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Railroad history, a new look at Jason Lee explored in online history series

A crowd welcoming the Oregon 2nd Volunteers returning on August 10th 1899 in Salem. (Courtesy Ed Austin/ Archives)

The Southern Pacific Railroad helped shape the development of Salem when it came to town 150 years ago.

In an online talk through the Willamette Heritage Center, train expert Ed Austin will explore how the railroad made its way to Oregon’s capital city on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

Austin is one of four speakers featured in a monthly “Zooming Back to History” series that explores historical topics in the Mid-Willamette Valley. Tickets can be purchased on the Willamette Heritage Center website. They cost $10 each or $30 for the series and the link and password will be sent via email.

Austin was born in Salem and received his degree in degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University in 1972.

For more than 50 years, Austin has studied and photographed railroads in the northwest, writing a dozen books on railroad-related subjects. During that time, he also worked in the museum exhibit fabrication industry.

Other speakers include Leslie Dunlap, a history professor at Willamette University, who on Oct. 20 will deliver a talk on “Women Reforming Men Behaving Badly: The Progressive and Conservative Dimensions of Temperance Women’s Activism in the Age of Reform (1873-1933).” The lecture focuses on race and women’s activism.

On Nov. 17 Jennifer Jopp, a history professor at Willamette University, will re-examine the life of Jason Lee, a missionary involved in the settlement of Oregon, by placing him into a broader colonial context. The lecture will look at how Lee largely failed at his ventures and “what aspects of our history we elide when we focus on the life of one white man.”

Bob Reinhardt, a history professor at Boise State University, will explore the eradication of smallpox and its lessons for Covid on Dec. 15. His talk is based a on book he wrote titled: “The End of a Global Pox: America and the Eradication of Smallpox in the Cold War Era.”

News tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell by email at [email protected]

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