Category: Local Stories

Tuesday At the Museum – POSTPONED

Tuesday At the Museum – POSTPONED

Tuesdays in March resumes with Lecture Series

The People from our Past Series has been temporarily suspended for March due to unforeseen circumstance.

Bowman Museum's impromptu Tuesdays Lectures Series will be hosted by Steve Lent, historian at the Bowman Museum in Prineville. 246 North Main Street Prineville, Oregon 97754. This event is free and open to the public.

March 10 – Deschutes River Railroad War 

March 17 – The Rise of the Timber Industry in Central Oregon 

March 24 – The Rise of the Livestock Industry in Central Oregon

March 10 Lecture

Deschutes River Railroad War 1909-1911

This presentation provides a photo graphic history and narrative of the last great railroad war in the United States. In 1909 James J. Hill of the Great Northern railroad and Edward H. Harriman of the Northern Pacific Railroad decided to push their respective railroads into Central Oregon. Because of their huge egos they decided to stage a race with the spoils to go to the first railroad to arrive at Bend. The two railroads blasted their way up the Deschutes River from the Columbia. Each side frequently sabotaged the other as they raced construction up the canyon.

In a very expensive and wasteful effort the two railroads built parallel lines on each side of the Deschutes River until they reached Trout Creek. Hill’s Oregon Trunk line continued along the Deschutes to near Warm Springs then up Willow Creek to Madras. Harriman’s Deschutes Railroad went up Trout Creek to Gateway and then into Madras. The obstacle that eliminated joint railroads arriving into Bend was the Crooked River Gorge. Hill had obtained the right of way at the narrowest portion of the Crooked River Gorge and it was too cost prohibitive to build two massive bridges so it was a joint effort from Crooked River Gorge to Bend.

Steve Lent, historian at the Bowman Museum in Prineville, presents the tale of the Hill versus Harriman saga. Numerous vintage photos illustrate the expensive and hotly contested construction.

March 17 Lecture

The Rise of the Timber Industry in Central Oregon

Presented by Steve Lent, Bowman Museum Historian

The early settlement era of Central Oregon experienced an initial sawmill boom as homesteaders and early ranchers needed lumber to build homes. Most mills were set up to cater to local needs. Mills were either operated by steam or water power and had limited production capabilities. Hundreds of small mills became established throughout the region.

Big timber operations in the Midwest began to accumulate large timber holdings throughout Central Oregon by the turn of the 20th Century. Unfortunately there were limited opportunities to export milled lumber as transportation was mostly wagon traffic. The arrival of the railroads into Bend in 1911 led to large scale logging and milling operations in the region. Huge mills were built
in Bend on both sides of the Deschutes River with large corporations Brooks/Scanlon and Shevlin/Hixon becoming major lumber producers.

The economy of Central Oregon boomed with the arrival of the big mills and required a large labor force to maintain operations. Bend became a boom town as the mills became operational. Later other big mills came to Central Oregon and began operating in Prineville and Redmond as well as Gilchrist. For several decades the mill and timber operations were the base of local economy.
Eventually the timber industry began to fade in Central Oregon and has dwindled to only one mill operation continuing in the region.

Local historian Steve Lent from the Bowman Museum in Prineville has gathered together historic photos and provided a visual and narrative program on the rise of the timber industry and its boom years in Central Oregon. Several rare old photos of the logging and milling industry help illustrate the importance of the industry to the development of the region.

March 24 Lecture

The Rise of the Livestock Industry in Central Oregon

Presented by Steve Lent, Bowman Museum Historian

The settlement of Central Oregon was begun with the introduction of the livestock industry. Most of the earliest settlers came to the lush grasses and ranges of the region to raise cattle and sheep. Early communities developed in support of the livestock industry.

Bowman Museum historian Steve Lent will present a visual program showing early ranches and ranching operations of Central Oregon. Many rare photos will help illustrate the importance of the livestock industry in the region.

Central Oregon was late to be settled as limited mining activity did not occur in the region. Many travelers passing though the area recalled the lush grasslands that were ideal for livestock. Many of these early travelers were determined to bring livestock from the Willamette Valley to the relatively untapped ranges of Central Oregon.

Dr. Horace Belknap

Dr. Horace Belknap

Dr. Horace Belknap

Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man (1935)
by Fred Lockley

A few days ago I sat down in the Ochoco Inn at Prineville with Dr. H. P. Belknap, pioneer physician of Crook County, and he told me many interesting incidents of the practice of medicine in the Inland Empire before the advent of the telephone, good roads and automobiles.

"I was born at Monroe, OR., April 5, 1856," said Dr. Belknap. "My father, Harley Belknap, was born in Ohio in 1832. In 1840 they moved to Iowa. In 1848 my father crossed the plains to the Willamette Valley. Father was 16 years old at the time and came with his father, Jesse Belknap. Mymother's maiden name was Thirza Inman. She was born in Tennessee in 1836. She came with her parents across the plains in 1853. They settled at Smithfield, 12 miles west of Eugene. Father and mother were married on June 19, 1855. My father was a carpenter and contractor. In 1863 we moved to Salem. Father helped build Weymouth Universityand also worked on the old brick mill owned by William S. Ladd and located on North Front Street. Among our early neighbors at Smithfield were the Inmans, Hintons and Zumwatts.

"There were seven children in our family - five boys and two girls. My brother Harvey Thurston Belknap is a contractor at Los Gatos, Ca1. My brother Sylvester is a druggist at Grants Pass. We always call him Ves. We lived just across the street in Salem from Ben Simpson, and we boys played with his sons, Sylvester, Sam, Willie and Grover. Sam Simpson, as you know, is the author of many beautiful poems, among them, Beautiful Willamette. 'My brother, Sylvester, was named for Sylvester Simpson. My brother Virgil is a practicing physician at Nampa, Idaho. My son Horace P. Jr., is associated with him. My brother Elbert lives at Prairie City, in Grant County. My sister, Grace, now Mrs. Guy Smith, lives at San Jose. Her husband is a fruit grower. My sister Lillie died of diphtheria.

In 1874 we came to Prineville. Father built the first large school house. Among the old-timers that I remember well in Prinevi11e was Bush Wilson. He was here in the 1870's. His son, E. E. Wilson, graduated at O.S.C. and is president of a bank at Corvallis. I attended the Oregon Institute at Salem three years, and then put in one year at Willamette University. The preparatory department of Willamette was known as the Oregon Institute. Among my schoolmates were Allie Moore of Salem, Frank McCully, who later went to Joseph; ex-Congressman J. N.Williamson, now postmaster here at Prinevi11e, George Peebles, who was later superintendent of schools at Salem, and George Belt, whose son, H. H. Belt, is now a member of the Oregon Supreme Court.

"In 1875, when I was 19, I quit school and began riding the range and for eight years was a cowboy. I didn't see that I was getting very far ahead, so in 1883 I quit the range and went to Ann Arbor, Mich., where I put in two years in the medical department and later went to Bellevue, New York City, from which institution I graduated in 1886 at the age of 30. I came back to prineville and began the practice of my profession.

On March 5, 1888, I married Miss Wilda Ketchum, who was born in New Brunswick. Our son, Horace P. Jr. graduated at the University of Oregon and served as an intern at the Good Samaritan Hospital. He is now a practicing physician at Nampa, Idaho. He was a surgeon at the base hospital with the Oregon unit in France. He married Gladys Ferguson, an Athena girl, and they have two children. Our son, Dr. Wilfred H. Belknap, is also a graduate of the University of Oregon and also enlisted in the World War but didn't go overseas. He is with Crook County Historical Society Page 6 Belknap family home was located at site of the former Hans Pharmacy Chamberlain & Hendershott in Portland. His wife died and we are raising their little boy, Wilfred Jr., though everyone here calls him “peg." Our son, Dr. Leland B. Belknap, like his brothers, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and was an intern at Good Samaritan Hospital three years. He is located in the Mohawk Building, in Portland. Our other son, Dr. Hobart Belknap, graduated at the University of Oregon and was an intern at the Letterman Hospital, after which he put in two years at the Reed hospital and medical college of Washington, D. C. He served in France, being a first lieutenant. He was a captain when he resigned. He is located in the Medical Building in Portland. I served as county school superintendent of Crook county two years, and later a term as county treasurer.

For some years I served as mayor of Prineville. I also represented Crook County in the legislature in 1907, 1909 and 1911. I have been practicing medicine in this county 43 years and I think I have helped bring into the world about half of the children born in the county during that time. When I first began practice, Dr. Van Gesner was practicing here. He was a younger brother to Lon Gesner, of Salem, a well known surveyor in the Willamette Valley. About 25 years ago Dr. Gesner left here to practice at Arlington so Iam now the pioneer physician of Crook County.

“It hardly seems possible that conditions have changed as they have since I began practicing. Now, when I have a call to Mitchell, I. can drive there readily in two hours. Forty years ago it was an all day and all night drive. When I started practicing here I occasionally got a call to go to Suplee, 90 miles distant, and other points equally distant. A man would ride hard all day and all night to come and get me. He would change mounts at various ranches he passed and I would also make the drive as fast as my team could go, and I also would change horses two or three times on the trip. In those days I was not summoned unless someone had met with a bad accident or had been in a shooting scrape. In the latter case I usually took the coroner along and frequently the assistant district attorney. No I don't suppose it did add to the cheerfulness of the occasion to answer a call and take the coroner with me, and yet frequently my patient had bled to death by the time I got there. I charged $1 a mile for making these trips, plus my regular fee. I remember making a hard drive to Mitchell, but the man I had been summoned to see -- a man named Amos -- died 10 minutes after I arrived. He had been shot by the city Marshall at a dance. Another man I was summoned to see was George Chamberlain, who had been shot in a dispute over the range, but he was dead when I arrived."

Early History of The City of Prineville Railway

Early History of The City of Prineville Railway

by Frances Juris

Note: The following is an excerpt from an article written by Frances Juris in 2002.  It has been edited to include only the period up to the time that the major mills left Prineville   and  only covers the early years of the railway.. Frances has recently celebrated her 100th birthday.  This story is being re-published to commemorate the City of Prineville Railway caboose being moved for display at the Bowman Museum.

In the year 1900 the city of Prineville, county seat of Crook County Oregon, sat snugly (some might have said smugly) in the beautiful Crooked River/Ochoco Creek valley,  the only city in the vast region between The Dalles on the north, Klamath Falls on the south, Eugene City on the west and Canyon City on the east.  Prineville was founded in 1868, and by 1880, when it was incorporated, it had become a busy frontier town of 200 people, furnishing the necessities, such as sugar, flour and whiskey and a few niceties such as church services and band music, to everyone in the thousands of square miles of emptiness which was Central Oregon.

By 1900, all roads led to Prineville and the community, which had grown to 600 people, felt secure in the knowledge that Prineville would continue to be the hub around which the activities of the whole area would center, even though small settlements were springing up at Bend, Redmond, and Madras.

Problems?  Yes, there were some — memories of the violent vigilante days of the late 1800’s, with the shootings and hangings, were still strong when the sheepmen/cattlemen wars began.  The townspeople tried hard to remain neutral amidst the fury and the hatred which culminated in the slaughter of thousands of sheep, the killing of many men and open defiance of all law by a group calling itself “Crook County Sheep Shooters Association.” The war ended in 1905 only when national forests were created and the Federal government took over the allocation of grazing rights.

In the midst of the more urgent problems, the people were becoming increasingly concerned by the handicap caused by lack of transportation to outside markets.  Cattle and sheep had to be trailed long, slow, dusty miles to the nearest railhead, Winnemucca or The Dalles, and all supplies and merchandise had to be freighted in from The Dalles, 150 miles by wagon, a trip that might take two weeks round trip, depending on the season of the year.

Most Prineville people were confident that the railroad magnates could not continue to ignore the possibilities for hauling the products of Crook County, which included  millions of board feet of prime ponderosa pine timber from the Ochoco Mountains.  As early as 1890, hopes for a railroad had mounted when Col.  T. Egenton Hogg had started construction on his Oregon Pacific, which was to run from Yaquina Bay on the Oregon coast east to Ontario, along the route of the Willamette Valley Cascade Mountain Wagon Road.  Disappointment wasn’t too great when Col.  Hogg stopped before he reached Idanha, because by that time there was action in another direction.  The Columbia Southern Railroad had been constructed and was in operation to Shaniko, just 60 miles north of Prineville.

Things were really looking up.  Now it only took 12 hours by fast stage to cover the 60 miles to the railroad.  And besides, all the talk indicated that the CS would continue south to Antelope, thence to Prineville and would answer all problems of reaching markets.  However, the extension of the CS was never to be.  In the first place, the extremely steep grade from Shaniko to Antelope, provided serious construction and operational obstacles, which would have made it prohibitively expensive to continue the railway south.  Then in the second place, why should the owners of the CS spend all that money to take the railroad to the territory south when all the freight was already being brought to them at Shaniko with no effort on their part and little choice on the part of the shippers?  So, the Columbia Southern never passed Shaniko and another dream died.

For the next ten years there were dozens of rumors of railroads coming to Prineville.  Such reports were so numerous that the Crook County Journal even started a column called “Railroad Rumors” to consolidate all the information in one place.  Then in 1909, things took a serious turn.  E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific announced he would build a railroad south down the Deschutes Canyon.  Then, Jim Hill of the Great Northern, entered the picture and the battle was joined.  The many stories of the war down the Deschutes Canyon, with dynamite, trickery, guns and pickaxes as favorite weapons, are well known as the last of the great railroad epics.

The people of Prineville entertained Hill and then Harriman and listened appreciatively to their orations detailing the virtues of Crook County.  At that time Crook County included all of what is now Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook Counties, but it didn’t occur to the Prineville group that the orators might be speaking of any but their own Crooked River Valley.  As the two rail lines reached the Agency Plains, Prineville waited and watched to see the rails veer to the east toward Prineville.  Finally, when the Deschutes Railway and the Oregon Trunk settled their differences, sharing the Crooked River Gorge bridge and one line south, it became painfully obvious that proud Prineville, Mother City of Central Oregon, was being bypassed and ignored.  To add to the ignominy, the people of the fast-growing towns of Bend, Redmond and Madras were becoming impatient at having to travel to the county seat at Prineville to conduct business, so in 1914, the northern part of Crook County was separated to form Jefferson County, then in 1916 another section was severed to form Deschutes County.

Still, Prineville people were not noted for giving up easily, and they thought that either the Deschutes Railway , which was taken over by the UP, or the Oregon Trunk would build a branch up Crooked River, but this was not to be either.  It seemed that the Oregon Trunk and the Deschutes would share equally in any freight that might develop from a line into Prineville, so there was no incentive for either of them to invest the money necessary.

The next few years were ones of high hopes and deep disappointments.

Numerous proposals were made for railroads into Prineville, most of them made by promoters who solicited local people for funds. As 1916 began, the city leaders finally acknowledged that if there was to be a railroad, the city would have to build it. This wasn’t such a revolutionary idea at the time.  Roseburg, Klamath Falls, Grants Pass, Medford, Burns and even Bend had bonded themselves to build railroads, or were contemplating doing so.  Roseburg, Klamath Falls and Grants Pass actually did build their roads, but they disposed of them as quickly as they could.

In February 1916, when the City Council proposed that Prineville build its own railroad, the idea caught hold immediately and when the first $100,000 bond election was held, the voters, in an amazing display of almost unanimity, voted 355 to 1 for the bonds.  The first bonds could not be sold, so it was necessary to vote again in September 1916.  The local newspaper editor pleaded for complete unanimous approval, but in spite of his plea, that voter wouldn’t change his mind, and this time the vote was 358 to 1. There was much speculation as to whom this one miscreant could be and it’s been said that he was hanged in effigy.  He must have been able to conceal his feelings pretty well, or he might have easily found himself hanged in person.

Early in 1917 construction on the nineteen mile line, which joined the OT and UP main line at a point 4 miles north of Redmond called Prineville Junction.  Optimism reigned, dampened only by the beginning of World War 1. However, before long trouble clouds appeared and it soon became evident that more money would be needed for the railroad.  A third election was held, with a comfortable majority favoring another $100,000 bond issue.  When it became necessary to hold a fourth, and then a fifth election, the small voter turnout and the smaller favorable majorities told a sad story.  The people of Prineville were no longer so enthusiastic or so optimistic, but they couldn’t stop now.  This was to be the story for the next 25 years.

