Buckaroo and Early Forest Service Employee

Fred Thomas Houston

By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian

Fred Thomas Houston was born on August 8, 1900 in a log cabin on the old Columbus Johnson ranch on Bear Creek. His parents were Thomas and Sallie Ammons Houston who were early settlers in the Bear Creek vicinity. Several members of both of his parents’ families were early settlers in the region. The family moved into Prineville in 1906. Fred attended schools in Prineville including high school until 1916.
When the United States entered World War I he was not old enough to enter the service so he helped his father farming and stock raising near Powell Butte. After the war Fred returned to high school. In 1921 he began working as a buckaroo for High Desert legend Bill Brown. He worked for Brown periodically until 1931.

In 1931 he began working seasonally for the Ochoco National Forest. He later gained permanent employment with the Forest Service. He met a charming young woman, Blanche Gibson, in the Silver Creek area near Suntex. Blanche was born on June 17, 1911 in Harney County. Her parents were early ranchers in the region. Fred became smitten with Blanche and they were married on December 31, 1932. Fred and Blanche had nine children with one passing away as a new born infant.

Fred worked at different ranger stations including mainly Rager Ranger Station near Paulina, and periodically at Ochoco, and t Maury Ranger Stations. While at Rager Blanche often helped with dispatching and plotting fires for fire personnel during thunder storms. Local ranchers were often some of the available resources for firefighting. Forest Service employees were required to keep diaries of work activities. Copies of some of Fred’s diaries are on file at the Bowman Museum. Fred later worked in the Ochoco National Forest Supervisor’s office in Prineville and retired in 1965.

After his retirement he did some farming and contract work before contracting to deliver mail on the Paulina route. He did that until 1973. Fred passed away on April 9, 1988. Blanche lived on for several years and passed away on Jan. 2, 2002. Both are buried in Juniper Haven Cemetery in Prineville.