friend of the Hayden FamilyPing Yang on the Mohawk

The Forgotten Asians of Western Oregon

By: Stephen H. Williamson

This site is to remember the contributions of Asians to Western Oregon

Men from Hawaii and Tahiti helped establish Fort Umpqua in 1836

Often these immigrants could only come, work and then forced to leave.

Yet, their labor built roads & railroads that made Oregon grow and some rich

The Ping Yang School Bombings 1895-1901

The Ping Yang School was bombed three times and set on fire twice

It was destroyed from an explosive mix of social, religious and racial prejudices

Here is the man allegedly responsible. He used racist fears of Chinese against the school



 said to be the world's largest wooden railroad
          bridge when first built

The Japanese Colony at Shotgun Creek  1915-1925

 The 1920 US Census shows almost thirty Japanese living in the area

A 1925 news article refers to an entire "Japanese Colony at Mabel"

This photo shows one of the world's largest railroad trestles



Japanese Graves in the Mabel Cemetery at Shotgun Creek

This link has photos of two graves of Japanese in the Mabel Cemetery

These may be the oldest Asian graves in Lane County



Japanese Tea Sold In Marcola 

Imported Japanese Tea in a Marcola Store


This is a photo of Japanese tea sold in Marcola around 1900. The package reads it was "Imported by C. Cole, Isabel Oregon"

Columbus Cole was an important store owner and church leader. The package says that he imported the tea, not just sold it.

It also shows Marcola's original name, Isabel. The railroad later changed it to Marcola, after Mary Cole, wife of Columbus Cole




name of a Japanese
          friend of the HaydensThe Hayden Family with Two Japanese Friends


Read about the Hayden family and their friendship with two Japanese men. 

Ella Hayden was a University of Oregon graduate and a schoolteacher when the Ping Yang school was bombed.





Sikhs from India 

Sikhs from India in Calapooya Lumber Mill


Here are several very rare photos & the story of Punjab Sikhs working in Oregon lumber mills
Sikhs worked in other local mills.  This photo is from about 1909


Read the story of a young Sikh who studied at Berkeley and worked in a mill to earn money for his PhD
His immigration case later set a legal precedent. He is more famous in India than the US




Oregon's Opal WhiteleyAsia in the Life and Writings of Opal Whiteley



One of Oregon's best-selling authors, Opal Whiteley, lived in the Marcola area as a small child in 1903

Much of the research on this site was originally done to understand her early life and writings.

Opal and her mother had a life long fascination with Asia. She even mentions kimonos in her childhood diary

Opal Whiteley Memorial    www.opalnet.org


Newspaper Articles about Asians near Marcola 1895-1925




Read a collection of newspaper articles that mention Asians or Japanese in Oregon's Mohawk Valley. You will find a 1917 World War I draft list with six Japanese men on it. Another article documents Ku Klux Klan activity in Oregon and Marcola in 1924. Note: some of these old articles use the slur word "Jap" - this is very offensive to Japanese people.

Photos & Newspaper Research from the Collection of Curtis Irish

Curtis Irish BIG File of Mohawk News Articles


Many of the photographs and newspaper articles here came from the collection of Mr. Curtis Irish, a lifelong resident of Marcola Oregon. He has gathered thousands of historic pictures and news articles of the Mohawk Valley. Tracing the trail of these Asian pioneers would have been impossible without Curtis Irish and his 80+ year passion for Oregon's history.

See More Photos and Meet Historians at

The Oregon Asian Celebration!

The 3rd Sat & Sunday each February


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About Stephen WilliamsonSteve at
          UO 2003

Stephen was born in 1951 and grew up near Lickskillet, Louisiana. He loved to read as a youth, often disappearing for hours into the woods with his dog and books.  He worked railroad construction while at Louisiana State University. In 1975 he moved to Cottage Grove, Oregon.  Working as a "gandydancer" made him appreciate the hard labor that the Asian railroad workers contributed. His sense of justice inspired him to research their stories.

In 1994, Stephen founded the Opal Whiteley Memorial in Cottage Grove. Opal Whiteley was a best-selling nature writer in 1921 and grew up near Cottage Grove. Opal Whiteley was fascinated with Asia. He was later asked by Dr. Lynne Anderson-Inman of the University of Oregon to assist in publishing Opal Whiteley's best-selling diary online. He collected dozens of historical photographs of the people and places Opal wrote about. The UO graciously provided support for his work as research assistant through a courtesy appointment. Those photographs led to Marcola and these photographs. For over a decade he has shown his historic photos and news articles at the Oregon Asian Celebration, held each year in February.

          as a Gandydancer in 1975

Steve has worked for over 25 years with people who have psychiatric disabilities.  He has also been a statehouse lobbyist for the Association For Retarded Citizens (ARC), and the Oregon Mental Health Association. Stephen has also given trainings in abuse reporting and client rights.

Steve is also an avid outdoorsman and still disappears into the woods with his dog and his books every chance he gets. He is a member of the Cottage Grove Historical Society and frequently speaks to community groups and schools.



If You want Stories or Photos to Share Contact Us


Email Stephen Williamson   storiesbysteve@gmail.com




Ping Yang on the Mohawk




all material on this website, except where noted is copyrighted 2003 by Stephen Williamson