Friday, October 07, 2005

History and Mystery

[[F O L L O W - U P]] * Despite presumptions that the fire which destroyed Oregon’s historic Fort Clatsop on Monday must have been the result of arson, Special Agent John McMahon of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives tells The Daily Astorian newspaper that “There is no conclusive evidence that the fire was intentionally set.” The case is now being turned over the National Park Service, which intends to investigate this decimating blaze on its own. The local Astorian notes that a fire had indeed been lit on Monday afternoon in the fireplace of the fort room where the conflagration later began, to help warm a class of schoolchildren visiting the log structure. However, the structure’s fireplaces were rebuilt just last year and had been used frequently, without incident.

Even as this mysterious conflagration is probed, individuals and groups from around northwestern Oregon are volunteering to help rebuild the small fort, which was a 1950s replica of the redoubt where the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped during the winter of 1805-06, after trekking west from the Missouri River. They’re hoping to have the job completed “in time for the upcoming Lewis and Clark Bicentennial less than a month and a half away,” the Astorian explains. Although that task sounds more than a little daunting--especially given that the previous replica took 18 months to construct--Chip Jenkins, superintendent of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, suggests that raising the replacement won’t take “anywhere near as long as that.” But even if the job cannot be finished for the Bicentennial, he’s not concerned. “Our goal is a legacy,” says. “Do you remember the reunion we had last year for the people who built the replica in 1955? In 2055, I would love to have a reunion of the people involved in the rebuild of Fort Clatsop.”

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