Turning in his saddle and tilting his dusty hat to shade his eyes, he finally sees it in the distance. The round barn. The year is 1887 and he and the other vaqueros are moving a herd of horses collected over the sagebrush covered plains of the High Desert in Oregon. He had worked so many hours that week that when he finally settled down each night on a bed of hard sandy soil, he instantly fell into a deep sleep.
Moving cattle, horses, and mules for his boss, Pete French, was a hard but satisfying life. Guiding his horse with worn leather reins, he moves to the back of the herd of mustangs and starts driving them towards the barn.
The Pete French Round Barn, near Diamond, Oregon, was built in the 1880’s. The center pole and supporting poles are made from ancient western juniper trees. The juniper shows cuts and gouges from past use but is still strong. Umbrella-like beams radiate out from the center to support the rounded roof of this 100-foot diameter barn. Horses were stabled in the middle part of the building. The 63-foot diameter rock wall in the middle section forms a round corral in the building’s interior. A 20-foot wide circular paddock surrounds it. During the long winters, 400 to 600 horses and mules were moved through and trained in the barn, safe from the harsh conditions outside.
Round barns allowed livestock to be sheltered and trained year round. Teams of horses and mules were trained to pull freight wagons in the barns. This particular barn has an interesting history.
In 1872, Pete French and a group of vaqueros were camping in an area south of present-day Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He was working for cattleman and wheat baron, Dr. Hugh Glenn, moving 1,200 shorthorn cattle to better grazing lands on Steens Mountain. French met a prospector named Porter who had about a dozen cattle and squatter’s rights to the land. He bought the cattle, rights to the land, and the “P” brand. The laws of the land were a bit different back then so when he moved the cattle onto unsurveyed land nearby, that land became his. Ranchers were required to build fences to keep cattle out of their lands.
French continued to work with Hugh Glenn and together they created French-Glenn Livestock Company. Pete French became president of the company in 1893. The company went on to become one of the best run cattle businesses of the time. French-Glenn Livestock Company had two round barns and numerous other buildings on their 150,000 to 200,000 acres of land.
Though successful as a businessman, Pete French was not well liked by some of his neighbors. Settlers were putting up fences on what they claimed was public land and French contested those claims in court. He fought with one neighbor, Edward Oliver, off and on for ten years. On December 26, 1897, they got in their last argument. Oliver shot and killed French and was later acquitted of all charges.
The round barn has been carefully restored by state and federal agencies. It is now protected as the Pete French Round Barn State Heritage Site. Cycle Oregon and Trust Management Services have also put work into maintaining and improving the site.
The barn is in an isolated location but it’s a remarkable structure well worth seeing. When you stand in it and look around, you really get a feel for the history of the place. It is a place full of many stories. For driving directions, click here.
There is also an impressive visitor center and store near the barn. The Round Barn Visitor Center contains a small museum and a store featuring clothing, jewelry, hunting knives, and a very good assortment of local and regional history books. The store also has a few snacks and beverages. The museum contains artifacts related to the Jenkins family, who have lived and worked in the area for several generations. Talk to Mr. Jenkins, the proprietor of the store, to learn more about the stories this land has to tell.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Rounded
Here are several old corners that have stood the test of time.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Corner
It’s hard to imagine that the big flat area pictured above was once filled with water that all disappeared. Developer William A. Laidlaw was in this area in the early 1900’s and he promised settlers a project that would irrigate nearly 30,000 acres. Local businesses and settlers put up some of their hard earned dollars for the project but then figured out they were being taken advantage of. Laidlaw was burned in effigy in 1907 and 1912. New plans were made by the state for a reservoir.
In 1914, the huge earthen Tumalo Dam on the edge of 1,100 acre Bull Flat was constructed. It took 18 months to complete. The reservoir was filled with thousands of gallons of water. A couple of school kids were passing by the reservoir one day and heard a roaring noise like a tub draining. A giant whirlpool was sucking down the water at the rate of 220 cfs – as fast as it was being filled. Yikes!
They tried plugging the hole with bales of hay and detonating dynamite on floating barges. Nothing worked. It turned out the engineer that designed the project had not done much work on the soil at the site. It is extremely porous and modern day engineers liken it to a sponge. There are also lava tubes underneath the surface. Continue reading
Driving along U.S. Route 97 north of Redmond, Oregon, a bridge dramatically spanning a deep canyon grabs your attention. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge was built in 1911. It passes over the Crooked River, 320 feet below.
There is a nice rest area here with picnic tables, restrooms, and scenic viewpoints. You can get a bird’s eye views of birds of prey, swallows, and other cliff dwellers from here. We had a bald eagle glide over our heads while a turkey vulture drifted by nearby.
The Crooked River, true to its name, meanders in a twisting course through the canyon below the bridge. You get great views of the lichen covered cliffs from this viewpoint. This area was formed about 350,000 years ago as lava flows from the Newberry Volcano, 40 miles to the south, moved northwards.
This viewpoint is named after Peter Skene Ogden, who first entered central Oregon in 1825 when working as a trapper for the Hudson’s Bay Company. For more about the park, click here.
If you are a thrill seeker, you can bungee jump from the bridge in the summer. After a pilot program in 2016, the state gave final approval for bungee jumping businesses here.
Note the signs about leaving your dogs in the car. Unfortunately, some have perished when they accidentally ran off the cliffs.
The Crooked River Railroad Bridge has an interesting history. Two competing railroad companies were building rail lines on both sides of the Deschutes River in an attempt to be the first to reach the timber-rich country near Bend. There were also plans to connect this line to railroad lines from other parts of the state.
Jim Hill, owner of The Oregon Trunk Railway (a subsidiary of Great Northern Railway), worked on the west side of the river and Edward H. Harriman, owner of the Union Pacific Railway and other railroads, worked on the east side. Workers in the two competing companies got in fights and raided each other’s camps stealing food, alcohol, and supplies. When they reached Crooked River there was only one area where the geography allowed for bridge construction.
Since Jim Hill had bought that property two years before, Harriman’s company was forced to negotiate with him. Harriman had passed away in September of 1909. The terms of the settlement allowed other railroad companies to use the rail lines from the Columbia River to Bend. The two lines were eventually merged into one with the best grades adopted for use and the rest abandoned.
Construction of the bridge, designed by architect Ralph Modjeski, started on May 18, 1911 and it was completed on September 17 of that year. The fast pace was due to a rush to complete the line to Bend, 25.5 miles to the south. Jim Hill drove the golden spike in Bend on October 5, 1911.
If you visit the viewpoint, you will see three bridges. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge is located farthest west. The Crooked River High Bridge was completed in 1926 and it served as the main north-south highway until 2000. In 2000, the higher-capacity Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge replaced that bridge. Formerly known as the Crooked River Bridge, its name was changed in 2003 to honor local World War II fighter pilot, Rex T. Barber. On one of his missions Lt. Barber, in his Lockheed P-38 Lightning, shot down a plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto over Bougainville Island, northeast of Australia. Admiral Yamamoto planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is a lot of history, and beauty, associated with the Crooked River bridges.
Here is another great outdoor metal sculpture by local artist Greg Congleton. This sculpture depicts a team of draft horses pulling a log. Thousands of draft horses were imported from Western Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century to help with logging, farming, and moving freight and passengers.
Here is the sign nearby that lists some of the parts used to make this sculpture. Can you find any of them?
Note that this sculpture was donated by Penny and Phil Knight. Phil is the co-founder and chairman emeritus of a company named Nike. Perhaps you have heard of it.
Here is a video of Belgian draft horses at work dragging logs. They are pretty impressive.
Weekly Photo Challenge – A Good Match
Is this a post about the burgeoning marijuana business in Bend? No! I’m impressed by the local materials used in some of the buildings here and The Herb Center is an interesting example. It’s a small building covered in rocks including lots of obsidian. It was known as the Stone House. Perhaps now it could be called the Stoner House (?)
The Downing Building used to house the Downing Hotel and Cafe. It was built in 1920. It was made from local tuff and pumice blocks, bricks, yellow pine, and Douglas’ fir. When doing restoration work on the building in the 1980’s, a secret door was located and it may have connected to the brothel next door.
The Des Chutes Historical Museum is currently housed in the Reid School building. It is an impressive building made from pink volcanic tuff blocks. This was the first modern school in the area and it contained ten classrooms, an auditorium, indoor toilets, and central heating. It opened in 1914 and 241 pupils were enrolled there.
The New Taggart Hotel was built in 1911 by J.B. Goodrich. The front has rectangular blocks lined up perfectly with partial arches around the doors and windows. I thought the back of the building was interesting because the stonework is less concise. It’s wonderfully imperfect.
These are just a few examples of interesting architecture using local materials. Be sure to take a closer look when you are in Bend.
On a warm night at the Sunriver Nature Center last summer, visitors packed the room and stood outside the door for a chance to listen to the guest speaker. Who were they waiting so eagerly for? Fifth-generation Oregonian and author, William L. Sullivan. There are many people that write about the wonders of Oregon, but few are as prolific. His 18 books cover a variety of topics but he is best known for his travel guides that cover different regions of the state.
As he was introduced to the crowd that night, we were reminded that he had trekked across Oregon many years ago. Sullivan’s account of the 1,000-mile journey from the southwest corner of the state to the northeast corner can be found in his book, Listening for Coyote.
He also wrote a book about how he and his wife constructed a log cabin using only hand tools. They lived there for several years and still do so during summer months. Their account of that ongoing adventure can be read in Cabin Fever: Notes from a Part-Time Pioneer.
