Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Contest aims at boosting Stanfield population

Stanfield, in 1909, was still a new, unincorporated town in the irrigated area of north Umatilla County and was looking for more residents. In October of 1909 the town leaders came up with a series of incentives to entice people to move to Stanfield or the nearby Furnish-Coe irrigation project. The “10,000 club for 1910” was organized in an attempt to boost the town’s population above 10,000 before the 1910 census. One of the incentives offered was free residence lots for the first couple married in Stanfield and for babies born in the town: one for the first baby girl, the first baby boy, and for the first baby born after July 15, 1910. Judges for the contest were Congressman W.R. Ellis of Pendleton, Addison Bennett of the Irrigon Irrigator and E.B. Aldrich of the East Oregonian.

In an attempt to ensure fairness in the contest, those competing to be the first wedded couple had to have lived in Stanfield or owned property in the town or its environs for at least two months prior to the wedding. The first snag in the contest was reported in the Oct. 18, 1909, EO when a Stanfield couple attempted to claim the prize. Roy S. Neal and his bride, the former Della Bott, had attempted to tie the knot in Stanfield only to discover that, as much as the town was growing, there was no one in Stanfield qualified to perform a marriage ceremony. The couple had the choice of waiting an indefinite amount of time to get married or going to Pendleton for the ceremony, which they ultimately decided to do. The matter was left in the hands of the judges.

In the baby contest, the issue promised to become quite complicated. Further inducements in the were offered for the birth of twins: twin boys, twin girls, a boy and a girl, a girl and a boy, and so forth. When the matter of triplets arose, with all the inherent combinations, the judges acknowledged the complexities of the potential tangle and vowed to tackle the entries “as in the doctrine of prior appropriation and of riparian rights.”

As popular as the contest was, Stanfield’s population fell far short of its lofty ideals; less than 1,000 people called Stanfield home at the time of the 1910 census.

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