Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Irrigation feud leads to silent shootout

An Echo farmer in 1920 who held a neighbor at gunpoint over an irrigation disagreement — and made him pay for the gun — later died in a shootout with local authorities.

W.H. Smith, a bachelor farmer thought to be about 65 years old, had been farming property near Echo known as the Spike place for a number of years. On June 10, 1920, Smith began to threaten his neighbor, Joe Ramos, who farmed across a shared irrigation canal from Smith and who had control of the gates regulating the water supply. Smith had conceived of a notion to kill Ramos the day before, making threats to that effect to all who would listen, and had scared off the Echo marshal sent to arrest him.

Smith went into Echo and purchased a Colt special revolver and cartridges. He then went to the Ramos place and held his neighbor at gunpoint while forcing him to write him a check for $53.40 — $10 for damages to his land and $43.40 for the gun and ammunition. Smith then told Ramos he would kill him if he told the police or attempted to stop payment on the check. After Smith left, Ramos traveled to Pendleton to report the threats to the district attorney’s office.

An employee of Smith, Everett Thompson, tried for two days to encourage his employer to forget his feud with Ramos and give himself up to the authorities, but Smith swore he had nothing to live for and that lawmen would never take him alive.

Thompson was working in a nearby field when Deputy Sheriff Joe Blakley of Pendleton and Asa Thomson of Echo showed up to arrest Smith on June 10. Blakley and Thomson had agreed on a peaceable arrest, but Smith saw the two men coming as he worked in a box near a gate in his irrigation ditch. Smith grabbed his revolver and shot twice at Thomson, who was carrying a high-powered rifle, from about 45 yards away. Thomson returned fire and killed Smith. The incident happened so fast Deputy Blakley couldn’t even draw his weapon before it was over, and none of the three men spoke a single word, according to Thompson.

A coroner’s inquiry after the shooting cleared Thomson of any wrong-doing, saying he had fired in self-defense. Because of his sudden hatred of Ramos and his defiance of the authorities, Echo residents theorized Smith had had some kind of mental breakdown.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pendleton cowboy snares unusual prize

Cowboying is hard work, with long hours and often boredom punctuated with the occasional high-energy chase. A Pendleton cowboy looking for more excitement took his expertise to the Blue Mountains southeast of the city and found an unusual challenge for his abilities.

Billy Colb, a well-known vaquero of Pendleton, took to the mountains June 30, 1904, in search of bigger game. Near Hidaway Springs (near present-day Ukiah, Ore.) he spotted a yearling bull elk grazing on the mountainside and, being mounted on his best cow horse, shook out a lariat and made a dash for the unsuspecting beast. The young elk ducked and dodged, but Colb’s horse knew its business and cut the animal off at every turn. Colb settled a loop around the elk’s neck from about 40 feet away — and the fight was on.

The elk made a break for the trees but the lariat around its neck brought it up short. The elk turned a somersault, then commenced a high-kicking, wild plunging, bellowing and snorting tirade, much to Colb’s delight. Finally, with tongue hanging out and legs wobbling, and its red eyes fixated on its captor, the elk trotted quietly into Hidaway Springs camp behind Colb.

William Scott, the proprietor of the camp, paid Colb $5 for his prize. Scott planned a zoological garden at the camp, with the elk as its first inhabitant.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pendleton family gets Christmas wish

Christmas 1974 was shaping up to be a stressful one for the Wayne Johnson family of Pendleton.

In November of that year, the Johnsons’ youngest son, 12-year-old Randy, came down with what they thought was the flu. He had all the symptoms, and he had been exposed to the virus. But when he didn’t get better, Randy’s parents took him to the doctor — and a six-week medical saga began.

Doctors found Randy’s appendix had burst, and rushed him to emergency surgery. Randy then developed peritonitis, which spread throughout his system. A heart problem developed, and then stress ulcers. Blood transfusions and two more surgeries were followed by internal bleeding and a fourth surgery. Then Randy developed pneumonia.

During his hospital stay, letters, cards and gifts flooded Randy's room. Many of his classmates wrote letters, and he also received mail from unusual sources. His great-uncle in Xenia, Ohio, discovered Randy’s plight and found a seventh-grade class in his town that created a get well card for Randy. He also received get-well wishes from Sen. Robert Packwood and Vic Atiyeh.

Randy’s family was also on the receiving end of a mountain of support. The Girls’ League from Pendleton High School decorated Randy’s hospital room, and the family was continually gifted with meals and Christmas goodies from friends, neighbors, church members and Mrs. Johnson’s sorority sisters. Friends helped look after twins Rodger and Robbin, 14, and little sister Nicole, 4.

But for Randy, the best gift was from a family he didn’t even know. During his hospital stay, the only window in his room framed the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree in the house across the street.

After a six-week stay, on Christmas Eve, Randy was able to walk down the hall in the hospital on the arm of a nurse, toting his IV rack along beside him. He was moved into a two-bed hospital room just in time to open Christmas gifts with his grateful family.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Festive family name a holiday hit

In the run-up to Christmas 1965, a 12-year-old Ohio girl was gleefully anticipating holiday decorating. “I get to decorate the Christmas tree all by myself this year,” she told an Associated Press reporter on Dec. 11, 1965. But this story isn’t really about decorating a tree, though it is about trees. Or, more specifically, the Trees family.

Mr. and Mrs. Jack Trees lived on Firwood Place in Forest Park, Ohio, in 1965 and had three children. Douglas Fir Trees, 25, was the oldest. He married the former Jane Wood, and was living in Copenhagen, Denmark. The second son, Jack Pine Trees, 24, was attending Ohio State University. He was married to the former Jane Groves. And then there was the youngest, their daughter — Merry Christmas Trees. She was the last Trees chick in the nest and so had her namesake all to herself that year.

The family obsession with woodsy names began with Jack Trees Sr.’s father, Forrest Evergreen Trees.

Merry liked her name, even though her seventh-grade classmates teased her about it. Later, once she became an adult, Merry’s car even sported a vanity license plate — XMAS1.

Merry eventually married Gene McMahon and now lives in Dublin, Ohio, where she works a kitchen and bath designer for Home Depot.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mysterious traveling lump revealed as war souvenir

Joe Cole of Pendleton spent years wondering about a mysterious traveling lump in his leg. He first noticed a hard object in his upper thigh, which bothered him enough that he didn’t sit down on hard surfaces more than necessary.

Over the years it seemed to travel around, each time a bit farther down his leg. Concerned, he visited doctors who speculated it might be the start of varicose veins or a calcium deposit, but none of them seemed to be worried. Finally, while skiing in December of 1984, Cole noticed that every time he returned to the top of the hill the back of his leg would hurt. Doctors ordered X-rays this time, and removed a bullet near a tendon behind his knee cap.

The bullet was from Cole’s time serving on the front lines during the Korean War — more than 30 years before.

At the time the incident most likely occurred, Cole and his unit were fighting about 3,000 to 4,000 feet from a mainline trench. It was winter, so everyone was bundled up in heavy clothing. The battle didn’t allow them to change their clothes, and after the fight they were so dirty, their underclothes were just thrown into a pile and burned. “I wouldn’t have noticed any blood,” Cole said.

He didn’t ever find a scar where the bullet entered his leg, though he figured it must have entered “somewhere in the hip area,” and he said he may have been unconscious at the time he was hit. The bullet, longer and with a sharper tip than American ammo, was thought to be of Russian or Chinese manufacture. The doctor who removed it allowed Cole to keep it as a souvenir.

Cole, the principal of West Hills and Lincoln elementary schools in Pendleton, considered himself very fortunate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

McKay Reservoir yields ancient rhino bones

Pendleton barber Ray Spangle discovered the rear leg bones of an aquatic rhinoceros while fishing the banks of Pendleton’s McKay Reservoir on two separate occasions in 1947. In October 1949 he joined in an archaeological dig with University of Oregon scientists to find more of the skeleton.

Thirty million years ago, Umatilla County was covered in swamps and marshes. Discovery of the rhino remains and those of a deer-like animal added to what little scientists knew about the area’s geologic and ecologic prehistory at the time. The rear leg bones of the rhinoceros were large, about 18 inches long, and weighed over 15 pounds in their fossilized state.

Spangle attributed his find to his hobby as an amateur geologist, saying the bones were the same color as the rocks along the shoreline but that he knew they were fossilized bones by their shape.

Aided by Spangle, his son Charles and East Oregonian reporter George Skorney, University of Oregon paleontologist Sam Sargent and Arnold Shotwell, curator of the university’s museum of natural history, unearthed six large leg bones, five complete teeth of at least two different animals, two fragmental tusks and the bones of several small animals in the same area where Spangle’s rhino was found.

