Dorena Historical Society

Early Life in Dorena

Photo from The Cottage Grove Sentinel (Nona is one of the women pictured above on a porch on Rat Creek)


The Life of a Pioneer by Mrs. Nona Kelly

I was born March 28, 1889, seven miles east of Cottage Grove on the south side of the Row River a short distance above where the spillway of the Dorena Lake is now located.  My father, Cage Van Schoiack, took up a homestead there on which we lived until I was eleven years old, when we moved to the north side of the Row River to a thirty acre piece of land that my father and mother bought from an uncle, Greenbury Van Schoiack, and had built a house on it.

We moved there on Oct 19, 1900. I well remember this because a younger sister, Belle, now Belle Skelly of Eugene, was born that night.  This piece of land joined the homestead that my parents then owned, but it was very inconvenient for my older brother and I to get to school, a distance of two miles which we walked.  My father had to take us across the river in a row boat as there were no bridges near us at the time.  We attended school in a one room school house first known at the Kirk School and later changed to the Dorena School.  About thirty or thirty-five students attended and all eight grades were taught by one teacher.

At times in the winter when it was storming the water in the river would be so swift and muddy it would take the boat below the landing, which was very dangerous.  If we had to make a trip out to Cottage Grove in the winter time it was an all day trip with a team and wagon or hack.  The mud in lots of places would be hub deep as there was no gravel on the road. While in town we would go to the grocery store owned by Lewis and Veatch where the folks would get a dimes worth of cheese and a dimes worth of crackers (the crackers were kept in an open barrel) and we would sit around the wood stove and eat our lunch. Some times Mr. Lewis or Oliver Veatch would give we kids an orange or a sweet cracker and my what a treat that was.

We always had plenty to eat because my folks always raised a big garden and my mother canned and dried a lot of food for winter.  I can remember us putting out five sacks of corn in a day to dry.  We would dry it on top of the cellar and of course it had to be well covered  with mosquito bar to keep the flies away from it. We dried lots of apples and prunes, too.  The folks always had cows, pigs and chickens so we had meat, lard, butter and eggs at home, but there were nine of us to feed so it took a lot of food.

I have seen my father cross the river when it would swim the horse he was riding, or wash the back end of the wagon around.  Later a bridge was built across the river near Cerro Gordo known as the Kelly bridge.  It was torn down by the Government when the Dorena Dam was built.

In 1908 I was married to Fred Kelly who passed away in 1941. We were married at the home of my parents and spent the first year of our marriage at Rocky Point. Then we moved to a small farm about two miles from where I was born and lived there for thirty two years.  We had two sons, Alta who now lives in Eugene and Harry living in Cottage Grove.  I am at home at 704 Quincy Ave in Cottage Grove.

Written by Nona Kelly in her own words.

Thanks go to the Cottage Grove Historical Society for making this available.  This was probably written sometime in the 1960’s or 1970’s.

posted by Dorena Historical Society in Uncategorized and have Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Early Life in Dorena”

  1. Katie Kirk says:

    How interesting, thank you. My great great grandparents, James and Sarah Kirk homesteaded at Dorena. They are buried at Sears Cemetery. Oliver Veatch married Lucinda Chrisman. My mother was a Veatch (her grandmother was Lucy Belle (Veatch) Shields. OO was her cousin. Lucinda was cousin to Mattie (Chrisman)Kirk, who was Dad’s great grandmother. Mattie married JW Kirk, son of James and Sarah.

  2. Katie Kirk says:

    Sorry, Mattie was Dad’s grandmother, my great grandmother.

  3. Nancy Van Schoiack says:

    Aunt Nona’s sons were Alta and Harvey. Didn’t Nona teach school when she graduated? I think I have something she wrote. Alta married but did not have any children but Harvey the butcher had 2 daughters. Nancy and Linda.

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