His lecture last summer focused on hikes and destinations in eastern Oregon. His book, 100 Hikes/Travel Guide – Eastern Oregon, was published in its third edition in 2015. Sullivan tries to visit the places he writes about once every seven years to see if any updates are needed. He stated that half of the hikes he covers are located in eastern Oregon.
William L. Sullivan was a great speaker with a good sense of humor. Here are a few tidbits from his talk that might inspire you in your explorations of eastern Oregon:
What is chaos to some is orderliness to another.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Chaos
Did you know that a princess is buried at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle? I bet many people don’t even know who she was. The woman known as “Princess Angeline” was the daughter of Chief Sealth, aka Chief Seattle or Chief Si’ahl. Born in the early 1800’s, she passed away on May 31, 1896.
I posted a nine-part essay on photographer Edward S. Curtis last year and in Part 3, recalled the importance of Princess Angeline to Curtis’ future career. She was the first Native American that he photographed. He entered several pictures of tribal members in a National Photographic Society contest. One won the grand prize and a gold medal.
I recently attended the funeral of a close relative at Lake View Cemetery and found Princess Angeline’s gravestone nearby. Her rough granite gravestone is next to the much grander towering tombstone of Seattle pioneer, Henry L. Yesler. Princess Angeline requested that she be buried close to Yesler since she considered him to be a friend and protector.
There was a magnificent funeral for her in 1896 at Seattle’s Church of Our Lady of Good Help. She was buried in a canoe-shaped coffin. I learned that school children in Seattle had raised the money to purchase her gravestone many years after her funeral.
The inscription on her gravestone piqued my curiosity. It said that she “was a life long supporter of the white settlers” and that she had been converted to Christianity and was named by Mrs. D. S. Maynard. The inscription also stated she had befriended pioneers “during the Indian attack upon Seattle on January 26, 1856.”
Chief Sealth’s first wife, Lalaida, gave birth to daughters Princess Angeline and Mary. Sealth fathered five additional children. Princess Angeline’s Lushootseed name at birth was Kikisoblu.
Her father, who would grow up to become Chief Sealth, was a young child when Captain George Vancouver anchored his ship in Puget Sound in 1792. The captain was not impressed with what he saw of the indigenous people. He described their village as the “most lowly and meanest of its kind.”
Sealth grew up to be respected among his people for his skills as a warrior, orator, and diplomat. He encouraged the construction of a trading post by the Denny-Boren party, who arrived in the area in 1851. Though that post failed, it set the stage for a trading post later established by Doc Maynard. In 1852, Maynard arrived in a canoe paddled by Chief Sealth and other Duwamish tribal members. Chief Sealth befriended many settlers and the city was named “Seattle” in his honor.
As more settlers moved into the area, conflicts grew between them and the native peoples. In 1854, Washington Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens (who thought the only good Indian was a dead Indian) visited Seattle. Chief Sealth made an eloquent speech in which he despaired that the day of the Indian had passed and that the future belonged to white man. This oft-quoted speech was likely embellished by journalists of the time. It has undergone several revisions but its underlying message still rings true. The chief signed the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855. The Suquamish people were forced to relocate to a reservation across Puget Sound from their tribal lands. Princess Angeline chose to stay in the Seattle area. Princess Angeline, her father, and Curly or Curly Jim are attributed (depending upon the source) with warning the settlers about the approach of hostile natives in the Battle of Seattle. The battle took place on January 26, 1856.
Native Americans were not supposed to live within the city limits but Princess Angeline, then in her mid-30’s, lived in a small shack on Western Avenue between Pike and Pine streets. Her friend Catherine Maynard, wife of Doc Maynard, thought she deserved a name that would help people recognize her importance as the daughter of the city’s namesake. She named her Princess Angeline– a name she thought was “prettier” than her native name.
As Angeline entered old age, she had offers of help but preferred to continue living on her own in the waterfront shack. She often collected shellfish along the shores of Puget Sound. Angeline did laundry for settlers, made baskets and native handicrafts, and posed for pictures to supplement her income. In her elder years her visage, dressed in a red bandanna, shawl, and several layers of clothes, became iconic of Native Americans of the time.
She was often hounded by young boys who followed her and harassed her. She would throw rocks at them to keep them away. Perhaps that’s why there is a collection of stones in front of her gravestone today.
As reported on the Weird U.S. site, some believe they still see her ghost at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. It is close to where her shack once stood. According to the author, people have seen an old Native American woman quietly sitting on the ground surrounded by several baskets. Others claimed to have seen her near the flower market. Still others report seeing an old woman hobbling into a seat on ferry boats crossing Puget Sound only to vanish before the ship docks. I will leave it up to you to decide if these apparitions exist but Princess Angeline did make a lasting impression on those who came into contact with her.
Interesting fact: My relative, who was recently laid to rest at Lake View Cemetery, happened to have lived in the house that was built for the granddaughter of Seattle founder, Arthur Denny. Her father, Rolland Denny, had a house close by. Princess Angeline’s father, Chief Sealth, had helped Arthur Denny settle in the Seattle area.
I recently went on a two-mile trek to the center of the earth. Okay, not quite the center of the earth but the trail did lead underneath Highway 97 – the main North-South highway in these parts. I decided to visit Lava River Cave before it shut down for the season. This cave is located 12 miles south of Bend, Oregon in the Newberry Volcanic National Monument area.
I had heard that there was limited parking so I got there early. WAY too early! I forget that I only live a half an hour from many of these geological attractions.Check the operating hours and entrance pass requirements for Lava River Cave here.
It is a cool but creepy experience to go into some of these caves. When I say cool, I really mean cool. The average temperature inside this cave is 43° F so dress accordingly. You can bring your own lights but they rent high-power flashlights there for only $5. I chose to help support the site by renting their light. They have a donation jar near the exit so you can make additional contributions there.
At 5,466 feet in length, Lava River Cave is one of Oregon’s longest lava tubes. Lava from Newberry Volcano flowed down here about 100,000 years ago. As the lava drained away, it created this long tube. The lava was 2,000° F!
Lava tubes are often discovered when a part of the roof collapses, exposing the cave below. This cave was discovered in 1899 by stockman and trapper, Leander Dillman. The site was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service in 1981 and was included in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument when it was established in 1990.
One of the unique features in this cave is the presence of “sand gardens.” Over time, sediment washes through cracks in the roof and it partially fills the cave. These sand gardens form as water droplets erode the sand fill away. They look a bit like very small badland formations.
The cave is about a mile long to the end. I only had to duck to avoid hitting my head in a couple of spots. Much of the cave has a roof that is high overhead. Wear good boots and watch your step.
It took me 50 minutes on the way in to get to the end as I attempted to take many pictures. On the way out it only took about 25 minutes since I was walking much faster. Note that you are required to listen to a very short talk on protecting local bat populations from White-nose Syndrome prior to going into the cave.
One last thing…I saw a group of several young mothers carrying infants in front packs. No, just no. When you start the walk, you go down a series of ramps and 55 metal stairs. Then you get into some rough ground for a short while. Though much of the walk is over fairly smooth ground, you will run into rough sections and you can stumble even when using a good light. Lava River Cave is a nice cave to visit but I would not recommend it for young children or people who have mobility issues. Just my two cents worth…
There are plenty of sights to see around here. See my posts on the following for more information: Lava Cast Forest, Lava Butte, Lava Lands Visitor Center, and Happy Bday Newberry! Note that the visitor center and some of the attractions close during fall and winter months.
Looking like some medieval castle about to be attacked by dragons, the Dee Wright Observatory is located near the top of McKenzie Pass at an elevation of 5,187 feet. No, there is not a telescope set up here for star viewing, but you can see several Cascade Mountain peaks nearby standing tall amidst 65 square miles of black lava rock.
The lava is from relatively recent flows from Yapoah, Little Belknap, and Belknap Craters. One of the types of lava you will see here is called Block or A A lava.
Though there is little rainfall in this area, there can be up to 20 feet of snow. The melting snow travels through cracks in the lava to underground reservoirs that feed the McKenzie and Metolius Rivers.
The McKenzie Pass Highway follows parts of the McKenzie Salt Springs and Deschutes Wagon Road that was built in the period of 1866-1872. It was used to move cattle east. The wagon road was established as a toll road in 1872. It’s hard to imagine how travelers made it over the rough lava rocks at the pass and many had to abandon their wagons. See my previous post on the Santiam Wagon Road for a little bit more history on the wagon road.
The Dee Wright Observatory building was completed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This and other projects in the area, such as the Santiam Ski Lodge, employed many people in a time of economic hardship. Dee Wright supervised the crew but passed away a year before the observatory was completed. This site was named in honor of his 24 years of service with the Forest Service as an officer, guide, and packer.
There are large and small openings in the observatory that have labels indicating which mountains you are viewing. If you follow the staircase up to the top of the building, you will find a peak finder. Arrows pointing in various directions show the distance to different peaks with their respective elevations. You can see many peaks including the Sisters, Little Brother, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Black Butte, Cache Mountain, Dugout Butte, Condon Butte, Scott Mountain, South Belknap Cone, Belknap Crater, and Little Belknap.
If you want to take a short hike, the ½-mile long Lava River Recreation Trail is right next to the observatory. This accessible trail has informational panels that will teach you more about the site.
We drove the entire 82-mile loop of the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway. We started at Sisters and drove west along the winding byway. The two-lane road is only open for part of the year due to snow. If you go early in the day, you can avoid the traffic – motor vehicles and bicycles. Note that vehicles over 35 feet long are not allowed on this narrow, curvy road.
