BabyOregonian, Destinations, Musings, Oregon, The Little Peach, Tidbits About Us

As I Went Down to the River: Champoeg State Heritage Area

January 29, 2014

Our January days are flowing calm and quiet, one into the next. A bit like the Willamette River ambles through winter landscape when there isn’t excess Oregon rainwater to manage or riverbanks to break.

I’ll take it.

This rhythm.

Willamette River at Champoeg State Heritage Area

It’s different than travel: the go-go-go of new scenes and cities each day.

Different than work: tasks and client meetings dotted through familiar Portland and surrounds.

It’s a new sort of productive meander: guiding a little life gently through the first season beyond the womb.

After the push to finish out the so-called “fourth trimester” during holiday flurries, I’m so very grateful for a now-four-month old babyOregonian who is currently blessing us with a bit more sleep and even more smiles (and a little extra time to have fun delving into family history).

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On a Monday afternoon, I drove Lucie down to my parents’ home, about forty minutes south of Portland. (For those who remember the traveling tales from December, I’m so very happy to report that she seems to have outgrown the red-faced-sobbing in the car phase. Fingers crossed that it stays that way.) From there, my mom and brother and I took Lucie on her first visit to Champoeg Park, the Oregon State Heritage Area along the Willamette River with a special tie to her name.

Two quick notes.

Note one: Native American vocabulary word of the day: “Champoeg”
Not Champ-OO-egg or SHAM-boogie.
Say it with me now…Sham-POO-ee.
(Or is it Shampoo-y?)

Well anyway. There you go. Now you know.

Note two: Lucie’s name is not tied to Champoeg, per se, but to someone who spent time here…a long, long time ago.

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There’s a monument at Champoeg State Park with Lucie’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandpa’s name on it: Etienne Lucier*, the fur trapper turned farmer who made a life in Oregon and shaped the origins of the state.

*Another note: LOO-see-ay. Just, you know, Lucy with an “A” on the end. But spelled the French way.

Oregon Country British Territory Spanish Territory United StatesIn 1810, 17 year old Lucier from Montreal, Canada joined the first overland party to head west for the mouth of the Columbia River after Lewis and Clark’s original 1804-1806 expedition. Lucier helped establish the Pacific Ocean/North American trading outpost in Astoria and traversed Oregon Country until retiring from life as a trapper and settling in the Willamette Valley as “the first farmer of Oregon” in 1829.


Shooting the Rapids, Frances Anne Hopkins, 1879, Library and Archives Canada: A depiction of the French Canadian voyageurs, Métis bison hunters, and Native American trappers in the early years of trading enterprise. (Painted by Ms. Hopkins, who traveled with her husband during his time working for the Hudson’s Bay Company.)

Fourteen years after Lucier settled on the French Prairie, as Britain and the United States were angling for domain over the geography of the Pacific Northwest, Lucier’s fellow farmers and trappers who had joined him in settling the area were divided over whether it was best for the Oregon Country to fall under British or American rule.


A view of the settlement at St. Paul on the French Prairie

I get pretty frustrated with modern day politics, but I love the stories from early Oregon…

Under the guise of discussing livestock predators, the fellows of the French Prairie gathered at Champoeg for “Wolf Meetings,” to actually discuss (and eventually vote on) the creation of a provisional government for the region.

During the early 1840s, the French Canadian male settlers actively participated in the local political culture by attending debates regarding the organization of a community government. As a group, they largely supported only a limited governmental structure. On a practical level, the French Canadians were not unlike rural people from Lower Canada who were wary of the bureaucratic and taxation burdens imposed by a more complex governmental apparatus. Moreover, they had successfully managed local problems in previous years. Nevertheless, approximately a half dozen of the leading French Canadians did eventually join with their American neighbors to form a provisional government in May 1843. The remaining French Canadians were later able to achieve a compromise with their American neighbors due to their long-standing influence and presence in the valley, and their position as a large majority block with a large land base.
The Birth of Oregon, Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America

Lucier avoided a 51/51 tie at that 1843 meeting, as he and his fellow French Canadian, persuasive F.X. Matthieu, cast votes in favor of governance that paved the way for Oregon statehood under the American flag.

25_Birth-of-Oregon-1923_normaleToday, 171 years later, the names of Lucier and his fellow history makers are etched into granite at the Champoeg State Heritage Area.


The granite obelisk monument commemorating the 52 Voters for Oregon’s Provisional Government: Champoeg State Heritage Area, French Prairie, Oregon

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It only seemed fitting that my mom, the history teacher who brought me to Champoeg over and over throughout my childhood, would bring Lucie for her first visit to take her picture next to Lucier’s name.


Side note: HOW did my newborn grow up so fast? Remember these days? My little one-week-old, trapped in a crate of fur, herself:

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After the stop at the namesake obelisk, grandma and Lucie took to the riverside trails.

I split my time between trying to keep up and trying to pause and enjoy the fleeting sunset moments.

The metaphorical conundrum of my life, I suppose.


Lucie and Grandma Suz

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately.

On our experiences overseas and our life here in Oregon.

On ambitions and risks.

On the choices we make, the journeys we take.

On where Ted’s and my life has landed after circling the globe and returning to our little X on the treasure map.

I credit much of who I am and where I am and how I am to my ancestors.

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People who ventured out beyond the life they first knew:

Etienne Lucier, braving that first journey westward at age 17, making a life in a new land.

Zenaphon Antonius Tringas aka William Brown, my great grandpa, who left Greece at 19 years old with $100 in his pocket and America in his sights.

