The Old Aurora Colony: Willie Keil's Dream

Where: Old Aurora Colony Museum, 15018 Second Street NE, Aurora, Oregon.

Museum admission fee: $5 per person.

Willie Keil caught Oregon fever and convinced his father, Wilhelm, to guide a wagon train to the Oregon Territory in 1855 with Willie as the driver of the lead wagon. Just days before they left Bethel, Missouri, Willie died. In his grief, Wilhelm fulfilled Willie’s wish, taking the young man along in a lead-lined coffin, and founded the Aurora Colony, a Christian commune.

For the Oregon Trail’s sesquicentennial (1993), Laurel Cookman of Aurora was one of 30 who reenacted the Keil wagon train’s journey from Missouri to Oregon. “Except for the hunger, we experienced everything they did: animals dying, people getting sick,” recalls Ms. Cookman, who will share her adventures at the Old Aurora Colony Museum.

The day will begin with a tour of the museum followed by Ms. Cookman’s presentation and lunch. We will then move to the Pacific Hazelnut Candy Factory,14673 Ottaway Rd NE, Aurora, where we get to see how hazelnuts are roasted, removed from their shells and sprayed with chocolate. Their signature Hazelnut Toffee is made in copper kettles. The L&C Journals mention hazelnuts in several places in the Columbia territory. There will also be a special viewing of busts of the members of the Corps of Discovery carved by the former owner of the factory. After spending your money on the delicious goodies at the factory you will have ample time left in the day to visit the City Park and the many intriguing Aurora Antique Stores.

RSVP by April 26 to: Lyn Trainer,, 503-246-0451. Bring a brown bag or order a box lunch when you RSVP (no later than April 26).
  • Whole sandwich, chips, pickle, cookie and beverage, $8
  • ½ sandwich, chips, pickle, cookie and beverage, $6
  • Sandwich choices: Smoked turkey, Black Forest ham or vegetable
  • Bread choices: Healthnut wheat, sourdough white or dill rye
  • Beverage choices: Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine free Coke or Fresca
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