After the search was completed, Sargent and Shotwell conjectured that the finds may not necessarily have been from the same water-laid volcanic ash formation as Spangle’s rhino and deer, possibly because the bones were found in gravels exposed by erosion of the dam’s waters rising and falling. While the rhinoceros lived some 30 million years ago, bones of a prehistoric horse and a saber-tooth cat found in the same general area were laid down during the last Ice Age, 1-2 million years ago.

Sargent and Shotwell urged people who find fossilized bones to leave the site intact and contact scientists who can remove the finds properly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ambitious doctor stirs up Pendleton politics

Dr. James A. Best was a well-known and respected doctor in Umatilla County the early 1900s, first in Weston and later in Pendleton. Dr. Best became a household name in 1913 when he launched his political career, beginning with the controversial gravity-fed water project to bring drinking water from Thornhollow Springs to the city.

As the water project was heading for the finish line, Dr. Best joined in the race for a seat on the commission. Best stirred up the current board when he charged the project’s bank account was short more than $33,000 and implied one or more of the commissioners was at fault. The race was fraught with mudslinging, and Best was accused of graft when a contractor working on the project said the candidate was supplying his own horse teams for hauling gravel and demanding to be paid more than the other haulers.

When Best was elected to the commission by a large margin, the other four members of the board submitted their resignations and requested a thorough audit of the books. Contrary to Best’s allegations, the audit turned up a small ($1.14) excess in the project account. The recalcitrant commissioners were lured back to their seats on the board by the fear that anti-gravity men would be appointed to the commission and tie up the project before it could be completed.

Dr. Best’s detractors continued to try to dig up reasons why he should not be allowed to sit on the commission, citing his lack of U.S. citizenship, among other things, but the charges never seemed to stick. Best eventually gave up his seat on the water commission when he entered the race for mayor in 1915.

This campaign also was beset by strife; supporters of Best’s main opponent, John Montgomery, dredged up accusations that Best was in cahoots with local bootleggers and purveyors of bawdy houses — accusations that Dr. Best did not deny. The East Oregonian weighed in against Dr. Best, running editorials and political cartoons depicting organized crime interests using every tactic (including corrupt polling practices) to secure their candidate’s victory. Special police contingents hovered at every polling station to prevent non-eligible voters from swaying the outcome. More than 500 people were registered to vote the day of the election. In the end, after the heaviest voting ever seen in Pendleton to that point, Dr. Best was declared the winner, beating Montgomery by 232 votes, 1197 to 965.
East Oregonian file photo
 A near riot followed the close of the polls. One of Best’s other opponents for the mayoralty, Dudley Evans, left the polling station in the Bowman Hotel to walk to city hall for the official results and was followed by a mostly quiet crowd, though some of Best’s supporters began tossing about jeers and threats. After the crowd returned to the hotel, Dr. E.J. Sommerville stirred up the crowd and a short scuffle erupted in the lobby of the building, compelling officers to pull their guns to scatter the crowd. Dr. Sommerville joined up with another Best supporter, E.W. McComas, near the St. George Hotel and there ran afoul of Chief of Police Alex Manning and Officer Omar Stephens. Words led to blows and in the short melee Officer Stephens was knocked down. Chief Manning clubbed McComas over the head and took both McComas and Sommerville to the police station. The crowd reformed and attempted to force its way into city hall, but Chief Manning again drew his gun and club and, with a few well-placed blows, beat back the rioters. Several prominent citizens were able to defuse the situation, but the crowd did not disperse until well after midnight.

Dr. Best next threw his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination for state representative in February of 1916, another potential step up for the aspiring politician. He polled a distant third of three candidates in the race.

Best’s time as mayor was also quite contentious. On March 23, 1916, Best attended a boxing match at the Oregon Theater, a ten-round bout between Romeo Hagan and Ray McCarroll that lasted only into the second round. McCarroll was knocked to the canvas and Mayor Best stood up to announce the match would be the last to be staged in Pendleton during his tenure, as prize fights were against the law. In the furor that resulted from his announcement Best “hurled a profane epithet and obscene injunction” at one of his tormentors that resulted in the mayor being brought up on charges. A protracted legal battle ensued, ending a year later when the mayor suddenly changed his plea to guilty, paying a fine of $15. He admitted he had broken the obscenity laws but claimed he was fighting the official charge of vagrancy; his own search of state statues revealed it was the only law on the books he could be charged with on the complaint.

Mayor Best also ruffled feathers in the police department. One of his first official moves in January of 1916 was to appoint himself the head of the police commission, which up till then had never been done. He immediately got on the wrong side of Chief of Police Thomas B. Gurdane, who claimed the mayor was undermining his authority and hampering his abilities to do his job. A protracted struggle between Mayor Best, a contingent of city councilors led by Claude Penland and Chief Gurdane built up over several months, ending in March of 1917 with Gurdane’s abrupt resignation and a barrage of letters in the East Oregonian revealing a sampling of the mayor’s alleged transgressions (including allowing illegal businesses to operate during Round-Up and splitting the profits). The city council meeting of March 9, 1917, blew up into charges and counter-charges and almost erupted into a brawl. But again, the expected firecrackers between the mayor and his detractors fizzled out when the planned “clipping of the lion’s claws” during the March 21 council meeting didn’t happen — the rebel councilors appeared to be afraid to speak up, much to the disappointment of a large crowd. Dr. Best served as Pendleton’s mayor until October of 1917, when he joined the war effort as a captain in the medical corps.

Best returned to Pendleton, after serving almost two years in the military, to continue his duties as a doctor. Dr. Best was eventually elected to the Oregon legislature, serving one term as state representative in 1933 and three terms in the Senate, where his priorities included assistance for the elderly and agriculture. He retired in December of 1944 due to ill health and died Aug. 18, 1946.

Dr. James A. Best

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hermiston man drills ‘breathing’ well

A Hermiston man drilling a water well on his property in 1965 ended up with nothing but air — and a hole that inhaled or exhaled depending on the weather.

Carol Northrop, who owned a home and steel fabrication shop on the Hermiston-McNary Highway north of Hermiston, decided to drill a well on his property on October 24, 1965, using a 1928 engine mounted on a 1929 truck he built himself. His bit got stuck in bedrock about 87 feet down, so he decided to blast through the obstruction. After extricating his bit with some difficulty, Northrop lowered 10 sticks of dynamite and filled the hole with water, to direct the force of the blast downward.

Northrop set off the dynamite and stood by with a camera. He was expecting the water to shoot 30 feet or more into the air. Instead, water lifted less than a foot from the top of the pipe, and the rest disappeared down the hole.

On Oct. 25, the well began to emit air with a strong sulfur odor. Two nights later the well inhaled all night. The next day the well was dormant, but resumed inhaling for 12 hours that night. It blew the next morning and then all was quiet. There was no pattern to its breathing.

Northrup was stumped, as was a friend, a former oil well driller and civil engineer. But another man said the phenomenon is not uncommon in Idaho, and that the hole was responding to barometric pressure, “blowing” during times of low pressure and “sucking” during high pressure events.

“Breathing wells” can occur when connected voids exist beneath the surface of the soil. In the Snake River Valley near Pocatello, where breathing wells are more common, an excavation in the 1930s revealed that boulders 6 inches to 2 feet in diameter were found underlying the gravel and cobble layer deposited from the Portneuf River and Utah’s Pleistocene Lake Bonneville. Some of the voids between the boulders were 5-6 inches across.

Northrop wasn’t sure what to do with his well, though he did attach a can to the top of the well Halloween night, scaring trick-or-treaters with the haunting whistle. He briefly considered lowering a camera into the well for flash photos, with a view to opening up any big hole he found to the public for a fee. In the end he decided to try blasting the bedrock again, hoping to find the elusive water table and fill in the voids at the same time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

1936 earthquake rocks Milton-Freewater area

On July 15, 1936, at 11:08 p.m., an earthquake registering between 5 and 5.5 on the Richter scale shook residents of the Milton-Freewater area out of their beds. The strongest shock hit the Stateline area, cracking the pavement there, in places up to two meters wide, and at one point the ground dropped by 2.4 meters (7.9 feet). The shaking started slowly and lasted for 15 seconds; more than 54 aftershocks were reported by George Harshman of Freewater following the initial shock, and they continued intermittently until November 17.

The East Oregonian reported the earthquake was felt as far west as Arlington and as far north as Spokane, and severely damaged buildings in Walla Walla, Milton-Freewater and Athena. Residents of Pilot Rock, Pendleton and even Heppner fled their homes and businesses during the quake.