It’s an interesting drive because you pass through several types of habitat. East of the loop you will see drier sagebrush steppe habitats. As you travel around the loop, you will go through Ponderosa pine forests and subalpine forests. On the west side of the loop, you’ll travel through mixed conifer forest areas with high rainfall. Keep your eye out for interesting wildlife that live in the different habitats along the route.
You can see Clarks’s nutcrackers, gray jays, woodpeckers, crossbills, grosbeaks, rock wrens, Northern goshawks, and grouse in forested areas near McKenzie Pass and several types of ducks and sandpipers at nearby Scott Lake and Hand Lake. There are also deer, elk, and many other mammals here.
Belknap Springs, located 23 miles west of McKenzie Pass, is 3,625 feet lower in elevation. If you coast most of the way down like we did, look at the gas mileage you can get! Ours went all the way up to 99.6 mpg. It’s a fun drive with a lot to see.
Harnessing hot air into giant works of art makes for some interesting sights. We went to Balloons Over Bend last weekend for a couple of their events. There were plenty of opportunities for photographs. In these first photos, I decided to focus in on some of the colorful shapes and interesting lines.
We went to the morning launch at sunrise. Temperatures are low in the morning and it is not usually as windy so that’s when many of the flights occur. Flights also occur just prior to sunset.
There is also a nightime event called Nightime Glow. The pilots of the balloons light up the balloons with their propane-fueled burners. It creates some beautiful images.
The balloons did not lift off of the ground but they gave us a great light show. There were hundreds and hundreds of people at this event so if you go, get there early.
This was my favorite balloon. It belongs to Big Sky Balloon Company in central Oregon. The artwork was created by owner Darren Kling, as part of his Artaloft Project.
Hot air balloons fly at 100 to 2,000 feet above the ground with an average cruising altitude of 1,000 feet. They travel with the wind and generally don’t go much faster than 8-10 mph. Balloons carry 1-12 passengers. They are a great way to see the landscape around you from a different perspective.
Oasis moments sometimes happen in the desert. While hiking to Chimney Rock near Prineville, Oregon, we came across a patch of bitterroot flowers. The small flowers burst forth from cracks in the sandy soil in shades of pink and white. The flowers are only about an inch and a half across. The plant is delicate yet hardy at the same time.
I had never seen so many blossoms in one place. Bitterroot has always been a plant that amazes me. It was hard for me to keep walking with our group when a part of me just wanted to crouch down to their level and marvel at their perfection.
Beneath the soil, a taproot gives this plant its name. Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, first saw the bitterroot plant in Lemhi County, Montana on August 22, 1805. Lewis tasted the root and described it in his journal:
this the Indians with me informed were always boiled for use. I made the exprement, found that they became perfectly soft by boiling, but had a very bitter taste, which was naucious to my pallate, and I transfered them to the Indians who had eat them heartily.
Bitterroot can be found in much of western North America in drier areas with well-drained gravelly soils and several tribes made use of the plant. Shoshoni, Flathead, Nez Perce, Paiute, Kutenai, and other tribes used digging sticks to collect the roots in the spring. The roots were dried and were often mixed with berries and meat.
The roots were traded and bartered and were considered to be of great value. A bagful was worth as much as a horse. They were used as food but also had medicinal uses. Bitterroot was used for several ailments including heart problems and sore throats. They were also used to treat wounds and to increase milk flow in nursing mothers.
President Thomas Jefferson had asked Lewis to collect plant specimens on their expedition. Bitterroot plants were collected on the return trip in June of 1806. The area in Montana where the plants were collected is now known as the Bitterroot Valley. Specimens were given to the botanist Frederick Pursh in Philadelphia. Pursh named the plant Lewsii redviva in honor of Lewis.
Fun fact: The species name redviva means “reviving from a dry state.” The specimens presented to Pursh came back to life even though they had been dug up many months before.
Tucked away in Oregon’s Outback, you will find a unique place that hearkens back to an earlier time. The Cowboy Dinner Tree is a small restaurant located in Silver Lake Oregon, about an hour and a half southeast of Bend. The restaurant is only open from 4:00-8:30 pm four days per week and reservations are required. They give you ample portions of food here and you are advised to bring a cooler for leftovers. They do not take credit cards or debit cards so have cash on hand.
You have your choice of a 26-30 oz. top sirloin steak or a whole roasted chicken. Both are accompanied by several tasty side dishes. There is green salad, hearty soup, old fashioned sweet yeast rolls, baked potato, and a dessert. You can have coffee, iced tea, or pink lemonade with your meal. On the day we were there, they served bean soup and a small shortcake with fresh berries. Everything is homemade and made daily.
Many years ago, ranchers pushed their cattle through this area on the way to the lush meadows of Sycan Marsh. The Dinner Tree, a big old juniper tree, was at the halfway-point. There was a small shack where the restaurant now sits and hungry ranchers stopped here for some grub from the chuck wagon. The food they had then was probably buckaroo beans and biscuits – not the large meal now served at the Cowboy Dinner Tree. The site was a homestead back in the late 1800’s and it was converted into a restaurant in 1992.
Today the Cowboy Dinner Tree is a popular destination. They have a restaurant, gift store, and a couple of cabins for lodging. The lodging has been so popular that they are in the process of adding five additional cabins. The gift store features items crafted by local artisans and craftspeople.
We arrived at about 4:30 pm and the place was filling up fast. We had a large group so we shared a long table but there are also smaller tables available. The place is decorated with cowboy print curtains and lots of related items such as horse bits, ropes, stirrups, and saddles. Dollar bills scrawled with notes from customers adorn the walls and ceiling.
The food was great and the server, Cowboy Dinner Tree owner Angel Roscoe, was very attentive. She and her husband, John, took over the restaurant from her mom in 2012. You will not leave feeling hungry that’s for sure! As their website says – Join us for a taste of the real Old West.
Hmmm…a predominantly pink woodpecker named after a famous early American explorer and a wily relative of the crow named after his partner. That might make for an interesting bit of writing. I started to research the topic.
Little did I know there was controversy linked to the plants and animals “discovered” on the Lewis and Clark expedition. The expedition supposedly discovered 178 plants and 122+ animals previously unknown to science. Or did they?
Other sources say they “encountered” or “reported” certain wildlife and plants. Due to discussions as to the accuracy of previously published lists, one recent list is divided into two sections: Discovered (for the first time by European Americans) and Described. Some of the flora and fauna species had been discovered in other parts of North America (or the world) prior to the time of the expedition while others had been a part of native people’s life for many years.
I am lucky to have seen many of the wildlife species that Lewis and Clark discovered and described. Here is a quiz that includes pictures of wildlife encountered on the expedition.
Did the Lewis & Clark expedition Discover them or Describe them? The answers are at the end of the quiz.
Oregon WinterFest celebrates the winter season here in Central Oregon. This is the 17th year of the event. Here are few more photos from the recent event. You can see pictures of some of the ice sculptures above. The bird sculpture was still in the process of being carved.
The Fire King and Ice Queen made their entry on horseback. The queen called herself “Princess Ariel Anna Belle Elsa Cinderella Rapunzel.”
There were booths to get food, beverages, and handmade crafts inside the large tents. There were also quite a few food carts outside.
The Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild had demonstrations and workshops scheduled throughout the event. You could make your own large wall hook for $20.
There were several bands playing at the event. A couple of my favorites were The Company Grand and the B Side Brass Band. The Company Grand is a 10-member band that harkens back to the big band era while throwing in some modern sounds. B Side Brass Band is a New Orleans inspired band with a great sound and a lot of enthusiasm. Both bands are local.
There were many other activities at the event including a high-flying dirt bike show, a flying dog show, a Children’s Area, a Star Wars themed run, and a wine walk. I previously posted pictures of the Fire Pit Competition.
This year the proceeds from admission fees went to Saving Grace, a local organization that provides support services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. If you are thinking about going next year, keep in mind that the money raised goes towards local causes.
Did that get your attention? I went to the Oregon WinterFest event here in Bend this weekend and took some pictures of the Fire Pit Competition that I wanted to share with you. This is the 17th year of the festival so it has a long history in the area. This is the fourth year for the fire pit competition and there are more entries every year.
The dragon and a fire pit with the flag bridge and Deschutes River in the background.
The fire pits came in many shapes and sizes.
This one had an enclosure with mirrors.
This one was like a huge globe.
Flowers of flame and a burning stump.
This one tied everything together into a nice package.
Some were tall and others were closer to the ground.
Visitors were glad to have many places to warm up.
Some of the pieces were very intricate.
Would you prefer steaming hot espresso or a roasted garlic?
This one provided shelter from the breezy conditions on Saturday night.
You could tell that the artists put a lot of heart into their work.
Hope you have a nice Valentines’s Day!
What does the Owhyee River in southeastern Oregon and Kanaka Flat near Jacksonville, Oregon have in common? Both place names refer to the Hawaiians that lived in Oregon in the 1800’s.
In 1811, Jacob Astor hired the first Owyhees, an older spelling of Hawaii, to work in the fur trade. A post was established in Astoria, Oregon and was later turned over to the Montreal-based North West Company. The fort was eventually renamed Fort George and it was moved to another location.
How did Hawaiians get to the mainland? Captain James Cook discovered the Hawaiian islands in 1778 and named them the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich. Ships stopped in Hawaii for provisions and since the native people were well known for their maritime expertise, they were hired as replacement workers. They were also known to excel in swimming, fishing, hunting, and in the construction of posts and forts.
His twittering voice kept leading me on through the wilderness. It seemed like every time I raised my binoculars to my eyes, he would make a quick getaway.
