Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Mini-Cookie Ride to visit Settlement Site 30 Years older than Jason Lee House

The Pandemic's scrambled everything and the Salem Bicycle Club's Monster Cookie has also been scrambled. Customarily in the spring, it was cancelled last year and deferred this year. This year the Monster Cookie ride slots into to the date of what would have been the late summer Peach ride, Sunday the 29th, and it is based not at the Capitol, its usual starting point, but at Keizer Rapids Park.

The Mini-Cookie Route in Keizer

In the disruption, there is opportunity, too, and this edition of the Monster Cookie has for the first time a shorter family ride, the Mini-Cookie, about six miles on quiet neighborhood streets.

Like the full Cookie, which turns around at Champoeg, the Mini-Cookie also runs through an historic site, this one from a full 30 years before Jason Lee's activity in Salem and the  Champoeg meetings.

Wallace House Park (2007 plan, not yet completed)
Possible Location of 1811-13 Fur Trade Activity

The park is the conjectured site of William Wallace's fur trading outpost circa 1812, and is among the earliest settlements in Oregon, not just the Salem area.* Soon, however, activity shifted a little north to "French Prairie," and by the time Thomas Dove Keizer arrived in the 1840s, little if anything was left here.

Anthropologist and historian David Lewis situates the Wallace House in Kalapuya history, their own regional trading networks, and in the settlement-era trading network with Astoria:

There was an extensive indigenous trade network in operation in the Northwest well before the fur traders arrived. The trade network passed goods from the coast into the interior on the braided river highways navigated by the extensive canoe culture of the Northwest Coast. The Kalapuyans had extensive hiking trails that crossed the Coast Range northwesterly through the Tualatin region, and trails called “Klamath trails” into the Cascades. The Trail to the coast was how the Kalapuyans from Tualatin got to Astoria to visit with the Pacific Fur Company Traders and establish personal relationships....

Wallace House had a significant role in provisioning Astoria. A few explorers mention trying native foods like camas and wapato, but the fur traders really made their primary diets on venison, elk and fowl. Later, they began gardens with European vegetables but meat with rare native vegetables, wapato and camas, was their mainstay. Their gardens produced potatoes and radishes; the radishes all eaten by mice, and the potatoes some fifty bushels in 1813. The trading post in the Willamette Valley was in the center of a vast range-land for deer and elk and the post was looked to for providing meat along with the furs. Meat was preferred by fur traders because it was easily dried and preserved for traveling over long distances in fur trading. Meat and dried or smoked salmon traveled well.

The Mini-Cookie is both an opportunity to check out a park and an historic site you may not know about, as well as a short urban ride for the family on very quiet streets in Keizer. Win all the way around!

The Mini-Cookie starts at 10am on Sunday the 29th. Day-of-ride registration for last-minute decisions on weather, C19, and (waves hand) everything else works well. Youth age 10 or younger ride for free, and kids 11 or older as well as their accompanying adults are $10 each. (The full cookie and half-cookie are $55 and $30 respectively.) More information on the longer routes, including links to maps, at the club's website. The form for day-of-ride registration can be printed out here. See also notes at the Statesman-Journal and Salem Reporter.

* To be clear, there is still a good bit of conjecture on the site. In 1925 the Chamber located it a good bit east of the river.

A bit east of the current site, May 6th, 1925

In 1930 the Bitsman spent several days on Wallace Prairie and the site of the Wallace House. It seems that Asahel Bush may have at one time owned it as part of a 640 acre claim he purchased.

The current proposed site appears to date from a 1941 article in Oregon Historical Quarterly, "Site of Wallace House, 1812-1814 One Mile from Salem." Some cooking stones, which may be from the Wallace House or may be from some other encampment, are the primary evidence, and not very dispositive. Maybe at some future moment a more formal archeological investigation will be able to say more.

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