A book for Central Oregon history buffs

crooked-river-countryCrooked River Country: Wranglers, Rogues, and Barons (linked to Amazon)

by David Braly

Published by Washington State University Press, Pullman, Washington, 2007

331 pages, includes a Select Bibliography, Chapter Index of Personages and a separate map in a pocket in the back cover

Synopsis from GoodreadsCrooked River Country is a sweeping account of north central Oregon’s thrilling history, primarily the years between 1800 and 1950. Bordered by intimidating natural barriers, the rough country and harsh winters produced equally hardy inhabitants.

Legends include Billy Chinook, Chief Paulina, Elisha Barnes, James M. Blakely, Newt Williamson, James J. Hill, Johnnie Hudspeth, and Les Schwab. In the early 1800s, only Native Americans, fur trappers, military expeditions, and missionaries roamed the forbidding setting, but after mid-century, pioneer families discovered lush pastures nestled in the expanse between the Cascades and the Blue Mountains.

The homestead boom sparked deadly Paiute raids and conflicts over grazing rights. As land became more precious, Native Americans were forced onto reservations and Vigilante ranchers terrorized settlers. Moonshiners fought back. Dishonest politicians and capitalists exploited land claim laws and stole vast amounts of timberland.

Steamship and railroad lines further opened the region, and the territory gradually became less wild. Big eastern lumber companies arrived and constructed the largest pine mills in the world. The stock market collapsed, and citizens faced severe economic depression intensified by prolonged drought. New Deal programs, good rainfall, and World War II eventually spurred industrial and population growth.

Crooked River Country presents the captivating and thoroughly researched saga of the region’s astonishing transformation.

I bought this book last week on Amazon and so far I’ve only read a couple of chapters and browsed through the book. I looked through the Index of Personages for any of my ancestors who lived in that part of the country and found my great-grandfather Lee MILLER. He’s mentioned in a paragraph about Paulina, Oregon.

Paulina had been founded in 1870, and its post office was established in 1880 with John T. Faulkner serving as postmaster. Livestock baron Bill Brown sometimes listed himself as a Paulina resident. Cornett had a stage station there, but the big businesses in the early 20th century were the Paulina Cash Store, operated by Lee Miller and George Ruba, and the Hotel Paulina, built by Elmer Clark in 1906. The hotel had a lounge, dining room, and kitchen on the first floor, and eight bedrooms upstairs. While a few homesteaders filed for land in the vicinity, the Paulina area remained a ranching district. (from Crooked River County by David Braly, p. 187)

It’s always nice to see a name I know in print! The book starts with early history of the area and continues to the early 1950’s with the last chapter talking about the growth and importance of Prineville, Oregon after WWII when the post-war building boom created the need for more lumber. The first chapter explores the area as a whole and defines Central Oregon as a larger area than how it’s defined today.

I grew up in Central Oregon and my parents were born there. My Miller relatives came to Oregon in 1847 on the Oregon Trail so even though I don’t live in Oregon any longer I have deep roots there. And lots of relatives all over Oregon. I think I will learn a lot more about the history of the area I grew up in.

About David Braly

From the back cover: He’s a Prineville resident, a former journalist, is a popular author of numerous articles about the West. He was selected as a 2005 Spur Award finalist for best Western short fiction.

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