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The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the gathering of the East Multnomah Pioneer Association, which has convened annually for more than 100 years. Here's a look back at a previous assembly.

It took a pandemic to cancel the annual meeting of the East Multnomah Pioneer Association this year, a gathering that has marked the first week of September in Corbett for more than a century. So here is a memory from 2008.

SHARON NESBITRon Bates gave the invocation at the 93rd annual meeting of the East Multnomah Pioneer Association last Sunday. It was hard to tell if he was praying or bragging.

Bates told God — and his audience — all about Corbett and how blessed it was (though I am guessing both parties already knew). For one thing, it was a glorious fall day. Those crafty old pioneers always meet the Sunday after Labor Day weekend, guaranteed to be the best day of the year. Bates itemized the community's blessings, its first-class school, a fine fire department and the prospects of a great lunch that Susan Leigh at the Corbett Country Market had ready for them.

All 200 people were salivating, and they'd barely finished the morning doughnuts. Susan has a way with chicken salad. If she knows you like it, she sets a sandwich aside for you.

They did the regular business. Joan Benner said there was $5,000 and change in the kitty. The outfit is a true nonprofit, she said, "We made $2.05 cents last year."

Secretary Helen Wand asked for and got approval of last year's minutes. That was easy. Old-timers barely remember yesterday, let alone last year's meeting. The minutes are inevitably approved.

Bates says the pioneer association is the oldest in the state. Nobody remembers what group came in second, but they don't care.

They do care that Corbett has the gift of memory. Living on land that is rural and not hacked into little-bitty pieces by developers, the founding families' roots still cling to those hills extending into other roots and forming an alliance that can only be called close-knit.

They have a contest at the pioneer meeting, counting which family has the most members present. They get to arguing about whether in-laws count. Some people raise their hands several times depending on how many clans they have married into. Clarence Mershon, the historian, usually straightens it out. But it begins to sound incestuous.

I have kept out of trouble for 40 years by believing that everybody in Corbett is related to everybody else.

It's important which family has the members most present because after the king and queen, the oldest man and woman present, lead off the lunch line, the largest family follows. This year the Bates/Bell clan got to the chicken salad first.

They took a group photo, though Gary Law said they'd all be 20 years older before everybody was assembled.

The Crown Point Historical Society gave away their "Quilt of Guilt" again. They raffled it off 15 years ago, but lost the ticket that named the woman in Washington who was the winner. So they raffled it off again and another woman from Washington won it. Good luck, lady.

Clarence Mershon gave the community service award to the fire department. And a warning. He said the department began when volunteers leased an old bus from the school district, $1 for 99 years.

"The lease is just about up," Clarence said, "and the school district wants its bus back."

At the end they sing "Amazing Grace" and read the names of those who died last year. Then they sing "God be with you 'til we meet again."

And they will.

Columnist Sharon Nesbit can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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