More of Edna Finley’s Irish Bend Memories

Recollections with her descriptions of the operation of the warehouse owned by her father, Hugh McNary Finley


The last post contained Edna Finley Buchanan’s memories of childhood in the Irish Bend area. This post will continue those recollections with her descriptions of the operation of the warehouse owned by her father, Hugh McNary Finley.

Hugh Finley had entered the warehouse business after purchasing it and thirty acres of land from a man named Hamilton.  Edna recounts:

“We had come to a grain growing section to live. Wheat and oats were the principal market crops and from Monroe east into the Bellfountain section and north for miles, grain was stored in warehouses to await shipment by river steamers that plied between Harrisburg and Portland throughout the winter season.”

“From early morning until at night, the long line of wagons and teams waited their turn to unload.  They came from Bellfountain, the Starrs, the Waggoners, the Barnards, the Edwards, and many more. The Graggs came driving their heavy team of matched bays, carrying a decorated harness set with cold [gold?] colored rivets and rings.  They brought their loads of wheat, oats, and barley from above Monroe and near Junction City.  Those were busy days.”

“One of the functions of the Finley warehouse was to furnish sacks to the growers.  To do this, several journeys to Corvallis, fifteen miles away, with wagon and team was necessary. My Father made these trips, returning with a load of 3,000 sacks, two bales of 1,000 each and one opened bale stored under the high seat and in crevices.  As five hours was consumed on the return trip, it was toward evening when he reached home…. The team consisted of one black and one white horse.  After traveling twelve miles on the now West Side Pacific Highway No. 99W, then a road inches deep with dust, made the black horse light colored as the white horse and both be ground with the Good Earth.”

“For some time the power used to elevate the grain was Bill, the black horse, which was faithful and true to every duty…. Bill was hitched to a pole and patiently walked hour by hour around a circular post, the horse urged on by a boy driver carrying a hazel stick as a threat…. He traveled round and round and round the beaten dusty path. I remember feeling great indignation when visiting boys seeking to “show off” would climb upon old Bill’s back as he trudged around the circle.”

“In winter the boats came to load and carry the grain to Portland– large river boats.  The Occident, the Bonanza, the Champion.  Later these were replaced by smaller boars, the Three Sisters and The Ruth.

The Ruth was in charge of Captain Raab, related to the Bradleys of Bellfountain.  Often the boats reached Finley’s Landing in the evening and took on their load at night.”

“In our quiet lives, it was a matter of great interest when the boat whistle broke on the air, especially the blast that meant the boat would load at Finley’s Landing.  This was three long blasts.  In a short time, neighborhood men and boys would arrive on horseback ready to help load the boats.  For this service, father paid his helpers twenty-five cents an hour and mother served a bountiful meal when the work was over.  It was a real social event as well as a money-making event.  We children stood and watched the men haul the sacks on their truck, six at a time, to the chute and slide them to the boat where they were gracefully dropped from the chute platform into trucks handled by the “deck hands” and wheeled away into the hold.  If the boat loaded in the evening, it remained at our landing overnight.  Sometimes the purser would buy milk or eggs from us.” 

“Soon after the grain shipment was made, father would hire a crew and sack more grain from the bins that held the loose grain.”

“Time passed and a new storage building was erected…the grain was sacked from the bins, trucked through the long room into the large room and stacked eight sacks high by such stalwart men as George Houck, Tom Richardson, or Martin Grimsley….George Houck was a tall, loose-jointed man with big nose, feet, and hands, and had a big heart.  He was a batchelor [sic] and had a cabin of his own but fitted with our needs so well, he became like one of the family.  The warehouse work was heavy work, but he was strong and willing.  He could handle a sack of wheat as though it were a toy….

“The greatest improvement in the business occurred when Old Bill was replaced by an [steam] engine…. This was not a traction engine, but a stationary one so Bill and Ben hauled it from Corvallis one night. When morning dawned, we two children were treated to an unusual sight for the big black engine stood by the yard fence.  It was installed in a building joining the warehouse.  A young engineer from Corvallis, Johnny De Munion, was hired to run the machine and this he did with painstaking pride.  This boy, Johnny, was also full of pranks and sometimes amused himself at the expense of an inquisitive visitor or two…. Suddenly, and without warning, he would release the steam with a loud, loud sound.  Since engines were not common and considered rather dangerous, the men rushed from the room speedily to save their lives.  Johnny would settle down in his chair and enjoy the joke greatly and have something to relate to the family at the supper table….

“The warehouse industry had competition in mills.  New mills were being built in towns or on highways by railroad tracks for trains were replacing steamboats. Millers stored grain free of charge so the need of warehouses ended.  As Father’s business gradually folded up, he set out an orchard consisting largely of prunes and so became a pioneer prune grower.”

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