Fifteen hand-routed cedar Oregon Historical Markers are speckled along Highway 101, intended to share Oregon’s stories along the coastline. This Thursday, Sept. 12, marks the revision of the Captain Robert Gray historical marker at the Tillamook Bay wayside to include an important member of Gray’s crew, Oregon’s first person of African descent, Markus Lopeus.
“It commemorates the earliest documented instance of a person of African descent being in Oregon...” said Gwen Carr, president of the Oregon Black Pioneers, in a press release. “And serves as a memorial for those who came before and after; whose names and circumstances will never be known."
Carr was showing the landing site of Lopeus to her grandchildren when she discovered that the historical marker had no mention of him. Carr approached the Oregon Travel Experience (OTE) and the Oregon Historical Marker Committee, and it was determined that the marker would be updated with additional information on Gray’s voyage that had been missing.
“Sadly, many times the significant impacts of African Americans in our history gets ignored,” said Tillamook County Commissioner Bill Baertlein. “Now, this African American is getting the recognition he deserves.”
In 1787, Gray left Boston for a trading voyage headed to the West Coast of North America on the sloop Lady Washington. Lopeus joined the crew in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa. The Lady Washington arrived at Tillamook Bay in 1788 and established Gray as the first American to circumnavigate the globe.
Ceremony speakers will include Commissioner Baertlein, Richard Engeman, author, historian, and member of the Oregon Historical Marker Committee; Carr and Willie Richardson of the Oregon Black Pioneers; and Charlotte Lehan, Oregon Travel Information Council member.
The ceremony takes place Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 at 11am at Tillamook Bay wayside located a quarter-mile north of Garibaldi, Oregon, on US Highway 101.