After the road was finished in 1918 and operation started, things went pretty well for the first couple of years.  Passenger traffic was good and freight traffic, mostly livestock, provided enough business so that the C of P ran four trains a day to Prineville Junction.  The C of P did own a locomotive which was used for heavy traffic, but the “Galloping Goose”, a gasoline driven combination freight and passenger car, made most of the trips.  This strange contrivance, which couldn’t haul enough freight to make it worthwhile, and which certainly didn’t provide anything in the way of passenger comfort, served for many years as the mainstay of the C of P.  The “Galloping Goose” is still remembered by old timers who made the bumpety-bumpety ride down Crooked River Canyon, through the fields, past the childhood home of Governor Tom McCall. up O’Neil Hill past spectacular Smith Rocks to the Junction.  Too soon, with the advent of the automobile, fewer and fewer people rode the “Goose”.  Freight traffic fared a little better, but truck transportation soon began to cut into this business too.

  1. J. Wilson, the first railroad manager, died in 1924. C. W. Woodruff was appointed second manager and to him fell the difficult task of keeping the railroad going for the next 20 years.  The people of Prineville had bonded themselves for $322,000 with the expectation that the railroad would soon be sold, but no sale materialized.  Even if the railroad was abandoned, the heavy bonded indebtedness would still have to be paid, so the C of  P had to operate.  For year after year, the people taxed themselves to pay the interest on the railroad bonds.  The Depression piled trouble on trouble and many embittered taxpayers cursed the railroad and those who had conceived the idea, without stopping to realize that the railroad was the means of keeping Prineville alive.  Without the City of Prineville Railroad, the timber from the Ochoco’s would have been hauled to Redmond, and Prineville would surely have met the same fate as Shaniko and Antelope.  Those towns had been bustling centers of activity until the OT and Deschutes (UP) railroads started service to Madras, and then, overnight the towns died, to be added to the list of Oregon’s ghost towns, visited only by a local rancher or occasional tourists.

In the late 1930’s things began to brighten up a bit as the sawmills started to come in.  At last, the long awaited activity in the lumber business was beginning and the construction of the C of P was justified, but, even after the long 20 year struggle, troubles were still not over.  The railway had been built cheaply to start with, there had been no money for proper maintenance, so that the untreated ties were rotten, the ballast was almost gone and the light rails were twisted and crooked.  The situation could hardly have been worse.  Here was the traffic which was so badly needed, but the railway couldn’t handle it.  Rarely was a trip made to the Junction without a costly, time consuming derailment.  The railway limped through the next few years, which, with the beginning of World War II, brought more pressure from the Government and the mills for more efficient service.

Drastic measures were necessary.  C. C. McGlenn was chosen to tackle the monumental task of rebuilding the railroad.  The railway had no funds with which to work, but the sawmills made loans, the City advanced funds and the OT and UP cooperated, so that, gradually, over the next few years the roadbed was rebuilt, new ties laid, new bridges constructed, and the 60 lb. rail replaced.  The steam locomotive was put into good operating condition so by the end of 1950, things were going smoothly.

The 1950’s and 1960’s were prosperous ones.  Seemingly, Crook County was isolated from the rebellion and unrest which plagued the rest of the nation, beginning in the 1960’s with the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy and the acceleration of the Vietnam War.

During the 1950’s the C of P Railway was able to pay all its debts, and to transfer substantial sums to the City’s General Fund to be used to build parks, a swimming pool and a City Hall, and to begin a reserve fund for future needs.

For five years, from 1964 through 1968, the City did not levy property taxes, much to the envy of other Oregon cities.

In 1968,  the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Railway, a new depot was constructed, said to be the first railroad depot to be built in the U.S. since the early 1900’s.

In 1969 the City began to levy property taxes again.  In that year the levy was $28,799, which was the maximum allowed under Oregon law.  For the next 14 years the City was fortunate in that the taxpayers approved tax levies and the City was no longer dependent on the Railway for operating funds.  In 1984 the taxpayers approved a new tax base, so it is no longer necessary to go to the voters every year for funds with which to operate the City.

In 1971 Railway shipments reached their zenith when 10,076 carloads, mostly lumber, were shipped to Prineville Junction.  From that time on, for the next 30 years, car loadings leveled, then gradually, steadily, then precipitously, declined until, in 2001, only 798 carloads were shipped out.


Knox Family Remembers Christmas of Yesteryear

Knox Family Remembers Christmas of Yesteryear

1906, John Knox and his wife, GraceFrom Central Oregonian 1963

In the year 1906, John Knox and his wife, Grace, a bride of two months, planned to eat Christmas dinner at the home of one of John’s sisters.  Twenty or more people including members of the Knox family and two or three old bachelors who would otherwise have a very lonely day, were expected to gather around the festive board.

Six long miles of winding mountain road separated the two homes, and of course in 1906 paved highways and automobiles were few and far between in Crook County.

The trip over was fine, John hitched two horses in their one seated buggy and they easily traversed the six miles of frozen road.

Everybody had a wonderful time.  The table fairly groaned under its load of delicious farm foods prepared by skillful cooks.  The dinner began with oysters, John’s specialty.  To serve so large a crowd it was necessary for John to make it in a sterilized wash boiler.

Darkness came early and some of the guests, including John and Grace, decided to return home the next day.  During the night the temperature rose and the ground thawed.

The trip home was quite different from the trip over.  About a mile of the road led through a red adobe formation.  The buggy wheels sunk deeper and deeper and gathered more and more mud.

“The wheels appeared to be about 18″ wide,” said Grace (now an octogenarian) reminiscently.  The horses pulled so hard that the double tree was bowed.  John was afraid it might break and so he go out and walked to lighten the load while I drove.  His feet were soon as mud encrusted as the buggy wheels, and his good suit was smeared with mud clear to his waist.  His feet looked so funny that I sort of laughed.

