Historic flagpole rededicated at McDonald cabin

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Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth, with help from Oroville Garden Club President Betty Bair and other club members, plants a Hinoki Cypress in ho” title=”306a” width=”” height=”” class=”size-FULL”>

Photo by Gary DeVon

Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth, with help from Oroville Garden Club President Betty Bair and other club members, plants a Hinoki Cypress in ho

OROVILLE – Community members gathered last Thursday to rededicate a flagpole that once graced the U.S. Port of Entry north of Oroville, raise the American Flag and plant Oroville’s Centennial Tree in honor of Arbor Day.

The flagpole was installed at the historic J.T. McDonald cabin, which McDonald, one of the area’s early U.S. Customs officials, used as the Custom House for travelers crossing the border into the United States in the late 1800s. The flagpole was originally dedicated in 1933 at another Custom House that was torn down to make way for the current U.S.-Canada shared Port of Entry north of town.

The ceremony began with a Dedicatory Invocation delivered by Steve Quick, Branch President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Oroville Senior Citizen’s President Dolly Englebretson served as emcee. Members of the U.S. Border Patrol Explorers acted as color guard and Walt and Vicki Hart and Ardie Halvorsen with the American Legion demonstrated the flag folding ceremony, with help from Cub Scouts from Pack 23.

Rory Morrison, an officer with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service gave a little history about the flagpole and his agency’s efforts to refurbish it.

“The flagpole was removed when the old port building was demolished and spent a couple years here aging before it was refurbished,” said Officer Morrison.

All stopped and looked skyward as a brand new U.S. flag was slowly raised by members of the Explorers group and as Oroville High School senior Jessica Santana sang the national anthem.

Mayor Chuck Spieth welcomed everyone to the dedication which also served as an Arbor Day event, with Spieth and members of the Oroville Garden Club planting a Hinoki Cypress for Oroville’s Centennial Tree.

“I think it is an awesome gathering,” said Mayor Spieth, who recalled that when he bought his own property on the south end of town 45 years ago there were only three trees on it.

“I now have 47 to 48 trees at my home and I love it… I love trees,” he said.

As the tree was being planted by Spieth and garden club members using a special “gold” shovel, Jacob Fleming, a fifth-grader at Oroville Elementary, recited Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees.”

The ceremony was closed with some words from Okanogan Borderlands Historical Society President Kay Sibley.

“I bet J.T. McDonald would be surprised that 270,000 vehicles cross our border here every year. And I think our current Customs officers would be a bit surprised that back in McDonald’s day anyone who needed to stay overnight was put up at the cabin,” said Sibley.

The historical society president said her group was working to have the cabin put on the state and national historic registers. She said the society was also working on exhibits to show in the cabin and may use the east side to display an urban theme from the 1890 to World War I era. The group has also discussed restoring part of the original veranda as seen in some of the old photographs.

In addition to the CBP officers, several others were thanked for their efforts regarding the flagpole, including Gordie Cockle with Lakeview Builders, for doing the concrete work aided by Ken Neal; Jerry Krusoff with Oroville Trading Post for welding; Harold Harper for attaching the bracket and the Okanogan County P.U.D. who raised the pole and provided the finishing touch by returning to put the ball on the top the morning of the dedication. Osoyoos Ready Mix donated the Concrete.