– History –
Eugene McIver was an American investor born and raised in a poor Irish immigrant family who lived in Pennsylvania. During the expansion to the west, Eugene first settled in Salem as a self-taught entrepreneur shortly after it was made the territorial capital . It is believed that he fell in with a group of Canadian immigrant lumberjacks, and Eugene set out with them and began his own lumber company. Choosing a location in the east within a day’s journey of Salem, McIvertown began as little more than a worker village, and 80% of its small population were lumberjacks or immigrants, many from Canada. Several of Salem’s earliest surviving wooden buildings can trace their roots back to the McIver Lumber Company.
In 1870, the village became a true town when it acquired its new name, which was accompanied with what is now a local legend. Many details remain lost, but it is said that over 300 widowed Native Americans from various tribes traveled west and, treated fairly by the people of then McIvertown, many of them settled and the population doubled. To date, many native-born citizens can still trace their heritage to a mixed Canadian/Native American bloodline. At some point, following Eugene’s passing, the town was renamed to Widow’s Perch.
The town’s development is closely related to the Lyons family patriarchs. In summary, it was primarily industrial and had multiple lumber mills, which eventually brought in a freight train line south of town. In 1932, it was linked directly with nearby Salem through Oregon Route 22, and quickly became less isolated. A full school system was implemented, and with investments from the Lyons and Whitnail estates, the town grew into a bustling hub for the nearby smaller communities, including Firetown.
Widow’s Perch rebounded after the depression, and reached its economic peak in the 1950’s. The 60’s brought in a counter-culture element that shifted the demographics somewhat, scaring away several regional presences but attracting other independent businesses in the process. In the 1970’s, the town underwent its final construction and renovation boom, with the building of the Perch Palace mall its highlight. Few buildings have been created or updated since then, although significant money has gone into preserving the historical downtown area, and a small office park was built in 1983, which became the town’s tallest building at seven stories.
The town has been on a slow decline since it reached a peak population of about 17,000 in 1980. When the story begins in 1987, Widow’s Perch’s glory days have already passed by, but that is of little concern to the new and enthusiastic generation of its youngsters; the town and its history their playground.
– Folklore –
A rare schoolyard tale going back to around 1982, the tale of the Woodman is usually known only to a few children at a time. It is often reserved as a fireside ghost story at Lake Pond’s campgrounds. Although it comes in many variants, it usually involves a mild-mannered wood carver who died under mysterious circumstances. Decades later, teenagers attempt to bring him back from the afterlife at a bonfire on Big Blue. However, he comes back as a monster, and turns the teenagers into wooden dolls before disappearing into the night. The tale fits in well in a town surrounded by and reliant on trees.
Big Blue Vampires
The legend goes that there was a spree of mysterious and identical deaths in the town during the 1870’s, each victim having strange marks on the neck and hands. Suspicion in the small frontier settlement soon turned to vampires, and consequently notorious loner and petty criminal Clive Yeats Harrow. He was accused of being the vampire ringleader when he was supposedly spotted at the scene of another similar death. He was hanged and burned without trial. It is said that the corpses of at least six believed vampires are buried in the woods around Perch Point, and the spirit of Clive haunts those who wander there at night, seeking revenge.
Today, it’s questioned whether these deaths even took place and whether or not the vampire legend is a more recent invention coming out of fears during the turn-of-the-century modernization of the town. The only records relating to the whole legend are a census noting the death of Clive Yeats Harrow in 1875 and a daguerreotype of a consumption-stricken man simply labeled “Clive.” The legend and these articles are a favorite topic of discussion among Widow’s Perch historians and schoolchildren alike, and there’s seldom a Halloween without a vampire or Harrow themed costume or drink special. A more recent modern mutation of the legend has gone as far as giving Big Blue a vampire harem that the National Guard was sent in to wipe out, only to have both parties eradicated—and in the process turning the vampires into vampire ghosts.
A recent addition to the local childlore, Kasey’s Creek serves as an introduction to urban legends. Simply put, in 1959, a teenage girl named Kasey died at a creek—which was then named after her. The story is absurdly light and inane, and it’s only meant to scare children with the idea that teenagers can die somewhere and have a location named after them; a cautionary tale indeed that perhaps only serves as a child’s first realization of their own mortality. Usually attributed to a small, unnamed tributary near Eugene McIver Middle School, there is no evidence that any person named Kasey ever died anywhere in its vicinity.
Widow’s March is the name given to the trail that leads through Widow’s March State Park and some parts of the outer limits of town. While not confirmed as factual in anyway, this is the trail the local believers of the Widow’s Perch widows think they made their sad march up to Big Blue through. Today, it’s the park’s main hiking trail and leads to Perch Point, which at various times of day is either completely vacant or swarming with hormonal teenagers.
Gateway to the Underworld
A small drainage ditch located in between Warwoman Road and Highway 226, the large, rusting sewer terminus has acquired a large collection of typical urban tales over the years, primarily by those that grew up near it. A make out and graffiti spot for teenagers, the drain is only loosely connected to the town’s main sewer line anymore. Children are sometimes led to believe that at some point, the tunnels do in fact lead to the underworld. But what teenagers have done to it, and inside of it, are probably worse.