Category: Blog

Prineville Planing Mill Provided Finished Lumber for Many Early Homes

Lumber mills were among the first industrial operations in Central Oregon. Mostly rough cut lumber was produced at small mills for construction purposes. As early as 1878 attempts were made to establish a planing mill in Prineville and included construction of a water ditch to power a planing ill. The mill was located on Third and Claypool and had a series of owners until 1898.

Ed Harbin partnered with John B. Shipp in the operation and sold out to Shipp in 1898. By 1900 the planning mill was one of the most prominent manufacturing industries of Crook County. The plant produced most of the planed lumber for buildings in Prineville for a few years. The mill had a capacity of 15,000 feet of finished lumber and 10,000 sawed shingles per day. The best sawed shingles retailed at $3.00 per thousand at the mill, and finished lumber sold for $15.00 to $25.00 per thousand. The mill produced moldings, sash and wood turning for most ordinary building construction.

In 1905 Shipp partnered with Gardner Perry and built a new planing mill at 4th and Fairview near the present Prineville Swimming Pool. The new plant was steam operated and a 50 horse-power engine was installed. Shipp & Perry added a dry kiln to their operation in 1910. Lumber was off loaded at the kiln and processed through the heated kiln where it was dried before going to the planing mill. The mill had a work force of ten men.

Shipp & Perry operated the mill until 1919 when they sold it to Tum-A-Lum Lumber Company. Shipp was retained as a manager of the operation for a few years and the operation expanded. Eventually the mill was moved but it was the pioneer planing operation in Central Oregon.

Bannock Indian War of 1878 Caused Panic in Local Settlers

The Bannock Indian uprising of 1878 created a tense situation that resulted in many outlying settlers of Eastern Crook County moving to the safety of Prineville and other communities.

The Bannock Indians ranged along the Oregon-Idaho border and were a relatively peaceful tribe until they were confined to Ft. Hall during the Nez Perce uprising in 1877. They had difficulty subsisting on rations from the fort and mistreatment of tribal members led to hostilities in 1878. Chief Buffalo Horn began raiding and killing in western Idaho. Buffalo Horn was killed in a skirmish with the military and the Bannock were joined by Paiutes under the leadership of Chief Egan. The combined forces began a bloody path of destruction that ranged from the Steens Mountains to the John Day Valley.

Settlers began to congregate and fortify sites to repel the raiding Indians. Word of the killings and raids rapidly spread to Central Oregon and outlying settlers in the Post and Paulina Country rushed to Prineville to provide safety for their families. A stockade had been designated in Prineville as a gathering point if the uprising had come to Central Oregon but most hostilities were confined east of the John Day River.

Chief Egan had hoped to get to the Umatilla Indian Reservation and gain reinforcements for the combined war party but the Umatilla’s did not want to become a part of the bloody war and captured Egan and some of his warriors. Chief Egan was killed in an attempt to escape and his head was presented to the military as a peace offering. Without his leadership the raiders began to falter and eventually many of the warriors were captured.

The uprising was relatively brief but resulted in several deaths and the destruction of several ranches. It was the last great show of resentment by the Bannock and Paiute against the white man who had deprived them of their country.

Many of the settlers that had fled to Prineville for protection returned to their ranches but some decided that they would remain near the growing community.

Early Freighting was Often a Hazardous Occupation

Early freighters of Central Oregon were hardy men that managed slow plodding horse or mule teams over narrow, dusty, muddy and sometimes hazardous roads. Freight to Central Oregon came by two main routes. Shipments arrived either from the Willamette Valley over the Santiam Wagon Road or from The Dalles along parts of The Dalles to Canyon City wagon road. When the Columbia Southern rail line was built from the Columbia River to Shaniko in 1900 most freight shipments were to and from the rail terminus at Shaniko. The first roads were not much better that cow paths and passages down canyons were often steep and dangerous. During the dry season the roads were thick with dust and loose material. Cow Canyon grade descending down from Shaniko Flats to Trout Creek frequently had mishaps as rolling rocks or rattlesnakes would spook the horses and off they would gallop. There were recorded instances of freighters being killed by wagons overturning as horses raced out of control down the narrow road bank which was often only a few inches wider than the wheel base of the wagons.

During the wet season travel was particularly strenuous and hazardous. One old time freighter recalled that during a very wet storm he had to pave the roadway with part of his shipment of wool to get the wagons over the ruts and muddy bogs. It also was related that returning freight from The Dalles often included heavy bags of beans bound for Prineville. When a heavily laden wagon became bogged down in the mud the freighters would off load bags of beans to lighten the load and use the beans to fill the ruts. Later in the year plants would sprout from the beans in the ruts and it was a common site to see lines of beans growing along the road.

