Dorena Historical Society

Opal Whiteley

Back around 1910 or so, controversial Oregon author Opal Whiteley lived in the Row River Valley.  She traipsed through the woods studying nature and writing her observations down in her diary, or not, depending on which version of events one believes.

The Cottage Grove Public Library at 700 E Gibbs has a great collection of Opaliana.  I recommend K.K. Becks Opal: A Life of Enchantment, Mystery, and Madness.  Beck gives a thorough and skeptical look at Opal’s story.  More sympathetic views of Opal can be found at

Regardless of where the truth lies, the Dorena Historical Society takes a perverse kind of pride in this little wisp of a local, who cut such a wide swath through the world.  Opal gallivanted through America, India and Europe hanging out with French Royalty, Maharajas and even one of Oscar Wilde’s former lovers.

Opal is 4th from the left in this photo of Dorena High School.

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