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An Oregon folktale

Dr. William Kiel, a radical preacher who broke from the Methodist church, formed his own church and decided to emigrate with his followers to the Pacific Northwest. He promised his nineteen year old son Willie that he could lead the wagon train, but his son died of malaria four days before the departure date. Determined to keep his word to his son, the doctor had his son’s coffin lined with lead and filled with One Hundred Proof Golden Rule Whiskey. On the day the colony departed, Willie’s pickled corpse was on the foremost wagon in the train.

It didn’t take long for word to spread among the emigrants and the Native American tribes along the trail. Warriors came to see the pickled corpse and hear the story of Willie Kiel. They were impressed at the respect these white settlers showed their dead. One war party insisted the doctor open the coffin so they could see the body floating in the whiskey!

Over the plains, through the deserts, and up and over the mountains came the colonists, led always by the pickled corpse. It was a long, hard funeral train that ended finally in Washington, where Willie was buried on a hill in what is now known as Menlo. Willie had gotten his wish after all. The pickled corpse led the emigrants to their new home.

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser is the author of the Spooky Series published by Globe Pequot Press. She has been telling stories since she was a child, when games of “let’s pretend” quickly built themselves into full-length tales acted out with friends. A graduate of both Houghton College and the Institute of Children’s Literature, Sandy received her MLS from Rutgers University while working as a full-time music teacher and a freelance author.