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Linn and Ruth Moser Oral History Interview, June 9, 2008

Oregon State University
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LINN MOSER: Linn Frantz Moser. The Frantz is my mother's maiden name. I was named after an old doctor, Nicolas Linn Carter. He was a direct descendent of the representative of the Oregon Territory. That's why we have Linn County. That's why I'm named Linn. Well, my grandparents were Bly Frantz and...was my grandmother's name Ruth?

RUTH MOSER: I don't know.

LM: It'll come to me later. That's on the Frantz side. Then on the Moser side it was William Moser, dad's dad. My mother's folks came across in 1864 in a covered wagon. My grandad was 4 years old. Then my dad was born in Tennessee, my dad. He came here when he was 10 years old. My dad came to Oregon around the horn and then up the Umpqua River on a ferry and then a horse and buggy to Kings Valley. My grandparents, when they came here they bought the land that they owned. They bought Fort Hoskins and the acreage around it or whatever. My great grandad Frantz was a farmer and they raised cattle and sheep and goats and farmed. My dad's first job was slicing young timber to make grass ground, grazing round. I think of all the good timber that they just sliced. You know, it's almost sickening to think about it. Dad and my uncle Gus would slice this young timber into wind roves. They could fall it into wind roves and then in the fall they would burn that.

RM: Linn's dad was born April 19, 1893 in Morristown, Tennessee. He was 10 years old when they came out, so that would be 1903, approximately. Okay, my name's Ruth Moser and I was born in the county of Gravity in Iowa. It's kind of coincidence. He has family in Iowa. In 1941 my mom and dad and I came to Oregon. My dad wanted to come out and build a log cabin. Things didn't work too good here, so we went to California and my mom and dad both worked in the aircraft factory down there. Then we came back to Oregon and Dad ended up working in mills and such. That's how I got out here. I was born in March of 1934. My dad's name was Raymond Cole and my mother's name was Hollis Valentine. They got married in, I know Dad, that was during the Depression and he was off working on the CCs and all that stuff. I think that was partly why we ended up coming out to Oregon, because it was not good back there at that time. I have 2 brothers. My folks lost a boy and a girl in Iowa. That was probably another reason why we left Iowa and come out here, just was not good back there. I have a brother Dennis who lives in Harrisburg, and I have a brother Larry who has a mainline pump here in Philomath.

LM: I'm the youngest of a family of 5-a brother Asa, sister Betty, sister Dorothy, and a sister Louise, who is the oldest in that order. I'm the only one left. We all died in order. Oldest right down to me. They were all married but one. She died young of tuberculosis, which is pretty common back in those days. She was a beautiful young gal. I was born in Corvallis in I guess what would be called a birthing house right next to the hospital. The lady's name was May Plunkett. Has to be related to the Plunketts around here someplace. All the rest of family was born in Hoskins, with a midwife or whatever. Went to school in Hoskins, 8 years. Went to Kings Valley High School. Then went into the Navy. I got to tell this story. Got out of the Navy and my brother and I wanted to do a sawmill. We had this junky old mill put together. Well, we needed a conveyer. The State of Oregon gave each veteran $100 bonus. So, we took that $100 and bought a conveyer chain with it. That's kind of how we got started in the sawmill, or that is it. My father, who spent all his life in the sawmill business, had two sons, Asa and myself. We finally got together after the World War II had started the sawmill. This picture is of me and my brother. We called him Junior. It was Asa Belles, Junior. My father who was Asa Belles, Senior. Even my great grandparents back in Tennessee had water powered sawmills. Then on the Frantz side, had what they called a sash mill in Hoskins. It's where the saw goes up and down like that. They ran it for years, sawed barn boards for all the barns and everything. Then that mill was sold to Valley and Siletz Railroad when they built the railroad.

As a kid, mostly just, well, of course we swam all summer. We lived on the Luckiamute River. My uncle had the store, ran the store in Hoskins for the railroad. It was a company store. The people would come there and get their groceries. Anyhow, I was a box boy. I remember when the Bowmans would come in and this cute little girl, about 4 years old, with ringlets clear to her knees and that was Carol. Cutest little kid I've ever seen, I think. Then I worked on farms, pitched hay, bucked bales. Then drove tractor for the local farmers. We also pitched bundles and that was on a horse-drawn wagon. The horses took the bundles to the thrashing machine, and that's what where the thrashing was done, not a combine but a thrasher. Then, of course, I think I sold sacks on the thrasher, too. The first tractors was Carl bush, brought in the first tractor that I remember into Hoskins and I don't even know what kind it was. It wasn't a John Deere. It was something else. Then before I went into the service, I worked for my uncle and he got rid of the horses and bought a brand new John Deere.I drove it. What a thrill. Steam ran the thrashing machine. John Deere started on gas and ran on kerosene, which maybe they still do. I don't think they do anymore.

