On a miserable, stormy October night in 1880, after a storm cursed Portland with more rain and cold than this port town on the Willamette River needed, Joseph "Bunco" Kelly was in need of one more person to shanghai in order to fill the crew for a ship ready to leave port. However, the miserable weather had driven all would-be victims out of the "sporting Houses", gambling joints, opium dens, and nickel-beer saloons, not to mention from the alleyways and cobblestone streets.

"Bunco", desperate for a victim to shanghai, spotted a wooden, cigar-store Indian standing in front of a shop. So he and his assistant threw a tarp over it, tied it up securely with a rope, and then sold it for $75 to an unsuspecting sea captain. Sixteen hours later, after the Captain had crossed the Columbia River bar into the Pacific Ocean, he attempted to wake his new crewman up and discovered that he had been tricked by the shanghaier. The following day, an Astoria fisherman found the 6-foot-plus wooden carving caught up in one of his salmon nets.

The reason why "Bunco" decided to shanghai this wooden, cigar Store Indian was more than just opportunity and the need to fulfill his contract with a ship's captain. During those days, Native Americans who wandered into Portland often found themselves in the old North End, what is today called Old Town. Here, they became victims of the shanghaiers who could easily sell them to sea captains because they adapted so well to the way of life they were being sold into.

Today, some 119 years after this very unique shanghaiing took place, money is being raised to return the cigar-store Indian to old town. When this is accomplished, the carving will go into a special underground museum that will interpret Portland's infamous history of shanghaiing and those secret tunnels that "snaked" their way beneath the streets of the "Rose City" from the waterfront to as far as N.W. 23rd Avenue to the north, and the Corbett Neighborhood on the south.


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