I followed him on winding trails bordered by bubbling and spouting geysers. He flitted through pine forests doused by thunderstorms. Gusts of wind kept pushing him just out of my reach.
Finally, finally, I came eye to eye with the mysterious beast. A Yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni. This pint-sized songbird perched in the tree and stared at me as if he was shouting, “Ollie, Ollie in come free!” Our game of hide and seek was over and he stayed in plain sight on his home base.
The tree clung to the side of a cliff overlooking Tower Fall. The little bird had lead me to an important spot in Yellowstone National Park.
In 1871 the U.S. Geological Survey sent an exploratory expedition to the Yellowstone area. Artist Thomas Moran was a member of the team and he painted a picture of the falls that showed the public one of the area’s natural wonders. William Henry Jackson was also part of the expedition and he took black and white photographs of the area. Due to the Moran paintings, Jackson photographs, and the observations of early explorers, the area was designated as the world’s first national park in 1872. Moran’s colorful paintings were instrumental in convincing Congress to preserve the region.
So you might say that this twittering bird had lead me to the place where a short message – in the form of an image of the falls – saved the land for generations to come. It was like a “tweet” in its time that was seen by thousands.
When you go outside into parts of the 135-acre property, you will be able to visit various exhibits. The Autzen Otter area is being renovated and won’t be open again until sometime in the spring of 2016. Be sure to stop by to see the entertaining otters once the exhibit reopens.
Keep going around the trail and make a brief stop at the wildlife viewing area. Here you might get a glimpse of woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, squirrels, and chipmunks. You might get lucky and spot a hawk or owl waiting to get a snack.
The Wind, Earth, and Fire Trail is nearby and it shows how fire plays an important role in forest development. Keep following the trail and stop into the Changing Forests exhibit to learn about forests in the area.
Next you will see the Miller Family Ranch. The buildings there are built to show what a farm in 1904 would have looked like. Peek inside the cabin to see how a family lived and watch interpreters demonstrate life in those times. There’s also a barn, corral, chicken coop, saw mill, and even an outhouse. The woven wood corral is practical but also a work of art. You may see horses, donkeys, and chickens at the ranch.
Continue on the trail and you will come to an overlook at a small pond. You’ll get a great look at the native Redband trout from there.
Keep walking on the trail and you’ll get to the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center. See the porcupines in their enclosure just outside the door? The Museum has bald and golden eagles, a turkey vulture, a barn owl, a great horned owl, and other birds in their collection. Most of the animals at the Museum were injured or kept as pets so they would not be able to make it in the wild.
Head back to the main building and be sure to stop at the Silver Sage Trading store. There are books, artwork, clothing, toys, and many other items related to the high desert and current exhibits at the Museum. You might be able to find a piece of unique jewelry or something kind of quirky like dog treats containing beer byproducts.
Near the store, there’s a Whose Home? area for young children to climb and play in. They can pretend they are a baby bird in a huge nest. There is also an outside play area called Dig, Crawl, Climb! Kids can pretend like they are a giant spider or some kind of burrowing creature hiding in a hole.
As you leave the building through the main entrance, be sure to look up. There is a metal sculpture of a sagebrush plant that shows just how big their root system really is. This icon of the Wild West has adapted to the harsh environment of the high desert. A visit to the High Desert Museum will teach you how plants and animals have adapted to the environment and how people, past and present, have learned to thrive there.
For more information go to High Desert Museum
Tucked away in the pines south of Bend, you will find a magical place. The High Desert Museum may not be what you expect when you see the word “Museum” in its name. Yes, it does have artifacts in permanent and rotating exhibits but they are beautifully displayed in buildings that blend into the environment. There is much more to this place than traditional exhibits.
The rotating exhibits cover many facets of the high desert. In December of 2015, these included one on weather, one on sage grouse, and another on women of the American West. There are daily talks and demonstrations about nature and history related to exhibits at the Museum. The Museum also has people dressed in period clothing interpreting history and a small collection of desert wildlife.
One of the first things you see as you drive up the long driveway is the small High Desert Ranger Station. This was an actual station and it was built in 1933 and moved here in the 1980’s. It’s only open during the summer months.
Inside the main building in the Spirit of the West section, you’ll see a typical encampment of Native Americans, part of a Hudson’s Bay Company fort, and then walk past a wagon travelling on the Oregon Trail. You will wind your way through a mine and then come out into a re-created town. You may see one of the miners trying to strike it rich. You might see one of the shopkeepers or a banker going about their business.
The By Hand Through Memory exhibit focuses on local tribes including the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, Spokane, and Colville. The exhibit includes modern conveniences in some of the displays to show how tribal members adjusted to change. The path through this exhibit winds past displays showing native people collecting food, a large collection of beaded bags and other items, a tepee, a small house representing life in the mid-1900’s, and a display of fishing in a river. Outside the exhibit, a volunteer may explain some of the older and modern artifacts from local tribes.
The Desertarium exhibit lets you get up close and personal with some desert wildlife. No, these are not stuffed specimens – they are live animals. This part of the Museum has insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Check out some of the wildlife of the high desert such as the burrowing owl. There’s also a bobcat in an enclosure in a nearby hallway.
Images by Curtis are still being pushed out into the world. There are many inexpensive prints available. In the last presentation of the Curtis Fever series, Dr. Julia Dolan wondered what Edward S. Curtis would have thought of that. She wondered what the tribes thought about it as well. Though Curtis photographed native peoples because he thought they were vanishing, that idea was wrong since they still exist. An advertisement for a TV show showing a portrait of Curtis on a bed stand was shown. It was from a program called, “The New Normal”. Ironically, it has become the new normal to see pictures of Curtis and the photos he took all over the world thanks to the Internet.
His work has proven a useful record of North American tribal culture, language, and song that many have put to good use. Newer technologies, such as smartphones, have been used by modern day Native Americans to help them learn their language. Photographs by Curtis and his brother have been used by the tribes to identify ancestors and recreate ancient customs.
Dr. Dolan commented about the work of Edward S. Curtis as being “rich and wonderful, but also painful.” We cannot begin to imagine the pain the Native Americans were going through at the time of Curtis’ work. However, we are thankful that his art lives on and that so many of us are able to learn more about him and the people he portrayed.
The events around Bend related to Curtis were well attended. It was difficult to find a parking space nearby! Many people seem to have a deep fascination with his work but also in learning more about him as a person. Author Timothy Egan admitted that when he first considered writing about Curtis that he thought of him as “Indiana Jones with a camera”. He found out that Edward S. Curtis was so much more. Though Curtis had a life of dramatic ups and downs, Egan thought he was able to achieve the goal of helping Native Americans “live forever”.
Photos by Edward S. Curtis in this article are from the following source: http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/index.html
Curtis, E. (Director). (1998). “In the land of the head hunters” film set, 1914 [Motion picture]. University of Manitoba.
Edward S. Curtis: A detailed chronological biography. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.soulcatcherstudio.com/artists/curtis_cron.html
Edward Curtis Shadow Catcher. (2015). Bend, Oregon: Atelier6000.org.
Edward S. Curtis’s: The North American Indian. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/index.html
Egan, T. (2012). Short nights of the Shadow Catcher: The epic life and immortal photographs of Edward Curtis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pict/hd_pict.htm
History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places | Smithsonian. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/edward-curtis-epic-project-to-photograph-native-americans-162523282/
Makepeace, A. (Director). (2000). Coming to light [Motion picture]. Anne Makepeace Prod. Orig.-Prod.
Photograph Collector’s Guide – Edward Curtis Photography, Life & Work. (2012, January 5). Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.edwardcurtis.com/collectors-guide/
It was assumed that all of the Edward S. Curtis photogravure copper plates were lost or destroyed. It is a common practice to destroy the plates after the initial printing so no more prints can be made. However, many had been sold to the Charles E. Lauriat Company in Boston. In 1972, decades after Curtis had passed away; they were rediscovered in the Lauriat basement by photographer Karl Kernberger. Nineteen complete bound sets of The North American Indian, thousands of paper prints, the copper plates, unbound pages, and the original glass plate negatives were found. Once this collection was discovered, it passed through several hands. In 2005 the copper plates were purchased by Kenneth Zerbe. New prints have been made from the plates but they are not printed on the high quality Van Gelder paper favored by Curtis.
In recent times, Christopher Cardozo has launched a repatriation project to return some of Curtis’ works to Native American people. Of the people featured in Curtis’ works, we now know the names of 3,500 of them.
Three contemporary Native American photographers, and their responses to Edward S. Curtis’ work, will be the subject of an upcoming exhibit. The exhibit runs from February 6, 2016 to May 8, 2016 at the Portland Art Museum. Photographs from Zig Jackson, Wendy Red Star, and Will Wilson will be featured in the exhibit. Each artist responded in different ways to the Curtis photographs. Zig Jackson noted that people still “take” a photograph of Native Americans. He even pokes a little fun at this concept in one of his pictures entitled Indian Photographing Tourist Photographing Indian. Several volumes of The North American Indian will also be displayed in the upcoming exhibit. Digitized versions of Curtis’ original audio recordings of native language and song will be a part of the exhibit. The Museum is also trying to crowdsource a way for descendants of people featured in The North American Indian to be able to input information about themselves and their ancestors.
Photo by Edward S. Curtis in this article are from the following source: http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/index.html
In the 2000 film, Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian, many present-day Native Americans were interviewed in regards to Curtis and his work. It has deeply affected modern day tribal members. Some treasure the images and recordings as reminders of their ancestors while others want references to that time to be over. One of the people interviewed about the images remarked that “the world came alive again when viewing them.” During that period in history Native Americans could be thrown in jail for wearing their traditional clothing, speaking their language, and practicing their rituals.
