Oregon history

National Archives / via Eastern Washington University

It’s a story that seemingly has it all: a classified mission, dashing young men in uniform, leaps out of flying airplanes, stray bombs, plus some wildfires and a side of racial prejudice. The little-known slice of Pacific Northwest history featuring an all-black Army battalion is less likely to be overlooked now that the state of Oregon and people in Pendleton have put up a historical marker.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Lewis Somers looked a bit like a prospector with his sun hat tipped back, eyes glued to the ground and tools strapped to his belt. Last week, you could have found him in the eastern Oregon town of John Day, pulling a ground-penetrating radar on a small sled back and forth across a gravel parking lot. Somers was prospecting, but not anything like the gold miners of old whose trail he followed.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Before there was an Oregon, Idaho and Washington state, there was the Oregon Country. Early settlers and pioneers voted to form a provisional territorial government 175 years ago this week.  The vote was close and featured arguments that may sound surprisingly familiar today.

The pivotal decision will be celebrated Saturday as Founders Day at the spot where it happened in Marion County.