Among the reported damage: Homes in the area were uninhabitable due to large cracks in the walls, and chimneys and flues were shaken loose from roofs; a meat market and bank in Athena, joined together before the quake, were separate buildings the following morning; two freight cars were shaken off the tracks at Blue Mountain Station, and large rocks the size of cars bounced into the intersection of Souther Creek Road and Walla Walla River Highway; the Rev. J.M. Marlatt’s concrete home fell to the ground; and the quake shook loose artesian wells in the area — one on the A.M. Fix ranch that had dried up three weeks earlier, and another new artesian well from a previously shared well on the farm of Walter Maxson.

In some of the places where ground cracks appeared, water also was present in the cracks, signaling liquefaction of the soil. Liquefaction (when the soil temporarily loses strength and acts like a liquid) can cause extensive damage, bringing underground infrastructure like water and sewer lines to the surface and even swallowing people, buildings and cars whole in seconds during larger quakes, especially if the ground is already saturated with water.

The epicenter of the 1936 earthquake was fixed at 10 kilometers (6.38 miles) northwest of Milton-Freewater. It occurred along the Wallula fault system, which runs from near Milton-Freewater to Kennewick, Wash., along the Horse Heaven Hills, and is part of the larger Olympic-Wallowa Lineament that reaches from the Wallowa Mountains to the Olympic Peninsula.

Our corner of Northeast Oregon is still seismically active, though the magnitude of earthquakes is generally below 4 on the Richter scale. The Milton-Freewater area has recorded 66 earthquakes since 1931, the largest in recent history a 4.3 quake in November 1991. The most recent earthquake was Jan. 23, 2015, centered 4.7 miles southwest of Athena; it registered 3.7.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lawmen arrest robbery suspects from wrong crime

A saloon holdup in 1902 led to the arrest of two suspects — from a different robbery.

A pair of masked men entered the Kentucky Saloon in Freewater the evening of August 14, 1902, startling the bartender and his five patrons lined up at the bar. The men were relieved of about $10 in cash and the thieves also rifled the cash drawer, making off with about $150 in total.

Two days later, Umatilla County Sheriff Til Taylor received a phone call saying one of his deputies, Pat Ritchie, had been shot in the leg while attempting to arrest the saloon robbers at a house just outside Athena. After receiving a tip, Ritchie had placed two deputies covering the exits of the house while he began sneaking up on the front of the building. Suddenly, the front door flew open and bullets started flying. Ritchie, whose gun jammed, was hit in the fleshy part of one thigh and fell. The shooters, thinking the deputy was dead, stole his horse and rode away. The other deputies fled the scene without stopping to help Ritchie.

A posse was soon on the trail of the escaped suspects, aided by a pack of bloodhounds from Walla Walla. The posse stopped near Touchet Station after two days of searching and were preparing for dinner when a man raced to their camp saying a Swedish man had been attacked and beaten almost to death by a pair of thugs. Sheriff Taylor’s posse caught up with the bandits a mile and a half away, where a running shootout took place. The suspects managed to escape into the brush and disappear.

On August 19 Sheriff Taylor finally ran one of the suspects to ground, arresting George McDonald as he worked with a threshing crew on the farm of John King near Athena. It was then that the posse discovered they had been trailing the wrong pair of robbers since the altercation near Touchet Station. McDonald confessed to the robbery of the Swedish man and he and his accomplice, who was arrested at a neighboring farm, were turned over to the Walla Walla County sheriff.

And the Kentucky Saloon robbers? Al Cofer, a notorious local outlaw, was fingered as one of the culprits, but he and his partner had disappeared while the posse chased after the Touchet robbery suspects.

Cofer’s criminal career was a long and varied one, having a criminal history in Washington and California as well as serving time in the Oregon penitentiary. The Pendleton native was linked to a gang of stock rustlers in the Butter Creek area and was a champion jailbreaker, escaping from the Heppner jail three times in a five-week period before almost losing his life when he fell down an abandoned well in the dark. A sheepherder out looking for strays rescued Cofer after three days without food and water, and Cofer was arrested again a few days later. To prevent him from escaping again, Cofer was tried and sentenced to the penitentiary immediately. He was released after serving that prison term shortly before the robbery at Freewater.

The mystery of Cofer’s whereabouts was solved almost a year later. Sheriff Taylor read about a train robbery in New Mexico and wrote to the sheriff in Santa Fe, including a photo of Cofer. He was told Cofer had been arrested for the train robbery, and that he and a Mexican prisoner killed a jailer in a subsequent escape attempt. Cofer was sentenced to life in prison for the killing, but was never brought before a judge for the Freewater robbery.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Autograph signing devolves into fisticuffs

A service station in Memphis, Tennessee, erupted into a brawl on Oct. 18, 1956, and when the dust settled Elvis Presley was cleared of disorderly conduct charges while two station employees were fined for starting the fight.

Presley, 21, was in his hometown briefly between tours and had stopped by the station of Ed Hopper to have him check the gas tank of his Lincoln Continental Mark II for leaks. While Presley waited, a crowd gathered at the station and he began signing autographs. The trouble started when the crowd began blocking traffic to the station, and Hopper asked Presley to move on so the station could get back to regular business. “I asked him three times to move, in a nice way,” said Hopper, 42.

Presley agreed to move his car, but dawdled to sign just a few more autographs. Hopper, irate at the delay (and apparently not impressed by Presley’s celebrity status), leaned into the car and slapped Presley on the back of the head, snapping, “I said to move on.”

According to witness Harvey Huff, the 6-foot 1-inch, 185-pound Presley jumped out of the car and landed a right cross on the smaller Hopper, leaving a gash near his left eye. Hopper then allegedly tried to pull a pocket knife on Presley. A policeman and another bystander broke up the fight, but station attendant Aubrey Brown waded into the fray and took a swing at Presley, who grazed Brown with another right.

All three men appeared in court the next morning, Hopper sporting a beaut of a black eye. Judge Sam Friedman fined Hopper $25 and Brown $15 for assault and battery, and Presley was cleared of disorderly conduct charges.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hermiston sisters shun bus, ride horses to school

Located in Eastern Oregon, Hermiston recently passed Pendleton as the largest city in the region. But with its largest economic engine in irrigated farming, Hermiston is still considered a rural community. Many of the area’s children live outside the city limits and rely on school buses to get to and from school. But in 1987 sisters Connie and Ciara Christiansen were eschewing the normal transportation arrangement for a more enjoyable conveyance: the family horses.

Connie, a fourth-grader, and Ciara, a first-grader, mounted up every morning, rain or shine, and trotted the five-minute route to Highland Hills Elementary School. Since Connie began riding her horse to school as a first-grader in 1983, the school bus no longer stopped at the family’s North Ott Road ranch. Their father, Gerth Christiansen, contended the one-mile trip wasn’t too bad even in cold weather, and the horses could make the trip faster than the school bus. The girls took the main roads into town and left the horses in a pasture owned by Dr. Milton Johnson, near the school on Highland Avenue.

In 1986, when Ciara first joined her sister on the daily rides, she had to catch a shuttle at Highland Hills to the First Christian Church across town, where she attended kindergarten. One morning she missed the shuttle, so she rode her horse to the church to avoid being late. When the principal found the horse tied to the flagpole outside the church, she ordered Ciara to ride the horse back to the pasture and met her there with her car to give her a lift back to school.

In trade for using the pasture, the girls helped train Dr. Johnson’s granddaughter’s pony.

Each day after school, the girls walked the block back to the pasture, often accompanied by friends who watched them exercise their steeds with wistful expressions. But the girls couldn’t dawdle; Connie and Ciara were expected at home to help dad with the chores, where Gerth Christiansen bred and trained 80 head of jumping horses.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dishes turn deadly in 1924 house fire

Homesteading in the early days of the pioneer West often called for living in camp-like conditions. A McKay Creek family was visited by tragedy when the simple act of washing the dinner dishes led to a conflagration that took the life of a 19-year-old mother of two.

Maurice Hall worked as a teamster on the McKay Dam construction project near Pendleton. Mabel Lackey Hall, Maurice’s wife, was preparing to washing dishes from the evening meal about 5 p.m. on December 15, 1924, in the family’s home, a combination canvas tent and wooden shack. Mabel pulled a pan of boiling water off the stove and picked up a nearby bucket to cool the wash water.

The bucket contained gasoline instead of water.

The resulting explosion immediately ignited the interior of the house. Mabel frantically grabbed what she thought was her older child, two-year-old Leslie, and ran out of the house. But the boy was still inside the home when Mabel burst out the door, engulfed in flames. Maurice and a neighbor, C.A. Piquet, were talking about 100 feet from the house when she appeared. They beat out the flames on her clothes and in her hair, and then rushed into the inferno when Mabel screamed that the children were still inside the burning building.

