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Oregon 150 - Transportation Stories
Overview
ODOT employees and retireees share their Transportation Stories
 
As part of the Oregon Department of Transportation's efforts to help the state celebrate its 150th birthday, ODOT employees and retirees have been invited to share stories about transportation related history in Oregon. Enjoy these inspirational, entertaining and interesting tales.

Travelers visiting eastern Oregon to experience life on the trail
A wagon train re-creates a trip down the Oregon Trail.
There was a collision of past and present on a fiercely sunny day in Grant County, Oregon. On Tuesday, August 25, nine travelers and three horse and mule drawn wagons pulled into the neat-as-a-pin town of Dayville along U.S. 26.  Rather than from some science fiction inspired time portal, the visitors turned out to be a reenactment group recreating a typical mid 1800’s overland journey in honor of the 150th anniversary of Oregon statehood. (See a short video of the trip.)
 
As the wagons pulled into the Two Rivers Ranch in Dayville and the animals were unhitched and fed, Charlotte Hopkins of Long Creek explained why she had come along.
 
“I’m here to represent one of the pioneer ladies in authentic costume,” Hopkins said. “I’m also the knitter, the spinner and the weaver. Later this afternoon, I’ll be doing some demonstrations with a drop spindle, a potato and a rock at the Dayville School.”
 
Hopkins wore a full-length pioneer style dress and pinner apron, where the bib is attached to the bodice by safety pins, instead of strings around the neck. She also wore her hand-made bonnet, petticoat and pantalets that she proudly showed to visitors, while also revealing that pantaloons were garments worn by men.
 
Clutched in her arms was her traveling companion, a small Chihuahua which, she explained, is actually an old breed of dog. Hopkins added she was looking forward to reaching The Dalles, where she grew up in the 1950s.
 
The group, who ranged in age from teens to seniors, began the trip Aug. 10 in the tiny town of Huntington. Located in Baker County near Farewell Bend, Huntington is where early pioneers said ‘farewell’ to the Snake River to begin their long trip across the state. Covering less than 20 miles a day, the time travelers experienced a glimpse of what the emigrants might have seen in their more treacherous journeys. Along the way, the small, modern-day wagon train stopped at numerous towns to share stories and demonstrate old-style cooking, spinning, wagon repair and other unique slices of Oregon Trail pioneer life.
 
The re-enactors had earlier stopped at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City where they gave visitors a glimpse of how non-native settlers first came to the Oregon Territory. From Baker City, the wagon train turned off the Oregon Trail route to follow the old Dalles Military Road, snaking through Baker, Grant, Wheeler, Gilliam, Sherman and Wasco counties. Driving their teams along established state and county routes, some gravel roads, and occasionally through fields of grass and sage brush, the travelers ended their trip in The Dalles.
 
Other adventurous members of the group included Sharon McNamara of Annapolis, Maryland and Billie Jo Wilcox, who now lives in The Dalles. Both were decked out in authentic early 19th century garb and were happy to share their reasons for joining the six-week-long trip, complete with lots of port-a-potty stops, plenty of sleeping outdoors, and hours and hours of sitting in rigs free of cushioning shocks. 
 
“This is my fourth wagon train,” said McNamara. “I heard about this trip and thought it would be a great adventure.”
 
McNamara was impressed with the hospitality of the Westerners she met and the wonderful experiences she’s had with her fellow travelers.
 
“The knowledge they have about the wagons, the care they show for the animals, and the camaraderie is awesome,” she said. She was amazed at the beauty of Oregon and a bit surprised by the varying range in temperatures. “One day in John Day it was 107 degrees, and the next morning it was 23 degrees. Our clothes were covered with frost!”
 
Billie Jo Wilcox, who grew up in La Grande and as a child dressed in sunbonnets and walked along the original Oregon Trail ruts with her family said, “I’m fascinated by history and the Oregon Trail.” Then she smiled, recalling the tears of joy she’d shed on the first day of the journey.
 
As the sun arched overhead, the travelers once again hooked up their wagons and slowly headed out to U.S. 26. The next stop would be Dayville High School, where the group had an appointment with a new generation of children and their families. They planned to show them just a little bit about how, more than 150 years ago, thousands of dreamers, with hope in their hearts and everything they owned in their wagons, took a huge chance on journeying 2,000 miles into the unknown, to a faraway place called “Oregon.”
 

Stagecoach travel tough but worth it
Emma Morgan with three of her children in 1897
Emma Morgan with three of her children in 1897
 
Today, a jaunt down Highway 20 from Lebanon to Foster in Linn County takes less than a half hour, but Emma Morgan’s 1889 stagecoach trip took a full day.
 
