Rose Festival partners with local historians to offer free tours of interesting sites

This year's Oregon City Heritage Days event will feature the Oregon Trail's 175th anniversary celebration with free displays, tours and activities, with free bus shuttle transportation between the Oregon City museums and heritage sites.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - From left, Rolla and Marge Harding, along with Lynn and Wendell Baskins, prepare their traveling costumes and wagon for the long trek to the Portland Rose Festival's Oregon City Heritage Days event theyre organizing.This is an opportunity for local residents and visitors to experience the history of the Oregon Trail and remember the sacrifices people made in a desperate 19th-century journey across the country in wagon trains. The Great Western Migration began in the spring of 1843 with the first large wagon train leaving Missouri heading for the Oregon Territory.

Marge Harding, a member of the committee organizing Heritage Days at local museums and heritage sites this weekend, said "from the moment they left, it was a story of hardships." The "overlanders" who joined those wagon trains had to give up most of their possessions and risk death in hopes of starting a better life in the Oregon Territory.

About 10 percent of the overlanders died on the journey, and as local historian and storyteller Wendell Baskins said, "disease was the primary cause of death.

"As spring turned to summer, the conditions got more dangerous on the trail," Baskins said. "Cholera could wipe out a wagon train in 12 hours."

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Marge and Rolla Harding, along with Wendell and Lynn Baskins, are members of the Rose Festivals Oregon City Heritage Days Committee.Harding's collection of Victorian-era mourning clothing and jewelry are being featured at the Museum of the Oregon Territory's new "Life & Death" exhibit. During the Heritage Days weekend, a wagon hearse will be parked in front of the museum to help promote the exhibit.

If you want to see the traditional prairie-schooner, visit the Holmes House at the Rose Farm where the Curtis Wagon Foundation will have one of its wagons on display. During Heritage Days, Oregon City will open its 1843 Ermatinger House, one of the oldest historic homes in the state and the site of the coin toss to name Portland.

The city has hired a part-time employee to keep open on a regular basis the home that was newly restored using some funding from Clackamas County. Waving a donated banner, the Heritage Days committee promoted the free events during the Rose Festival's Grand Floral Parade.

"The whole point is to share the story of the Oregon Trail with as many people as possible," Baskins said.

Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory and the Portland Rose Festival Association are sponsoring Oregon City Heritage Days. On June 22-23, free tours, displays and activities will be offered at the local historical tourist attractions, including the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, the Ermatinger House, Holmes House at the Rose Farm, Stevens-Crawford Heritage House, the Museum of the Oregon Territory, Oregon City Elevator and Mountain View Cemetery. The free bus shuttle and heritage sites open at 10 a.m. and close at 5 p.m., with the last tours beginning at 4 p.m.

In October, the final event of the 175th-anniversary celebration, is a three-day symposium about the Oregon Trail Story. The symposium will feature nationally recognized speakers presenting on "Learn HERstory in History: The Oregon Trail Story." The locations and directions to the women's history symposium will be provided upon registering for the event by calling 503-655-0385 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Oregon City Heritage Days

What: Free tours of Oregon City's historic tourist attractions

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 22-23

Where: End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Ermatinger House, Holmes House, Stevens-Crawford House, McLoughlin House, Barclay House, Oregon City Municipal Elevator, Museum of the Oregon Territory and Mountain View Cemetery.

More: Call 503-655-0385.

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