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It was a VERY hot day.. the hottest since last Summer. This could have been a much
nicer ride except that the directions for these bridges was even worse than they
were for part one and two of this tour. Morons who provide travel instructions
on web sites who don't actually know what they are talking about piss me off.
This was coupled by the fact that every trailer trash clod with a running vehicle
was in the area making a nuisance of themselves. You don't find many White people
blasting ghetto gangsta rap at 70 db above pain in my neighborhood. I feel bad for
the locals who have to put up with this crap for several months every year.
A word of advice: Links are provided that contain a lot of information about each
of these covered bridges. But take the directions with a grain of salt. The guy who
wrote them doesn't seem to know the difference between North and East... many of the
directions are vague or misleading... and in some cases downright wrong. So do your
homework as we did and be prepared to do some scouting to find some of these bridges.
A Linn/Lane County map (free from AAA if you are a member) can be a real help. If you
visit the bridges in the order that they are displayed here, you will travel about 55
miles from bridge one to bridge six.
Oregon covered bridge overview
Mill Creek (Wendling) Covered Bridge
Ignore the crappy directions and just travel along Marcola Road until you get to
Wendling Road. The Wendling Road covered bridge is about 3 1/2 miles (+/-) from
the beginning of Wendling Road.
Alternately, after leaving the Earnest Covered Bridge, follow Paschelke Road to the
end and turn left onto Wendling Road.
Wendling, Oregon was a company Mill Town built by the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company in the Mohawk Valley about 20 miles Northeast of Eugene Oregon. At it's height it had a population of about 1000 people, half of which worked at Booth-Kelly's Wendling Mill. The hills around the area were populated by hundreds more men living in logging camps that fed the Wendling Mill and Springfield Mill.
The first mill in the area was owned by a man named Holcomb who built it at the junction of Mill and Wolf Creeks. In 1885 Whitbeck and Sterns purchased the mill, operated it for a short time before selling to Johnson and George Wendling. They operating it for a few years before selling to George Kelly, Tom Kelly, and Robert Booth in 1898. These men had formed the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company and immediately set about "modernizing" the mill.
The town grew so fast that a Post Office was established in 1899. In October of 1900, the Springfield-Wendling branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad was built to Wendling. This allowed timber and lumber to be shipped by train instead of wagon and allowed output to be increased even further. It is reported that the line was extended another 25 miles up the valley where trains brought timber to the mill from remote logging camps.
In 1903 the Southern Pacific Railroad announced that they would no longer sell land grants to individuals after realizing how much potential timber profit there was in the lands they owned. This was in conflict with the Pacific Railroad Acts enacted by Congress in 1862 and 1863. The Federal Government filed suit against the Southern Pacific Railroad, causing operations to cease. Because of this Booth-Kelly was shut down in 1904 as they could no longer transport logs or lumber. The mill was able to open again two years later after the lawsuit was resolved and by 1908 had grown yet again.
In August 1910 most of the town was destroyed by fire. The mill itself was saved, but most everything else had to be rebuild. Less then a year later the town featured larger houses with indoor plumbing. Before that the town consisted of a bunk-house with 46 rooms and electricity, a company store, cottages for married men and their families, an church, a school, a resident doctor, locomotive barn, machine shop, blacksmith shop, train depot, bowling alley, barber shop, and an skating rink.
The roads in Wendling were interesting, they were covered with left over sawdust from the mill. Later they were replaced with discarded and left over planks from the mill, along with wood-slat sidewalks.
The mill saw another fire in 1922, but was able to stay in business until 1946. The closing was prompted by a labor dispute, before a third and final fire that destroyed the building. This signed the death warrant for Wendling as any remaining timber was too far away to be financially viable. The Post Office closed in 1952, and the land sold to the Georgia Pacific Corporation in 1959.
One of Wendling's most engaging residents was Opal Whiteley who as a child had kept a diary of her adventures in a fantasyland composed of the trees, beasts, and wild flowers populated by fairies. Opal claimed to be an illegitimate child of French aristocracy who was either purchased or adopted as a replacement by her mother who had "lost" the original Opal.
The book of her life, complied by Opal herself, and launched as a serial in the Atlantic Monthly Press in 1920 ended up selling three editions and 15,000 copies in less then a year. By 1921, the Story of Opal was pulled from shelves due to the controversy surrounding Opal's life.
Not much is left of Modern Wendling. A few older houses, the covered bridge, and the memories of residents lay among the ghosts of the mill. Concrete remains mark the final location of the mill, the general store, and the third spillway dam. There are rumors of the remains of a playground, and the children's cemetery on the hill. But the road up is closed to traffic other then logging trucks. Other then these remains, the forest is slowly taking over the town again.
There are more pictures of the covered bridge tour HERE AND HERE.
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