Other trouble spots along early wagon roads included the grade from Antelope to Shaniko, over Grizzly Mountain pass from Hay Creek to Prineville, and Trail Crossing on Crooked River near Crooked River Gorge.

It was also exciting times when wagons traveling in opposite directions met on the narrow canyon roads. Lead horses were often outfitted with bells to signal to other wagons that they were approaching.

Freighters often spent several nights under the stars as they brought their shipments to and from Central Oregon. They had to weather storms and drought and negotiate road hazards but they were critical to supplying the interior of Oregon with necessary goods.

Gold Discovered on Ochoco Mountains in 1871

Ochoco Mine or more commonly known as Mayflower Mine was located along Ochoco Creek just northeast the present Ochoco Ranger Station site. Central Oregon had missed out on the early gold mining activity that had occurred in eastern Oregon, but in the fall of 1871 a gold discovery was made that created a short burst of mining activity.

That fall some settlers from West Branch near Mitchell were taking wagons of grain to Warm Springs Indian Reservation to be ground to wheat. The settlers included Preacher Mansfield, James Howard and two neighbors named Belcher and Evans. The first evening they camped on upper Ochoco Creek. Mr. Howard remarked to his fellow travelers that the terrain looked similar to ground that he had mined in California. The men set up camp and had supper before taking empty frying pans to the creek and panned for gold. The first pan showed sign of gold. This excited the men but they decided to continue on their way to complete their chore of grinding the wheat to flour, but agreed to return to the gulch where they had discovered sign of gold and locate claims.

They returned to the gold site in January of 1872 and built a rough log cabin at the confluence of Ochoco Creek and Scissors Creek. They then went prospecting and found more gold. News of the discovery soon spread and by the spring of 1872 miners began struggling in. The location became known as the Howard Mining District. Water ditches were constructed for placer mining and a small town soon emerged and was known as Scissorsville.

During the next several years mining activity continued with mine shafts constructed and about $100 worth of gold per ton of ore was produced. It was not a significant amount of production and the site never became a major mining operation. Scissorsville soon became known as Howard. The mines later became known as the Mayflower Mine.

Ownership of the mine changed on several occasions over the years and Lewis McAllister operated the mine for several years. Some placer miners from Idaho jumped his claim early in 1911 and a feud developed. On May 28, 1911 McAllister was cleaning some ditches on his claim when he was shot and killed by one of the placer miners, Ernest Robinson. Robinson was acquitted on grounds of self defense.

After McAllister’s death sporadic mining activity occurred but eventually mining ceased and only remnants of the old mine shafts are all that remain of the once bustling mining district.

Lynchings Lead to Opposition of the Vigilantes

Violence reigned supreme in Prineville just before Christmas in 1882. Al Swartz was killed by a shotgun blast in a local saloon on the evening of December 22 and early the next morning the bodies of two men staying at his ranch were found hanging from a juniper tree near Prineville. The vigilantes were beginning to “flex their muscle” in justice of the rope.

The same night that Swartz was murdered the vigilantes arranged to lure Sid Huston and Charles Luster from the Swartz Ranch to the house of W.C. Barnes. The vigilantes had spread rumors that Huston and Luster were associated with Swartz in a stock rustling operation. Some prominent citizens claimed that Luster was wanted by some of the vigilante group for winning a horse race that he had been paid by them to lose. Huston was never indicated in any crime.

The young men were dragged from the Barnes house and lynched from a juniper tree on the outer limits of Prineville. Their bodies were found the next morning by C. Sam Smith and James Blakely. They reported that the men had been shot in the back of the head after they had been hanged.

The vigilante group quickly claimed that they had ridded the community of a lawless element. Interestingly one of the alleged vigilante members had been shot by young Huston during the lynching. W.C. Foren was a blacksmith who had been a deputy marshal who was supposed to be guarding Lucius Langdon the night he was killed by the vigilantes earlier in the year. The vigilante group claimed that Foren had been kicked by a horse he was shoeing during the night of the Huston and Luster lynching. No one was allowed to see Foren and he died a few days later.

An inquest was held into the lynching deaths and it was determined that “Sid Huston and Charles Luster came to their death by hanging by the neck and by gun shot wounds inflicted in the head by parties to us unknown December 23, 1882” Not surprisingly the foreman of the inquest was the same acknowledged leader of the vigilantes that had been on the Swartz inquest. No one was ever brought to justice for the lynchings, but grumblings began among local citizens even though many were afraid to talk out loud about the violence. The seeds of opposition to the vigilantes had begun.

Forest Fires Took Huge Toll in Early Days

Central Oregon has had numerous large forest fires over the years but until recently none were of conflagration type. Although large acreages burned the damages were mostly limited to the timber stands and natural resources.

