The Oregon Journal, Portland, OR., July 3, 1969, page 4

Journal Special Writer

     It was coming into summer 108 years ago, and the sprinkling of settlers along the mid-Columbia were experiencing a particular brand of uneasiness.
     Life was difficult enough on the frontier, what with Indian problems erupting periodically and the back-breaking toil of clearing land, building homes, planting crops and making them grow. To top it all, there was all that trouble in the East: States seceding from the Union; the slow filtering in of news which told of insurrection and hinted of outright war.
     The community of Dog River on the Colombia boasted only a handful of citizens. But all of them -- the Coes, the Jenkins, the Bensons and the rest -- were loyal Northern sympathizers. To break the Union apart seemed unthinkable.
     There were others, too, in small farms and settlements on both sides of the river who felt a paralyzing shock when the news finally came that Fort Sumpter had been attacked and the North and the South of this great nation were at war.
     Nathaniel Coe, founder and leading citizen of Dog River (which even then people were beginning to call Hood River) took the news of the Civil War as a personal affront. Still, how could a tiny settlement in far-off Oregon express its patriotic fervor? Why there wasn't even an American flag available! And Independence Day was less than one month away.
     Nathaniel Coe met the challenge head-on. He journeyed all the way to Portland to purchase the proper red, white and blue bunting. He rallied the scattered residents of the mid-Columbia to the cause.
     Although there was no standard design for the Union flag in those days, everyone knew that 13 stripes and 34 stars must be incorporated. Seven ladies set to work cutting the and stitching the stars. Corinth Moody volunteered the services of the first sewing machine east of the Cascades.
     Meanwhile, the menfolk hammered together tables, chairs and an improvised podium. They cut and peeled a tall pine pole, draped it with ropes and a pulley. They cleared and leveled a spot overlooking the Columbia Gorge and on June 30, they raised the pole in the clearing.
     Four days later, Independence Day, 1861, dawned bright and warm. Families began arriving early. They came by boat from the Washington side of the river; by wagon, buggy, on horseback and on foot from the farms on the Oregon side. They brought with them basketsful of home-made bread, pies, cakes, pickles and preserves. They appeared in all the finery the frontier could provide. The clothes, if not new, were at least clean, freshly darned, patched and pressed. Promptly at 10 a.m., they gathered to watch the flag -- their flag -- rise magnificently, unfurl and float free.
     Men, women and children (32 in all) pledged enthusiastic allegiance with "three rousing cheers and a tiger." Then, they stood in silence as Nathaniel Coe mounted the podium and spoke.
     "On this glorious occasion, I can find no more fitting words than these," he said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…"
     As the reading of the Declaration of Independence rang out punctuated by the snapping of Old Glory in a westerly breeze, the tiny, remote, insignificant community of Dog River -- soon to become Hood River, somehow gained its maturity. On that Fourth of July, 108 years ago by affirming that the Stars and Stripes is not only the symbol of a nation but also the symbol of the individual courage, a small handful of Oregon people showed a determination and integrity which has kept this nation alive.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer