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While looking through some documents at the Oswego Heritage House recently, Candee Jones discovered an essay written by Dorothy Thurlow called “Indians of Oswego.” It appears to have been written for a third-grade class.


Dorothy and Don Thurlow lived next door to Jones on 10th Street when she was growing up. Dorothy cited “Early History of Oswego, Oregon,” by Lucia Bliss, and “Oregon’s Iron Dream,” by Mary Goodall, in her essay.

The piece was written in the 1950s and reflects the cultural sensitivities of the time. For example, it refers to Native Americans as “Indians,” a term not likely to be found in school essays today. Still, it provides an interesting perspective on the history of the Lake Oswego area.

Here’s what Dorothy Thurlow wrote:

“Before white men settled in Oswego, the Clackamas Indians roamed the area. These Indians possibly made the trail which became the road which you travel every day. They followed trails along the river and along the streams. The Indians traveled about the Oswego area, hunting, fishing and gathering plants for food.

“There were several Indian tribes in the Willamette Valley. It is believed that these tribes traveled to the falls in the Willamette River during the salmon seasons. Council Bluff and Phantom Bluff, which tower about Oswego Lake, were used for Indian council fires. Tribes from the valley gathered around the council fires for trading, storytelling, games and dancing.

“Indian boys probably met on the island near Diamond Head for games, swimming and diving. Arrowheads have been found in these places. Waluga was the name the Indians gave the lake in Oswego. They pronounced it wah-loo-ga. When an Indian said “Waluga,” he was imitating the cry of the wild swan as it flew over the lake.

“Prior to 1828, there were about 100,000 Indians in Oregon. Between 1826 and 1845, a mysterious sickness (cold sick), measles, scarlet fever and small pox afflicted the Indians. These sicknesses were brought by the white men — fur traders, sailors and early pioneers. By 1845, about 80,000 Indians had died from these sicknesses, leaving about 20,000 Indians in Oregon. Lewis and Clark wrote that in 1806 there were 800 Indians in the Clackamas Tribe. In 1851, about the time settlers were coming to Oswego, there were 88. These Indians lived the best they could in this area.

“Early settlers remember an Indian village across the Willamette River. It was about where Jennings Lodge is now located. The Indians in this village lived almost the same way as their ancestors. They could be seen paddling their dugout canoes up and down the Willamette River. Some of them had boats that had been built by the white men. The Indians often sold their fish to the settlers. A 35- or 40-pound fish was sold for 50 cents. Often an Indian would carry a fish upon his back a mile or more to deliver it to a pioneer’s home.

“The squaws were frequently hired to do washing for the pioneers. They were paid 50 cents for a week’s washing. Four of the children from this village attended one of the nearby schools for a short time. This village did not exist for very long after the settlers came. The remaining Indians either lived among the white men or they went to one of the reservations.”

“From Our Vault” is written by Nancy Dunis for the Oswego Heritage Council, using materials she’s found in the council’s archives; look for it on the third Thursday of every month. Have something you’d like to add to the vault? Leave a message for Dunis at 503-635-6373 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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