“I don’t see anything so darn funny about it,” remarked John as he slogged along through the mud.

The red adobe was finally negotiated and they reached home with the double tree still intact.

Grace’s Christmas gift to the members of the Knox clan that year were fruit cake and home made candy.  For over fifty years they looked to Grace each Yuletide for a treat of these two delicious foods.  Nor were they ever disappointed.


Note: John and Grace Knox lived near Conant Basin and his sister lived on Newsome creek north of Maury Mountain.

Barnhouse Story of 1879

Barnhouse Story of 1879

Note: Jacob L. Barnhouse and his wife Martha Washington Conger Barnhouse were early settlers in the Mountain Creek vicinity east of Mitchell.  The region was in old Crook County in 1882.  This story was written by a descendant of Jacob and Martha.  It provides an interesting look at what it was like in the early settlement era.  Jacob died on August 12, 1917 and Martha died on August 31, 1922.  They are both buried in Lower Mitchell Cemetery in Mitchell, Oregon.

In 1879, the Barnhouses moved by team and by river-boat to Eastern Oregon.  They traveled by way of horse and buggy down the Willamette Valley to Portland; here they boarded a boat and traveled up the Columbia to The Dalles.  This boat was a stern-wheeler similar to the old river boats of the Mississippi River.  These old boats had provisions for driving wagons onto them.  The Barnhouse family, along with their team and buggy, made the trip of eighty miles in a day.  The following day after their arrival at The Dalles they joined a man who was going in the same direction as they.  They all started the long journey by team on the old The Dalles-Canyon City military road.  The destination: the John Day country of Eastern Oregon. The trail they followed went from The Dalles south to Tygh Valley; east across Sherar’s Bridge, which spans the Deschutes River; southeast to Shaniko and Antelope; then through the Burnt Ranch country to their destination near Mitchell.  It took the travelers a total of eight days to travel through this dry, barren area of huge rim rocks, deep gulches and sagebrush typical of this section of the state.  Of course, there were no places to spend the night along the way; and the little group had to make camp eight different nights at likely looking spots along the trail.

Their journey ended at the Barlow Adams’ Ranch near the old military fort of Camp Watson.  This fortress was built here to protect the ranchers from Indians.  There were a few minor Indian outbreaks in Eastern Oregon, but none occurred in the immediate area of Camp Watson.  The Barnhouses stayed at this ranch for a few days; they then agreed to herd a band of weathers for a year for Barlow Adams.

While herding sheep in a country on lower Mountain Creek, later named for them Barnhouse Basin, they set up housekeeping.  During this first year in their new home, they acquired enough money to buy the improvements for $300.  These improvements included: their house, barn, orchard and garden.  This purchase was made from Lee Smith who later became an old friend of the family.  Orral (the Barnhouses daughter) attended a private school at this time farther down the creek at the William Foppiano place.  After this year was over, they took the band of sheep on shares with Adams for two years.

Orral’s father filed a homestead claim for 160 acres of land, the boundaries of which he thought surrounded his house and improvements. This was done by filing what is known as a pre-exemption claim.  The pre-exemption claim was granted him and he now owned 320 acres.  Later, when the corners were located and the boundary lines run, he found that his house was located outside of these boundaries.  It was therefore necessary for him to acquire the land upon which his home was situated.   The family lived on this place for a total of nine years.  Jacob and his wife Martha Washington Conger Barnhouse were early settlers in the Mountain Creek region east of Mitchell.  The region was part of old Crook county before Wheeler County was created in 1899. .

During these years, Orral attended school at the little mining town of Spanish Gulch.  This hamlet was located in a higher country south of the Barnhouse Basin ranch.  She boarded here and attended school during the winter months.  At this time, this was the nearest place of education.  Orral received the bulk of her schooling here.  However, at seventeen she completed her schooling at Caleb on upper Mountain Creek. It is hard to determine how many years of school she completed; as she moved from school to school, was sick awhile, and the length of the school years varied. It is thought that she completed somewhere in the neighborhood of seven or eight years of schooling.

While living in Barnhouse Basin, the Barnhouses lived mainly from their garden, their orchard and game.  Wildlife in this area at that date was very abundant.  Deer grew fat from the lush bunch grass pasture of the Mountain Creek country.  Orral can remember seeing a few mountain sheep in the region when the family first settled there. The mountain sheep in Oregon have long since vanished.  The trout fishing in Mountain Creek then was excellent in the spring. Salmon came up Mountain Creek and swam into Willow Creek , a little tributary stream.  Jacob used to ride to Willow Creek horseback and shoot the salmon that became stranded in the shallow waters of the small stream.  A few salmon were washed onto the meadow by the high water of Mountain Creek.  The women salvaged these with pitchforks.  The Barnhouses grew all types of vegetables in their garden and many kinds of fruit came from their orchard.  They also had a small raspberry patch.  Their home on lower Mountain

Creek was in a sheltered location and had a much milder climate than the areas surrounding it.  This increased their produce a great deal.

At the Barnhouse place, they killed as many as sixty rattlesnakes a year, on the walks, porch, and in the raspberry patch.  The whole family would wear rubber boots while picking raspberries.  This was done to protect themselves from snake bite.  They killed rattlesnakes on their ranch from March until the last of October.  The snakes were more abundant in July and August.  When a rattler would get under a large rock or in a hole where he couldn’t be struck, the Barnhouses poured boiling water in on him.  This original method never failed to fulfill its purpose.  Luckily, as long as these people lived here, none of them were ever bitten.  The rattlers were so thick in that region then because there had never been anyone there to kill them.