RM: I tell my grandkids that when I was a little girl back in Iowa, we had a lot of snow there and I can remember my dad taking my brother and I at the country school on the big old horse. It was a big one, but, anyway, they just-oh, Grandma. You know? But I can remember. I can also remember riding in the wagon, it was a horse-drawn wagon. He'd go down to harvest the corn, or whatever you call it. The horse just walked along. Nobody had to be driving that horse. He'd shuck the corn and toss it in. I can remember things like that. He would just take the ears off of the corn, toss it into the wagon. The farms we lived on back there, Mom and Dad didn't own any of them. They just were workers on them. I was only, like, 7 years old when we came out to Oregon. So, I was pretty little back then.

LM: I think I was 12 or 13 when I started driving this brand new John Deere. Drove it all summer. Then when we put hay in the barn, all the barns for my grandad-horse barn, cow barn-we had a hay rope, which is a thing that pulls the hay up and puts it in the barn. This horse would, at the back of the barn, go down and make a loop and come back. Well, I trained that horse to do it without me even being there. Really. I'd say, get up Molly. Molly would run down and when they hollered yo, it meant they'd trip the thing and she'd turn around and come back and never tangled that rope up, an amazing little smart horse. Between, I don't think I ever drove a team, though, but I pitched a lot of bundles on wagons for different guys. When they abandoned the old high school, Kings Valley High School, I joined the Navy, got my GED, and was in the Navy for 2 years, served on a light cruiser, the USS Boise, mostly on the South Pacific, but I never saw any action. It was much over by the time I got there, even though the Germans had already given up. That was in 1944 until '46. Then I went into slavery with the sawmill business. Yeah, after the South Pacific we went to the North Atlantic and were making, hauling troops from Le Havre, France, to New York. When we got to Plymouth, England, by the way we were in Plymouth, England, on Thanksgiving Day, which is where they sailed from, wasn't it? Anyhow, we could not cross the channel at night or in fog because of the mines that we had set. Of course, we would shoot them with our aircraft guns if we got them. We shot a few. There were a few that went off. We hauled these troops into Le Havre, France, and then troops out, and every soldier, everybody I've talked to that was in the service, I'd ask them, you know, did you ever hear of Le Havre, France? Nope, never heard of it. Well, we hauled thousands of troops out of there. I know we got them to New York, anyway. That's kind of my tour of duty was when the ship went to Philadelphia and they put it out of commission. By then it was time for me to get discharged. Got out of the service and went into the sawmill business.

Our first mill was on the home place in Hoskins and we got too big for that. So, we moved down the road to the Brandon Place at Alexander Gate. Then we were there until we moved up on Wren Hill in 1957. That's where we quit. Well, we started the mill on Wren Hill, still called Hoskins Lumber because that's where we started. First we were cutting maybe 30,000 feet a day, and then it went to fifty and towards the last it went to over a hundred. A million feet a month was nothing for us, you know? We bought a lot of logs we called highway logs that come in and a lot of those came from the Starker Forest people. The person I dealt with, believe it or not, was TJ Starker. He's the one I dealt with. We always got along together. Of course, I knew he was always looking down my neck, but we always got along together. Then we started buying Forest Service sales along with the highway logs. We paid too much for the sales. The market went down, and the government offered to buy out. I think we were allowed, we bought out of three and then sawed two of the sales. Didn't make any money, but we got out from under in many ways. The buyout was brought on by the market. Also, the spotted owl. Let's face it. You know, when that spotted owl come along you couldn't log certain sales and they always picked the good ones to make us quit cutting on, that and the marbled murrelet.

RM: Well, I did almost all of my schooling right here in Philomath. I graduated in 1952 and got married that same year. I married Ben Miller, who had also went to Philomath High School. In '50-I got to figure this out-in 1960 Ben got on at the state police. Our first station was Newport, and then we went to Oak Ridge and then got transferred back to Corvallis. I had 3 children with my husband, who are all still around here: Scott's in Dallas, Mary's in Eugene, and Jen's right here in Philomath. In fact, she works at the Philomath High School, so she didn't get very far from home. Philomath's just always been my home. Ben died in 1984.

LM: All the time that we were in the sawmill business, starting in '49, my first wife kept books for us. She kept books for us up until the time she passed away. She was still keeping track of, well, doing Marian's work. Then we had 3 boys, which one of them was supposed to have been a girl. It just never happened. They're all pretty much close by. My oldest son, Craig, works for Wilson Motors. Middle son is Bob, or Bobby, Robert, works for EcoSort in Glenwood. My youngest son, Johnny, or John, works for me driving my dump truck. Part of my time at the mill was spent driving a chip truck and hauling lumber to the planer. As the mill produced more chips and more lumber, I couldn't handle it so I hired a driver to drive for me. Then when the mill went down I took one of the chip trucks and made a dump truck out of it and started hauling rock with a crew that worked for Starker. Then they hired me for Cat work and grater work. I'm still doing that, or my son's still doing that.