Young Leslie made it outside on his own, but Maurice and Mr. Piquet had to break out a window at the back of the house to rescue the three-month-old baby from his crib. The baby was unscathed, but Leslie suffered burns to his arm, hips and head. He and his mother were rushed to St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, where Mrs. Hall succumbed to her injuries.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ione shooting spree leaves one dead, six injured

A notorious ex-convict with a penchant for troublemaking went on a drunken shooting spree July 2, 1909, in the tiny town of Ione, Oregon. By the time Theodore G. “Charlie” Earhart ran out of ammunition, six men were injured and a Portland man was dead.

Earhart was well-known for his bad character, and had been pardoned just six months prior after serving two years in the Oregon penitentiary for assault with a deadly weapon. He had pulled a gun on Deputy Sheriff Walter Cason of Ione in 1907, threatening to kill him if he did not secure Earhart’s release on gambling charges.

Earhart decided to start celebrating the 1909 Fourth of July holiday early and, after filling up on whiskey, went looking for trouble in downtown Ione. He first met Ione resident Charles Clark and insulted him by throwing a lighted match in his face. A scuffle ensued, Earhart pulled a knife, Clark pulled a gun to defend himself and fired five shots at his assailant, none of which found their target.

Earhart continued down Ione’s main street and broke into the Walker hardware store through the front plate glass window, arming himself with a double-barrel shotgun and two boxes of No. 1 shot shells. He then returned to Main Street and began to defy a crowd of townspeople that had started to gather. He forced a friend in the crowd, Henry Reed, to come forward and act as a human shield when Marshal Tom Carle arrived. Soon after, a posse headed by Deputy Sheriff Cason arrived and a shootout began. Earhart was slightly wounded in the back by one shot and fled, hiding under a nearby wheat warehouse.

From his refuge under the warehouse Earhart began firing back at the mob of 50 men, wounding William Clark, the brother of the man he first insulted. Four other men were shot in the feet and legs, and Joe Beasley was wounded in the face as well. Deputy Sheriff Cason received a charge of shot in the back. All of the wounds were minor ones.

A Portland man, William H. Escue, was accidentally shot by a member of the posse while he was crawling up a ravine to escape the gunfire. He did not survive his injuries.

Earhart finally ran out of ammunition and surrendered himself to Morrow County Sheriff E.M. Shutt, who arrived from Heppner approximately an hour after the altercation began. Earhart was lodged in the Morrow County Jail, and from there sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.

Earhart swore he would have his revenge against Deputy Sheriff Cason and, in September 1914, after being released from prison, he made the attempt. Coming across Cason in front of Heppner’s Palace Hotel, Earhart pulled a gun and fired one shot at the lawman, but missed. Cason shot back and killed Earhart, then turned himself and the two guns over to the Heppner city marshal. A coroner’s inquest and preliminary hearing into the shooting concluded that Cason had fired in self-defense, and he was set free.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pendleton wowed by ‘blind’ driver

A Texan claiming to be able to see with his fingers wowed Pendleton audiences in December 1935 when he donned an elaborate blindfold and drove a brand-new Studebaker through city streets.

Herbert Cade, a self-proclaimed “par-optic wizard,” became world-famous for his stunts performed while blindfolded. Cade explained that he developed his remarkable powers after a head injury robbed him of his sight completely. A brain surgeon told him that, instead of the usual three layers of skin, he had only two, and he was thus able to “see” through his hyper-sensitive fingertips. His vision eventually was restored to him, but he discovered that by fasting for 24 to 36 hours he could “observe” the world without his eyes any time he chose.

After several days of anticipation of Cade’s daring feats, Pendleton residents lined Main Street to watch a demonstration of his powers. Onlookers were invited to inspect the special blindfold, made from 14 layers of black silk, that was then wrapped around his head from hairline to chin and secured tightly above and below his nose with tight rubber bands. He then maneuvered out of a parking space and traveled down Main Street with his fingertips plastered to the windshield, thrilling the crowd by almost — but not quite — hitting another car head-on, and then proceeded to make several turns and weave between double-parked cars.

He made several stops around town, picking himself out a bottle of milk from a local dairy truck, pouring himself coffee at a diner, discerning different colors with only his fingertips and giving a talk on par-optic vision. He also talked up local businesses at every stop, serving as a mobile advertisement for chiropractic medicine (which helped restore his eyesight), Foster Motor Company (who supplied the Studebaker for his demonstration), Doherty Auto Service (where he demonstrated their brake testing equipment) and Troy Laundry (where he demonstrated laundry machines). He then retired to the Hotel Pendleton for a well-earned rest. Pendletonians were amazed at his abilities.

More than likely, Herbert Cade was an accomplished magician. A search for par-optic vision on the Internet found several claims of similar feats in the 1920s by Cade and others. The first Western reports of par-optic vision were from the 1700s, but scientists didn’t get interested in studying the alleged phenomenon until the 20th century. “Eyeless vision” has long been used by magicians and circus entertainers in their acts, using either trickery or cheating (peeking down the nose), but no scientific studies have been able to prove that par-optic vision is a paranormal phenomenon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Famous bucking bull bested by ‘Let’er Buck’ author

Let’er Buck!

The famous slogan of the Pendleton Round-Up is also the name of a book authored by Charles Wellington Furlong, an explorer, writer, artist, photographer and lecturer who visited the Round-Up in its early years. A world traveler, Furlong turned his attention to the American West in 1913 in part to regain his health, which was suffering after many years living abroad in Africa and South America.

Furlong arrived in Pendleton for the Round-Up in 1913 and was convinced that, to really understand his subject, he needed to participate in Round-Up activities. He agreed, and was put upon Henry Vogt, a notorious bucking bull that was fast making a name for himself. Furlong lasted three and a half seconds before he hit the dirt.

The next year, in 1914, Furlong returned to the Round-Up as a representative of Harper’s Weekly and was accosted by the Round-Up directors as soon as he stepped off the train. “Say, Furlong! Going to ride Sharkey this year?” A prize of $100 had been offered to anyone who could stay on the bull for 10 seconds using any means necessary — pulling leather, using reins, anything. The record ride on Sharkey to that point was less than six seconds.

Sharkey was a black Belgrade Angus bull weighing 1,925 pounds. The Round-Up bought the bull from “Happy Jack” Hawn of Fresno, Calif., for $500 in 1913 after he made a name for himself at the Los Angeles Rodeo for two years, throwing all comers. Sharkey was not part of the regular bucking stock, but was quite a draw as special entertainment during each day of the Round-Up.

Furlong approached his ride on Sharkey, according to his 1921 book “Let’er Buck: A Story of the Passing of the Old West,”  as follows: “... I concluded that one reason a rider lets go his hold on the bulls was because the tremendous force made him think his joints were coming apart at each buck and his teeth shaking out in between, but that they really weren’t — he only felt that way. ... The philosophy then of bull riding is simply — hang on — convince yourself you’re not coming apart, you only feel that way — just hang on.”

Furlong ended up in the dirt with a broken wrist, but also won the world roughriding championship of the year (and the $100 prize) by hanging on to Sharkey for 12 1/2 seconds. His feat was never bested.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Legendary cowboy, actor earned name accidentally

Yakima Canutt is a legend. But he got his famous moniker by mistake, according to a 1977 interview with the East Oregonian.

The four-time all-around winner at the Pendleton Round-Up (1917, 1919, 1920 and 1923) was born Enos Edward Canutt on Nov  29, 1896, in the Snake River Hills near Colfax, Wash. He rode his first bronc in 1912 at the age of 16, but only after he got his father’s permission. “If he bucks you off, your riding is through  — you’re finished,” his father told him. Canutt rode the bronc to a standstill, and his rodeo career was off like a rocket.

Canutt first attended the Pendleton Round-Up in 1914 with a group of cowboys from Yakima, Wash. The group was trying out bucking horses and Pendleton photographer Walter Bowman captured Canutt on one of his attempts. Not knowing the cowboy’s name, he asked around and was told, “Oh, that’s Canutt of Yakima.” When Bowman labeled the picture for a newspaper article, Yakima Canutt was re-christened — a name that stuck with him for the rest of his life.

Yak, as his friends called him, continued to compete in rodeos even while serving in the U.S. Navy. In 1918, while on a three-week furlough, he showed up at the Round-Up in his sailor’s uniform “that just didn’t seem to match his cowboy boots.” As the first successful competitor in bulldogging that year, Canutt wrestled a longhorn steer halfway around the arena before subduing it, though he ran over the two-minute time limit. He still received a standing ovation.

After winning his fourth all-around title in 1923, Canutt took his skills to Hollywood. He appeared in 48 silent movies, all westerns, but moved to stock and stunt work after “talkies” were introduced in 1928 (his voice had been damaged by the flu while in the Navy). And much of John Wayne’s on-screen persona, including the drawling, hesitant speech and the hip-rolling walk, was copied from Canutt after the two began working together in 1932. Canutt later became a director for action scenes, most notably the 20-minute chariot racing scene in the 1959 production of “Ben Hur.”

