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Bus Tour in Sept Digs Into Oregon Coast Black Pioneer History

Published 08/22/22 at 5:38 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Bus Tour in Sept Digs Into Oregon Coast Black Pioneer History

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(Astoria, Oregon) – Sometimes the phrase a “fascinating ride” along the Oregon coast is quite literal. In this case, a tour bus is set for September 18 along the north coast that digs into black pioneer history of this part of northwest Oregon, a subject largely unknown to regional residents. Like Native American history here, it's left untouched by culture and school systems alike. (Above: Seaside. All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

With that in mind, the Oregon Black Pioneers' History Bus Tour resumes once again – this time examining sites of African American significance between Portland and Seaside, with stops in Astoria and some yummy side trips to local cuisine.

The Black History Bus Tour departs Portland at 9 a.m., makes its way along the Columbia River, visiting a historic gravesite along the way, then checking out places such as Fort Stevens State Park, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Astoria's Clatsop County Heritage Museum and then locales in Seaside.

Bus Tour in Sept Dig Into Oregon Coast Black Pioneer History

At each stop, guest speakers fill you in on that spot's history, while onboard you get to see a film on the Buffalo soldiers of the Civil War and those from the Pacific Northwest that were part of it.

Oregon Black Pioneers is an organization that has been around since the '90s, educating the public on local African American history. Executive director Zachary Stocks is taking the reins of this tour bus program, telling Oregon Coast Beach Connection they had done one back in 2016 where they examined African American history sites of the Willamette Valley.

Fort Stevens Guardhouse (photo courtesy Fort Stevens)

Now, it's the Oregon coast's turn, and there's plenty of history there. Among the subjects talked about on the bus is the Oregon-American Lumber Company started operations in 1924, which was in Vernonia.

“Shortly after, the company hired a number of African American loggers to work there,” Stocks said. “The numbers are unclear, but many of the workers had wives and children (the Black children were excluded from the town school). The company grew during the rise of Oregon's Ku Klux Klan, and Vernonia had an active chapter. In 1925, 38 Black families banded together to form a Vernonia chapter of the NAACP, with help from Oregon's first Black woman lawyer, Beatrice Morrow Cannady.”

Another is site Westport, Oregon, on the Columbia River (yes, there's one in Oregon as well as the Washington coast). There, they visit the grave and lifetime of Louis Napoleon, a black Civil War veteran with some serious Oregon coast connections.

“He had been wounded during the war in 1863 and was discharged from the Army at Fort Stevens in 1868,” Stocks said. “He worked a number of jobs in the community, including paving roads and delivering the mail. The West family cared about Louis deeply, and took him in as a resident of their home around 1880. He lived with the Wests until his death in 1914, and is buried in the Westport Cemetery.”

You also get lunch in Astoria at Fort George Brewery and light dinner in Seaside.

Astoria in the 1940s, courtesy Oregon State Archives

At the Lewis and Clark site, you'll learn more about York, the slave that came along with the Corps of Discovery and his remarkable contributions to the expedition.

In Seaside, the Seaside History Museum's Steve Wright takes you on a walking tour of the town's former jazz clubs.

Sponsored by the Oregon Coast Visitor Association, tickets are $120 (includes lunch, dinner, entrance fees, and bus gratuity). You'll meet at the Charles Jordan Community Center, 9009 North Foss Avenue, Portland. See the event page here. (503) 540-4063.

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