by Tobie Finzel
Virgil Powell was a long-time resident who had a farm somewhere in the Upper Nehalem Valley between Natal and Pittsburg. Each year from 1906 until 1955, he kept a diary with a brief entry almost every day of his activities. He noted what he did on the farm that day, what the weather was, if he worked in the woods or delivering mail, and what entertainments he attended. In the 1960s, then-curator John Stofiel transcribed the diaries to typewritten pages; both the original diaries and the transcriptions are kept the museum.
Here’s what Virgil wrote during the changeable weather of March 1914, his original spelling intact:
Saturday, Feb. 15: Carried the mail to Mist. Got to Mist at 11 A.M. Grange day at Natal. Pretty fair day but rained after I got home. Had a fine time down at the store talking basket social for next Saturday night.
Saturday, Feb. 22. Carried the mail down to Mist. Got to Mist at 10 A.M. Left Mist at 1 P.M. Got home at 2.25. Stayed home till 3.10 then started for the doings at Vernonia at 4.45. From Mist to Vernonia 3 hours. Had a deuce of a time. Did not start home till 7 A.M. Good fine day.
Tuesday, Feb. 25. Sawed wood all day. Shot at some salmon in the afternoon but did not kill any. Cloudy and looks very much like rain. Received a postal from Florence Williams.
Monday, March 16: Plowed a piece down by the river for potatoes and finished 4:30. Some peddilars here over night. Bright and fine all day.
Tuesday, March 17: Plowed the piece back of orchard by the river. Dave & Booth were here for dinner. Awful warm all day. Inez & I went over to Elliott place and got some cattle out in evening.
Wednesday, March 18: Went over to Elliott place and plowed all day for Bill Brown. Awful hot all day.
Saturday, March 21: Plowed over on the Elliott place all day. Very good all day. Ed. Webster & Kelly were here for dinner.
Wednesday, March 24: Built some fence over across the river. Snowed and rained all day and was a terrible bad day. Went over to Elliott place in afternoon and got Chief.
Friday, March 27: Took a sow up to the boar at Tuckers. Started up at 8 and got home 12:45 P.M. Snowed and stormed terrible all day.
Depression-era Reminiscences from Bob New, VHS 1947
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, jobs were almost nonexistent. The Oregon-American mill didn’t reopen until 1936, and Bob remembers that men would show up at the gate of the re-opened Oregon-American Lumber Company and stand around each morning, hoping they might be hired for a job, any job. There was a man in Vernonia who walked each day from the top of Corey Hill to the mill for many weeks, bringing his lunch in case someone didn’t show up for work and he could get a day’s wages. He eventually did get a coveted permanent job in 1938.
A 1934 Vernonia Eagle article listed the forty young men from the Vernonia area who were stationed at the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp near Mist. There were many Depression-era programs established to help address the widespread unemployment; the CCC was designed to put young men to work on public projects including forest fire suppression. They received lodging, meals and a paycheck – most of which had to be sent home to help their families – in exchange for their work. The article noted that these local men were lucky to be stationed so near their homes as this was not often the case.