A historical show before one's eyes
Fittingly, the unincorporated town that hosts the historically and visually dazzling Great Oregon Steam-Up has its own modest — yet intriguing — historical display.
All around Powerland Park in Brooks are the sights, smells and toots of vintage steam rigs, farm equipment from every era, historical automobiles and museums combining to pour out a wealth of the history that grew Oregon and beyond.
Most are parked and on display, though there is always some curious contraption of yore circling the park, ripe for a look or a photo, while parades scheduled with scores of rigs simultaneously also roll around each day of the event.
Augmenting the theme is a massive swap meet stocked with antique wares that fit the event's tone. Throw in a vintage trolley and the fractioned-gauge Willow Creek Railroad, and the event fills out with an overwhelming offering.
"You couldn't cover it all in a weekend," said Pat Roby, a volunteer providing information at the Northwest Vintage Car and Motorcycle Museum.
That museum alone displayed motorcycles and passenger vehicles dating back throughout the past century-plus, highlighted by a Studebaker sign and an atmosphere intoned with a live playing pipe organ.
Such sense-stimulating scenarios are around every corner of the Steam-Up. But a tad more low-keyed yet perfectly appropriate exhibit can be found inside the Brooks Depot, a museum of more hyper-local history hosted by the Brooks Historical Society. The depot itself is a relic and historical gem.
"Originally, of course, it was in Brooks by the tracks. Then it was moved to Chemawa Indian School for some reason before it was moved here," said BHS volunteer Jim Rogers.
A 1964 graduate of Gervais High School, Rogers is a perfect host to expound on the modest museum's key features. Moreover, he delights in relating how onions grown plentifully in the area were shipped out by rail, as was celery, and how Brooks was once a passenger stop.
The museum is a delightful stop for anyone interested in the historical tidbits from the immediate surrounding area.
Brooks Historical Society acquired the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot and moved it to Antique Powerland in 1989. It is now the Brooks Depot Museum and has been renovated.
BHS sources note: "If you drive east on Brooklake Road and immediately turn right after crossing the railroad tracks, you will be looking at the vacant spot where this depot stood for almost 100 years."
BHS retains the 1900 depot like a working freight station and displays historic artifacts and photos. Displays highlight the history of the French Prairie and Lake Labish areas, emphasizing agriculture, transportation, culture and genealogy.
A region map adorns the depot wall, displaying from Woodburn to the north part of Keizer. Featured historical photos are placed in an arc around the map with lines designating a given featured area: Waconda, Quinaby, Labish Center, North Howell, Parkersville, Jason Lee Mission (now Willamette Mission State Park), St. Louis and Fairfield.
Located downstream from where Wheatland Ferry embarks at the River and Marthaler roads intersection, the vintage Fairfield photo is one of a paddlewheel steamship with the text noting: "Fairfield, (1852-1939) The first steamer on the Willamette in 1850, a familiar sight in Fairfield, a river landing community."
Parkersville, now a historical site marked at the east end reach of Waconda Road, had a working post office from 1852 to 1861 after English immigrant William Parker built a home and grist mill there on the Little Pudding River in 1848. A general store, furniture factory and hotel followed
The site has a separate display with a historical quote lamenting its demise:
"Parkersville is dead. The gayest, lightest-hearted, most thriving city in the early Willamette Valley is forgotten and deserted. Few knew Parkersville was ever born. Fewer still know that it lived and prospered…in fact so important was Parkersville in 1853 the (Marion County) Democratic convention was held there."
Other museum features include some historical hop-agriculture tidbits, Hopmere Hops News, an old telephone switchboard and phones of the past, more specific information about surrounding sites and towns, and even a computer available for people to look up further information on the area.
If you missed the Great Oregon Steam-Up, you have another chance to attend as it takes place over two weekends.
What: The Great Oregon Steam-Up
When: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 6-7
Where: Powerland Heritage Park, Brooks; a 62-acre campus just north of I-5 at exit 263
Admission: $18 for adults; $13 for students. Ages 12 and under are admitted free
Photos: View a photo gallery of the 2022 Steam-Up at www.facebook.com/WoodburnIndependent
Brooks Historical Society
The museum is located at Antique Powerland, 3995 Brooklake Road, NE, Brooks.
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