union, linked the communities of Cove and Union and connected them with the Union Pacific Main Line near Hot Lake. Fans of the area’s history will find this book an important addition to their collection.
While admission to the museum on Mother’s Day is free, the museum board asks you to join the Union County Museum Society to support the collection, preservation and presentation of our area’s history. Individual membership is just $10 a year; you can be a supporting member for just $50 a year. Visitors from around the world give the museum very high praise for the quality of exhibits and the depth of the collection. Please come to the museum and see why it is worthy of your support.