Early news reports of fires outlined some of the fires and the results of the blazes. Many fires had occurred in early settlement but received little reporting. One of the earliest reported fires by the Bend Bulletin occurred in August of 1908 and was located on Paulina Mountain southeast of Bend. Head forest ranger of the Rosland District, F.P. Petit, “came to Bend Monday to secure men to fight the fire, which extended over an unbroken line for 15 miles and was traveling to the southeast.”

It was reported that Petit called for 150 men to fight the flames, but all that could be found were some locals in Bend. A call went out to Prineville, Shaniko and Moro for men to come help fight the fire. Pickup labor was paid $2.50 per hour to fight fire. Rain arrived to help control the fire.

Another fire of note was started by lightning on June 6, 1910 near the mouth of Jefferson Creek west of the Metolius River. The fire burned a huge area five miles down the Metolius River and up to the top of Green Ridge. Another fire started by lightning on the same day near Edison ice cave burned over 7,000 acres.
One of the most expensive early forest fires occurred in August 1924 near Wasco Lake. It required more expenditure of funds than any other fire on The Deschutes National Forest up until that time. It spread through 2,517 acres of timber in a very rugged area. The cost to control the fire was $18,125.

The Bend Bulletin reported that firefighters were handicapped by “fallen logs, thick underbrush and steep hillside.” Most of the fire fighters were men from the McKenzie Pass road construction crews. Local residents on the Metolius river baked pies and doughnuts for the firefighters. There were several large fires during the 1930’s including one on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation that burned over 100,000 acres of mostly sage, grass and juniper. The Minto Pass fire of 1945 was a hold over lightning fire that consumed over 4,000 acres just north of Santiam Pass. It only received a small note in local newspapers as the surrender of Japan during World War II was the big news item. But as the fire grew it began to share headlines with war news. A crew of 150 men was fighting the fire and U.S. Marines from Klamath Falls were requested to help fight the fire. Eventually over 600 men were used to fight the fire but it was finally extinguished by a late August rainstorm.

Fires have occurred on a regular basis in Central Oregon through the years and the fires of recent years have been more complex and damaging because of the extension of homes into the wildland environment and the build up of fuels over the years that typically would have burned in the natural cycle.

Arnold Cave was the Source of Bend’s Ice Supply in Pioneer Days

Pioneer settlers in Central Oregon managed to harvest ice from frozen rivers and ponds during the winter months for storing of perishables and to keep beverages cool. But during summer months it was often difficult to procure ice. The residents of Bend discovered ice in Joe Cave, later to become known as Arnold Cave about 12 miles south of Bend.

Ice formed in the lava flow cave and the insulating coolness of the interior of the cave allowed ice to be preserved most of the summer. Ice was quarried from the thick cavern ice floe in giant chunks and moved up a steep incline chute utilizing a block and tackle system. Once the chunks of ice were brought to the surface they were loaded on wagons and hauled to Bend for storage in sawdust insulated buildings. Hundreds of tons of ice were hauled from Arnold cave in the first decade of the twentieth century. Other ice caves, such as Dillman Cave and East Cave, were also utilized for ice but on a much smaller scale.

During years when the Deschutes River or ponds did not freeze ice could only be obtained from Arnold Cave. A Bend saloon operator had monopolized the Arnold cave ice supply and when the warm days of summer approached there was only one saloon in Bend that could offer ice-cold beer.

In the warm summer of 1910 ice sold in Bend for $40 per ton and most of the ice was hauled from Arnold Cave. But a cold winter in 1911 created extensive ice on ponds and streams and expanded storage facilities for ice led to a drop in the ice market with ice selling for only $5 per ton.

As late as 1911-12 ice harvests were still a major season activity. The bend Livery stable constructed an ice house late in 1910 on the west bank of the Deschutes river six miles south of Bend. In December of that year crews harvested 500 tons of 12 inch thick ice for storage. Small dams were built on the Deschutes to provide a source of ice during cold winters and many businesses purchased ice for summer use. Ice would be delivered to homes and businesses that had wooden and metal “ice boxes”.

Ice from Arnold cave was heavily harvested until the development of refrigeration and the delivery of electricity to the Bend community just prior to 1920. The ice harvest days soon became just a memory but old timers for many years could still recall with nostalgia the arrival of ice wagons to the community.

