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Thompson Mills The Little Known Local Tourist Attraction

The mill was first built in 1858. It burned down in 1862, but was rebuilt right away and those 12 inch by 12 inch hand hewn beams cut and placed while Lincoln was in office are still visible inside the mill today . A series of dedicated and tenacious owners adapted the mill to changing times turning the flour mill to a feed mill and eventually a hydroelectric plant operating until 2004, making it one of Oregon's oldest continuously operating water-powered businesses. Oregon State Parks purchased the property in 2004 and the park was opened to the public in December, 2007. The property was acquired and restored under governor Kulongoski's "park-a-year" plan, in which one new state park is to be opened every year. Free guided tours are offered daily allowing visitors to see the water powered turbines and machinery in action. The grounds are being restored to the 1910-1930's era with the heirloom orchard, gardens and plantings restored as well as heritage poultry roaming the grounds and original fence lines and paths; all will be open to the public when complete.

Photos by Lance Wilson

Living Rock Studios in Brownsville

You know those places you drive by every day that you planned on going to sometime, but never really did? Once you go inside the Living Rock Studios you will wonder why you never done it before! Common work schedules prevent most from truly experiencing this magnificent place, but that is about to change!

The entire rock studio was from the Vision of a man named Howard B Taylor. Though a Surveyor by trade, he became an artist after an unfortunate series of health issues. During his recovery he explored many different forms of art on his spare time. He had specific permits to collect rock and other special artifacts to contribute to this building. “He knew everybody that worked for the state, and if there was a land slide or earth moving they would give him the opprotunity to scavenge,” says Taylor’s Daughter Penny Mackey.

A few of many examples of Taylo’s work he created a set of seven transparent living rock pictures, created from thin slices of rock. Each picture depicted a scene from the Bible. The pictures were lit from behind to give it a beautiful stained glass effect.

Howard also created 125 bird paintings and 75 wood carvings. The bird paintings were based on his field sketches and manuals. Some of these paintings are life sized! All the wood carvings have multiple interconnected parts, but each are made by only one piece of wood!

Another example is the large wooden interactive logging history book, which consists of 35 panels. On one side of the panel is a hand written description of a phase, invention, or method of logging with a hand painted picture on the other side. These panels move in a conveyor like fashion on a set of rails. “This isn’t based on something that was looked up, this is something that we all seen first hand. This is an accurrate and creative way of documenting it,” says David Mackey one of the studio caretakers.

In addition to Taylor’s creations, there are personal artifacts from their pioneer family and Native Americans. This exhibits the history of Oregon before most of our time.

David and Penny Mackey have been caretakers for the studio within the last year. Penny is one Howard Taylor’s three daughters. They have (with dedication) taken the torch since her sister Nancy could no longer continue caretaking due to health reasons. Penny’s other sister Gail passed away last year. Gail also honorably participated in the caretalkg of the studio.

The studio was under construction since the late 1950’s, by both the Taylors and volunteers. Penny says “The Living Rock Studio opened to the public on her parent’s 50th Anniversary date in 1985, and has been inspiring patrons ever since.” She is always more than happy to provide a private tour, but (if you prefer) you can wander on your own. The flashlights provided  to see the various rocks light up. Kids are more than welcomed to come as well.

Mark your calendar for the first Friday of every month, if you desire to experience this majestic place after work. If you are lucky, you will get a personal tour from Penny or hear stories about the logging in Oregon from David! Check out their gift shop as well. Another change to the attraction is the acceptance of credit and debit cards in the gift shop. Before then it was cash only at the gift shop. This will make it easier for patrons to aquire majestic stones and souvenirs available there. You will not only walk out with a travel souvenir but you walk out with something that is hundreds if not millions of years in the making!

For more information please view their Facebook Page.


Photos by Lance Wilson

Hands on History event every summer

No generations in history have experienced such change in society due to technology as our current generations, so far in our lifetimes. With such rapid technological changes, it’s easy to have a disconnect on how things really used to be. There is a time that you need to take a breath of fresh air from your all too familiar modern life. August the 24th, made a grand opprotunity to really see the pioneer methods that tendered to family’s deceased, entertained, feed, clothed, and even provided transportation. Electricity was not even in the Pioneer’s words of vocabulary. Just think in our case, hashtag, download, upload, hard drive, texting, facetime, or even online wasn’t even in the dictionary at the beginning of our some of own generations lives. The “Hands on History” gives everyone a one day opportunity to forget your cell phone, ignore your smart watches, and get out of your self driving car, to go back in time  experiencing the historic way of life. Pioneer times goes back before 8 track tapes, UHF TV, VCR’s, Walkmans, muscle cars, cassettes, or even brick cellular phones. People back in those times had a different ideas of instant survival and gratification.

It’s hard to believe that this is only a one day event, with so many things to see and do. “Hands on History” by most agree that it successfully served the purpose of people interactively and authentically experience a sense of heritage. Great to know we have dedicated knowlegable volunteers and residents to make this event happen.


Photos by Lance Wilson