The Oregon Black History 2016 Bus Tour
On Saturday May 14th, 35 community members traveled together to five historic locations in the Willamette Valley associated with Oregon’s African American history.
The day long bus tour, Back Roads to Black History, engaged participants in learning about Oregon’s black pioneers. OBP board members and tour coordinators Kim Moreland and Natalia Fernández planned the day filled with a variety of guest speakers to inform and inspire the tour participants.
We began the day at Portland’s Unthank Park and then traveled to the Salem Pioneer Cemetery, the Mt Union Cemetery in Philomath, the Eliza and Hannah Gorman House in Corvallis, the Helvetia Community Church in Hillsboro, and concluded the tour with a reception at the Abbey Creek Winery in North Plains.
For the tour’s first stop in Salem, board member Gwen Carr shared the story of the tombstone “In Remembrance of Oregon’s black pioneers, named and unnamed, in Salem Pioneer Cemetery” dedicated to the City of Salem by the Oregon Black Pioneers – the tombstone contains over 40 names.
Then, professional storyteller, Chetter Galloway shared experiences from the perspective of an early black pioneer, and tour attendees took photos for the National Trust for Historic Preservation “This Place Matters” project.
“Everyone has places that are important to them. Places they care about. Places that matter. This Place Matters is a national campaign that encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities.
Want to create a campaign for a place you love? The National Trust has a downloadable toolkit that can be accessed via their website Saving Places.
Are you a Twitter user? Use the hashtag #thisplacematters to focus attention on your favorite historic site.
At our next stop at the Mt Union Cemetery in Philomath, historian and author Bob Zybach discussed the many African Americans brought to the state as slaves who settled in the area.
” Zybach has been Program Manager for ORWW.org since 1996. He has a PhD from Oregon State University (OSU) in Environmental Sciences, with a research focus on forest and wildfire history. He also has an MAIS and a BS from OSU, each in the field of Forest Sciences. He has been widely published and interviewed in the public media on the topics of forest history, fire history, reforestation, wildlife habitat, Oregon Indian history, Oregon black history, and scientific peer review methodology. Zybach is a 5th-generation Oregonian”
Afterwards, the group had the opportunity to learn more about one of those stories with a visit to the Eliza and Hannah Gorman House in Corvallis – the Gormans were a mother-daughter pair who came to Oregon as slaves in the mid-1800s. The house, now owned by Pat and Tony Benner was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Benners organized a series of activity stations with experts to share more details about the Gormans and the house itself. The bus then traveled north to the Helvetia Community Church in Hillsboro.
Along the way, the participants read through their many informational brochures in their goodie bags, watched the documentary Local Color, and enjoyed playing to win a number of raffle prizes including books and DVDs about Oregon’s African American history.
From Hillsboro we traveled specifically to Helvetia, Oregon to the home of Floyd and Annie Cash who settled there in 1890. We visited the Helevetia Church and toured the grave sites of Annie and Maragereth Cash. Ginny Mapes, Helvetia native shared her knowledge and research of a Black family that lived among the German Swedish immigrants., Ginny & other local volunteers gave a presentation about the Cash family that settled in the area during the later 1800s.
For the tour’s last stop, we went to the Abbey Creek Winery in North Plains for an evening reception. Bertony Faustin, the proprietor of Abbey Creek Vineyard, is the first recorded Black winemaker in Oregon – an example of living history!
After the tour, we contacted the tour participants to share their thoughts regarding the day and received a great deal of positive feedback. We are already planning for the spring 2017 bus tour of Clatsop County, Oregon’s upper northwest coast. We look forward to you joining us!
Special thanks to our bus driver of NW Navigator Luxury Coaches, OBP board member Zoe Morrison who catered the evening reception, the Abbey Creek Winery for hosting our reception, our wonderful guest speakers and location guides, Oregon Humanities for its $1,500 grant, and of course, all of the tour attendees.
Author: Natalia Fernandez