Geographical Index > United States > Oregon > Douglas County > Article # 238
Media Article # 238
Article submitted by Richard Noll
Sunday, May 15, 1949
By Sidney Warren
The people who came to the Northwest found a land of enormous reaches, of towering, crag like mountains and gigantic trees. Everything was on a vast scale. And the fanciful stories, the folklore, the legends, and the tall tales that they brought with them were made even taller, as though in keeping with their new surroundings.
As early as the fifties, newspapers entertained their readers with amazing stories-not the pseudoscientific kind popular in the later, more sophisticated societies-but tales fabricated out of whole cloth and the more incredible the better.
There was the story, for instance, published on the front page of the Statesman in 1857, which began: "A most wonderful and thrilling adventure has recently occurred in the southern part of this county. . . ." It seems that a few weeks "since," a man and a boy started out in quest of some lost cattle and, being overtaken by night, lay down to sleep. Toward midnight-the witching hour-the boy was awakened by a loud plaintive cry.
He jumped to his feet, without disturbing his companion, and ran but a few yards when he saw before him-but let the narrator continue in his own inimitable words and style:
He observed an object approaching him that appeared like a man about twelve or fifteen feet high ... with glaring eyes which had the appearance of equal balls of fire. The monster drew near to the boy who was unable from fright, to move a single step, and seizing him by the arm, dragged him forcibly away towards the mountains, over logs, underbrush, swamps, rivers and land with a velocity that seemed to our hero like flying.
They had traveled in this manner perhaps an hour, when the monster sunk upon the earth apparently exhausted. Our hero then became aware that this creature was indeed a wild man, whose body was completely covered with shaggy brown hair, about four inches in length; some of his teeth protruded from his mouth like tushes, his hands were armed with formidable claws instead of fingers, but his feet, singular to relate, appeared natural, being clothed with moccasins similar to those worn by Indians.
Our hero had scarcely made these observations when the "wild man" suddenly started onward as before, never for a moment relaxing his grip on the boy's arm.... They had not proceeded far before they entered an almost impenetrable thicket of logs and undergrowth, when the "wild man" stopped, reclined upon a log, and gave one shriek, terrific and prolonged, the reverberations of which seemed to continue for the space of five minutes; immediately after which the earth opened at their feet, as if a trap door, ingeniously contrived, had just been raised. Entering at once this subterranean abode by a ladder rudely constructed of hazel brush, they proceeded downward, perhaps 150 or 200 feet, when they reached the bottom of a vast cave, which was brilliantly illumined with a peculiar phosphorescent light, and water trickled from the sides of the cave in minute jets....
Above, the cave seemed slightly arched, the ceiling apparently composed of sea shells . . . the bottom was ... thickly strewn ... with the bones of many kinds of animals....
As our hero thus closely observed the interior of this awful cave, the "wild man" left him. . . . Presently the huge monster returned by a side door, leading gently by the hand a young and delicate female of almost miraculous grace and beauty, who had doubtless been immured in this dreadful dungeon for years....... The young lady fell upon her knees, and in some unknown language..... seemed to plead for the privilege of remaining forever in the cave.......
This singular conduct caused our hero to imagine that the "wild man" conscience stricken, had resolved to set at liberty his lovely victim, by placing her in charge of our hero, whom he had evidently captured for that purpose. As this thought passed through [his] mind his ears were greeted with the strains of the most unearthly music....
The "wild man" wept piteously ... and sobbing like a child, his handkerchief moist with grief, he raised her very carefully from her recumbent posture, and led her gently away as they had come.
A moment afterwards, the damsel returned alone, and advanced toward our hero with lady-like modesty and grace, placed in his hands a beautifully embossed card, upon which appeared the following words, traced in the most exquisite hand evidently the lady's own, "Boy, depart hence, forthwith, or remain and be devoured."
Our hero looked up, but the lady had vanished.... He acted at once upon the hint . . . and commenced retracing his steps towards the "ladder of hazel brush" which he shortly reached and commenced the ascent. Upon arriving at the top, his horror may be imagined when he found the aperture closed! The cold sweat stood on his brow, his frame quivered with mental agony, when ... he bethought himself of a small barlow knife ... with which he instantly commenced picking the earth....
After laboring in this manner ... he was rejoiced to see daylight through the earth, and he was not much longer in working a hole large enough through which he was enabled to crawl.
The adventure ends with our hero wandering around for a day and a night until he met a small party of miners, prospecting on the headwaters of South Umpqua River, to whom he told his story. They listened in silence, apparently not believing a word, but they were unable to account for his presence in that desolate region and, after feeding him, directed him home.
He related his tale to his father, who called in the neighbors and the circuit preacher. "At first they smiled, then doubted, then believed; and the whole neighborhood are now prepared to make affidavit to the principal facts. The boy is a mild, modest, moral boy . . . his parents are moral and religious people, and it is hoped that out of respect to their feelings, the story will not be disbelieved as a general thing, although many parts are truly wonderful."
The Pacific Northwest. New York: The Macmillan Company.
The spectacular Umpqua River, with it's north and south branches, provides the backdrop for one of Oregon's most scenic drive tours - Highway 138 from Reedsport to Roseburg to Diamond Lake. Whitewater rafting, riverside trails for hiking, horseback and mountain bike use, steelhead, salmon, and trout fishing, hot springs, and many spectacular waterfalls can all be found here.
The South Umpqua, nourished by Castle Rock Fork and other streams of the Cascades, winds its way through the Umpqua Valley. This river is a lifeline for a majority of the area's people, who live near it or its many tributaries.
Much of Interstate 5 follows the South Umpqua. Two of the reservoirs, Ben Irving on Berry Creek west of Winston, and Galesville on Cow Creek east of Azalea, offer outstanding recreational opportunities.
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