Reception draws crowd of old-timers

Cameron Vasseur

Saturday a special ceremony was held honoring the families descended from Sweet Homes early settlers.

The event, named “A Journey Through Time,” brought 15 of Sweet Home’s founding families to a special afternoon ceremony following the Frontier Sportsman’s Holiday Parade, in which some of the honorees rode on a special float designed by the East Linn Museum.

The event, which had been in planning since February, was held in commemoration of not only Sweet Home’s founding but also the 150th birthday of Oregon’s statehood. Though there was not as much participation from residents as was desired, organizer Corky Lowen of the Genealogy Society said “it was expected with the rodeo and the logging going on.”

She said that all those descendants who were contacted came and were able to provide another part of the many stories that shaped the Sweet Home community.

Though it was not officially a town until the 1930’s when its first city manager took office, Sweet Home’s origin dates back to the early 1800s. A book titled “In Fear or Favor” written by that city manager can still be found in the city library and details the founding and early days of Sweet Home.

Mayor Craig Fentiman welcomed the participants with a short speech and the introduction of five of the town’s former mayors from 1977 to present with himself: Blair Smith (1977-78), Ruth Ganta Deal (1983-86), Dave Holley (1987-1990), Robert Whitfield (1995-96) and Jim Gourley (1997-98).

“This brings to light a fact about the town of Sweet Home that I can verify from being on the Council for over 20 years and over 10 years as mayor: Sweet Home is a very community-minded city that takes pride in itself and its sense of community,” Fentiman said.

Cathy Burks sang a song in representation of the many churches in town.

Following the introductions the attendees were released to go around the tables and speak with the representatives from each founding family and look through the pictures they brought.

Tables held displays of photos and other memorabilia from the participating families: the Sportsmans, Huffords, Moreheads, Nothigers, Rices, Philpotts, Ameses, Keeneys, Paddocks, Nyes, Mealeys, Robinettes, Childerses, Russels and Looneys.

Lelia Morehead, a representative of the Morehead family and a former elementary school teacher, said “one of the first things I noticed was that someone misspelled the word ‘Descendants,'” Four generations of their family have lived on the same land since the town’s early days.

Rachel Mealey Vogel, who at 92 was one of the older participants, said “the only thing really wrong with me is my ears.”

At the Mealey family table she displayed a piece of 108-year-old wedding cake which belonged to her ancestors.

The Mealey house was originally located at the bottom of what is now the Foster reservoir. The house, which was built in 1904, was cut into two pieces and hauled up by bulldozers where it was relocated only a few hundred feet above where the lake is today.

There were many stories from the various families that were told that day and unfortunately only a small few could be recorded.

Throughout the event video cameras were placed at the different tables to capture the stories told of all those who still know about Sweet Home’s beginnings.