Yak earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion picture industry, and an honorary Academy Award in 1967 for his achievements as a stunt man and for developing safety devices to protect stunt men. He was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 1959, and into the Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame in 1969. And he played himself in the movie “Yak’s Best Ride” in 1985.

Yakima Canutt, “... the most famous person NOT from Yakima, Washington,” according to author Elizabeth Gibson, died May 24, 1986, at the age of 90 at his home in North Hollywood.

Yakima Canutt competes in the 1918 Pendleton Round-Up in his sailor whites (EO Howdyshell file photo)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Spirit of Umatilla joins the war effort

As Hitler and Hirohito expanded their empires in 1944, thousands of bombers rushed to the defense of Allied positions in the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. The citizens of Umatilla County rode into battle as well, at least in spirit, when a B17G Flying Fortress bomber joined the ranks bearing their name.

All over the U.S., Americans did their part to fund the war effort. Those who could worked in factories that provided the Allies equipment and supplies. Those who didn’t live in the factory boom towns did the next best thing: They bought war bonds to finance the conflict.

In February of 1944, Umatilla County residents received news from Guy Johnson, county war finance administrator, that a Boeing B17G Flying Fortress, the latest in high-altitude daylight precision bombers, had been put into service due to the success of local war bond sales. The “Spirit of Umatilla” had a wing span of approximately 104 feet, a top speed of more than 300 mph, carried 10 tons of bombs and could fly long missions at over 40,000 feet altitude.

Its mission was kept a secret, of course.

County war loan drive chairman George Mason also reported more discouraging news. The progress of the fourth war loan drive in Umatilla County was lagging behind previous efforts, with sales on Feb. 2 of only $49,758.75 — lowest sales for a business day since January 22. The county’s total sales for the drive had reached only $1,361,788.25, or 82 percent of the quota of $1.674 million, and sales of E bonds also were lagging. Mason encouraged all Umatilla County residents to buy as many war bonds as they could manage.

Over the course of the war, 85 million Americans purchased an estimated $185 billion in war bonds.

 EO file photo

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Assassination attempt foiled by telephone operator

Felicia Harris, a long distance telephone operator in Oakland, Calif., kept a disgruntled ex-Marine talking for more than an hour until police could trace his call and arrest him at his home for threatening the life of President Richard Nixon in 1969.

Harris, 24, a former Pendleton resident and 1963 graduate of McEwen High School in Athena, was working for Pacific Telephone Co. while saving money to attend California State College at Hayward. She had spent several summers working for Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Co. in Pendleton before moving to the Bay Area in 1968.

She received a phone call at 4:30 p.m. on July 23, 1969, from a man who asked a lot of questions about where President Nixon would appear in San Francisco before departing on a world tour. When she asked him why he wanted to hear the president, the man replied, “I don’t want to hear him. I want to see him. I’m very seriously considering taking a shot at him. I intend to kill the President.”

Harris kept him talking while signaling her supervisor, who called police. They plugged in to the line and Harris kept the man on the phone for an hour and 15 minutes while police and the Secret Service traced the call to an Oakland home. The man, George R. Donohue, 28, was still on the line with Harris when he was arrested. Officers also found a .22 caliber rifle loaded with 17 rounds of ammunition at Donohue’s home.

Donohue told Harris he was a former Marine facing a dishonorable discharge, that his marriage had failed and that he felt he would never be accepted by society. “That’s when he started talking about the ‘little guys like Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan’ doing something in life to gain recognition. He said he wanted to make himself famous and I guess that could have done it all right,” said Harris.

During his arraignment Donohue denied threatening President Nixon, saying he had discussed shooting the president with Harris but that was different than making threats. He was ordered held for psychiatric evaluation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Unique phone lines connected early Helix residents

The tiny town of Helix in Eastern Oregon has always gone its own way. Isolated among wheat fields 17 miles northeast of Pendleton, Helix boasted just 189 residents at the 2010 census. Besides farming, the largest employer in town is Helix School. And the town has maintained its own privately owned telephone company since the 1930s, which currently offers local, long distance and Internet service to its customers. But even before Helix Telephone Company was incorporated, the farming community had its own telephone system using lines that connected every family in the area: barbed wire fencing.

In March of 1903, the East Oregonian reported that Helix was planning to expand its phone service to residents in the area. Owners of phones along the eight lines centering in Helix, with a switchboard in the office of Dr. Lyman Griswold, planned to form an unincorporated company to secure better service and establish rules for the expansion of the phone system.

Dr. Griswold was happy to serve as switchboard operator whenever he was in the office, which apparently wasn’t that often. The patrons of each line met to propose a charge of 50 cents per month for every phone user, the funds to be used to pay a permanent switchboard operator. A second switchboard also was to be installed in order to expand the system from eight lines to 16, increasing the system from 46 to 150 phones by the fall of 1903.

In early 1903 the Helix phone system connected with just Athena and Adams, and though the transmissions ran through barbed wire, it was said that “a whisper can be heard 17 miles away when the weather is favorable.” Plans were already afoot for expansion to Canyon Station to the south and Wallula to the north even before the new lines were installed.

The smallest telephone company in Oregon with less than 300 access lines, Helix Telephone Company has been owned by the Gene and Betty Smith family since 1972. The current owners are sons James and Timothy Smith, who took over the business when their parents retired in 1998.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Local tribes revive Fourth of July tradition

For many years, Bill Burke wondered why, up until about 1952, the local tribes threw a big Fourth of July celebration every year. “Certainly, we didn’t have any independence,” he said. He recalled how agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs prohibited the Indians on the Umatilla Indian Reservation from speaking their native languages or practicing their native culture. Burke, son of famed chief Clarence Burke, remembered those celebrations from his youth, which included horse and foot races, spear-throwing and other contests, and dancing and drumming that lasted well into the night.

The older Burke got, the more he realized that the Fourth of July celebrations on the reservation weren’t really commemorating America’s independence at all, but were a form of subterfuge — pretending to join in the national holiday while actually celebrating their tribal heritage. “Unbeknownst to the BIA, we were able to continue traditional ways of life — story telling, speech making, the games. The BIA thought, ‘Well, look at these Indians, they are becoming civilized and they’re even willing to celebrate our nation’s birth.’”

The first of these celebrations took place at Cayuse, but eventually the activities moved closer to the BIA campus in what is now Mission when some of the non-Indian residents of the reservation started getting nervous about the dancing, whooping, drumming and rifle fire. A ring of trees circled the “July grounds,” where a big tent was set up for traditional activities: children receiving their Indian names, dancing, drumming, singing, giveaways, memorials and the rejoining of family members who had mourned the loss of a loved one for the previous year.

The annual event began to dwindle in the 1940s and early ’50s, when the men went to war and the women to work. The sacred circle of trees gradually began to disappear, overtaken by encroaching building projects and brush.

In 1992, after Burke’s annual Thanksgiving feast, he brought out a large pad of paper and invited elders to talk about the old July grounds, the activities and where families camped inside the circle of trees. They also discussed a memorial for all tribal members who had served in the armed forces.

On July 1, 1993, tent poles started going up on the old July grounds near the Mission Longhouse for the first Fourth of July celebration on the reservation in 40 years, including a horse parade and giveaway to rededicate the circle of trees, a communal feast and naming ceremony and, of course, customary dancing and drumming into the night. Tribal elder Ron Pond said reviving the celebration would show respect for their tribal heritage in a world influenced by the commercialism of the “modern-day pow-wow.”

After the construction of Wildhorse Resort and Casino in 1994, portions of the annual event were moved to the resort’s grass arena and the three-day event expanded to include dancing and drumming contests open to Indians from across the U.S., while still retaining traditional observances on the July grounds for local tribes — a blending of the old and the new.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pendleton native turned actor dies in fiery crash

Archie Twitchell was a local boy who made it to the big time. Born in Pendleton in 1906, Twitchell graduated from Pendleton High School and then made his way to Hollywood, with a goal to act in Western movies as a rider.

In his first attempt to break into the business, a casting director laughed him off the set, but called him back when he saw Twitchell’s Pendleton High School belt and asked if he had ridden in the Pendleton Round-Up. His pride bruised, Twitchell said “Yes” and then walked off the premises.

For the next 10 years Twitchell worked at odd jobs, everything from working a boiler on a steam freighter to butlering for director William Wyler, before landing a job in the film laboratory at Paramount. His fast-talking style earned him bit parts in several pictures, but it took being knocked almost unconscious to set his career on the upswing. In “Souls of the Sea” Twitchell allowed himself to be knocked from a lifeboat and into the water by Gary Cooper, and director Henry Hathaway was impressed with his natural acting ability.

