Dorena Historical Society

Random Girly Fun Stuff

In the early days of Dorena some of the women in town organized the Happy Circle Sewing Club.    The club met twice a month to sew, mend and quilt. It gave the members a chance to get out of the house and visit and have fun.  The grocery store building in town became vacant so the club members put on plays to raise the funds to buy the building.  The Happy Circle ladies rented out their building to the Grange for 50 cents a month.  The community often held dances there, too.  Almost everyone in town came to kick up their heels and as one attendee stated “the rafters jumped!”

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In the same spirit the Row River Sunshine Club has been meeting in the valley for over 50 years.  They craft, bake, help residents in distress and generally keep the sense of community alive on the river.

They can be reached at PO Box 124, Dorena, OR  97434.

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A photo of the Mother’s Tea at Culp Creek School

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A couple of ladies from Star. One didn’t mess with the up river girls back then.

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The Old Town

The town of Dorena was originally located where Rat Creek met the Row River.  In 1947 the town buildings were moved or dismantled to make way for the Dorena Reservoir after the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam on the Row River.  The Post Office and School were moved about 6 miles up river where they can still be found today.   A cluster of houses were moved down river near where the old Mountain View School stood.  A new grange building was built at the site of the current grange.

Here are some views of a little town, long gone.

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Dorena, 1942

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Dorena Post Office Historical Timeline

The first Post Office in the Dorena area was called Chrisman and was established around 1880 with John H. Kirk as Postmaster.  It was discontinued in 1897.

In 1899 the Dorena Post Office was established at Bed Rock on the Row River with Alfred J. Bigelow as Postmaster.  Dorena was the third choice for the name of the PO after Dewey and Reno were both turned down.  At that time the Post Office Department required that the names of new offices be “short and not easily confused with other towns.”   I suspect that Reno was turned down for being too much like Keno (named for a dog) in Klamath County and Dewey was already in use in Yamhill County.  This was at the time of the Spanish-American War and names of people and places in the war were popular choices to give to towns in the ever-expanding west.  Mr. Bigelow, probably exasperated by this time, finally just combined the names of two local women, Dora Burnette and Rena Martin to come up with a unique name.  The first Dorena Post Office was in a store owned by a lumber company.

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In 1901 John H Kirk bought the store and became Postmaster.  He served until 1928, when his wife Clara became Postmaster.  The Kirks kept the Post Office a family affair for quite some time as their daughter Myrtle Whitsell succeeded Mrs Kirk to the office in 1932.  Descendants of these Kirks run Kirk’s Mercantile in Dorena today.

In 1933 Charles J Howard took over the office after the Kirks closed their store.  He was replaced by Harold B. Howard in 1936.

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In 1937 Rose Twing became Postmaster. Rose was born in England and grew up in San Francisco.  She taught painting as a young woman until her studio was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.  Rose served as Postmaster until the construction of the Dorena dam in 1947.  The Post Office was the last building in the old town of Dorena to be evacuated when the town was eliminated.    The photo of Ruth and Rose was taken on the last day before the town was dismantled.

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In 1947 Ruth St. Clair Stewart became Postmaster.  The office moved to a temporary building below the dam and was slated for closure as the town for all intents and purposes no longer existed.  There was a general outcry to keep the town name and after a flurry of petitions the office was moved in 1950 to its present location about 6 miles up the river.  The new location is in an area that was formerly called Star.

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