To the Editor:
I would be dishonest if I said I did not find Mr. Swarts letter in response to my Memory Project annoying. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I sensed some disdain in the letter’s tone. I am not sure what record he is setting straight, but let me respond.
First, my family logged in Maxville and Wallowa from 1937 to 1958. I did not “discover” Maxville. My parents, grandparents, and friends lived there and I visited the location as a small child. My brothers graduated from Wallowa High School and my sister and I attended elementary school until we moved to California in 1958.
Second, I did not “answer the call” from Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center. As the Executive Director knows, I began my oral history project in 1993, long before MHIC was conceived. I agreed to serve as the MHIC president in hopes the oral history would be pursued. Since it chose to become a museum, I initiated the Memory Project based on collaborations with descendants of the loggers. Research is ongoing and descendant interviews recorded regularly.
Third, all of the photos in the exhibit were contributed to the Memory Project and used with permission by descendants of the loggers. I am proud that I was able to gather so many photos and give names to the men, women, and children who lived in Maxville. The only photo that was not “approved” is the photo of Lucky Trice that was obtained from the Internet. I included it at the last minute because I believed the spirit of the project would prevail. It has been removed from the exhibit.
Fourth, Maxville and Wallowa are not examples but the primary location for my research. It is the undocumented African American migration story from the 1920s to 1940s from the Deep South. More broadly, it is the story of the migration of African American loggers, their white co-loggers, the Bowman-Hicks Company, and logging in Wallowa, generally. It is my goal to inspire more research and documentation on this great Oregon story.
Fifth, I am not sure what a “multicultural” approach to Maxville means. I do know that African American and white families worked together, socialized together, prayed together, and their children played together. The Memory Project is trying to locate descendants of the original white loggers who toiled the hazards of the woods alongside their African American friends. We all have stories to tell.
Sixth, The Memory Project is a modest project that seeks no federal or state recognition. It is a local project of the Wallowa History Center and will remain dedicated to advancing local collaboration and research to serve our shared history.
Finally, while the project may appear informal in nature, it is grounded in solid social science research methodologies. I hold a doctorate in political science from the University of California at Berkeley and am well aware of the rigors of scientific research. I also appreciate and can respond to the need to make such research accessible.
Pearl Alice Marsh