Twitchell worked as an actor in Hollywood from 1937 through the mid-1950s, most notably in “Young Bill Hickock,” “Black Angel” and “The Vanishing Outpost.” He retired from acting in 1955 and put his pilot’s license to work for Douglas Aircraft.

On a clear day over Pacoima, California, on Jan. 31, 1957, a Douglas DC-7B transport plane on a test flight collided with an Air Force fighter and crashed into the Pacoima Congregational Church. As pilot William Carr struggled to control the plane, Twitchell, the copilot, transmitted the last radio message:

“Uncontrollable, uncontrollable ... midair collision. ... We are going in. ... We’ve had it, boys. I told you we should have had chutes.” A brief silence, then: “Say goodbye to everybody.”

The fighter pilot parachuted to safety. All four crewmembers of the transport plane died in the wreckage. Part of one of the DC-7B’s engines crashed through the roof of the church auditorium, destroying the building. Next door to the church, debris from the crash fell into the schoolyard of Pacoima Junior High School, killing three boys.

One of the school’s pupils that avoided the Pacoima crash was ninth-grader Richard Steven Valenzuela, who was attending his grandfather’s funeral that day. Because of the incident at his school, he developed an intense fear of flying. Ironically, Valenzuela (AKA Richie Valens) died just three days after the second anniversary of the Pacoima crash — along with fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and pilot Roger Peterson — in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pendleton teen nabs escaped convict

Mike Clemons, a 16-year-old Pendleton High School student, was watching a “Starsky and Hutch” car chase on TV at about 11:30 a.m. on July 28, 1983, when he heard real sirens not far from his home on Southwest 18th Street. Stepping outside to see what was going on, Clemons saw a man dash out from between two houses across the street with a Pendleton police officer in hot pursuit.

“Stop that man!” shouted officer Don Arbogast. So Clemons did.

He first stepped in front of the fleeing man, who pushed him aside. Clemons caught up with him again in a neighbor’s yard and tackled him to the ground. Arbogast held the man at gunpoint against a wall until help arrived to take the fugitive, James F. Chaney, into custody.

Chaney and another man, Harry D. Earle, had escaped from the Washington Penitentiary in Walla Walla after tying up a guard and the instructor of an occupational auto repair class. The men stole an MG Midget from the prison’s shop, dressed in the officers’ shirts and used the guard’s keys to unlock the prison gates.

The escaped cons were spotted in Pendleton about 11 a.m. by residents who had heard about the escape from a Walla Walla radio broadcast. A high speed chase through Pendleton ended in the Albertson’s parking lot across from the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds when the Midget crashed into at least two parked cars. Chaney, the driver, bailed out and ran, and Oregon State Police Lt. John Duggan stopped the Midget from rolling into traffic with his own patrol car. Earle cracked his head on the windshield and was detained in the car; he had two artificial legs and would not have been able to make a dash for freedom.

Clemons was sent a letter of commendation by the Pendleton Police Department for his assistance in catching Chaney. He had no plans to play football — “That’s what everyone’s been asking me” — saying he preferred theater, soccer and Dungeons and Dragons. And he didn’t consider himself a hero.

“I think most people would have done the same thing if they were in my shoes,” said Clemons. “I just happened to be the one there.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kamela’s ghost bell finally silenced

For many years, the tinkling of a bell in the forests surrounding Kamela greeted hunters and loggers traveling through the Blue Mountains east of Pendleton. The ghostly sound, and reports of voices heard among the trees, gave rise to a legend that haunted the region for many years. Those who heard the bell often kept it to themselves so as not to be branded lunatics.

Time magazine on July 16, 1951, reported that lumberjacks clearing the right-of-way for a power line from Bonneville Dam brought down a towering Ponderosa pine near the former hamlet of Kamela and found a bell attached by a shriveled leather thong to a branch high in the top of the tree. Residents of Kamela suggested that the bell might have been hung by a Swiss pioneer when the tree was very small. The hand-hammered bronze cowbell, four inches high and three inches in diameter, was cast in 1848 in the northwest Swiss town of Saignelegier by bellmaker Chiantel. The bells were said to have graced the necks of Willamette Valley dairy cattle owned by early pioneers of Oregon country, according to the book “The Bell of Kamela” by Lillian Budd, published in 1960.

After the finding of the Kamela Bell, five Portland residents came forward claiming to own one of the bells. And a July 21, 1951 article in the East Oregonian brought local bell owners out of the woodwork as well.

Several bells were in the hands of Pendleton residents. Roger Kay owned one of the bells, found by his mother in 1915 at Mohler, near Tillamook. Roy Johnson found one about 10 miles west of Ukiah at the base of a tree while on a cattle drive. George Perry and his wife found one in what they called “old trash.” And Bruce Williams, an employee of Harris Pine Mills, found one while loading sheep near Denver, Colo. He owned a collection of bells and had originally planned to learn to play them, “but I got side-tracked with other things and never learned,” he said. The Blaine Noble family of Hermiston also kept track of a pet sheep with a Saignelegier bell.

A Portland historian had another theory as to how the Kamela bell may have ended up atop the tree. She said her father, a lighthouse keeper on Puget Sound, kept 36 cows and each of them had a Saignelegier bell. As a child one of her chores was to search for lost bells in the pasture. She frequently found them tangled in small trees; she said the leather straps, after rubbing on the sharp edge of the bell’s housing, often snapped and flung the bells among the branches while the cattle grazed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

First baby born in flight claims promised gift

In 1952, while flying from Hong Kong to Seattle, Lilly Chin gave birth to a daughter, Sherry, on a DC4 over the Aleutian Islands. As the first baby in the history of flight born on an airplane, Sherry was promised a free flight to anywhere in the world when she reached adulthood.

Lilly said that during the flight she and her 22-month-old daughter Pearl were so sick they couldn’t eat or drink, and that “Sherry wanted out because she was hungry and thirsty.” Sherry was born a month premature, and when mother and daughters were taken to a Seattle hospital on landing, Lilly was woefully unprepared to care for a new infant. The doctors and nurses were more than happy to supply everything she needed.

Lilly Chin in 1975 owned the Hong Kong Cafe in Hermiston. Sherry graduated that year from the University of Oregon, where she majored in languages. And in May of 1975, she appeared before a CP Air ticket agent in Vancouver, B.C., with a 22-year-old newspaper article to claim her promised gift. Lilly said they were “wined and dined and treated like celebrities” by airline officials.

Fluent in Japanese, several dialects of Chinese and Spanish, Sherry chose to fly to Hong Kong. She planned to scope out job prospects with a goal of interpreting or teaching English in Taiwan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Confederate veterans settle early Pendleton

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Confederate flag, and whether it represents the proud history of the South or an expression of free speech for self-described rebels. But did you know that early settlers of Pendleton were veterans of the Confederate Army?

The first settlers of what is now Pendleton made their homes where Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution now stands, a place called Swift’s Crossing, when the flat where Pendleton is located was just knee-high bunchgrass, cottonwoods and a thorn thicket along the Umatilla River. The first farming attempted in the area, by William Switzler at the head of Despain Gulch, was a dismal failure.

In the fall of 1861-62 a band of miners and prospectors passing through on their way to the newly discovered gold fields in Idaho were forced to winter at the mouth of Wild Horse Creek, on the present Umatilla Indian Reservation, when they found the Blue Mountains impassable. They stayed until spring, and some, including Moses Goodwin and his wife, decided they liked the area so much they stayed put. Goodwin bought the land where Pendleton began from Abe Miller, paying a team of horses and a cow, and built the first bridge over the Umatilla (where the Main Street Bridge stands) as a toll crossing for emigrants heading west to “Oregon.”

According to a paper presented in March 1914 to the Umatilla County Historical Society by Mrs. R.N. Stanfield, a larger immigration from Missouri and Illinois settled in Umatilla County after the close of the Civil War in 1865. They were nearly all Democrats, having served in the Confederate Army. Some of the streets of Pendleton were originally named after prominent Confederate leaders: Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

Goodwin Farm was selected as the county seat, being surrounded by a populous community, though not without some agitation from Umatilla Landing on the Columbia River. Goodwin deeded his farm to the city, which was laid out in 1869, but rejected having the town named after him. It was christened Pendleton after a prominent Ohio statesman, George Hunt Pendleton, who was the democratic candidate for vice president in 1865 and much admired by the town fathers. Pendleton probably never knew of the honor bestowed on him by his fellow Democrats, and most likely never set foot in Oregon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Man 'lynched' into bathing by mob

It didn’t pay to go without bathing in Pendleton 100 years ago.

A mob of several hundred men formed on Pendleton’s Main Street July 14, 1915, with a slouching man in the center. The man had a rope around his body, and strangers and locals alike were sure there was a lynching going on.

