When Jan Leininger’s great-grandparents arrived in Mosier in 1894, Grover Cleveland was in the White House and Coca Cola had just decided to bottle their soft drink for the first time. The new rail line running through Mosier served the community for personal transportation and shipping local products to Portland. But over the next 120 years, the trains have gone from community asset to community threat, an irony not lost on Jan.
Jan was at her home overlooking Mosier and the Columbia River on June 3 and saw the black smoke coming from the derailed train. She immediately thought about the school sitting less than 1,200 feet from the smoke and fire. Like so many Mosier residents, Jan believes the Mosier school is the linchpin of the community. Jan graduated from Mosier High School (as did her mother) and after teaching in the Tigard, OR, School District for 14 years and on Oahu for a year, Jan returned to Mosier and finished her teaching career in the school that taught her. Mosier School was threatened with closure and in 2003, became a charter school, a move that Jan said “saved the community as far as I’m concerned.”
Jan is disappointed in Union Pacific. “It’s very distressing because I don’t think they’ve resolved the situation.” Recent soil tests show additional contamination. “With winter, there could be elevated water tables so the river could still be affected,” she said. Jan also opposes Union Pacific’s proposal to double track the rail lines through Mosier. “It doubles the likelihood of more accidents and more wildfires started from the trains.”
Jan has witnessed more than a half-century of change in Mosier and welcomes new blood into town. But some things remain the same. “This is still an agricultural valley and I think farm families are unique,” said Jan. “I respect their values and hard work and the commitment to community and family. There are a lot of people who don’t realize what lies behind this town.”