Four buildings make up the Old Aurora Colony Museum and the old communal oxbarn serves as the main museum with three other houses having been moved next door. The oxbarn has seen many other incarnations in its life - general store, garage, etc. - but it has been a museum since 1966. A very informative 15 minute video starts you off on the road to understanding more about the Colony. Several exhibits continue the story both downstairs and upstairs.
Upstairs in the Oxbarn Museum, among many other exhibits, you can see the old lathe which the community used to turn furniture on. The products in these cases were for use within the Colony and not for sale to the secular World. The large columns on the front of the General Store nearby were also turned on this lathe.
An 1876 log cabin in which the Steinbach family - a later arriving family - lived for almost a decade was moved from its old site closer to the Willamette River, adjacent to the museum complex in 1967. The chinked loghouse is more in common with other northern Oregon pioneer houses than most of the other Colony houses, but like the other German houses, it featured a two room per floor arrangement.
Another house that was moved to the museum complex in 1967, this house, built in 1865, is the only surviving board and batten Colony structure left. There are two large rooms on the main floor and upstairs. The house is decorated in the simple manner of the Colony. Fireplaces were situated entirely within the frame of the houses so that the entire heat of the masonry could be used within the house - similar to German masonry heaters. Houses in the Bethel Colony used bricks due to lack of softwood. Here, in Oregon, softwood existed galore and clay for bricks was not in such abundance.
Also moved to the museum complex is this communal outbuilding which served as a summer kitchen/washing center. Upstairs clothes dried while downstairs, all sorts of cooking took place. In front of the Wash House is a large herb garden divided into four sections reminiscent of the cross. Edibles, spices, fragrances, flowers make up the different herbsections. Families maintained their own herb gardens. The garden is maintained by the Willamette Valley Herb Society.
This wagon was originally to be an ambulance for Dr Keil's oldest son, 18 year old Willie. Willie had contracted malaria in Bethel just before the original party was to start out for Oregon. Instead of an ambulance, it became Willie's hearse as he died May 19, 1855, four days before the wagons rolled. Dr Keil had promised Willie he could ride in the front wagon and he was true to his word. Willie was placed into a tin-lined coffin which was filled with Golden Rule whiskey for which the communalists were well-known for. Willie made the five month journey out to Oregon and was buried near what is now Raymond Washington at the first site where Dr Keil attempted to complete his westward push.
The most intact building from the Colony days is the General Store. The Store served to sell communal products to outsiders. Colonists had there own store across the street - gone now - which operated on a non-cah basis. Upstairs, a large room served as a meetinghall and ballroom. The large columns out front were turned on the lathe found upstairs in the Oxbarn Museum. The Store operated on a cash basis, providing money for communal needs. It still operates on a cash basis in the guise of an antique store.