By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian
Frenchglen is a small unincorporated rural community located about 60 miles south of Burns. It is in the heart of rangelands that attracted early settlers and ranchers. Pete French was sent to southeast Oregon in 1872 by his future father-in-law Dr. James Glenn. Glenn was a large rancher in California and hoped to establish a presence in southeast Oregon. French liked what he saw along the Donner and Blizten rivers and bought a small ranch that soon became the headquarters for his operations. French used the brand “P” from the small ranch and it became known as the P Ranch. Glenn sent a large herd of cows to the site to establish operations. Glenn was killed by a disgruntled employee in 1883. French expanded the ranching operation to become one of the largest ranches in the region. He was killed by a disgruntled homesteader in 1897. The entire operation was known as the French-Glenn Livestock Company.
The ranch was eventually purchased by the Swift & Company Meat Packers in 1916. A post office named Somerange had been established in Catlow Valley to the south of the ranch in 1922 but was discontinued in 1924. The post office was moved near the P Ranch and named Frenchglen after the French-Glenn Company.
Swift & Company established the Frenchglen Hotel in 1917 so that people that came to do business with the company had a place to stay. The current hotel building at Frenchglen was built in 1923 and contained five rooms.
The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife purchased the P Ranch about 1934. The marshlands that encompassed most of the P Ranch became part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The hotel was included in the purchase. CCC crews planted poplars at the hotel site and in 1938 they remodeled and added on to the hotel.
The hotel property was transferred to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Division in 1973 and is now known as the Frenchglen Hotel State Heritage Site. The State Parks remodeled the hotel in 1975. It has eight guest rooms and serves family style meals. It has become known as the “Gateway to the Steens” as a main road from Frenchglen leads to the amazing glacier carved canyons. The hotel is operated by a concessionaire and is well worth a visit by adventurous travelers. The population of Frenchglen is listed as 12. There is a store and gas station and the BLM has a fire guard station located nearby.