Is this an incongruous face off between event and venue? Or does it simply make the whole thing a bit more interesting? Later this month I will be sharing stories that include two devout Oregon Territory Methodist Missionaries, a teetotaling grandmother, and an alcoholic father who stopped drinking at 50: all while an audience eats burgers and drinks beer, settled inside a building that was once a Methodist Church. Might these family members consider it sacrilegious? Or rather, would they be a bit thrilled that people – this many years later, so many generations after them – find it interesting to hear their stories during an evening filled with food and libations?
If I were to guess – Chloe Clark, a teacher with the Jason Lee Missionaries, and her son-in-law, bookseller J.K. Gill, might both be a little shocked. Chloe’s husband, William Willson, a whaler-to become-carpenter with the Lee Missionaries, however, J.K. Gill’s son-in-law, William Montgomery, a son of an Irish man, and his son, my grandfather “Daddy Dick,” might find it rather refreshing. My own father, a lifelong Episcopalian infused late-in-life by New Age, I have no doubt, would love it. Dad was astute enough to have observed the loss of historical structures through the years and appreciate efforts to save them, and the history they contain. If he were able, he’d sit on the side towards the back – not one to draw attention to himself if he wasn’t supposed to be in the limelight – sipping root beer. At some point he’d issue a loud whisper to whichever family member might be sitting next to him: “Isn’t this neat?” And, as an afterthought, Dad would say, “My daughter’s talking about me!”
What Dad might really like, is that while this original Wilsonville church was built in 1911 by the Wilsonville Methodist Society, its first minister – Reverend John Exon – was better known as a riverboat pilot. You couldn’t get much closer to Dad’s heart than those brave river pilots, guiding ships across the Columbia or other river channels. (See My Music Man, Chapter 11: Pirates.) The church itself was active until 1992, and sits still to this day on our historical Boones Ferry Road, just up the road from our famed Boones Ferry. A road that followed the original Native American trail leading into the Willamette Valley. (See My Music Man, Chapter 8: Our Town.)
But wait – let’s leave a few stories! Can you tell I might just be a bit excited about sharing My Music Man at the January 30 McMenamin’s Wilsonville Old Church History Pub night? Come join us for “My Music Man”: Seven Generations Growing Up Near Oregon’s Willamette River.”
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Thank you, Dede, for enlivening the spirit of our region, it’s inhabitants, and personal history by sharing your stories. We need to continue to celebrate our common bonds to this beautiful country that has given us so much.
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