Every year, Indians from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation came through the region and they gathered wool from the barbwire-fences, hunted and secured varied items to use in the winter.  These people came only in the warm summer months in small groups consisting of two or three families.  They always brought with the all of their cayuse horses. A main camp of theirs on Mountain Creek was just above the Barnhouse home. The Warm Springs Indians camped here as it was near a tulle swamp and a good hunting area.  They gathered the tulles from the edge of the water and used the top, fuzzy part of them for the stuffing of pillows and the reeds were used to weave mats.  The women did this and gathered camas from the nearby hills, while the men hunted and smoked venison for their winter food supply.  The Barnhouses were always very friendly with the Indians and on occasion gave them food.  Much horse stealing went on in those days that was blamed on the Indians, but the Indians didn’t ever steal anything from the Barnhouses.

Recreation, outside of hunting and fishing, was very limited.  The ranchers took turns gathering at different ones houses, to dance, sing and in general to have a good time.  They danced to the music of the organ, banjo and violin.  Also, George McKay from Waterman Flat, put on an annual fourth of July celebration and a fair in the fall.  The fourth of July celebration was the bigger of the two affairs, and it always lasted for three or four days.  The celebration was made up of dancing, picnicking and the main attractions, horse racing and horsemanship controls.  The people who attended the celebration camped out in tents near the celebration grounds.  One year, when Orral was about sixteen years old, George McKay gave a ten dollar prize to the winner of a horsemanship contest between the women of the group.  Two married women and Orral entered the contest.  Each contestant was to demonstrate her horsemanship by riding her own horse and each of the other women’s horses.  After mastering a mean horse Orral won the contest and the prize of ten dollars.  This was a lot of money for those days.



Reminiscence of Charles Congleton

Reminiscence of Charles Congleton

Written December 8, 1960

I was born, one of 12 children, on a farm at Slade, Kentucky on October 26,1884, and lived on this farm until 1904 when I set out to go west, having in mind to join my brother near Greenland, Colorado where he was telegraph operator for the railroad. However, after stopping off near Denver and working on a dairy farm from June until December 20, 1904, I decided, instead, to join a cousin, Billy Congleton, who as a rancher in the Paulina valley on upper Crooked River.

I took a train to Shaniko, Oregon and from there took the old horse stage to Prineville, arriving there on December 24. No mail was carried on Christmas Day so it was necessary to lay over in Prineville until the 26th before I could catch the mail stage to Paulina.  The period from December 1904 to the spring of 1907 was spent doing general work on the Billy Congleton ranch in Paulina Valley and the Laughlin (The old Triangle) ranch.

In April  1907, three or four of the Paulina Valley ranchers signed a petition certifying as to my general reliability and qualifications for forest ranger and recommending me for this job in the Paulina area.   Accordingly, armed with this petition, I made application to A. S. Ireland, Forest Supervisor of the Blue Mountain West Forest Reserve with headquarters in Prineville, Oregon. On April 15, 1907 I was hired as a Forest Guard. There were no specific headquarters, but Paulina was my mailing address.

During 1907 the work consisted mostly in searching out section corners, running out and marking forest boundary, counting sheep and working out allotment boundaries between sheep permitees. At a meeting held the previous winter, there had been allotments made to permitees and the boundaries shown on a map, but no one knew where these were on the ground. Frequently, when the map boundaries were located on the ground they were found impractical and adjustments had to be made. This was further complicated by misunderstanding by the permitees on where the lines were and the fact that there were more sheep permitted than the area could accommodate. Regarding numbers, C. H. Adams of the Washington Office while inspecting the upper drainage of Mill Creek and Marks Creek in 1907 said “This is the heaviest stocked piece of National Forest range in the United States”.  These areas had a 1200 head band of sheep on about every four sections. There were no inside fences and cattle and horses permitted at this time often ranged over adjoining sheep range as well as on the areas on which they were permitted.

In August, 1907 I was promoted to Assistant Forest Ranger and in January, 1908 to Deputy Forest Ranger. A trail had been planned in 1907 to start at the Forest boundary on

McKay Creek, to follow the summit and end at the Rock Pile Ranch on the South Fork of the John Day River. This trail had been started in the fall of 1907.  An allotment  of money was received in 1908 for it and I was put in charge of its construction. This occupied most of my time during the field season and the trail was still only as far as Bear Meadow. However, I did spend most of the month of August fighting the Paulina Mountain fire which was the  largest fire to have occurred up to this time in the Blue Mountain West Forest Reserve. It burned about 8,000 acres and cost more than $8,000.

In the spring of 1909, I continued construction of the ridge trail and completed it to its destination at the Rock Pile Ranch in August and had just moved camp to Little Summit Prairie in preparation for beginning the construction of a trail from there to Squaw Meadow when word came that I was being sent to the Colville Forest to help examine 300 June 11 claims.

I reported to the Colville in September and examined June 11 claims until the weather made it impractical to continue, then returned to Paulina at Christmas time where most of the winter was spent making feed lot counts on permitees’s cattle. We only counted the grown stuff, and in those days, it was not uncommon for calves to be left unweaned until after the count was made so they would still go as calves.

In February and March of 1910 was the time that W.A. Donnelly, W.J. Nichols, Jim Gilchrist, Grover Blake and I killed all the bugs in Badger Creek as was reported by Grover in his article appearing in the May 1957 issue of ”Timberlines”.

In April 1910,  I returned to the Colville and continued examination of June 11 claims unti1 June when I was sent to examine June 11 claims on the Wenatchee. Most of those claims on the Wenatchee were in unsurveyed country and many of them were located in big timber in the White River Valley after the June 11 law had been passed. Some of these made for interesting decisions. C. J. Buck came in July and gave me help on some of these. I returned to Paulina on August 1.