The film points out that the audio recordings that survive preserve the language and songs of the tribes. When Curtis played the recordings back to tribal members right after he recorded them, they were awestruck at hearing the sounds coming out of “the magic box”. Native Americans were forced into giving up their language and assimilating. As one tribal member said in the film, “if you don’t speak, you are lost.”
At first Curtis felt the Native Americans had to assimilate or they would be economically destroyed. As he continued to work on the project, he changed his way of thinking. He became more aware of the fragility of the native people and their way of life. Living in California in his later years, he heard how the Native Americans in that state in particular were mistreated. Some thought that he should have shown the struggle for life many Native Americans were going through but that was not the purpose of his project.
There is controversy surrounding the work of Curtis. Some think the photos were staged and that they degraded and dehumanized the people into mere caricatures. Some think he dressed the people portrayed in a certain way; others say they actually dressed in the clothing they wished to be photographed in. Oftentimes they are portrayed wearing traditional clothing that had been outlawed for them to wear. In Geronimo’s case, he is pictured wrapped in an Army blanket because that is all the white man gave him.
There are inaccuracies in some of his films and still photos. Coming to Light points out that Curtis wanted to film the Navajos doing the Yébîchai ritual – a nine-day ceremony that combines religious and medical observances. It was not the time of year they normally did the dance but they made the masks as Curtis had requested. When they did the dance, they actually performed it backwards. Another instance of inaccuracies is in a photo of Crow warriors. There were no Crow warriors after 1876 and even when they were present, they did not ride horses or go out when there was snow on the ground as the photograph shows.
Curtis is accused of cutting out parts of pictures, such as a small alarm clock between the two people pictured in In a Piegan Lodge, but professional photographers commonly crop parts of their pictures out. An analysis of the photos showed that there was something in the photo that did not seem to belong only 4% of the time. In contrast, 40% of famed anthropologist Franz Boas’ photos contained things inconsistent with the subject matter.
Critics have pointed out the lack of the person’s name in many of the titles on the photographs. Some tribal members were very protective of their names and did not want to disclose them. The absence of names was done out of respect for the people photographed. Other tribes Curtis photographed, such as the Apsaroke, were less sensitive about their name being in the title. Curtis paid all of his subjects and offered them a cyanotype print of the photos. It was a collaborative, creative effort.
Some have questioned why he did not focus on how poorly the tribes were being treated. He maintained that that was not the goal of this project but he did seem to take up their cause very late in his career. In 1923 he helped found the Indian Welfare League. This group of artists, museum curators, and lawyers formed to help find work and legal services for the tribes. They also became involved in getting citizenship for Native Americans. Curtis, however, was of two minds on this topic – he scorned Washington experts but also scolded the native people about not pitying themselves too much.
Photos by Edward S. Curtis in this article are from the following source: http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/index.html
In 1914, Curtis’ film In the Land of the Head-Hunters, featuring the Kwakiutl tribe, was shown to theater audiences. He worked on the film with George Hunt who had been adopted by the tribe. Hunt had been indispensable when he had worked for anthropologist Franz Boaz. The Kwakiutl tribe is from Vancouver Island and they rely on salmon fishing for their way of life. However, Curtis had them pretend to hunt whale in the film. Creating the film had its hardships including an incident when Curtis was dropped off on an “island” that flooded with the incoming tides and left him waist-deep in water through the night.
The film shows a potlatch ceremony because Curtis thought filming it would be very dramatic. The Kwakiutl culture carved elaborate totem poles, canoes, and longhouse buildings. Tribal members wore full-body ceremonial garb made from wood, feathers, and skins that represented animals.
In the Land of the Head-Hunters is said to be the first ethnographic film. Nanook of the North came out later and the creator of that film analyzed Curtis’ work frame by frame before he started filming. Edward S. Curtis’ film consisted of 8,000 feet of film. It was the first film to feature a cast of Native Americans – instead of Italians dressed up in makeup and costumes. It was shot entirely on location and was the first film created in British Columbia. The musical score was composed by John J. Braham, who also did the score for Hiawatha. The film flew in the face of stereotypes people had at the time about Native Americans. Unlike other films that included Native Americans in the plot, this film did not focus on conflicts with whites.
The Kwakiutl tribe enjoyed being a part of the Curtis film. They made everything for the film – including buildings, canoes, and costumes. The tribe gave input into what should be included in the final film and what should be excluded. The story was meant to be a mythic tale about Native Americans before they came in contact with Europeans. It was almost like something out of Greek mythology. The potlatch and other ceremonies were banned in Canada in 1913 and enforcing those laws was at its peak when filming took place.
One of the reasons Curtis created the film was to help pay for the book project. At the time he was working on the film, he was compiling Volume 10. Edward S. Curtis had been interested in filmmaking as early as 1906. In the Land of the Head-Hunters cost $75,000 to $100,000 to make but it was a complete bust financially. It came out right as World War I was starting. There was a dispute with the distributor and it went to court but was never resolved. Curtis ended up selling the film for only $1,500.
The finished film consisted of six reels of film and Curtis said that he had given a copy to the Museum of Natural History. The Museum had no record of the film being donated. Three badly damaged reels were found in a dumpster in 1947. UCLA had another partial copy. The film was painstakingly recreated but approximately one third of the original film was lost. The Getty Research Institute had incorrectly linked the musical score with another film but it was eventually reunited with the Curtis film.
Milestone Films produced a deluxe edition of the restored film in 2014, 100 years after the original film was created. It can be purchased from their website. This movie can be rented or purchased through Amazon Video and iTunes.
Photos by Edward S. Curtis in this article are from the following source: http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/index.html
Edward S. Curtis had married Clara S. Phillips in 1892 and they had four children together. He was gone for long periods of time working on the book project. Due to his long absences and the financial drain on the business, Clara divorced him in 1916 and gained full custody of their children. He moved into the Rainier Club in Seattle and paid for room and board by taking portraits of its wealthy members. At the time of the divorce many negatives were lost because both Clara and Edward S. Curtis destroyed them rather than see the other person own them.
In the 1920’s Curtis worked briefly in the motion picture business. He worked on Tarzan movies and in 1923 worked on The Ten Commandments with director Cecil B. DeMille. After a few years in the business he went back to working on The North American Indian project, though on a much smaller scale. He took his daughter, Florence, with him into the field.
Though J.P. Morgan and his son, J.P. Morgan, Jr., financed half of the $1.5 million eventual publication costs, Curtis lost money to the point that he borrowed against his own copyrights. He ended up giving the remaining copies to Morgan. The copyrights were sold to the Charles E. Lauriat Company in 1935 for $1,000, plus a percentage of future royalties. A complete set was donated to the University of Oregon and this was Curtis’ own set that he had kept hidden from Morgan.
Curtis ended up living the last 30 years of his life near his daughter, Beth Magnuson, in California. She financed a trip for her father so that he could document the Eskimo people. She also paid for an assistant named Stuart Eastwood. Beth went with him on this trip. They hit a bad storm almost immediately and ended up being stuck high and dry on a sandbar for two days. There is film footage showing them stuck on the sandbar. They went on to Nunivak Island and Curtis was impressed by the people there saying “he never knew a happier and more thoroughly honest and self-reliant people”. He said that he had “found a place where no missionary has worked.” Sadly, about ten years after his arrival, Swedish missionaries established themselves and destroyed much of the culture.
When he returned from his trip to the North, he was arrested for failure to pay alimony to his wife. He had to point out to the judge that he had no money since he had not been paid for the project. Curtis actually wept in front of the court upon disclosing his financial situation. The judge threw the case out.
When the Great Depression hit, there was little interest in an expensive publication such as his. In 1932 Curtis moved to Colorado and had a complete physical breakdown. He spent time with his son doing gold mining. He invented a device to extract gold dust, the Curtis Counter Current Concentrator. Curtis started to write about gold mining.
In 1948 Curtis was contacted by a retired librarian in Seattle named Harriet Leitch. The Seattle Historical Society wanted to know more about a partial set of The North American Indian that had been donated to them. Though there seemed to be little interest from the public about him in his last years, Harriet was able to record much of his life story from their correspondence.
Edward S. Curtis passed away in 1952 and is survived by his grandchild, Gary Curtis, and three great-grandchildren. Gary, age 88, lives on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. He plans to be around for at least three more years so that he can celebrate the 150th anniversary of Edward S. Curtis’ birth in 2018. Representatives from several institutions owning some of Curtis’ work recently met to discuss what they would like to show at the sesquicentennial event.
Curtis decided to make it his life mission to document the tribes of North America. He thought they were on the point of vanishing. At one point he went to the Smithsonian to ask for financing but they told him, “We have experts here; some have even been to Indian country”. They preferred to work with researchers with credentials from academia. The Smithsonian also told Curtis that the Native Americans had no religion and it is interesting to note that Curtis documented that everything done by the people featured in the books is done to a sacred and spiritual point.
Curtis approached financier and banker J.P Morgan about financing the project but was turned down at first. He pulled out some of his photos and Morgan was so impressed by them that he offered to finance him with an initial investment of $75,000. Morgan was particularly impressed by the photo of a girl entitled Mosa-Mohave.