The victim was a well-known character about town, and dirty to the point of obnoxiousness. A group of young men finally became so outraged by his filthy appearance and horrible smell that they determined to do something about it.

The man eluded capture for about an hour by loitering inside one of the downtown eateries, but he was nabbed as soon as he walked outside. A crowd of men secured him with a rope around his middle and hustled him down Main Street to Court Avenue, where they began the trek to Round-Up (now Roy Raley) Park.

At this point, Officer Scheer of the Pendleton Police Department intervened and came to the man’s rescue. About 15 minutes later, however, the mob again captured the man and hurried him into a car they had waiting on Webb Street (Emigrant Avenue). Followed by a couple of hundred gawkers on foot, the car made its way to Round-up Park.

The swimming pool was empty but a concrete basin that held water entering the park from the river was overflowing. Taking off the man’s garments, the leaders of the mob threw him into the pool, passed him a bar of soap and demanded he begin bathing. Relieved that he wasn’t being lynched, the man gave himself a thorough scrubbing until the ringleaders decided he was clean enough to emerge.

The clean patrol declared that the incident should be taken as a warning by all slovenly persons in the city.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bootlegger accidentally destroys own house

A bootlegger near Echo accidentally destroyed his own house when law enforcement came to serve a search warrant on his property during Prohibition.

Chester Cox, who lived in a two-story farmhouse about seven miles southwest of Echo, panicked when deputy sheriffs Charles Hoskins and John Arkell showed up at his home about 3 p.m. on January 18, 1928, with a search warrant. Instead of letting the officers inside, Cox dashed upstairs with a hammer and began smashing a number of jugs containing illegal moonshine whiskey.

The officers heard the destruction and forced the door open, finding the kitchen in flames. The moonshine had leaked through the ceiling onto the hot stove, igniting instantly. Hoskins and Arkell rushed upstairs and found the flames had followed the stovepipe to the second story, dooming the house.

A small amount of the liquor was saved in a dish pan as evidence and the officers hurriedly carried furniture and other household articles out of the burning house. Cox reportedly refused to save anything other than his bed, and also attempted to destroy the evidence of his moonshining activities. He resisted when the officers arrested him, but was eventually handcuffed and taken to Pendleton, where he was lodged in the county jail.

Cox pleaded guilty to charges of possession of intoxicating liquor, and he was sentenced in Echo justice court to 60 days in jail and a $250 fine.

The home was completely destroyed.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Crime spree foiled near Heppner

Margaret Havely was slightly hysterical when a rescue party forced its way into a cabin where she was being held and caught one of her kidnappers, well, napping.

State Police Sgt. N.W. Smith reported Alvin Dahl, 17, had an arsenal of nine rifles and shotguns and four revolvers, all of them fully loaded, in the cabin 15 miles from Hardman in the Blue Mountains when law enforcement arrived. “It’s lucky for us that he was asleep,” Smith said.

The rescue captured the last of three young men who had kidnapped Mrs. Havely from Portland in the midst of a score of robberies and burglaries that ended October 7, 1946, in Heppner. Dahl’s partners in crime, James W. Neal, 24, and Ernest W. Avery, 21, were arrested by City Marshal Charles Gomillion and Deputy Russell Wright at a Heppner gas station after a tip from a Condon store owner, who had recognized Avery the previous day, focused the search for the serial burglars on central Oregon. The trio was returned to Portland to face charges of kidnapping and burglary.

In addition to absconding with Mrs. Havely, the gunmen robbed her brother-in-law’s cafe in Portland and then drove east along the Columbia River Highway, committing crimes along the way. Francis F. Vause of Pendleton was robbed of $50 cash and his car Sept. 28 near Hinkle after offering Avery and Neal a ride; the men bound and gagged Vause and left him at the Fred McMurry ranch near Arlington after looting it. The pair also struck the Jim Han and Dazell ranches near Hardman while holed up at the cabin near the Harry French ranch west of Heppner.

Sgt. Smith reported that most of the loot from the burglaries, including several hundred dollars, was recovered.

Mrs. Havely was reunited with her husband at the home of Morrow County Sheriff C.F. Bauman, who led the rescue party. She said she used her feminine wiles to ward off attacks by the men. “I begged and pleaded and I guess my tears and my prayers  protected me. For they never did me actual harm. They never laid hands on me,” Havely said.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tiny guests move into swinging home

Spring is the time for new beginnings, and one of the most ubiquitous signs of spring is nesting birds. They build their homes in a variety of places: trees, under the eaves of roofs, and even in houses provided by helpful humans. But one set of parenting birds in 1990 built their home in a most precarious  place  — on top of a wind chime.

Arnold and Arlene Schiller first noticed the pair of Rufos hummingbirds fluttering around the porch of their home on Southwest Hailey Avenue in Pendleton in early June. The nest, built of spider webs and grass, was perched on the top of the wind chime, where it swung freely in the breeze. “That nest must be on there pretty good because the wind blows it around like crazy. They must like the swinging,” said Arnold.

Usually, hummingbirds are a frenzy of activity, flying upward, downward, backward and forward on wings that beat more than 70 times per second. On June 22, 1990, the female hummingbird was firmly planted on the nest, which the Schillers said contained two or three navy bean-sized eggs. Bill Jacobson, biology instructor at Blue Mountain Community College, said the birds sometimes will have two broods, each with one to three eggs, which hatch after a 20-day brooding cycle. Rufos hummingbirds, which usually breed and nest in the forest or on brushy slopes, winter in the southwest as far as south central Mexico.

The Schillers said they hadn’t changed their lifestyle much since the arrival of their tiny guests. They put up a feeder, and they didn’t let kids come up on the porch. And, of course, they kept the cats away.

“They really are a lot of company,” said Arlene. “They will fly up and look though the window at us.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Man saved from death by fancy ropework

Round-Up roping champs, move over.

A workman hurtling to his death from the 14th floor of the Loop Hotel in Chicago was saved when a coworker caught him with a loop of rope in a one-in-a-million rescue April 10, 1946.

James Anderson, 29, swung out on a rope from the scaffolding on the 15th floor of the partially finished hotel, intending to lower himself to a 14th floor window to enter the building and pick up his tools at quitting time. He lost a glove and suddenly began to plummet to the street.

Coworker Philip Walsh, a 53-year-old tuck pointer, grabbed the rope from which Anderson had fallen, twirled it in a wide circle and jerked. The rope, corkscrewing in the air, looped around Anderson’s body and braked his descent. Anderson slid the length of the rope with the loose loop around him but lost his grip at the second floor and fell the rest of the way to the ground.

Walsh rode down the elevator and found Anderson sitting up in the street. Anderson was rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital, where attendants said he suffered from nothing but rope burns.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hero laid to rest after Indian uprising at Camas Prairie

On the 20th of October, 1878, a hero was laid to rest in Pendleton’s pioneer cemetery. The remains of J.C. Lamar (also reported as William Lamar) were interred with a large number of Pendleton residents in attendance, and many in the crowd swore vengeance on those responsible for his death and subsequent mutilation.

Lamar came to Pendleton in the winter of 1877 and soon established himself in Pendleton society. When the news came in July of 1878 that hostile Indians were encroaching on the John Day River, Lamar was one of a large scouting party that decided to go to Camas Prairie to find out what the Bannock and Paiute warriors were up to. Frightened settlers had flooded into Pendleton, and were camped in every available vacant spot, including the courthouse lawn.

The scouting party arrived at Camas Prairie July 4, and met the advance guard of the Indian warriors. After killing one of the Indians, the scouting party fell back and held a meeting, deciding to return to settled territory because about half of the men present had less than 10 rounds of ammunition apiece. But before the meeting was over, a band of 100 well-armed Indians suddenly appeared on three sides of the party. A handful of men, including Lamar, decided to stay put and fight. The rest of the scouting party panicked, “and were not particular upon the order of their going.”

Lamar and his few supporters were finally forced to flee, and Lamar took up his place at the rear of the retreat but continued to urge his companions to make a stand. He did what he could, however, returning fire shot for shot for eight miles as often as he could load and shoot his rifle.

Upon arriving in Pendleton, Lamar enlisted Captain Sperry’s Company of Volunteers and returned to meet the Indians the next day. The company camped at Willow Springs on July 6 and, while at dinner, were surprised by the hostiles. About a quarter of the company was separated from the rest and fled; Lamar was among those who stayed and fought. One of two men killed in the battle, Lamar’s body was mutilated and burned by the Indian combatants.

The first news to reach the outside world was when 13 survivors of the battle arrived in Pendleton July 7. Major Throckmorton, just arrived from Umatilla with a company of U.S. cavalry, sent Captain Bernard with a small force to aid the volunteers and the Indians were routed by the use of mountain howitzers. The war was over.