Glee Laughlin of Paulina and I were married on August  24 , 1910. Our oldest boy, Ross, was born July 6, 1911.  Ila was born March 25, 1914 and Lowell was born April 16, 1917. Lowell is still on the ranch, Ila is married and lives in Astoria and Ross owns a radiator shop in Prineville.

1935 Rager Ranger Station
1935 Rager Ranger Station

Beaver Creek cattle often drifted into Potter Meadows, Squaw Meadows, and even into the head of Rock Creek. This tendency was probably greater following the formation of the Forest Reserve which ended the Range Wars than had been the case while the wars were going on. During 1909 and 1910, pressures were being increased to persuade the stockmen to keep their livestock within the areas on which they were permitted. The result of this was the construction of a drift fence from Wolf Mountain easterly across upper Wolf Creek basin to the ridge south of little Summit Prairie and thence westerly on the same location that the fence exists today. Except for the head of Wolf Creek basin, this fence followed the deadline that had been established during the Sheep and Cattle wars. The old deadline included about four sections in upper Wolf Creek basin on the cow side that were cut off by this fence. (There was a period just prior to the building of this fence when agreement was had between the sheepmen and cowmen and the Forest Service that these four sections in the head of Wolf Creek basin would be used by both sheep and cattle in trade for the same kind of arrangement on Squaw Meadows. These areas were known as ”Neutral” range.) Incidentally, years later the fence was changed to include the four sections on the cow side, so now it essentially follows the old deadline. The big old saddle blanket blazes originally used to mark the deadline can still be found in places along this fence line.

An appropriation was received in 1909 for a barn, house and office at Rager. The story goes that Supervisor Ireland located the place he wanted the house built and set a stake there. Later he contracted with two freighters to deliver the lumber from the sawmill on Maury Mountain to the Rager site. He explained to them roughly the location above the Fred Powell place, but no one was there to show them the actual spot. When they arrived with the lumber and couldn’t find the stake, they unloaded at the nearest spot generally answering to the description they had. The next spring Ireland hired a carpenter and sent him out with instructions to build the house where the lumber was, believing it was where he had set the stake. It developed that the lumber had been unloaded some distance south of the staked location and, therefore, the house was built there.  Although there was much talk about moving it, the house remained there until in the 193O’s when the CCC organization moved the house and office to the present site.

In January 1914, I bought 160 acres on Beaver Creek.  This started out to be a place for the family to stay in reach of school and a place to keep a milk cow and my horses. In those days school buses didn’t come to pick up the kids and take them to school. Later, I took up a 160 acre homestead joining the purchased 160. When the Desert Homestead Act was passed, I took an additional 320 acres joining the first and took the other 160 on Dipping Vat Creek. This was added to by a timber and stone claim by my wife in Dipping Vat and later by purchase of vacant Public Domain under the Isolated Tract Act and still later by purchase of Road Grant lands around both the home ranch and in Dipping Vat.

By the middle twenties it was evident that the interest in ranching was going to replace my interest in Forest Service work.  I resigned from the Forest Service on Junc 15, 1927, having  served my entire time on the Paulina Ranger District. I have been with the ranch ever since.

Editor’s Note: 


Charles remained active for most of his life.  He managed the family ranch until 1948 when his son Lowell and wife Florence took over of the ranch.  Charles died on Sept. 26, 1971.  The Congleton Ranch was sold in 1979.

Arthur Ray Bowman

Arthur Ray Bowman

By Frances Juris and Elaine Thompson

Note: This story was written for a Crook County Pageant in Prineville in 1987.

In 1936 I bought the old Crook County Bank building at the southeast corner of  3rd and Main Sts., and for the next thirty-four years I watched the development of Prineville. From that vantage point it was easy to see what n


eeded to be done to make Prineville and Crook County the modern up-to-date community that I envisioned.

I was born in Kansas in 1882, the son of Collins and Addie Rullman Bowman. My four sisters and I grew up in the little town of Wauthena, Kansas.

In 1902 I graduated from Baker College in Kansas. My family had moved to Seattle and I joined them and enrolled in the University of Washington.

During the next few years I went to school and also worked for the Federal Government, traveling all over the northwest–Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington–inspecting timber claims to make sure the government regulations were being followed.

Have you ever heard of the Timber Fraud Scandals of the early 190’s? They were as big as any of the national scandals involving Congressmen and Senators and other high officials of today.

In connection with my job as Timber Claim Inspector, I was called to Washington, D.C. to testify at the trials. Among those indicted and convicted were several prominent Crook County men, including J. N. Williamson, M. R. Biggs, Dr. Van Gesner and John H. Mitchell.

  1. R. Biggs, a Prineville lawyer, and Dr. Van Gesner, a pioneer physician, served short terms in the Multnomah County Jail where Federal prisoners were held. John H. Mitchell, for whom the city of Mitchell was named, a long-time Senator from Oregon, was convicted, fined and sentenced to jail, but he died before his appeal could be heard.

John Newton Williamson was the only Congressman ever elected from Crook County. In 1904 he built the large house at E. 3rd and Fairview Sts. that later became Mother Dobbs’ Boarding House. Congressman Williamson was also convicted in the Timber Fraud case, but was granted a new trial by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was my Federal Govt. job that first brought me to Prineville. Like many another travelers, the view of the green valley from the west rimrocks really impressed me, and I made up my mind right then and there that this would be my home.

I graduated from the University of Washington in 1908 and immediately headed for Prineville, much to the dismay of my family as they did not share my enthusiasm for the High Desert Country of Central Oregon.

