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Seaside Event Looks Back at Historic, Groundbreaking Oregon Coast Holiday Moment

Published 12/19/22 at 5:15 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Seaside Event Looks Back at Historic, Groundbreaking Oregon Coast Holiday Moment

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(Seaside, Oregon) - One epicly historic holiday moment will come to life on the north Oregon coast this month as the Seaside Museum and its History & Hops program returns on December 29. Each last Thursday of the month this program takes place at Seaside Brewing Co., this time around looking at how Lewis & Clark spent that holiday here, with “Christmas, 1805.” (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection: statue in Seaside dedicated to Lewis & Clark)

From the early 1800s through modern times, Christmas has taken all kinds of turns and evolutions in how we celebrate. As decades and eras shifted, so did décor, gift giving and church services. Yet have you ever wondered how historical figures Lewis & Clark and their Corps of Discovery celebrated here on what would become the north Oregon coast?

That question will be answered by local park ranger Sally Freeman, who works at the Fort Clatsop / Lewis and Clark National Historical Park near Astoria. She'll examine how the Corps of Discovery spent three Christmases together, the last of which was here. What did they write about this holiday in their journals? What did they do under such rough circumstances?

Fort Clatsop replica in modern times (courtesy photo)

Freeman is a National Park Ranger who grew up near St. Paul, Oregon. Her National Park Service work experience began as a Student Conservation Association volunteer backcountry information aide at North Cascades National Park in the summer of 1984 while she was an undergraduate student. She became a seasonal park ranger at Fort Clatsop National Memorial in 1989 and was eventually assigned a full time position. Her duties at Fort Clatsop (now Lewis and Clark National Historical Park) include managing the volunteer program, supervising the historic weapons program, compiling and calculating visitation statistics, as well as coordinating tour groups, special events, and much of the daily operations of the visitor center and the fort.

Seaside Brewing Co. is at 851 Broadway St. Seaside.

What was the final Christmas for the Corps of Discovery expedition happened here on the future Oregon coast. By now, the holiday had become more of an event for them, more of a kind of family bonding, whereas that holiday in the first year was just another work day. They attempted to celebrate outside for awhile, but guess what: Oregon rains kicked in. They moved inside of their huts and exchanged gifts, did some dancing, and then settled down to a Christmas dinner that was reportedly already spoiled.

Courtesy photo

It was by Christmas Eve they had finished constructing a large log building, after having started in recent weeks. For three months they stayed in what they named Fort Clatsop, in honor of the local tribe.

Soon, some of the Corps would head down to what would later become Seaside to boil ocean water for salt and camp there for a time. In early 1806, Clark, Sacagewea and a party of 13 wandered over Tillamook Head in what was literally a trailblazing moment – there were no trails along this treacherous, steep headland. They came to what is now Ecola Creek to check out the remains of a dead whale local tribes had been harvesting from. In fact, Ecola is the local word for “whale.”

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