We all know the story of Lewis and Clark and the Oregon Trail, but there are many other interesting components of Oregon’s history that are lesser known and may seem a bit…. odd. For instance, did you know that a town in Oregon once had its jail stolen? Or that there’s a tree in Salem that has traveled to the moon and back? Here are six things you may not have known about the history of Oregon that are sure to spark your interest:
6. The Appolo 14 Moon Tree.
In 1971, the seed of a tree that now grows in Salem traveled to the moon and back. Astronaut Stuart Roosa, a former Oregon smokejumper and lover of nature, brought a capsule full of tree seeds into space as part of an experiment to see if space travel would effect seed germination. Back on earth, to the dismay of many, the seeds sprouted! Now there are a select number of moon trees scattered throughout the world, six of which are in Oregon.
5. Until 1970, anyone could buy or make Dynamite in Oregon.
For more than 100 years after dynamite was invented, there simply weren’t any laws prohibiting its use, production or sales in Oregon. The explosives were used for construction and farming, as well as for criminal activity such as jailbreaking, train robbing and general destruction.
4. A ghost town called Greenhorn once had its jail stolen.
One morning in 1963, a small, wooden, deteriorating jail house was found standing in front of the Grant City Courthouse, and no one was sure how it got there. It turns out someone--or presumably, a group of unidentified people--took the entire jail from a nearby ghost town and plopped it down in the middle of Canyon City.
3. The Oregon Uranium Rush.
You probably already know about the Oregon gold rush, but did you know that during the Cold War there was an uranium craze in Southeast Oregon? Locals and travelers alike searched the dry areas of Oregon for uranium, hoping to get rich.
2. One of the most famous UFO sightings in history took place in McMinnville, Oregon.
In 1950, someone in McMinnville snapped photos of a flying saucer in the sky, just before it allegedly zoomed away. The photos received international attention, and the FBI even looked into it.
1. Portland was named by flipping a coin.
When deciding what name to give Portland, a coin was flipped. If it had landed on the other side, the Rose City would’ve been named Boston.
What’s your favorite odd story from Oregon’s history? Tell us about it in the comments.