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Sweet Home, Oregon
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August 30, 2017     The New Era Paper
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PAGE 8 i Tim Now Era I Ausust 30, 2017 Museum coil ction tells story of Finley's historic flour mill Along a mile stretch of High- way 228, just west of Crawfords- ville, is a thick growth of young firs, beyond the bridge. Go further, and on the right stand the few headstones of the Finley Cemetery. Travel on, and to your left comes the McKerch- er Park, a way station among some older trees. Still further, on the left, ap- pears a popular swimming hole which used to be called the Craw- fordsville Dam. A large farm house that stood across from the dam has been replaced by a newer building. Today, one would not en- vision the flour mill that once stood at the falls above the swimming hole, nor of the dis- cord which brought about its be- ginning in pioneer days. That first flour mill, was built in 1847 by Richard Chism Finley, who lies buried between his two wives in the Finley fam- ily cemetery, along with some of his children who did not reach adulthood. The falls over the chunky ba- salt stone above the swimming hole attracted Finley to the area as an experienced miller. When it came to turning the water wheel of a simple grist mill, the force evident in the turbulent flow held promise as did the shelf of land paralleling the falls where they ended in the pool below. It was a good place to site a mill, the best he'd found on the Calapooia, he insisted to those eager to have grain ground close at hand, especially because it Dillinl treasure at the East Linn Museum took weeks to haul a load of wheat by ox team to Oregon City where the nearest grist mill was located. A claim had been filed on the land with the falls, but the person who'd done so had left. Although likelihood existed of his coming back, the claim had not been proved up - no house, no crop. For those whose priority was having a grist mill, neces- sity out-weighed the custom of granting leeway to men who, for some reason, left claims intend- ing to return. Legally, Richard Finley's right to file on the claim lay open. To others, it smacked of claim jumping. So, with his neighbors' blessings, Finley began building the mill. The first mill building, not large, was built with sides 12 to 15 feet long. One day, as Finley was out in the woods working with his DeniLass Business & Tax Services #B14708 Karl Denison Lasswell, EA#96303/LTC#28886-C & Sheila Sneddon, EA#79392/LTC#2629~-C Licensed Tax Consultants I Enrolled Agents axe, the original claimant to the Finley family had faced. site returned. The man was not As a young man, Richard happy. He spoke harsh words to Finley had worked in Wisconsin Richard Finley. In turn, Finley lead mines, and an accident in threatened him with the axe. which one leg was broken in two The man rode off, never to places left him with a distinc- return, according to some ver- tire limp. Since he was partially sions of the story included in the crippled, hunting proved more Works Projects Association col- difficult for him, and the animals lection of pioneer stories at the he shot were often in poor shape East Linn Museum. and the meat less than good. Another version of the sto- At one time, he bought a ry, however, suggests that McA1- small pig, smoked it and hung it estar, the only name mentioned, in the cabin rafters. Eliza's moth- who was a relative of the Court- er, Polly Ann Kirk Finley told neys, returned with his ireful her, when a young child, that the kin. children cried for that meat, but In the meantime, according she had to say, "No." to that account, Richard Finley It was reserved for sickness. had contacted his neighbors to Polly Ann was from an im- the west, the Blakely, Brown and portant family in the early his- Kirk contingent. These opposing tory of Linn County, her father, units of armed men faced off. Alexander Kirk, having operated Had the Courtneys not decided a ferry in Brownsville among against bloodshed, the history other things, so she is well repre- of the Crawfordsville area might sented in the 1930's WPA stories have been different, collected from pioneer descen- McAlestar did leave, thedants. grist mill got built, and for years the Courtneys did not care much No sooner had Finley built for the Finleys. his first mill then he headed for Today there's little evidence the gold fields of California to that an important grist mill once earn enough money to pay off existed by those falls except for his creditors. He was fortunate possibly a channel cut along enough to send back pokes of