Pioneer Settler Near Ashwood

Bertha McClanahan Symons

By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian

Bertha Esther McClanahan was born on July 1, 1889 in Vancouver, Washington. She grew up in Washington and met Frank M. Symons. They were married in 1908. Frank was born in Seattle, Washington on June 12, 1889. They lived in Wapato, Washington early in their marriage and had two daughters. They came to Ashwood, Oregon in 1911 to homestead near Frank’s parents. The journey from Wapato to Ashwood was done by horse and buggy.

They purchased a cabin from a sheepherder to live in the first year on the homestead. They dug out a spring near the cabin for water. Bertha sewed two blankets together to make a bed tick that was filled with sagebrush tops. It certainly must have made a fragrant bed. They did not have furniture and used wooden boxes for chairs and to set coal-oil lamps on. Their stove was a square sheet iron with a tin door on the side for putting in wood to heat the cabin and cook meals.

Bertha held down the homestead while Frank looked for work to buy necessary supplies. He worked for a farmer near Kent, Oregon. Bertha cleared a spot to start a garden and a grain field. They managed to have a couple of successful wheat crops and got enough funds to build a barn and chicken coop. Mice, ground squirrels and rabbits managed to devour a part of her garden.

Her brother visited and noticed they were using canned milk so bought them a dairy cow so the children could have fresh milk. Bertha also made butter and cheese. Frank and Bertha had seven children. They eventually got a little money ahead and Frank had a larger house built nearby. Bertha managed to grow a variety of vegetables. Bertha also would carry water up a hill to the house from a spring. After living on their homestead for eleven years the water began to dry up and they move to live on the homestead of Frank’s parents as they had moved away.

Frank also supplemented their income by cutting firewood and had a firewood camp on upper Trout Creek. They lived on that homestead for another seven years then moved into Ashwood. Frank died of cancer on Dec. 22, 1946. Bertha lived on for several years and passed away on May 23, 1985. They are both buried in Woods Cemetery in Ashwood, Oregon.