A Railhead in a Ranching Region of Southeast Oregon

Crane, Oregon

By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian

Crane is an unincorporated community in Harney County, Oregon, about 29 miles southeast of Burns, Oregon. It was initially settled as a ranching center. It was named for nearby features Crane Creek and Crane Creek Pass. The creek is believed to be named for the Sandhill crane which was once a prominent bird species in the region. A post office was established on June 10, 1895, with Henry Turner as first the postmaster and it was discontinued in 1903. When the Union Pacific Railroad was completed from Ontario, Oregon, in 1916, the post office was reopened on Oct. 11, 1916.

Until the railroad was finished to Burns in 1924, Crane was an important livestock shipping point. The town became an active community with four hotels, five restaurants, two general merchandise stores, three garages, a school, a warehouse, a lumber yard, livery stables, a dance hall, a newspaper, a bank and even a movie theater.

The town suffered a series of fires through the years and a fire in 1938 resulted in the town never regaining its previous vigor. Travel by road was limited until 1917 when the State highway department began construction on a gravel road and once it was completed in 1921 it provided a better link for the sparsely populated region.

The small community today is the home for Crane Union High School and Crane Elementary School. The high school is a boarding school for the children of ranch families who inhabit the vast rural regions of the county. Some students live over one hundred miles from home and come from Fields, Diamond, Frenchglen and other outlying ranching communities.

Today the town has a population of less than 120 people. The post office still operates and there is a gas station combined with a tavern and a feed supply store. There is a chapel for religious services.