2009 Sep 6 & 7 – Days 12-13 – Astoria, OR

We spent the night in Astoria and after breakfast we set out to do a bit of sightseeing.  Our first stop was the Flavel House Museum.  We were actually allowed to take photos (without flash) in this house, which is quite unusual for historic buildings.   Very few facts are known about George Flavel before he came to Astoria, there is even dispute over where and when he was born.  And few details are known about the man’s personsonality and businesses either.  In Astoria he was known as a fearless seaman and ran a very successful river boat pilot service.  He had other businesses and also invested in real estate.  At the time of his death in 1893 it is said that his estate was worth $1.25 million (about $50 million in today’s value).  In 1854, when he was 30, he married his wife Mary Christina who was 14.   They had three children.  After his death his widow lived in the house with her two daughters Nellie and Katie, until her death in 1922.  Nellie and Katie also lived in the house the rest of their lives (Katie died in 1910 and Nellie in 1933).  George Flavel’s funeral procession was one of the longest ever held in Astoria.

The Queen Anne style house was built in 1883 and covers an entire city block.  It is 11,600 sq. ft and cost a reputed $36,000 to build.  The wood work in the place was absolutely beautiful.  It was gifted to Clatsop County by Flavel’s  great grand-daughter who had inherited it from her Great Aunt Nellie and soon after turned it over to the county for public use and enjoyment. After we left the Flavel house we drove out to the Astoria Column, erected in 1925 as the last of 12 historic markers placed between St. Paul-Minneapolis and Astoria.  The markers were the pet project of Ralph Budd, President of the Great Northern Railroad.

The column is 600′ above sea level and sits atop Coxcomb Hill.  It was modeled after the Trajan Column in Rome which we saw in 2012 when we took the Grand Mediterranean Cruise.

The hand-painted spiral frieze on the Astoria Column would stretch 500′ if unwound.  It is a graffito painting technique by artist Attilio Pusterla and took almost a year to complete.  The paintings commemorate historic events that transpired at the mouth of the Columbia River – beginning with its discovery and ending with the arrival of the railroad.

  The view from the top was spectaular.  You can see Young’s Bay, the Coast mountain range, the Columbia River and a significant distance of inland forest.

As we were looking for our hotel the night before we had seen an advertisement for a Civil War Re-Enactment at Fort Stevens that is held annually on Labour Day Weekend.  Fort Stevens is a five minute drive across the inlet from Astoria.  It was Sunday, the last day of the event but we decided to go have a look-see.  I had always wanted to see a Civil War Re-Enactment.

We spent much of the afternoon at Ft. Stevens.  It was great.  The event is big enough to have a Cavalry division attached to the Union forces.  The two camps were arranged just as had been done during the war: Union forces did not allow family members and support businesses to camp with the troops and the Confederacy had family tents within the troop compound.The Union Camp was quite structured (above photos)

And the Confederacy was a little bit more mishmash.  Apparently this was typical.

All the supporting entities required for a transient army had tents on site; blacksmith, baker, farrier, leatherworks, even a Christian center.  From the moment a person sets up their tent on the grounds they are ‘in character’ until the end of the weekend.  Even children play with simple toys and are dressed in period clothing.  All the cooking is simple outdoor camp fare.  Many  different Union and Confederate Militia and Infantry were represented.  People choose which group and troop they wish to represent and puchase the gear and uniforms required.

There was a schedule of battles posted for the weekend.  We were in time to see the final one.  Sometimes they re-enact an actual battle that took place during the American Civil War, sometimes, like the one we saw, the organizers create a scenario.   The ‘battle’ we saw was a rescue attempt by the Confederates to free some of their soldiers that had been taken prisoner by the Union army.

The battlefield was soon littered with ‘the dead.’  At the conclusion of the battle (the Union army won) all soldiers doffed their hats in a moment of silence for their ‘fallen’ comrades while the bugler played “The Last Post.” To finish of the performance the two armies formed a line and took turns firing their muskets and rifles.  All of the soldiers joined in a march from the battlefield to the campsite and gave a cheer for a job well-done. It was really neat to see.  I am glad we chanced upon the advertising sign.  If you are ever going down the Oregon coast near Labour Day I recommend you make some time to go to Fort Stevens.

We had a reservation in Tillamook for the night and the War Re-Enactment was coming to an end so we headed southward.  We stopped at Cannon Beach and got some good photos of Haystack Rock.  This is a popular kite-flying beach and there were many people out enjoying the activitiy that day.  We stopped again not far out of Tillamook and took some photos of the tall dried thistle-like plant growing beside the road. It turned out to be a very full, very interesting day.

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