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Oral Histories of the Vernonia (Oregon) Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show, 2015

By Finding aid prepared by Chris Petersen and Angela Barker.

Collection Overview

Title: Oral Histories of the Vernonia (Oregon) Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show, 2015

ID: OH 033

Primary Creator: Benac, David (1974-)

Extent: 3.77 gigabytes. More info below.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


This collection consists of five oral interviews of residents and past residents of Vernonia, Oregon, each of whom shares their experiences and views on the town and its annual Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show. The interviews were conducted by David Benac in August 2015 as part of a larger research project on the history of timber towns and the representation of the timber industry in logging shows.

Scope and Content Notes

Created by David Benac in Vernonia, Oregon on August 6 and August 9, 2015, these interviews focus on the community of Vernonia, Oregon and the town's annual Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show. The interviews focus in particular on the present role and historical evolution of the festival; the history of the community; the interviewees' and the community's connections to the timber industry; and the interviewees' perceptions of the community's identity, both past and present.

The collection consists of five interviews, some of them divided into multiple parts. On August 6, 2015, Benac conducted two interviews: Donald R. Webb, DeLoris M. Webb, and Barbara A. Larsen were interviewed at the Vernonia Pioneer Museum (2:01:27), and Jeanette E. Searles was interviewed at her home in Vernonia (0:57:23).

On August 9, 2015, three interviews were conducted. Ernie W. Smith was interviewed at The All In, the bar in Vernonia that he owns. This interview is divided into three parts (0:06:02; 0:15:58; 0:38:59). Casey B. Mitchell and Josette M. Mitchell were interviewed near Lake Vernonia - the old mill pond - in the concrete shell of the Oregon-American Lumber Company's chip shed (0:55:26). Noni Anderson was interviewed at her home in Vernonia and her interview is divided into two parts (1:21:21; 0:06:11).

All of the interviews were captured to born digital audio as *.wav files; *.mp3 derivatives for each interview have been created and are available for use in the SCARC reading room. Permissions forms signed by each interviewee are also on file in SCARC. None of the interviews have been transcribed.

Biographical / Historical Notes

The Vernonia Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show was created in the wake of the closure of the Oregon-American Lumber Company, which had operated in Vernonia, Oregon and was shuttered in 1957. After the company ceased operations, the timber town of Vernonia came close to disappearing, as many of its residents left to seek work opportunities elsewhere. The Friendship Jamboree was formed as a means to reunite, if briefly, residents who had moved away with residents who chose to stay. Throughout its history, the Friendship Jamboree has run for three days during the summer, its mission to support community and celebrate Vernonia's heritage. The celebration consists of a variety of activities, with the logging show standing as its longest-running and most popular event each year.

Project interviewer David Benac graduated from the University of Missouri in 2003 with a Ph.D. in History, writing a dissertation titled, "'This Land is All Terrible Rough': A History of Access to Forest Resources in Carter County, Missouri." He is an Associate Professor and the Public History Coordinator in the Department of History at Western Michigan University. Benac conducted all of the interviews held in this collection as part of a broader research project focusing on the history of timber towns and the representation of the timber industry as reflected in logging shows and festivals. His visit to Oregon in July and August 2015 was supported by the Oregon State University Libraries Resident Scholar Program.

Capsule biographies of all project interviewees are as follows:

Noni Anderson moved to Vernonia in 1983 and immediately set out to improve the community. Her primary tool to do so was the Vernonia Independent, a newspaper that she founded and then ran for twenty-five years. During Anderson's years as editor, the Independent was a consistent sponsor of the Jamboree, printing its annual program among other forms of support.

Barbara A. Larsen and her daughter moved from Portland to a lavender farm near to Vernonia before relocating to the town in 2004. Larsen has been a key volunteer for the Vernonia Pioneer Museum. In 2013 she relocated to Longview, Washington, but still regularly commutes to Vernonia where she remains active with the museum and other community groups.

Casey B. Mitchell moved to Vernonia in 1979, though he has no direct family connections to the timber industry. His father was involved in real estate, a profession that Casey followed until accepting employment with a Community Action Team. Mitchell's family purchased Vernonia's 100 acre mill-site and has been gradually redeveloping it. Mitchell has retained the last twenty acres of the site as well as its chip shed in hopes of turning the space into an interpretive facility focusing on the history of the timber industry in the area.

Josette M. Mitchell moved to Vernonia in 1999, and by 2011 had won election as mayor. She left office at the completion of her term to take a position as a city administrator. During her time in Vernonia she has dedicated herself to helping the community achieve a more stable financial footing. She and Casey Mitchell were instrumental figures in creating the Vernonia Salmon Festival in 2002, and they have been its primary advocates ever since.

Jeanette E. Searles came to Vernonia in 1978, holding a number of short-term jobs before settling into a position as a dispatcher for Logger Radio. The dispatcher job allowed her to work from home so that she could raise her children amidst ongoing family turmoil. The Logger Radio infrastructure consisted of a network of repeater towers that enabled loggers in the field to communicate via CB radio with dispatchers, who would then use a telephone to relay various messages, including calls for emergency medical attention.

Ernie W. Smith settled in Vernonia for the first time in 1975. After relocating temporarily, he returned and entered into the logging business in 1979, remaining there until 1984 when he left the industry for safer employment. Smith returned to logging in Vernonia from 2003 and left the industry for a final time in 2011, when he purchased a bar in town. Smith has been active in numerous community organizations including youth sports, the volunteer fire department, the Vernonia school board, and the Jamboree, for which he served as president in 2015.

DeLoris M. Webb came to Vernonia from North Dakota in 1948 and promptly offered her services in support of a variety of community groups. She has served as treasurer of the Jamboree Committee, and has been involved with the school board and Vernonia Pride, a community improvement/beautification association.

Donald R. Webb also moved to Vernonia in 1948 and became involved in community affairs. He participated in the first Jamboree logging show and has served in various capacities on the Jamboree Committee and with affiliated groups. At various times a chief and assistant chief of the volunteer fire department, Smith also ran a small logging operation, contracting his services to larger operators.

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 8 audio files

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: All materials housed in this collection were donated by David Benac to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center in 2015.

Related Materials:

Other oral history collections held by the Special Collections and Archives Research Center that place heavy emphasis on the practice and culture of forestry and logging in Oregon include:

Oral History Interviews, Personal Histories, and Sound Recordings Collection on Agriculture, Forestry, and Oregon History (OH 005); Soap Creek Valley History Project Oral Histories (OH 006); Horner Museum Oral History Collection (OH 010); Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Collection (OH 026); and the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest Oral History Collection (OH 28)

Historic maps of Vernonia, Oregon are held in three SCARC collections: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Oregon (MAPS Sanborn), Street Surface Maps of Oregon Cities and Towns (MAPS Streets), and Oregon State Highway Division Maps of Oregon Cities and Towns (MAPS ORCities). The Gerald W. Williams Collection (MSS WilliamsG) is a major resource for researchers interested in the history of forestry in the Pacific Northwest.

Preferred Citation: Oral Histories of the Vernonia (Oregon) Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show (OH 033), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Benac, David (1974-)

People, Places, and Topics

Anderson, Noni.
Forests and forestry--Oregon--Columbia County.
Larsen, Barbara A.
Mitchell, Casey B.
Mitchell, Josette M.
Natural Resources
Searles, Jeanette E.
Smith, Ernie W.
Vernonia (Or.)--History.
Vernonia Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show.
Webb, DeLoris M.
Webb, Donald R., 1927-

Forms of Material

Born digital.
Oral histories (literary genre)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.