Many people came to Oregon with the belief that “God’s Country” would give them the freedom to live out their faith without encumbrance. Little did they know the hardships they’d face, carving out a new state from the wilderness, or how it would shape their faith and their work ethic. Ever wonder what it was like to search for a job in 1853? What did people do for work in 1900, 1950? Did you know that when Oregon was first admitted to the Union in 1859, half of the state’s working population was involved in farming? Today, agricultural work comprises a mere two percent of the workforce. So what happened?
How has work changed over the 15 decades Oregon has been a state? These questions and many more are detailed in an exhaustively researched book now available – Oregon At Work: 1859-2009. My co-author and I spent nearly two years going through old census records, and traveling around the state, visiting with the descendants of Oregon pioneers who still live and work in the state. The book paints a portrait of labor in our state – the struggles of early families to survive, and the sharing that became a lifeline. It shows that while job titles may have changed, and how we get to work is certainly different, the pioneer spirit that inspired Oregon’s first settlers still runs strong today.
The book is part of the official celebration of Oregon’s 150th birthday and appears on the Oregon State Library’s list of books to read during Oregon’s birthday year. Oregon at Work also shows the many faithful who traveled here over the Oregon Trail. They were motivated by the freedom to live out their beliefs, or by the need to share those beliefs with others who had not heard the message. Many suffered terrible loss on the Trail or after they came. But that didn’t stop them – in fact it helped them see their true purpose.
You can even share you own Oregon work story on the book’s website: OregonAtWork.org. The book is now available statewide at many bookstores.