Founders Day celebrates history of Champoeg
May will be a big month for the Champoeg State Heritage Center, with Founders Day kicking off on Saturday.
Founders' Day celebrates the 1843 vote in Champoeg that established the first provisional government west of the Mississippi River. The event will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the park. The celebration will include living history actors, a fur trapper rifle volley salute and a ceremony to honor those who participated in the 1843 vote.
According to a news release from Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, "Founders' Day celebrates a vote held in Champoeg by local settlers on May 2, 1843. A large group gathered that day to decide the future of the Oregon territory. After a spirited debate, a slim majority voted 'aye' to form Oregon's first provisional government, laying the groundwork for Oregon's statehood in 1859. Founders' Day has been held annually at Champoeg since 1901."
There will also be a lecture on the famous 1861 flood that inundated the town of Champoeg. It is slated for 1 p.m. May 18 at the park's visitor center. The lecture will be delivered by Willamette University Visiting Professor Cayla Hill, who will expand on the history and current archeological evidence of the 1861 flood, which decimated the modest river town.
Hill has been a visiting professor at Willamette University since 2016.
Interpretive Park Ranger Dan Klug said the annual Founders' Day event is an important historical celebration and it takes place at the same place each year – at a monument that was made in 1901 to commemorate the vote. Klug said there will be several guest speakers at the celebration, including the descendants of those who voted in 1843. He added that there is also a ceremony where a role call is taken for those 52 individuals.
Newberg's Anvil Academy will be on hand to do a blacksmithing and woodworking demonstrations. A combined color guard from the Newberg-Dundee Police Department and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars will be on hand as well.
Admission is free, although there is a $5 parking pass per car required.
Klug said last year's event, the 175th anniversary, was "massive," so he anticipates this upcoming celebration to be a bit more subdued.
"It's a good part of Oregon history," he said, adding that by having the descendants of the settlers at the event, the celebration is "like having a large family reunion."
"There are all sorts of historical activities," he said.
As for Hill, Klug said the professor will be discussing her dissertation on archeological evidence from Champoeg and the flood.
The park is hosting several other events over the summer as well. On Memorial Day it will host a small ceremony to honor Oregon veterans by lowering the flag to half-staff.
"It's just our way of saying thank you to all those veterans," Klug said.
On June 1, there will be an event to honor State Parks Day. The event isn't fully planned yet, but the park will be open and free for the day, including free camping at open sites. The park will also offer free fishing at the boat dock and a license is not required.
Beginning June 8, the park will stage Champoeg Living History: Fur Trappers Encampment. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., lets park visitors see an active fur trapping camp, showcasing what life was like in the 1800s. Klug said there will be 15 tents to showcase the lifestyle of fur trappers, what they wore and how they traveled. There will also be rifle demonstrations and a tomahawk throw.
On June 15, the park will also host an event showcasing life on a farmstead in the 19th century with costumed interpreters. There will be blacksmithing demonstrations to show how tools were made, as well as woodworking demonstrations.