Curtis had an eye for excellent composition and he put a lot of time into understanding his subjects. He would wait patiently for facial features to settle and then photograph the “essence of soul”. President Theodore Roosevelt admired Curtis’ work and even hired him to photograph his daughter’s wedding. He also photographed Theodore Roosevelt and one of his friends said of the photograph, “It is more than a picture. It is the man himself.” Roosevelt, who thought of Curtis almost as if he were a member of his family, wrote the foreword for the Curtis books. He encouraged Curtis to pursue The North American Indian project.
Curtis and J. P. Morgan agreed on a plan to produce 20 volumes that would be sold on a subscription basis. Subscribers were forced to buy the entire set at a very high cost so the number of subscribers was limited. The cost was equivalent to the price of a large mansion. Though plans were originally made to print 500 copies, only 272 copies of Edward S. Curtis’s: The North American Indian were printed. In the early years of the project there were many subscribers but those numbers dwindled. The first volume was completed in 1907 and the last was published in 1930. When the stock market crashed in 1929, printing of the volumes was pretty much over.
Curtis felt trapped in a way. He had promised that he would complete the 20-volume set and felt duty-bound to deliver on that promise. Though there were slight changes in the techniques and prints over time, he wanted to be consistent with the appearance of the finished product. People had paid in advance for the volumes and they expected a certain level of quality. Work by other photographers of the times, such as Lewis Hine, focused on harsh realities but Curtis’ kept his original intent, composition, and production techniques. Though aesthetics had changed, The North American Indian did not reflect those changes.
Curtis’ quest to document the tribes severely impacted his personal life. He worked 15-17 hour days and had two mental breakdowns requiring hospitalization. The “short nights” featured in the title of Timothy Egan’s book refers to the fact the Curtis slept so little. He wrote six to eight letters per night asking for additional funding. Curtis even created a first-of-its-kind multimedia show, The Indian Picture Opera, in order to promote the books. The opera included hand-tinted lantern slides and an original score. Curtis crisscrossed the continent 130 times. At one point in time he worked with his brother, photographer Asahel Curtis, but Asahel was not credited for much of his work. They likely became estranged due to this and other incidents and never spoke to each other again.
Edward S. Curtis was born in Wisconsin in 1868. Two years before he was born, the Indian Wars were taking place. There were 200 battles in an eleven-year period. His father, Reverend Asahel “Johnson” Curtis, served in the military but was injured in the Civil War. He worked as a traveling pastor for a while until his health deteriorated. The Curtis family lived in abject poverty on a farm. Edward and his father moved to the Seattle area in Washington State and built a cabin near Port Orchard. Sadly, the reverend passed away on the day his wife moved there in 1887. These early life experiences affected the work of Edward S. Curtis.
Though Edward only completed sixth grade, his intelligence and drive helped him go on to become famous for documenting Native Americans at a time when many thought they should be eliminated. In the process, he used techniques in photography development and printing that brought his subjects to life. Of the 50,000 negatives that he made, only around 1,000 are known to still exist. He also made 10,000 sound recordings on wax cylinders documenting the language and songs of many of the tribes he encountered. About 800 of the cylinders still exist. His film on the Kwakiutl (now known as Kwakwaka’wakw) was the first to use actual tribal members.
Edward had an early interest in photography and built his own camera from salvaged parts at age 12. Curtis apprenticed with a photographer in Wisconsin when he was 17. When the family moved to Washington State, Curtis came up with $150 to pay for half of a photographic studio business owned by Rasmus Rothi. Six months later, he left that studio and began working with Thomas Guptill in a much larger space. His skill as a photographer, coupled with good looks and a charming personality, helped to make him very well-known and he was often sought out by the rich and famous.
In 1896 he decided to photograph the daughter of Chief Sealth, known as Princess Angeline, who lived in a small shore side hut on the outskirts of Seattle. She made her living digging clams. Though the city was named after a Native American chief, Native Americans were not allowed within the city limits. Curtis offered to pay her a dollar for each photograph he took of her. This was the equivalent of a week’s wages. He entered three of the photos in a photography contest sponsored by the National Photographic Society. One of the photographs, Homeward, won the exhibition’s grand prize and a gold medal.
Curtis enjoyed mountain climbing and in 1898 happened to be on Mt. Rainier when six people were trapped there by a storm. The group included several influential members of society including George Bird Grinnell, National Audubon Society founder, and Clinton Hart Merriam, head of the U. S. Biological Survey and co-founder of the National Geographic Society. Curtis rescued the lost “tenderfoots.”
George Bird Grinnell had Curtis appointed as the official photographer of the 1899 E.H. Harriman Expedition to Alaska. The ship had so many experts representing various fields of study that it was essentially a floating university. John Muir, John Burroughs, and Gifford Pinchot were among the passengers.
One of the turning points in Curtis’ life came in 1900 when Grinnell asked Curtis to photograph Blackfoot tribal members in Montana. Grinnell was known as being one of the most knowledgeable authorities on Native Americans in North America at the time. Curtis worked at photographing the Piegan people as they performed the Sundance ceremony. After that trip, he pulled money from the studio in Seattle to finance a trip to see the Hopi tribe. He ended up visiting the Hopi year after year and was eventually adopted by them and allowed to see parts of their snake dance.
The North American Indian books include many photographs and the larger size portfolios contain additional images. The images are never referred to in the text. Curtis would sometimes wait weeks to capture the right image. He was aware of the effect photographing from different angles would have on the subject matter. In some of the pictures he photographed subjects from low camera angles with the camera pointing upwards while in others he focused just below the axis of the eyes. The Old Klamath Woman portrait shows the eyes in sharp focus but the image softens out by the time you get to the cheekbones. As Dawn Boone of A6 observed, the woman pictured is “softening back into the earth right before our eyes.” There is a certain determination expressed in the faces of some of the people even though they had been living against a background of loss.
Curtis’ work was influenced by the Emersonian transcendentalist’s movement. In transcendentalism, the role of nature was considered to be very important. This is evident in the Chief-Klamath image that shows a figure looking out at Crater Lake. He is standing with his back to the camera next to a small stand of trees. His form echoes the shapes of the forest. Another photo, Quiet Waters- Yurock, shows a fisherman on a cliff side blending into the environment and nearly disappearing in the reflection in the water below.
The prints contained in the books are an intersection of photography and engraving. Curtis would frame the shot using a wooden box camera and he would view it through the lens upside down and backwards. The equipment Curtis used was large and heavy. At one point a mule carrying his equipment tumbled off the trail in the Grand Canyon. He spent 12 hours reconstructing his camera. He would usually make a quick cyanotype print to see if he was satisfied with the shot. If satisfied with the initial image, Curtis would then use the photogravure process to make the final print. A glass plate negative was used in the camera. An image would be photographically transferred to a copper plate through the use of a gelatin-coated light-sensitive tissue. The image would be etched into the plate with acid and then prints would be made from that plate. Curtis made some of the prints with a gold tone process in which gold was worked into the glass plates. That was his favorite method but the plates were very fragile. He, like Albert Stieglitz and other Pictorialists, preferred the more artistic photogravure process over other methods available. The influence of the Pictorialists can clearly be seen in Edward S. Curtis’ work.
Albert Stieglitz, a contemporary of Curtis’, was originally from New Jersey but did much of his work in New York City. He married artist Georgia O’Keefe in 1924. His office was close to an office Curtis sometimes used so they likely at least knew of each other.
As handheld cameras for amateurs became widely available, Stieglitz became determined to prove that photography was as much an art form as painting and sculpture. In 1902 Stieglitz and several other photographers broke away from the Camera Club of New York, where he worked as editor of their Camera Notes publication, to form the Photo-Secession group. Stieglitz often made platinum prints because of the overall feel this process gave to the image. The pictures often included elements from nature seen through a soft haze. Subject matter was often posed in an idealized way as if in a painting. Deep sepia ink tones unified the images. Stieglitz selected specific papers for printing that showed “toothiness.” The lack of reality in the photographs may have been partly in response to current events such as the world war looming on the horizon. Stieglitz could be very opinionated and overbearing so other Pictorialists started their own groups in pursuit of more artistic freedom. Like Curtis and his work, Stieglitz ran out of money to produce Camera Notes as interest waned and he ended up with an overstock of the publication. By 1917, artists began moving away from the Pictorial movement towards more abstract forms.
Events and exhibits related to photographer Edward S. Curtis were located all over Bend in the months of September and October. Curtis documented Native American tribes living in many parts of North America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Part of his work was featured in a 20-volume set of books and 20 separate large-format portfolios entitled Edward S. Curtis’s: The North American Indian. An estimated 10,000 people were featured in his work.
The idea for this citywide program began when a number of prints were offered to Atelier 6000 (A6) Studio & Gallery in Bend, OR to exhibit and sell on a commission basis. Three volumes of The North American Indian were donated by former gallery owners Steve and Sandra Miller.
This long article will cover most of the events and exhibits and will help you learn more about Edward S. Curtis. This is Part I and it sets the scene.
Here is what was included in the citywide program:
What makes Curtis so special that so many events and exhibits related to him took place in Bend? With the advent of the Internet, the images he created seem to appear fairly often but not everyone knows him by name. If you have looked at some of his portraits they have probably brought emotions to the surface that you weren’t expecting. The photos go beyond the usual portraits and capture a time and spirit lost to us now. His use of light, shadow, and composition brings his subjects to life. The expressions in the portraits range from bold and noble to young and vulnerable. Some of the pictures are of a more serious anthropological nature while others are pure art. While he was best known for his portraits, his scenic pictures and still lifes were also remarkable. His work later influenced well-known artists such as filmmaker, John Ford, and photographer, Ansel Adams.