Emma was a young mother traveling with her year-old daughter from Minnesota to meet her husband in Foster. They spent their first night in Oregon at the Lebanon Hotel before boarding the stagecoach for the trip to Foster. The coach stopped at the big cities of Waterloo, Sodaville, and Sweet Home on the way. Describing the trip to a reporter in 1957, Emma said, “I’ll never forget that trip to Sweet Home. It was awful. The stagecoach road was just a muddy path full of boulders, and it was pouring down rain.”
 
Transportation has certainly improved in the last 119 years, but our rainy Oregon weather is still with us. Emma would feel right at home!
 
The two boys in the photo were born at the family homestead, near the present day McDowell Creek Park. The boy in white on Emma’s lap is Melvin Morgan, Bev Morgan’s grandfather.
 
Submitted by Bev Morgan, HR Training and Development specialist

A memorable road trip...year after year
 
Fall always reminds me of something that happened when I was a kid that I’ve never forgotten. About this time every year, we traveled to the Pacific Northwest to visit Grandma in Tigard for the weekend. On our way home one night, we were headed east on 99W just past Capitol highway when we hit a big black dog. We all got out of the car to see how badly the dog was hurt but couldn’t find him. At that time, there were no streetlights in the area so we couldn’t see where he went. He must have stumbled off somewhere. Mom had a soft spot for animals, so we went to the local vet to see if any one had brought him in. The vet hadn’t seen the dog and told her that he probably wondered off and died somewhere.
 
Next year we had all but forgotten about the large dog when at night in the same area it happened again. It looked just like the dog the year before! And this time he left a good size dent in the car. Thinking this time the dog was dead we started looking again. Mom added city and state highway agencies to her search.  No luck. This really bothered her. It happened again the following year and this time mom tried to miss him. I’m not sure if she hit him or not but it was the last time we saw him. Now mom lives in Grandma’s house in Tigard and we all drive a little slower on that stretch of highway to watch out for big black dogs.
 
Submitted by Michele Wagner, Administrative Assistant, Region 1 Electrical crew

Building roads is a family tradition
Items from Ed Funderburk's scrapbook.
Items from Ed Funderburk's scrapbook.
Oregon Department of Transportation Senior Inspector Ed Funderburk has a scrapbook of valuable transportation history in his living room. Through clipped newspaper articles and photos, the book tells the story of creating some of the most important transportation infrastructure in Oregon, including Interstate 5. It also tells the story of an Oregon family business – Funderburk Construction.
 
Ed’s father, Ed Funderburk Sr., and his construction company, Funderburk Construction, built highways and tunnels throughout Oregon and Washington. The company specialized in the difficult jobs such as drilling and rock work.
 
“My father used to tell me that on the tough jobs, you could make good money,” said Ed.
 
In its heyday in the 1950s through early 1980s, Funderburk Construction employed more than 70 people on a single job. Many of the employees were minorities.
 
“My father was half Native American and liked to give other minorities a chance to earn a good living,” Ed said. “He also helped a lot of small companies get started, using them as sub-contractors on his jobs.”
 
Ed worked with his father on many of the federal and state projects, running errands as a young boy and working on more difficult tasks like flagging as he grew up. Ed often clipped newspaper articles about his father’s jobs from local papers and pasted them into the family scrapbook.
 
Throughout the 1950s, Funderburk Construction worked on large and small jobs throughout the Pacific Northwest. Ed remembers going to bid openings at Portland area hotels.
 
“They usually had the bid openings at the Imperial Hotel in Portland,” he said. “But one time it was so big they had to have it at the Benson Hotel. I remember walking through that ornate lobby as a boy and handing in my father’s bid.”
 
Funderburk Construction was a successful bidder on the Shady to Booth Ranch section of Highway 99 in 1957 (it would later become a section on Interstate 5). Articles from the Roseburg News Review allude to the difficulty of cutting a road through the mountainous terrain.
 
More than 1 million cubic yards of earth have been removed from the cut, which was more than originally estimated. A fleet of dump trucks, shovels and earth movers are kept hopping on the project. The geologic structure of the mountain has proven a bugaboo to engineers. – Roseburg News Review, March 26, 1957
 
Funderburk construction often had to blast away basalt and other heavy rock to build road sections in the Sutherlin and Roseburg area. Ed recounts a story about a time a blast didn’t quite go the way his father had hoped.
 
“My father was an expert at drilling and shooting rock and could usually manage the debris fall from the blasts pretty well,” said Ed. “But one time, a big chunk of rock went flying and went right through the roof of a nearby home. We had to buy a new roof for those folks. Thankfully, no one was hurt.”
 
After working many summers with his father, Ed went to college for his engineering degree. He’s put that degree to work at ODOT, working the last 22 years in Region 1, sometimes on modernization or preservation projects that his father originally built.
 
Ed keeps up the family tradition and updates the scrapbook with projects he’s worked on, preserving family history — and Oregon’s transportation history at the same time.