Traveling cross country as we are, we have quickly come to realize that every place we stop has a unique story. For Brownsville, a town with a population under 2000 people, their story is that it has never lost it’s identity to growth, or charm to big box retail. Pulling into Brownsville is like traveling back in time. You can walk down the main street and visit your dentist, your doctor, go to the post office and have breakfast at the cafe, or a drink at the saloon without breaking a sweat! Let’s step back in time for an afternoon together!
First stop is the only bar in town, the old Brownsville Saloon. Hungry as usual, we belly up to the bar and order us some burgers and beer. No doubt as thousands of cowboys before us have done.
From the outside, it looks like it will always need a coat of paint, while on the inside, they have big screen TV country music videos playing and an upscale atmosphere that doesn’t overdo the modern.
While Country music is playing, you can grab a game of billiards while you wait for your lunch or catch up on the latest news with the locals at the bar. The place probably gets busier, but today, there are only the two of us and a young cowboy at the bar. The beer is cold and the food is down right amazing!
They offer the usual pours along with some delicious locally brewed beer too. We learn from the locals that the movie Stand By Me was mostly filmed right here in Brownsville.
Irby’s’, the pool hall outside which bully Ace (Kiefer Sutherland) steals Gordie’s (Wil Wheaton) treasured cap, is really the Brownsville Saloon! They definitely scouted the right place for that scene.
Lunch is served and it’s hard to keep your hands off the food long enough to snap a few photos. I have a Heart Attack Burger (yep, it’s really called a Heart Attack)…..and it is definitely to die for! The foundation is an Angus burger with ham, bacon, Swiss, Cheddar and a fried egg to top the stack! I think omitting the bun and adding a side salad is all that saved me! The burgers are full of flavor and juicy and our barmaid is a hoot with a salty personality, which just adds to the local color and fun.
Linn County Historical Museum
After lunch we decide to walk it off and head down the street to the museum we are told is a fascinating must see! It is in Brownsville’s original railroad depot and features exhibits and collections dating from pioneer days to the 1940’s. Part of the museum is even housed in Southern Pacific boxcars.
Collections of over 35,000 artifacts ranging in size from hat-pins to a real covered wagon, to horse drawn buggies up to an early electric car.
In the Southern Pacific boxcars are Kalapuya Native American history and artifacts, exhibits on the Brownsville Mill Race (the earliest source of local industrial hydro-power), the Brownsville woolen mill and regional mining.
One area of the museum is designed as if you are walking along a city street and able to peer in at authentic storefronts of the period.
It truly captures the essence of early Linn County life with replicas of a general store, a bank, a barber shop and milliner’s shop, all rich with the objects, clothing and turn-of-the-century tools of the trade.
It’s kind of fun to figure out what some of those old tools of the trade were used for!
And you think we have problems with our phone service now days! There were some pretty whacky rules when the telephone was first invented. 1890: Subscribers Please Note – “You are prohibited from using words longer than 12 syllables (you could break the lines)” or “Don’t use our wires as clotheslines.” or my favorite, “Onion eaters must stand at least 4 feet away from the phone when calling!”
It’s nearly impossible to miss the elegant Moyer House as you cross the bridge over the Calapooia River into Brownsville. The home was completed in 1881 by original pioneers of Brownsville, John M. and Elizabeth Brown Moyer.
Brownsville, one of Oregon’s early settlements, had its beginnings in 1846, when a group of families including the Kirks, Browns and Blakelys, came west on the Oregon Trail in the likes of that wagon you see in an earlier picture, then continued south to claim land in the lush valley of the Calapooia River. The town was originally named Calapooia, like the river, after the local tribe of Kulapuya indians, but was later renamed Brownsville after Hugh L. Brown.
Hugh Brown and his nephew James Blakely established a store south of the river. In 1853, Blakely laid out a town on part of his land claim and named it after his uncle.
On our tour to the Moyer House, as we cross the street, we are pointed to the spot where Vern, in the movie Stand by Me (Jerry O’Connell), picked up his lucky penny. An actual penny is embedded in the middle of a Main Street crosswalk to mark the spot…right, not too impressive to see it now and a little gross looking…but there it is!
Living Rock Studio
This area is a rock lover’s paradise. A quite unique and eclectic castle-like structure turned studio/museum was built from the passions of one man for rocks and rock art. Howard B. Taylor had collected rocks for more than 50 years, bringing home specimens he found while working as a surveyor.
Using the rocks he had collected, Howard and his extended family started building the Living Rock Studios stone by stone. Today the 800 ton rock building is a showplace for 75 original wood carvings, 125 bird paintings and seven one-of-a kind living rock pictures.
The walls of this two story building are made from local rocks, embedded with agates and semi-precious stones.
A hollow tree over two stories high made of petrified wood and lined with sparkling crystals is the focal point in the center of the round stone staircase. Taylor’s daughters have used sheets painted with leaves to depict the tree top.
Taylor made use of every last piece of stone. In fact these are the last bits of stones he had complied into a large hanging picture. He left no stone unturned!
We knew Brownsville had some history and it was close by, but we had no idea what we would find there. This is what’s great about traveling. You never know what you might stumble upon!