Curtis may be best known as a photographer but he also was an accomplished printer, bookmaker, writer, ethnographer, and cinematographer. He hired writers, editors, anthropologists, translators, and other personnel along the way but always oversaw the work to ensure its quality. In order to cover the many facets of his work, A6 Studio & Gallery enlisted the help of several venues to showcase his work.
It’s ironic that a bird that almost disappeared from the face of the earth has their name associated with a phrase that means “final appearance.”
At one time the population of the Trumpeter Swan, Cygnus buccinator, was thought to be down to fewer than 70 birds. They were just steps away from their swan song. The birds were overhunted and their feathers were used to adorn hats and make writing quills while their skins were used to make powder puffs. They were also hunted for their meat and eggs.
In 1932 the last known remnants of the population lived near Yellowstone National Park. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 to help save the Trumpeter Swan. The Refuge is in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The photo above is of a Trumpeter Swan I saw last summer in Yellowstone National Park. Threats such as lead poisoning and habitat loss still exist but the current population in North America is over 46,000. See…conservation can be a success!
Here in Central Oregon steps are being taken to ensure their survival. At the Sunriver Nature Center in Sunriver, Oregon, a potential mate for the resident Trumpeter Swan was introduced last summer. After a somewhat rocky start, the pair bonded with each other and it’s hoped they will produce many offspring in the future. There was a story in the Bend Bulletin about the pair and you can read it here: Swans Find Love in Sunriver.
My photos show the pair floating across a duckweed-covered waterway near the Nature Center. You can see the neckband on one of them. If you ever happen to see a banded or tagged swan, as I once did in the Skagit Valley of Washington State, contact the USGS Bird Banding Lab. Here’s a link to a handout from the Trumpeter Swan Society that gives more info on how to report a sighting: Reporting Marked Trumpeter (and Tundra) Swans – Collars, Wing Tags, and Bands.
There are certain members of the plant and animal world that have invaded habitats successfully. Some are admired; others are reviled. A few are both liked and despised at the same time.
Where I live, the Western juniper, Juniperus occidentalis, fits into that last category. It is a native species but due to fire suppression and habitat destruction, it has spread like -excuse the reference- wildfire. Juniper has taken advantage of the situation and has significantly expanded its range. I have heard a lot about how much water it can suck out of the landscape – supposedly 30 gallons a day. Its root system taps downwards and outwards to effectively use the available water. Many people don’t like them for that reason and because at times they have a not-so-pleasant scent. I’ll always remember listening to a person that lives in the wealthy part of town saying that she eliminated all 18 junipers on her property as soon as she moved in. Eighteen trees.
However, juniper also has its good side. As it ages it epitomizes the image many people associate with the Wild West. I love to photograph them. The form of the tree changes from a pyramid-like shape to a twisted, sprawling irregular one. It can be covered by purplish berries (that are really cones) and these are used in gin production. Wildlife loves it for cover, nesting, and food. Its wood is bi-colored and lasts forever.
Some animals do what they can to fit in so that you won’t notice they are invaders. I have a pair of European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, that nested on my property last spring. I don’t know many people that are fond of starlings. They are referred to as being ugly, dirty birds that many think should be destroyed. However, if you look at their breeding plumage closely it’s actually quite beautiful and iridescent. Anyway, back to my story…the pair on my property produced a brood of young and taught them how to sing and call. The weird thing is that they sound like the much more well-liked Western meadowlark – not starlings. There aren’t any meadowlarks close by but they do live many miles away to the east.
Some plants moved here from far away and have settled in all over North America. The common mullein, Verbascum thapsus, is one of those plants. It is a member of the snapdragon family and bears long stalks of yellow flowers and produces a lot of seeds. Mullein can grow 5-10 feet high (!) Its large leaves have a thick whitish covering of soft “hair”. It is native to Europe and was introduced here in the mid-1700’s for use as a fish poison. Where I live it is considered a noxious weed whose presence should be controlled and monitored by landowners. It will grow in almost any open area and will push native plants out.
This plant has some interesting uses. As previously mentioned, it was used as a fish poison. It stuns the fish so that they float to the surface where they can be easily caught. A dye was made from the flowers and was used on hair and on cloth. It also has medicinal uses and has been used to treat chest colds, bronchitis, and asthma. Mullein was also used to treat bruises, rash, tumors, and other maladies. I learned in a high school plant ecology class that its soft leaves can be used as toilet paper in an emergency.
Mullein is easy to pull but I decided to leave a few in my yard. Why? The songbirds, which I do not feed, LOVE them.
There are other successful invaders that have become so successful that they have become a threat to the environment. Consider the white-tailed deer. White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, have steadily moved westwards, northwards, and to the south in North and South America. There are more than there have ever been – even though hunters use much more sophisticated technology to hunt them. However, there are fewer people hunting them and their natural predators have been eliminated in parts of their range.
About 100 years ago, small scale agriculture pushed the deer off much of their range east of the Rockies. White-tailed deer were also overhunted in North America in the late 1800’s. Their population dropped precipitously from 24-33 million, down to only 350,000.
During the Industrial Age, farms were abandoned leaving behind a patchwork of habitats that was ideal for deer. Wildlife conservation adapted practices that created green space for populations to become established. Preserves for regulated hunting were set up. The population rebounded with a vengeance! The current population is estimated to be over 30 million and they are much more densely packed than in the distant past. That density has caused numerous problems.
I read an interesting article about white-tailed deer on Staten Island in New York City. The population on the 60-square mile island has increased from 24 to 793 in just six years. That’s a 3,304% increase! The deer cause traffic accidents, eat gardens, and pass on tick-borne illnesses but the far greater problem is that they are destroying habitat. The community can cull the animals with sharpshooters, have hunters take them, apply contraceptive vaccines, or use surgical sterilization. None of these options has been popular with the public so nothing is currently being done. When an animal is given the Disney treatment, in this case as the main star in the Bambi movie, it can become much more difficult to control.
Successful invaders have taken advantage of various situations and many are firmly established in their new range. They have velcroed themselves into their new homes and peeling them away will be a difficult, if not impossible, task.
Heffernan, T. (2012, October 24). The Deer Paradox. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/11/the-deer-paradox/309104/
O’Connor, B. (2015, January 14). Deer are invading New York City, and we don’t know how to stop them. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/14/7537391/new-york-city-deer-problem
The Herb Companion staff. (2009, August/September). Herb to know: Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). Retrieved November 3, 2015, from http://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/herb-to-know-mullein-verbascum-thapsus.aspx
If you type “John C. Frémont” into a search engine you will turn up places named after him in over a dozen states in the U.S. So who was this guy and why were so many things named after him? To find out, I visited the Des Chutes Historical Museum in Bend, Oregon to see their current exhibit about Frémont. The Museum was lucky to get the exhibit and it will be on display there until the end of December 2015. This exhibit focuses on Frémont’s Second Exploring Expedition that occurred in 1843-1844. Many consider it to be the apex of his career. The purpose of this trip was to explore the Oregon country. Frémont and 27 handpicked men, including the explorer Kit Carson, set out to map the second half of the Oregon Trail.
One of the first things you see as you enter the gallery is a life-sized model of Frémont dressed in uniform with a presentation sword in his hands. The actual sword is displayed nearby. Frémont’s presentation sword and scabbard are described on one of the display boards. Photos show close ups of the hilt with a snake twisting around its length and a small map of Oregon on top of a rounded section. A gold wash coats most of the scabbard and hilt. Another case displays his presentation revolver. It is a .44 caliber 6-shot Colt Dragoon.
The exhibit displays some of the tools of the trade of early American explorers. A compass, sextant, and artificial horizon tool were essential for surveyors. A brass telescope sits at the ready to view
distant landscapes. A compact case holds a drawing set used in making maps of previously unexplored areas. In Frémont’s travels he looked for rivers, lakes, and trails that could be used by future explorers and settlers.
There is a large three-dimensional map in part of the exhibit that shows some of the locations he passed through during the Second Exploring Expedition. There are
photos of the various locations that note the date he was there. He named several geographic features in Oregon including the Great Basin, Summer Lake, Winter Ridge, and Lake Abert. Though more people have moved into the areas he explored in eastern Oregon, many locations look much as they did during his explorations.
In the 1840’s there were few plant collections with specimens collected in western North America. Though many specimens were lost en route, Frémont’s expeditions collected 32 plants new to science. He studied botany in college and documented vegetation and land features on the trips. At least 23 of the new species discovered on the trip contain “Frémont” as part of their name. Frémont cottonwood, Populus deltoids Fremont, is one example. The exhibit shows examples of some of the preserved plants in part of the display.
The expedition transported a cannon with them and a cannon carriage was attached to a horse or mule’s harness. There is some confusion as to why he wanted to carry a cannon with him into an area known to be relatively safe. He said it was to defend himself against “hostile Indians” but some conjectured that he wanted it to support a revolt against Mexico and protect California’s annexation into the U.S. He fired the cannon at the Klamath Tribe members camped near Klamath Marsh. Due to that action, he was unable to get any of them to work as a scout for the expedition but they did provide useful geographic information. The cannon was abandoned on January 29, 1844 along the route. Parts of the mountain howitzer cannon were discovered in 1997 and 2001 along the Nevada-California border by a team of searchers who called themselves the Fremont Howitzer Recovery Team. A re-creation of the howitzer is displayed in the exhibit.
The exhibit also features the work of photographer Loren Irving. He followed the route of Frémont and documented his journey with photos and diary entries. There are large framed prints of some of the locations hung on the walls of the exhibit area. Loren compiled his work into a book entitled Finding Fremont.