their north side, but Finley built gold by marl. not only the first flour mill, but a Polly Ann Finley could then second bigger and improved one settle some of the debts from a few years later, the mill. However, people would In 1861-62 an extensive come to look at the gold and feel winter flood wiped out the first of it and she soon realized her mill building. Finley had used gold supply dwindled when the the building as a shelter for fat- dust clung to the fingers of the tened hogs, his daughter Eliza admirers. Finley Braden recalled. Some She developed a plan. When- were drowned but others man- ever gold arrived, she would aged to scramble up on logs, send out word. Those to whom where they perched for da~s be- money was owed would be paid fore being rescued. They'd lost so on a first-co'me, first-served ba- much weight they had to be fat- sis. When the gold ran out, those tened up all over again, unpaid would have to await the Without the grist mill in op- next supply. eration because of the flooding, This made one man unhappy people ran low on flour, too, and and he went away muttering, "I some resorted to eating grated, am disappointed on every hand." dried corn. But perhaps those WhenRichardFinleywentto days of hardship did not match the California mines, he worked the earlier days of the ones the half a day at the mill then set Scenery. Entertainment. Friendships. The luxury of retirement living at its best. Independent living cottages and assisted living apartments are available on our tranquil grounds for a reasonable rent, which includes utilities and most of your monthly living expenses. We offer a fun activities program, as well as meals and transportation at an additional low cost. For more information, or to schedule a free tour, call Marsha at 541-367-1800. out by horse, even though rid- ing was painful for him. When he returned to Oregon Territory, he traveled by ship to Portland but he became ill with convulsive chills, as they were called. Three bouts were considered fatal, so he sent word to Polly Ann of his illness while he stayed in Oregon City. Polly Ann had considerable strength of character. She asked a neighbor, Timo- thy Riggs, to go with her to Or- egon City. They had one horse between them and traveled by the "ride and tie" method, start- ing off, one riding, the other walking. The rider reached a point where he or she stopped, tied up the horse, and walked on. The walker who'd been left be- hind, would catch up, mount the horse, ride past the partner, tie up the horse, and so on, sort of a leap frog progression. When the pair reached Or- egon City, they spied a man on the porch of a boarding place rise and walk toward the door. The limp allowed Polly Ann and Tim- othy Riggs to recognize Richard Finley, whom, they were greatly relieved to see, had survived his third bout of fever. One Finley son, George, re- called his father as being a trust- worthy and honest man who never locked the doors to the mill and who allowed credit. Only once, said George, did a creditor renege on his debt. Richard Finley was offered Jack- sonville (Ore.) gold for flour but didn't accept it. He declared the flour should be reserved for the new influx of immigrants who would be in need when they ar- rived. His own father had once backed a neighbor's note in Fin- ley's younger days and the neigh- bor had not paid, so the father had to pay it, leaving the family so poor the children were forced to work hard. For that reason, Richard Finley was generous to those needing help and was known as "Uncle Dick." Robert Glass, the Jackson- vine miner, solved his problem of getting flour for the other miners by buying wheat from a farm near Lebanon for eight dol- lars a bushel and then having it ground at Finley's mill. Richard Finley's generosity had limits, however. At one point he bought a fat ox to roast for the men building his mill. Indians stole it. Finley and others tracked the culprits to a campsite where the Indians had butchered the animal and were making jerky over a fire. The Finley group drove off the Indians, took pot shots at them to scare them, and de- stroyed the camp. The meat, they thought, was too badly handled to be eaten. Other settlers feared this would cause an Indian menace, but nothing happened. Finley's enterprise served as the primary mill south of Or- egon City. Farmers would bring harvests to be ground from as far away as the Rogue River. Of- ten, men stayed at the mill, their stock pastured nearby. Polly Ann Finley's job was to feed them. As her daughter, Eliza, re- membered, the mother was too 5050 Mountain Fir Street Sweet Home, OR 97386 samhealth.org/WileyCreek See Museum, Page 14