Dorena Historical Society

Opal and Ruth

A photo of Opal Whiteley on the left and her friend Ruth Stewart taken in 1915. 

Not to be confused with the Ruth Stewart who was the long time Dorena Postmistress, she was not yet born when this photo was taken. Steve Williamson, a noted Opal historian, told me this story from about that time. John Wilson and Charlie Teeters were a couple of local scamps. Opal kept butterflies that she collected in a cage and the two boys snuck over and opened the door to watch the butterflies fly away. Opal came bursting out of her house in just her bloomers screaming bloody murder at them. Do not mess with an amateur naturalist!


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Cute Row River Valley Kids of Yore


Not sure of the identity of this cute little farmer, but the photo is from the Van Schoaick Family



More Van Schoiack kids, Lattie, Belle and Ray, in a formal portrait from a Cottage Grove Studio



Four boys in a tree in Star circa 1900.  Might be a Wicks child or two in this photo.




Opal Whiteley and her sisters, early Row River residents.




A very somber Chloe and Faye Whiteley, sisters of Opal. The bottom three photos are from the Lane County Historical Society’s online photo archive. Check it out here and a nod to for posting about great online photo resources.


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Early Timber Photos

Timber was the mainstay of the Row River Valley for over a century.  The first lumber mill in the valley was called Up Today and Down Tomorrow and was used by early settlers to mill the lumber for their homes.  At one point there were 11 lumber mills along the Row and its tributaries.  Among these were Booth Kelly, Durable Fir, Wildwood, Brown Lumber, Row River Lumber and the big daddy of them all, Bohemia.

Steam Donkey used in logging

Lumber Camp along the Row

Lumber Camp Resident Opal Whiteley

Row River Lumber Company

Row River Lumber Company

Brown Lumber Company

Logs from Rujada

For a comprehensive look at the Timber Industry in the Row River Valley, try to get a hold of a copy of Bohemia,  The Lives and Times of an Oregon Timber Venture by Michael Thoele, published by the Oregon Historical Society Press.

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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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