Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Memento Mori: The Wreck at Minto Brown

Over at DSS, Emily has a note about Salem mysteries. Here's a mystery that I find a little haunting - and maybe with more info could become really haunting?

Nobody seems to know the story behind the car wreck at Minto Brown. I've always supposed it involved drunk driving. I wonder if anyone perished in the crash. It's a sort of unofficial ghost structure.

Though I didn't put too much time into google, the only story I found was on Waymarking about a young man unlucky in love.
A story goes that a young man was trying to take a shortcut in this very car to rendezvous with a girlfriend somewhere in this area long before it became a park; but, the car broke down after running off the old dirt road which is now a paved path. He abandoned the vehicle to try and reach her on foot because he wanted to patch up differences that had left them estranged and she had agreed to meet him at their favorite park bench located somewhere on the island.

He knew he would be shipping out for war the next day and was worried that he was going to be late and miss her; so, he took his Grandfather's old car at the last moment hoping that he would make up for lost time and get to their rendezvous point in time. After running off the road, he decided to swim the creek to take a shortcut. He eventually got lost in one of the sloughs and was never heard from again.

Others say that he was too late and missed her. Totally discouraged and despondent he went off to war to try and forget his failures.

No one knows for sure which story is true. Only the car remains. It probably is just a made up story. But, you have to wonder, "How did this car get here and why didn't the park authorities remove it after all these years." It remains a mystery.
Folks often see it as photo opportunity for "artsy photographs from the decaying relic."

The Oregon Offbeat Network also featured it in a note about Minto Brown park.

Does anyone know the real story behind the wreck?

Other area parks have official ghost structures.

Here's the original mission site of Jason Lee. You can't actually go to the site itself, but there's a path to a viewpoint across the slough, which was an earlier course of the river before receding floodwaters found a new course. The ghostly outline is especially poignant at dusk or dawn, and though the written history mostly stresses the missionaries' side, the indigenous Kalapuyas loss should be also be remembered.

At Champoeg, the original street grid is remembered through posts at each of the intersections on which the streetnames are incised. The land's a grassy meadow there, and no trace remains of the plat or grid other than the posts.

Each of these ghost remains sits over the Willamette. The wrecked car and ghost mission sit above sloughs, old river banks orphaned by receding floods as the river found new beds and a new temporary equilibrium. Champoeg was wiped out by the flood of 1861, but the river did not jump its banks there.

The portraits of Governors McCall and Kitzhaber both feature water, the Pacific Ocean tide in one, and the Rogue River in the other. Though the powerful men are in the foreground, the water and land will outlast both. Neither of them seem inclined to echo Ozymandias:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"


  1. I am slightly in love with that ghostly outline of the first mission. I would rather look at the outline of a house in a park than see an actual structure anyway. By the way, great Watchmen reference. Oh wait, or is it Shelley.

  2. It runs a nice seam between public art and interpretive exhibit, doesn't it?

    Alan Moore hasn't grabbed me - but the whole form, the graphic novel, still mostly baffles me . Have any engaged your literary sensibilities sufficiently? Or, I suppose, any just flat out eye-candy with no redeeming literary merit?