Homesteader near Dixie Meadow

Mary Hipp Reif

By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian

Mary Reif came to Central Oregon as a young woman after her marriage and raised a family at their isolated homestead. Mary Magdeline Hipp was born on November 18, 1873 in Reading, Pennsylvania. She met Frank Reif and they became inseparable. Frank was born on June 3, 1871 near Brunn, Austria. He had immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1885 and eventually settled at Odin, Kansas. He became a naturalized citizen in 1916.

Mary and Frank were married in Odin, Kansas on April 18, 1893. They lived in a sod house on the prairies of Kansas for twelve years and six of their children were born there. Frank worked for the Union Pacific Railroad as well as maintaining a farm. A drought severely damaged crops and the expanding railroad led to the family moving to Colton, Washington in 1905. They lived there for seven more years and five more children were born while living there.

Frank and two of his sons came to homestead in Crook county in 1911. They found a site to their liking fifteen miles southeast of Prineville. Frank built a house and barn and Mary and the other children came to Prineville in 1912. They raised rye hay cattle and thoroughbred horses. Mary worked hard at household chores and raising eleven children. The family never had electricity while living at the homestead site other than a series of Delco batteries with limited power and water came from a spring up the hill from the house. They never owned an automobile and most of the travel was by horse and wagon. It was a primitive lifestyle for many years for Mary. They did get telephone service in 1925 that connected surrounding ranches.

They later bought the old Gee place on Combs Flat and some of their children lived there so the younger ones could attend school. Mary and Frank continued living on the old home place until about 1944 when they moved to a farm in Powell Butte. Frank died on May 6, 1947. Mary lived on for another decade and passed away on April 2, 1956. She had lived a long and challenging life on the frontier. Both she and Frank are buried in the Pioneer section of Juniper Haven Cemetery in Prineville.