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Arts & Culture

OREGON EXPERIENCE: The Logger's Daughter

OPB | Jan. 14, 2009 9:16 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 5, 2013 11:13 a.m.

Gwen Trice, like many girls growing up in La Grande, Oregon during the ‘70s liked skiing, hiking, the Mary Tyler Moore Show and boys. But as the only African-American kid in her class, she always felt a little different. Years later, living in Seattle, she was still an outsider — only this time it was her rural background that branded her as different. The next episode in OPB’s OREGON EXPERIENCE, “The Logger’s Daughter,” tells the story of Trice’s exploration of her family’s past and how she found a community that embraced her. It’s a “family” she never knew she had. Tune in to the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting on Monday, February 9 at 9pm and Sunday, February 12 at 10:30pm to see how a town that’s now gone can still provide a sense of kinship.

Large timber harvests require many workers, and logging camps were once common in the Oregon woods. But few of those camps housed whole families — the fact that Maxville did made the town distinctive.  

Maxville was built in 1923, almost overnight, by the Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company near Wallowa in eastern Oregon. The Maxville workers came mostly from out-of-state, transported by the company directly from the deep South. But what made Maxville unique was that 50 to 60 of its citizens were African-American. It was home to the only segregated school in Oregon. Its black residents lived in a group of houses across the tracks from the white residents. Yet conflicts across racial lines were few and friendships many.

Maxville was officially closed in the early 1930s, though a few loggers and their families stayed on for another dozen years. And most of what happened there during its short existence is not widely known.

Enter Gwendolyn Trice.

A black woman from La Grande, Gwen never knew much about her father’s early years in Oregon. She only recently learned that he had left Arkansas in the 1920s with his father to live and work in this place called Maxville.

A couple of years ago, Gwen set out with a tape recorder and a video camera to learn more about Maxville. Her gathering of oral histories took some unexpected turns as she became immersed in a much wider community. The story of that community, its history and its people is revealed in “The Logger’s Daughter.”

Watch the complete program online anytime after February 9 at opb.org/oregonexperience.

About OREGON EXPERIENCE
OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting new history series on OPB-TV that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each half-hour show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by Ann & Bill Swindells Charitable Trust, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust. The OREGON EXPERIENCE Web site is opb.org/oregonexperience.

About OPB
OPB is the state’s most far-reaching and accessible media resource, providing free access to programming for children and adults designed to give voice to community, connect Oregon and its neighbors and illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune in to or log on to OPB’s Television, Radio and Internet delivered services. As the hub of operations for the state’s Emergency Broadcast and Amber Alert services, OPB serves as the backbone for the distribution of critical information to broadcasters and homes throughout Oregon. Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network that includes OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is opb.org.

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