Thursday, February 19, 2015

An old cabin and the stories it tells

Last night I go the Architectural Heritage building on SE Grand Avenue.  It does not seem a likely place to find the story of birth in Oregon but I go.  I realize I have to follow every lead and see where it takes me. I am coming to see that I lift up many rocks but only find a treasure under a few. It's how it is. The talk is about a log cabin that they believe was built in the 1700's, in present day Oregon, by Russians.  If their research is true, it is the oldest known non-Indigenous structure in  Oregon and shows that Russians were trying to settle here long before Lewis and Clark.   They show slides of logs and how they were cut and put together. They do archaeological digs and listen to lots of oral histories.

They paint a picture of  a group of settlers; men, women and children building this house and then disappearing before it was finished.  They say that there was a Russian settlement in Alaska and that perhaps they came south to grow crops and trap.  The historical detectives try to put a story together for us.  After years of research, they give us their best guess.

Over the years, people moved in and and out of it.  They even moved the whole cabin in the 1800's.  Were babies born in this oldest cabin in Oregon?  I am pretty sure somewhere along the way, a baby was born.  They say women were sent by Catherine the Great to settle the lands of North America and that indeed women were sent on a long ship bound journeys to Alaska and then down the coast to Oregon.  These settlements did not survive and in the end, the United States laid claim to the coveted land.

There was no birth control so when we consider women being sent, by ship, from Russia and watching as a cabin was built, we can be sure the women were in some state of pregnancy or had a baby.  It is clear, that however, they arrived in what we now know as Oregon, pregnancy and childbirth were not a deterrent.

I tell the man next to me, that I am researching birth in Oregon and he says, "Oh they were just about to tear down a Lying In House on Glisan."  He tells me of others.  I listen to the man and woman who spent years on the history of one log house and I understand I too am on a journey.   I can see the little sigh when the woman speaks. It is as if it say why did I do this and why do I care and why should you care?  I find myself asking this too but  I am also excited about this story of Russian settlers and the oldest cabin in Oregon.

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