I was among the young, ambitious men who migrated from the East and Midwest who were not interested in farming or homesteading, but who could see the possibilities for development in this almost unknown corner of Oregon. Lake Bechtell, Asa Battles, Don Graham, Hugh Lakin, Bob Zevely are just a few I remember. We all married local girls and threw our lives and our energies into building Crook County.

Of course, this was when Crook County encompassed all of Deschutes, Jefferson and part of Wheeler Counties, and it was a great time to live here and take part in what was going on.

The following years were good ones. Business was booming and we led active social lives as well. We fellows played baseball–the 1910 Prineville Baseball Team was famous all over the region. Jesse Tetherow, Lake Bechtell, Peg and Horace Belknap and Ray Brewster were some of my teammates. Also, we joined the ladies in playing tennis and croquet, producing plays and attending dances and box socials.

In 1916 Alta Minton and I were married and moved into the house at 522 E. 7th where we lived all our married lives. Alta came to Crook County with her two sisters, Gertie and Laura and their Mother who had married George H. Russell who owned the Keystone Ranch.

Our daughters, Jean and Elaine, were born at home, delivered by Dr. Rosenberg.

I planted fruit trees and always had a big vegetable garden, while Alta raised her beloved flowers near the house. Alta was really good with flowers and she helped organize the first garden club and became a judge at County fairs around the country.

In 1914 I brought the first Model T to Prineville. Adrian Crooks had the first automobile in 1907 and Dr. Chas. Edwards bought a 1911 Cadillac and there were several others, but mine was the first Model T. I really enjoyed that car, it took me everywhere I wanted to go, even up into the hills where I could look for rocks and minerals and fossils, and I could study the geology of the country, my favorite hobby.

Through my studies I became convinced that there was oil in the Post-Paulina country, and, years later, I talked some of the major oil companies, Texaco for one, into drilling up there. Nothing big came of it, but I’m still not sure they didn’t stop drilling too soon.

Even on our family outings I always looked for interesting rocks. My girls tell of one time we were picnicking up Crooked River, and, as usual I wandered off to look for unusual rocks. As Elaine tells it, they heard a whoop and here came their portly father tearing down the hill, his hat going one way, a rock the other, sprinting like he was running for home base on a tight play and yelling “RATTLESNAKES!”  They laughed so hard I had to laugh with them, although I couldn’t see that it was that funny.

Along about 1911 things began to slow down in Prineville, principally because the mainline railroads had gone straight south from Madras to Bend, instead of swinging southeast to Prineville. This was a big blow, which was followed in 1914 by Jefferson County seceding, then in 1916 Deschutes County following suit. Prineville had lost its place as Queen City of Central Oregon.

But the City fought back by building the City of Prineville Railway in 1917.  World War I took its toll in many ways with a number of young Crook County men being called to the Armed Forces. It also caused problems in securing materials and supplies for all types of construction, including the Railway and the Ochoco Dam which was also begun in 1917.

The principal purpose of the Railway was to provide an outlet for cattle, agricultural products, and most of all the millions of feet of Ponderosa Pine in the Ochoco Mountains.

The C of P Railway was a lifesaver, but it took twenty-five years of hardship and struggle to make it so. It wasn’t until the sawmills came in the late 193’s and World War II brought strong demand for lumber that the Railway began to pay off.

Back in 1915 I served a term as Justice of the Peace and people began to call me “Judge”.  Then from 1936 to 1942 I served as Crook County Judge. It was during that time the Courthouse was remodeled and the original steps on the East and West sides were removed.

In my wanderings I found a deposit of clay and built a brick kiln beside the railroad tracks on Lamonta Road near the Roundhouse. The Horseshoe Tavern, E. 4th and Main, was built of these bricks, and originally was faced with different colors of obsidian I had gathered.

When I sold Central Oregon Title to Ralph Brown in 1940, I was able to concentrate my efforts on public improvements that I’d been thinking about for a long time.

For years I had been interested in promoting a transcontinental highway through Crook County. The culmination of my efforts brought Highway 26 through Prineville.

There was a small, inadequate airport at the top of the grade on the left going West towards Redmond. As we entered WWII I could see the necessity for a larger, improved airport, so I helped persuade the Army Air Force to build another airport at its present location. The AAF used the new airport to train flight instructors, who were housed in barracks located beside the Courthouse where the City Hall is now. Two of those barracks buildings are still in use at the Fairgrounds.

After the War, I started to focus all my attention on a dam to impound Crooked River. For years I had watched periodic floods inundate, and ruin, farms and ranches up and down the Valley, as well as the entire west side of the City. I also saw the benefits for agriculture and recreation.

LaSalle Coles and the Ochoco Irrigation District Board joined in the endeavor. It took years of research, writing letters, phone calls and trips to Washington, D.C., but finally, everything came together and the Prineville Reservoir project became a reality when the Dam was dedicated on October 20, 1962. It was the climax of my greatest dream.

As I look back, I remember how proud of my daughters I was. I enjoyed having them bring their schoolmates home. I recall Mary Demaris Wilson and Bun Tackman Gilchrist being among my favorites.

It pleased me that Jean became the first woman to major in Geology at Oregon State, where she received her Master’s Degree. She later got her Master’s in Library Science at the University of Washington.

Elaine chose the field of Education, received her Master’s from the University of Nevada and has taught in Reno schools for years.

I get a kick out of my grandchildren and great-grandson coming to visit us.

All in all, it’s been a good life. I take pleasure in traveling, playing pinochle with my old cronies and occasionally needling the City fathers about some of their decisions I didn’t like.

Never once since that long ago day in 1908 have I regretted my decision to make my home in the beautiful Crooked River Valley.