The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History

By Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Removing the Rough Edges:
Society, Education, and Culture

Other sections of the United States can mention their literature as a body, with respect. . . . The Northwest-Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana-- has produced a vast quantity of bilge, so vast, indeed, that the few books which are entitled to respect are totally lost in the general and seemingly interminable avalanche of tripe.-- James Stevens and H. L. Davis, Status Rerum ( 1927)

Euro-American settlement of the Pacific Northwest involved far more than the frenzied pursuit of material gain, although at times it did seem that the work of surveying boundaries, platting towns, grading streets, staking mining claims, felling trees, cultivating fields, and promoting railway lines took priority over all else. But accompanying those basic economic activities was the important work of removing the rough edges from pioneer society. Many Pacific Northwesterners desired schools, churches, clubs, and a sense of order and cleanliness to give their upstart communities a settled air and to dispel the notion lurking, they feared, in eastern minds that life in the Northwest was crude and wholly materialistic. As recently established as the region's urban settlements were in the 1870s and 1880s, their culturally minded residents eagerly sought to organize music, literary, and art societies.

Schools were a special source of community pride, and Oregon, Washington, and Idaho funded public, nonsectarian educational institutions from pioneer days. Together with private and church schools, they contrib

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