The exhibit at Des Chutes Historical Museum will teach you about one of Frémont’s five expeditions and give you a glimpse into his many other accomplishments. A copy of his book, Memoirs of My Life, is shown in a small case in the exhibit. It is easy to see how his life as an explorer, military officer, politician, and family man would be difficult to summarize in one book.
John C. Frémont was born in 1813 in Savannah, Georgia. He had a tough life right from the very start. His mother, Mrs. Anne Beverley Whiting Pryor, left her husband since she had fallen in love with her tutor, Louis-Rene ‘Charles’ Frémon. John was the product of that affair. Anne and Charles tried to marry but were denied a license by the state. The couple had two more children but John’s father died when he was five years old.
The family moved to Charleston, South Carolina. John was a bright student and he won scholarships that helped him advance in his education. He entered the College of Charleston and continued to do well academically. He took a leave to help care for his mother and siblings and due to that decision, was expelled for “incorrigible negligence”. He worked as a mathematics teacher and went on to become a mathematics instructor for the military. He was the protégé of United States diplomat Joel Poinsett, who helped him get the position.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1838. He was mentored by Joseph Nicollet who referred to him as “Frémont” instead of Frémon so he adopted that name in 1840. He led five expeditions over a 12 year period beginning in 1842.
United States Senator Thomas Hart Benton was a proponent of Westward expansion and he sought out Frémont and Nicollet to talk about their expeditions. After frequent trips to the Benton home, Frémont began courting the senator’s daughter, Jessie Ann Benton. The senator did not approve of the relationship so the couple ended up eloping.
On the Second Exploring Expedition, Frémont had been instructed to return by the same route but he chose a different way instead. There was a legend that a river known as Rio Buenaventura flowed from the Rocky Mountains to San Francisco Bay. He intended to prove or disprove its existence. Due to harsh weather conditions and low supplies of food, he only made it half way. He made his way to Fort Sutter in New Helvetica, now known as Sacramento.
He left in March of 1845 and travelled south. One of the places he camped at and named was Las Vegas or “The Meadow”. He travelled along the Wasatch Range and mapped the Great Basin’s periphery. Again Frémont disobeyed orders from his superiors and took a different route – this time to the west.
Topographer Charles Preuss traveled with Frémont and compiled data from the first two expeditions into the Frémont – Preuss map that was created in 1845. Many emigrants traversing the Oregon Trail relied upon Frémont’s maps in their travels west. He earned the nickname of “The Pathfinder”.
In 1846, Frémont participated in the Mexican-American War in California as a U.S. military commander at the Bear Flag Revolt. His service while in the military was controversial but his actions caused General Pico to surrender thus ending the War in California. He refused to relinquish his appointment as Military Governor of California to General Kearny and ended up being court martialed. He was pardoned by President James Polk but resigned from the military in 1848.
He served as a Senator for the Democratic Party in the newly-formed state of California from 1850 to 1851. In 1856 he became the first Republican candidate for the office of President of the United States. Frémont was warned that his election may lead to civil war. Democrat James Buchanan won the race.
In July of 1861 President Abraham Lincoln appointed Frémont to be the major general in command of the Army’s Department of the West. A month later, Frémont issued an emancipation proclamation – more than a year ahead of Lincoln’s. He oversaw troops in Missouri and Kansas – states that had problems with sympathizers, guerilla warfare, and Confederate units. After a major defeat in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, he imposed martial law in St. Louis. This included seizing slaves from citizens who aided the guerillas or Confederates. Lincoln ordered him to rescind the order since he had hoped for a political end to the war that included having a balance of free and slave holding states. He did not want to offend the Union states. Frémont refused and his wife ended up pleading his case with Lincoln. Frémont was relieved of duty in November of 1861. He was criticized for the way he prepared defenses. However, his decision to choose Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant over more senior officers was considered to be his greatest contribution to the Civil War.
Frémont was then given command of the Mountain Department in 1862. The Department only lasted from April to June of 1862. It was one of three unsuccessful armies that engaged with Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Frémont was offered another position working under Major General John Pope (who used to work under him) but he refused. He moved to New York City and waited for another call to duty but none ever came.
He was nominated to be president again in 1864 by the Radical Democracy Party (a party formed by a group of dissident Republicans) but withdrew and threw his support to Lincoln who was elected to a second term.
For the remaining years of his life, Frémont was troubled with controversy and financial problems. He was unsuccessful with his investments in railroad and real estate. He served as Governor of Arizona between 1878 and 1881. His wife, Jessie, wrote books and articles that were popular with the public and the couple eventually relied upon the income garnered from them for income. Jessie is thought to have helped with editing her husband’s writings. In 1887 John C. Frémont published the first of two proposed volumes entitled Memoirs of My Life. There was little profit made from the first volume so the second was never published. He was finally recognized for his service and given a $6,000 annual pension in the spring of 1890 while working in New York City but died three months later on July 13. His wife, who was at their home in Los Angeles, was not able to attend the funeral due to their dire financial status.
The Frémont legacy lives on in several ways. Many places and plants bear his name. A commemorative stamp was issued in honor of him in 1898. The U.S. Army 8th Infantry Division (now inactive) was called the Pathfinder Division. The Fremont Cannon trophy, awarded in college football, is a replica of the cannon that was taken on the Second Exploring Expedition. Frémont has been recognized for his many achievements in several books, movies, and television shows.
Source for map of Second Exploring Expedition route:
“John C. Fremont,” http://factcards.califa.org/exp/fremont.html (accessed October 10, 2105).
The year is 1905 and you have traveled thousands of miles across the country. You spot a fort-shaped rock formation in the distance and know you are finally close to your destination. A sage thrasher perched atop sagebrush seems to be singing its melodic song to welcome you. As you draw closer, you see several buildings clustered around a windmill-driven well. The wind blows the desert dust into your eyes. Blinking to make sure it’s not a mirage; you can’t help but let out a sigh of relief. You made it – you are finally here.
Though that account was fictional, it would be easy to imagine that kind of scenario as you tour the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Village Museum. The site currently contains 12 buildings from the early 1900’s that were moved to the site from various locations in Central Oregon. A replica blacksmith shop was constructed at the site in 2006 using reclaimed wood and other materials. Volunteers restored the buildings and carefully furnished them with artifacts. As you walk into a house with the table carefully set, you really get a feel for how the early pioneers lived. You will be impressed by the attention to detail. There is a small store with items related to the area on the front of the property.
There are buildings of businesses representative of what would have been present in a small town of that time period. A small doctor’s office sits waiting for the next patient. The Fort Rock General Store welcomes visitors with a wide selection of goods. It is the only building original to the site. It supplied goods to 1,200 people at one time. Sunset School has lessons on the chalkboard and rules for teachers to abide by near the door. The pews at Saint Bridget’s Catholic Church are empty now but were once full of people at the only building in the vicinity built expressly for worship. It still serves as a place for weddings and memorials.
Six buildings served as homes for pioneers in the early 1900’s. There was a major influx of settlers after the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 increased the allotment of land from 160 to 320 acres. Fred and Hannah Stratton moved to the area from Michigan in 1912. Their sons, Frank and Lewis, grew up in the house and Frank later married Vivian. Frank and Vivian founded the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society and opened the Museum in 1988. The Widmer cabin was moved from the Bend area and now houses a large collection of arrowheads and other ancient tools crafted from obsidian collected in the area. George Mekenmaier built a cabin in 1910 before he married Hazel Penrose. Their children, Beatrice and George, played in the area now known as Fort Rock Cave. Many years later, Hazel encouraged anthropologist Dr. Luther S. Cressman to explore the cave. He excavated the cave and discovered nearly 100 sagebrush bark sandals that were later determined to have been made 9,000 to 13,000 years ago. They are the oldest ever discovered and they were arranged in a ceremonial pattern. Simon Boedigheimer came to Fort Rock around 1912 and built one of the few two-story houses in the area. He left his wife and two children in the Willamette Valley while he worked on the house. A carpenter by trade, his house included special features such as built-in shelving and a stairwell closet. The Websters and their six-year old son moved to the area in 1912. They bred Hereford-Shorthorn cattle and were very successful. Their son Carl went on to become a successful trapper and he kept careful records of his trap lines on the bedroom door casings. Alex Belletable and his wife came to Fort Rock in 1911. He was one of the wealthier homesteaders in the valley. The couple were French immigrants and they tried farming in the area but were not nearly as successful as they had been in France. They left the area in 1922.
Fort Rock is a short drive away and it is now part of a state natural area. After a short walk uphill, you enter an amphitheater-like setting. The formation is part of a 6,000 foot wide caldera. About 12,000 years ago this area was covered by ice hundreds to thousands of feet thick. Temperatures warmed and a 900 square mile lake formed over the site. Three thousand years later sagebrush replaced the marshlands.
The Brother’s Fault zone lies beneath the site. Faults allow magma to get to the surface. As the lava hit the water, it caused a massive explosion. This explosion, and the prevailing Southwesterly winds, caused the horseshoe shape of the Fort Rock formation. The tuff walls are all that remain as it collapsed upon itself. Terraces formed by the pounding action of the waves can be seen on surfaces of the tuff ring.
When I was there in May of 2015 on a Bend Parks and Recreation field trip, wildflowers were in full bloom and cliff dwelling birds flew around the site. There was a thick stand of death camas in the crater. A few bitterroot plants bloomed nearby. Early pioneers quickly learned from the resident Native Americans that the camas was poisonous while the bitterroot root could provide sustenance. Meriwether Lewis ate bitterroot during his explorations and brought specimens back east. The scientific name, Lewisia rediviva, reflects his discovery of the plant.