Well, I've always enjoyed fishing and hunting. Born and raised on the Luckiamute, which at one time was a real good trout stream. We even had Dolly Varden in there. Of course, opening day you had to be out there and catch your limit, which at one time was 25. Then it went to 10, I think. Then I got into steelhead fishing. I got to tell another little story here. You can cut it out if you want to, but I think I told you about Walt Bowman and Ed Kajuna were timber cutters. You know who Walt is. Well, they had gaffe hooks, long handle, and we hiked in with them to the falls, Wahkeena Falls. They got their pack sacks full of salmon and hiked back to Hoskins. It's quite a little hike, but really not all that far if you think about it. Of course, we know that Walt was Carol's dad, but he was sure a super guy, treated us kids awful good. Or maybe he was trying to get us lost out there. I don't know. Then I got into bird hunting, Port Vale, where the opening week. Had relation there at Vale, so I had places to hunt. Then hunted mule deer over at Whitehorse. Always had good luck hunting mule deer with Dick Knudsen and Wayne Howard. They would play dirty tricks on each other, but I used to run up and down those hills over at Whitehorse. Now I can't even fall down those hills [laughs].

No, I had a lot of fun over there with Dick and Wayne. We'd pull some dirty tricks on Wayne. Dick and I were down in the canyon and Wayne was up on top, and we were going to run something out to him and this buck got up in front of me and it was just one horn had grown into its eye, and it was just a horrible looking thing. So, I told, Dick, here comes a sick deer. He said, well, we'll get old Wayne on this one. So, he hollered up to Wayne, here comes a big one, Wayne. Well, Wayne was about a good of shot as anybody I've ever been around. He can just throw that old Remington up and bang, one shot. So, he shot it. So, we went up and made fun of it. We had a little tune: one horned, one eye, Wayne's purple eater, eater or something. We teased him a lot about that. We did the same thing steelhead fishing, we'd tease Wayne. But he's a real good friend. I don't know why my wife let me do this, but Hughes down here had an old John Deere for sale and I went down and bought it. Craned it all up and repainted it and 5 tractors later I quit. They were getting hard to buy, you know the people were doing it the price went up. The first one I paid $50 for because it was a rusty old hulk. Now even the rusty old hulks are three or four-thousand bucks, so I quit. But six is enough. Six tractors is enough. They're all old 2-cylindar, crank with a fly wheel tractors. Takes longer to get one ready to go than it does to do your work.

RM: I can add to his John Deere story. Every summer we have kind of a get-together around the Fourth of July and Linn hooks a trailer on the back of one of his John Deeres, puts hay bales on it and we take the kids. One year he didn't want to do it and he got told about it by one of his granddaughters. She really missed doing it, so we did it again the next year. He doesn't drive the John Deeres anymore. It's either Paul or Johnny or Scott will drive the tractor and take the kids. It's just down the pit and back, but that's all they want. They really have a good time with that.

LM: This is a picture of our old wigwam burner and a lumber carrier. Wigwams are a thing of the past. When they first came out with those, we went to a meeting down here at the old fire hall. Ernie Carlisle had a little mill at the time, and the State told us we had to have a burner or shut the mill down. Well, he shut his down. Well, we put one in. Of course, then they told us we had to take them out so many years later. That's your best science. This is a picture of our Wren Hill operation. I think it's an arial photo. Really pretty well shows it, shows some of our log decks. I think we had a barker then and what not.

RM: Well, there's Highway 20 at the top.

LM: This is our coal deck and our pond, when we had a pond. The old decking shovel. Ponds are a thing of the past. They came up and they told me I had to measure the water out of the pond and send in a sample. I think it was either daily or weekly. I said, why don't I just fill the pond. He just walked off. A state guy. This is my brother sawing a nice looking log with our old circular sawmill. That goes back a ways, but it sure is a beautiful log. This is Wayne Howard, myself, and Dick Nudson. Two little kids looking out the window screaming at me. I used to enjoy TJ's little letters to the editor in the GT. In fact, I'd go look for them. The one that sticks in my mind is when he wrote the one about the steel bridge over Woods Creek. I'll explain what TJ wrote about. It's when the county came in and put a big steel covert over Woods Creek and took the wooden bridge out, which is probably the sensible thing to do, really. TJ used to come get me and we'd go out and look our logs over. He'd look at the lumber that was coming out, and he was probably deciding a split when he was doing this, but one day he come and got me and we were buying logs from a guy named Sternamen through Starker. I think it was out Christensen Canyon, or Brice Creek. I think Paul took me out there where this guy had been logging. We found logs buried. So, we went to Independence, mountain fir, and sure enough he had been selling logs out there. That guy, I never saw him again. I never saw that Sternamen again. He wasn't a Sternamen. He was Archie's stepson. I thought Archie was an honest man, you know. But that Sternamen. He was married to some of my relations, Cosgrove. I never saw her again, either. I don't know where they went. But a new cat, a brand new pickup. You knew something was wrong. Something didn't look right. That's what he was doing, stealing logs. So, TJ put a stop to that.

I'm 81 years old. Been in the timber business practically all of my life. I've really enjoyed it, enjoyed all the people I've worked with, even the salesmen. People we bought logs from, even Eric Thompson and Starkers. All in all, I just had a real good, what I call a good life.