My mom’s aunt and grandma, who sailed from England (smuggling an illegitimate child of noble descent or some such fantastic tale, as family lore has it?), bringing loyalty to the crown and proper tea to life on a farm in Washington State.

My own grandma, who married a sailor and left the Pacific Northwest for sunshine and pineapples, giving birth to her first daughter in Hawaii before it was a state.

And I’m just as much a product of a family tree planted firmly in one spot.

Generations of farmers who have worked the land, praying for rain, dripping sweat, finding themselves honorably tethered to the seasons, to the soil.

Faithful folks who lived close to to home, moving mere miles down the road, forming a beautiful string of decades out of a common past shared with friends and neighbors and kindred spirits.

(Makes me think of this short, lovely post by Gus & Claudette about visiting Gus’ 85 year old aunt in Greece…It struck me in 2011, and it’s stayed with me these past years.)

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I do wonder just how the trail of mine and Ted’s will fuel the future of our little Peach.

The web of choices and connections, the spirit of adventure and the pride in home.

Will she be a wanderer?

Driven to explore, eager to go beyond, curious to see more?

Will she be a student of the here and now?

Keenly present, deeply aware?

Will she always bring such contagious joy to our family?

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Sunset came and went at Champoeg State Park.

Lucie stayed with grandma and grandpa and her uncle Jesse while I was gifted an hour of relaxation…and we all reconvened for ice cream, because, hey, that’s what family is for.


Lucie and Grandpa Cam

Content to live life at the pace of Poohsticks for a while, I am learning a new rhythm, following the flow of whatever comes from one day to the next. I know that this, like all seasons, will morph into something else sooner than I can imagine.

Rains come. Rivers rise. Currents change, yes.

(Babies turn four months old, and moms turn 30…um, like, next Monday.)

Honestly? I’m just so very grateful for the present calm of here and now.

Living history in realtime.


Dusk on the Willamette River at Champoeg State Park in my beautiful, beautiful Oregon


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  • Head to Champoeg State Heritage Area for tent, cabin, yurt, and RV camping and horse riding, biking, and hiking trails in the 615 acres of rivers, woodland, and prairie.
  • Visit Friends of Historic Champoeg for field trips where kiddos can “meet” Etienne’s daughter, Felicite Lucier Manson (May 1st and 2nd, 2014 are the next two homeschool days – hey-o!)
  • Peruse tidbits about the life and times of Etienne Lucier on my little pinboard

Etienne Lucier married an Indian Woman, Josephte Noviete
Their daughter, Adrienne, married Andre Lachapelle
Their daughter, Clementine, married Jean Baptiste Vandale
Their daughter, Alice, married Sevare Manegre
Their daughter, Nina, married William A. Brown
Their daughter, Shirley, married Frank Buck
Their son, Cam, married Susan Breshears
Their daughter, Bethany, married Ted Rydmark
Their daughter, Lucie, is a little peach.

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13 Comments

  • Reply Lucy Hardiman January 29, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Your commentary is beautiful–weaving the past, present and future with spirit and simplicity. You encourage me to trace my families journey to the Oregon Territory. My history is similar.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians February 9, 2014 at 9:53 am

      Lucy, it was so nice to see you this past week. I’d love to hear more about your family history and the stories of your ancestors’ settlement here. If I had endless time, I’d curl up with history books and tea and get lost for a while… So much to learn!

  • Reply Geri Monroe January 29, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Fun post, Bethany! I love the history and heritage that you shared. Very inspiring! I’ll think of you and the Buck family next time I visit Champoeg! (P.S. – I’m a bit jealous of your writing abilities – such talent!)

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians February 9, 2014 at 10:41 am

      You’re sweet, Geri – thank you! I have so many fun memories of visiting Champoeg as a kid, playing around in the old oak trees during BBQs and taking bikes on the trail along the river. I’m glad there’s such a fun spot near mom and dad’s place to take Lucie as she grows up :) It’s a great park.

  • Reply GrandmaBeckyL January 29, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Aw, what a story and beautiful photos to go along with it. Champoeg Park is a cool place. I remember when you were young and grade school age, homeschool field trips. Oh my! How the time does fly! You and Justin are the same age, you’re just 2 months older. They are homeschooling little ones, my adorable grandchildren. Enjoy the journey, be thankful each day for what God has given you. Happy Birthday! Hugs and blessings!

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians February 9, 2014 at 10:42 am

      Time really does fly, Becky. Thanks for the birthday wishes :) I can barely believe it’s been so many years since those childhood memories…

  • Reply Heather January 29, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks for the history lesson- it’s awesome how you know so much about your family’s heritage and how you will pass that on to little Lucie. Growing into another decade is always a good reason for reflection- praying the best is yet to come! :)

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians February 9, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Thanks, friend! Love you dearly xx

  • Reply Susan Buck February 2, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Wow, Bethany — once again my little peach has elicited tears and awe. I love to read what you write; I’m in awe of who you are–and I have been for over 30 years.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians February 9, 2014 at 10:44 am

      I had a challenging writing teacher as a kid – she inspired the best in me ;)

  • Reply Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? February 20, 2014 at 12:06 am

    This reminded me of the William Zinsser quote I recently read on Vagablogging:

    “China is easier to write about than Cheyenne, Leningrad easier than Louisville. But to see Cheyenne and Louisville written about well, to see the dailiness of America brought to life with freshness and humor, is to watch one of the hardest high-wire acts in travel writing.”

    Well done, fellow Oregonians!

  • Reply Gatter September 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    FX is was my Grandpa.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians September 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      That’s very cool! Another good friend of mine is one of his descendents as well. It would be great to see one enormous family tree from the French Canadian settlers…

    What say you?