Wetweather Spring, Waterhole was a Pioneer Drivers’ Haven

Wetweather Spring was located on the old wagon road south from Bend to Silver Lake and later to Rosland and LaPine. It was between Bend and Lava Butte about eight miles south of Bend. It was a popular stopping point for teamsters to and from Bend and points south as they watered their stock. It was an opportunity to share news with fellow teamsters or other travelers as they socialized around a roaring campfire. The spring yielded water throughout the year and in wet seasons an overflow resulted and the spring was named for the abundance of water during the wet season. During the winter months the spring was an important stopping place for stage operators. It was at this point that some of the south bound operators changed rigs and coaches to sleds for travel over the snow on stage routes. Northbound operators would switch from sleds to coaches or wagons at the snow line.

In the early years the spring was boxed and provided clear and cold water to weary travelers and their stock. Aune brothers located a logging camp at the spring site and operated at the site for a few years.

It appears that the spring served as a turning around point for social groups traveling for pleasure from Bend. Even when the first autos arrived a gathering of people drove south to the spring and returned to Bend on an outing. All early travelers found time to stop at the spring when traveling south from Bend or north from points south. Early motorists were not in as big of a hurry as modern drivers and enjoyed the opportunity to visit with fellow travelers.

The main wagon road passed by the spring but eventually The Dalles to California Highway (Highway 97) was constructed and bypassed the spring as it was no longer a necessary stop for autos as it was for horses. The rise of the automobile and a its fast paced traffic flow reduced the popularity of the spring. Later the once productive spring dried up and old timers believed it was due to the underground feeder for the spring was obstructed by construction of the railroad grade south of Bend.

Campfires no longer flicker at the edge of the spring and the ghosts of numerous travelers of the past are all that remain of one of the most popular stopping points in Central Oregon.

Local Cascade Peaks First Scaled in 1923

The summits of two peaks of the Central Oregon Cascades, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington were first climbed on successive weekends in the summer of 1923. The conquerors of the two peaks were a group of six Bend boys who had trained for the epochal accomplishment by climbing the North Sister a few weeks earlier.
The climb of Mt. Washington had been attempted on several occasions by the Mazama Climbing Group of Portland without success. Experienced climbers had been turned back by a lava tower that reached nearly 700 feet above the main summit. The Mazamas claimed it would be “an epochal event in northwest mountaineering” when the feat of reaching the top was finally achieved.

On Sunday morning of August 25, 1923 the six young climbers from Bend, Irvin McNeal, Armin Furrer, Phil Philbrook, Leo Harryman, Wilbur Watkins and Ronald Sellers were the first to climb the peak. The boys gained much recognition in the mountaineering community with their successful climb.The group was not through with their feats yet, as they planned an attempt on the summit of Three Fingered Jack the following weekend. Sellers and Watkins did not make the climb but fellow climbers Ernest Putnam and Elmer Johnson joined the group for the attempt.

Three Fingered Jack presented a more prolonged hazardous exposure and a greater obstacle than the climb of Mt. Washington. The final climb of the peak necessitated a nearly perpendicular climb of over 70 feet. The alpinists claimed that the rugged spire seemed to vibrate as they chipped a niche for a container holding their names.

The two peaks that had long defied attempts at reaching their summits had been conquered in a span of one week by the group of young local climbers. It was an accomplishment that was hailed by fellow climbers throughout the northwest and made the young men part of the early legendary lore of local mountaineering.

Color Coded Roads Guided Drivers in Pioneer Days

Early automobile travel in Central Oregon was a true adventure as there was a maze of crossing roads and no traffic signs to identify routes All roads were narrow and rutted so it was hard to determine which road was a main road. Often motorists would find themselves wandering to an isolated ranch or a patch of thick timber at the end of one of the primitive roads. Innovative local groups established a system of color coding roads with bands of paint to designate main travel routes.

The main road through Central Oregon was the “White and Blue” road and the colors were painted on telephone poles, fence posts and trees. The commercial club organizations (forerunners of Chambers of Commerce) of Bend, Redmond and Prineville undertook the initial painting effort.

Each highway was assigned its own particular color and early maps were printed to identify the destination of the color coded roads. An early motorist visiting Central Oregon in 1916 noted that “the White and Blue route indicated by the white and blue paint, leads the traveler easily and unerringly.

Unfortunately the color code scheme only existed in the immediate Central Oregon vicinity and as traffic moved north, east or west roads became once more complicated to follow. Also it did not take young pranksters long to alter the color scheme at major intersections which led some motorists to wander until they discovered another color marker or find assistance from other travelers or
ranchers. It was not uncommon for a wandering motorist to spend the evening as the guest of a rancher or farmer after having taken the wrong road.

The color coding was used for several years until more modern roads were constructed. Even today some old juniper trees or rotting fence post have faded paint that once designated the main traffic routes. Traffic traveled slowly with speeds rarely exceeding 30 miles per hour so painted objects could be easily identified and followed. It was a simple solution for traffic flow in a time when travel by automobile was adventurous.