Bertha Brown Bolter
By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian
Bertha Ellen “Ella” Brown was born near Grizzly, Oregon on February 14, 1881. Her parents were Samson and Bette Brown, who were among the earliest settlers near Grizzly. There were fourteen children in the family. She left home when she was very young as there were some domestic issues at her home. She walked from Grizzly to the Edward Bolter ranch on Trout Creek where she got a job. She met John Bolter while working at the ranch.
Bertha, commonly known as “Ella” and John Bolter soon became enamored with each other. When she was sixteen years old they were married on December 1, 1897 at the Edward Bolter ranch. John was born on September 11, 1876 in The Dalles and his parents were Edward and Matilda Bolter.
John had established a homestead near his parents at Cross Keys and after their marriage they ran a cattle ranch and maintained a stage station known as Cross Keys Station. They operated the stage station until the railroads came to Central Oregon in 1912. Ella enjoyed meeting many interesting people while maintaining the stage station and ranch. Both Ella and John managed the cattle herd. Ella did most of the cooking at the station and was kept busy with typical domestic chores besides ranch chores.
They had four children, two sons and two daughters, with a son passing away as an infant. Ella and John remained on the ranch for the rest of their lives. Their home was located in three different counties through the years, first in Wasco County, then Crook County and finally in Jefferson County. Oddly through the years they received their mail at seven different post offices although they never moved. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in December 1962. Both Ella and John were active in public and community affairs.
John passed away on May 1, 1963. Ella lived on for several years and passed away on August 7, 1971. They are both buried in Mt. Jefferson Memorial Park in Madras, Oregon.