Sisemore Bridge

By Steve Lent, Museum Historian

The site of present Bend was a favorite camping site for early travelers traveling north and south but travelers going east and west had to cross at Tetherow Crossing or Lower Bridge.  In 1904 John Sizemore was determined to build a bridge across the river at his ranch at Farewell Bend.  His ranch was located where the Old Mill district is located today. Sisemore was born in Kentucky on December 14, 1835.  He traveled west to Utah in 1853 and then on to California.  He prospected for gold in northern California and managed to make some money from his placer mine.  Unfortunately he also spent most of it.  His health began to deteriorate so he left the mines in 1857 with a reported $32,000 in gold dust.

He moved to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and bought some cattle and drove them south to the mines and sold them for a huge profit.  He decided to go into the livestock business.  He ranged his cattle in several locations in eastern Oregon but made his general headquarters in Jackson County, Oregon.  A severe winter resulted in most of his cattle herds being decimated.

In the early 1880's he bought the ranch of John Y. Todd at Farewell Bend on the Deschutes River just north of present Bend.  He also patented some homestead claims nearby.    He built a wooden bridge across the river at his ranch site and completed the final planking on the bridge just before Christmas in 1904.  He wanted to have a better crossing of the river closer to his ranch.  The bridge was 385 feet long and cost him $385.  It cost him about $1.00 per foot.  Stockmen and travelers soon began a new route to Central Oregon to take advantage of his bridge.  He at first charged a toll for use of the bridge.  A county road was built from the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Road near Sisters to his ranch and was known as Sizemore Road.

After several years he handed over the bridge to Crook County (the area was in Crook until Deschutes County was created from Crook in 1916).  He stipulated that the county would have to maintain the bridge.  Sizemore sold the Farewell Bend Ranch in 1905 for $6500 and then bought some property in the newly developing town of Bend.  Sizemore served as a road master in the vicinity for a while.

His health began to fail in his later years.  He died in Grants Pass, Oregon on November 16, 1914.  A newer bridge was constructed after the old wooden bridge began to deteriorate.  Today several bridges cross the Deschutes in Bend but for several years the only bridge was at the old Sisemore Place.

 

 

Travel along the Oregon Trunk began to decline in the early 1920's and the post office was closed on December 15, 1920.  The school continued to operate until the railroad line was abandoned in 1923 and rail traffic shifted to the Deschutes Railroad line that went to Gateway and then on to Madras.  Today there is very little left of the site that was once a prosperous little village.