The conflict was short, but disastrous: Altogether, more than 50 stockmen, ranchers and sheep herders were killed and $500,000 in damage was sustained in burned buildings, unharvested crops and dead or stolen livestock. Much of the blame was placed on Snake River Indians, but reports that local Umatilla Indians were involved caused an uproar and censure of the federal agent in charge of the reservation, J.C. Cornoyer.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Orphaned children stay together with help from local service clubs

Janet Goon was determined to keep her family together.

Janet, just 18 years old and a Pendleton High School senior in 1970, became the head of the household in February of that year when her mother died after a two-year battle with cancer and her father, deeply depressed over the death of his wife, apparently took his own life. With the help of a guardian, Roberta Furlong, Janet found a small house where she could take care of her siblings Dennis, 16, Lydia, 10, and Garry, 5. Another sibling, Ruby, 12, lived with her godmother in Canada.

The family home on Southwest Goodwin Avenue had been damaged by a fire and was falling down. Furlong found a little house the Goons could rent, bought some used appliances and helped the family get settled. Janet participated in a head start program for parents over the summer where she learned to sew, got good nutrition advice in cooking, and learned to swim.

By October Janet was attending Blue Mountain Community College on a scholarship, working toward a career in computers. At home, she was in charge of the cooking, making sure her siblings were getting their homework done and taking care of the laundry. Every child did their share, even Garry, whose talent was folding sacks.

The struggling family lived on Social Security benefits and eventually veteran’s benefits, but were determined to avoid welfare, which would split the siblings up into foster homes. So the Pendleton Jaycees and the Veterans of Foreign Wars stepped in to help the Goons. Volunteers, including boys from the Umatilla County Boys Ranch, organized a huge rummage sale and auction for the benefit of the Goon children that brought in almost $1,100.

An email from the wife of Janet’s son Samuel Catherson tells the rest of her story. Janet joined the Army and became a special investigator for San Francisco, and a martial arts master. She had two sons, who were 12 and 15 when she passed away in 1993 from cancer. Her sons went to live with their father after their mother’s death, and both eventually served in the Army as well. Samuel read his mother's story in a faded copy of the original East Oregonian article on May 8, 2015 — 21 years after her death — when the family received a box of her belongings that had been “lost” for years.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Two-year search for missing boy ends in mystery

A family outing in July 1906 turned to tragedy when a four-year-old boy went missing in the Blue Mountains east of Weston, Oregon. Cecil Brittain, son of R.L. Brittain of Walla Walla, disappeared after he wandered away from his family near Tollgate on Weston Mountain July 15, 1906.

Local authorities from Milton requisitioned a set of bloodhounds from the Walla Walla penitentiary, who traced the child to Looking Glass Creek, near the store at Tollgate where Cecil had bought candy before wandering off. Local residents were concerned that wild animals might carry the boy away, and a crowd of men combed the woods looking for him, to no avail.

The boy’s father left no stone unturned in his search. In September, a clairvoyant dreamed that Cecil was hidden in the Bowman Hotel in Pendleton, and Pendleton police searched the premises. While they did find several people who were not listed on the hotel register, they did not find the boy. Major Lee Moorhouse investigated a tip from a Touchet, Wash., man in October who said an Indian on the reservation near Adams might have some information on Cecil’s whereabouts. Mr. Brittain traveled to New Mexico in November to investigate a snapshot sent to him, but the boy in the photo was not his son.

A search of East Oregonian archives showed no progress on the case through 1907. But in March of 1908 the Brittains raised the reward for their son’s return to $2,500 and, on March 27, a man came forward saying he had knowledge about the boy’s disappearance — but only if he was paid for the information. James Breen had been arrested for check fraud and forgery perpetrated in Spokane, and while jailed in Pendleton claimed he knew about Cecil Brittain’s whereabouts. His claims were weakened by the fact that he was a known felon who had spent time in prison for cattle rustling and other crimes. Breen claimed he was living in the Blue Mountains in the Tollgate area at the time the boy disappeared, and demanded payment for his information, saying “he was merely thinking of the future of his wife; that if he got this money it would be used to care for her.”

Mrs. Brittain, in the meantime, traveled to Spokane to investigate a boy found near Marshall, Wash., who was said to be very like her son. While the boy looked very much like Cecil, and seemed to be familiar with the area where the Brittain boy disappeared, his identity could not be confirmed. When confronted with the idea that he was Cecil Brittain, the boy became frightened and hid in the bushes, leading the Brittains to the conclusion that he may have been coached to deny any association with them. The EO reported that, regardless, the Brittains had decided to bring the lad home with them to Walla Walla.

James Breen, however, did not give up in his quest to claim the reward. He convinced the Brittains that he knew where the boy was, and promised on Aug. 19  he would meet them at a camp outside of Walla Walla to hand Cecil over to them. It was unclear whether any money changed hands. Breen didn’t make the rendezvous as planned, and the Brittains went home empty-handed. Breen quietly slipped back into town the following evening and was arrested by Walla Walla police at the East End Saloon while reading about his own escapades in the newspaper. He claimed the Brittains had left the camp too early, and that he had left the child with a friend (who he refused to name) near Fletcher Mill before returning to town. The Brittains were heartbroken.

A search of EO archives did not turn up any further information about the fate of Cecil Brittain.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Whiskey-soaked policemen go on drunken rampage

During Prohibition, lawmen across the country were tasked with tracking down and confiscating alcohol, but the illegal booze wasn’t always destroyed after it was seized. In July of 1926, in the midst of Prohibition, two Oklahoma officers went on a drunken rampage after partaking of whiskey taken in a raid and busted up three rooming houses before being brought down by fellow officers.

The trouble started in the early morning hours of July 20 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, when deputy sheriff Paul Davis and city detective Ves Cormack broke into the Maple Leaf rooming house at 1 a.m., brandishing revolvers and threatening the guests. Sleeping men were shot and clubbed and the fixtures of the house were wrecked before the drunken officers moved next door to the Antlers hotel, where the guests were brutalized in a similar manner.

A “riot call” went out and a squad of detectives caught up with their drunken brethren in the Tulsa hotel. Davis and Cormack had by this time run out of ammunition and were wielding clubs against anyone they encountered. The squad found Davis holding a dozen officers at bay in one end of the hall while Cormack was cornered in another section of the hotel. Cormack was taken into custody without incident, but as the officers were leading Davis away he grasped a club from Officer Conway, a merchant policeman, and beat him over the head with it while at the same time pinning another officer’s gun hand. Conway was able to get free and shot Davis, mortally wounding him.

In all, thirteen men were shot or clubbed during the reign of terror, and five were taken to the hospital, including Davis.

When officers searched the auto used by the rampaging duo, they found a quart bottle full of whiskey and a half dozen empties.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pendleton drone industry began with local hobbyist

Pendleton is home to one of Oregon state’s new UAV test sites, and the drone industry here is gearing up in a big way. But Pendleton’s involvement in military drone technology started 13 years ago, thanks to a local resident. A Pendleton hobbyist who started building remote-controlled planes in 1992 was recruited by the U.S. Navy following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to research and develop UAVs — unmanned aerial vehicles — to attack and spy on enemies of the U.S.

Jim Conachen was building remote-controlled planes for a living out of his garage when the September 11 attacks nudged him to approach the armed forces with an offer to build a remote-controlled attack plane. He was contracted to develop three UAVs: a target plane, a surveillance unit and a strike unit. The military in 2002 didn’t have experience with robotic or remote-controlled vehicles, and turned to hobbyists like Conachen for help. Conachen joked that the military didn’t even know there were jet-powered remote-control planes that could travel as fast as 300 miles per hour. “They were playing catch up ... they were so far behind us it wasn’t funny,” Conachen added.

The target plane, made of fiberglass, was designed to travel 150 miles per hour — at least, until shot down by Navy stinger missiles. He was reluctant to discuss the other two planes he was developing for fear a competitor would steal his ideas, but he said both would have stealth capabilities. He added that his surveillance planes would be used for border control. His contract with the Navy was about 300 drones per year, but there was a chance he would be making up to 1,000 strike planes annually. He was planning a move from his garage to a larger space, and hiring more help.

Conachen, a veteran who served in the Army with anti-terror units in the Middle East from 1978 to 1984, also was a licensed pilot and would fly “anything.”

Conachen Aviation is still in business, building custom UAVs for private and corporate customers. The main office is located in Spokane, Wash., with a hangar is located outside Sandpoint, Idaho.

Escaped monkeys foiled by banana bait

Three escaped Rhesus monkeys who wreaked havoc in Pendleton in June 1951 were finally captured by a crafty housewife and a handful of bananas. The monkeys were part of a carload of animals from a disbanded circus in the Midwest that were en route to a zoo in Everett, Wash., and were involved in an accident on Emigrant Hill that also briefly set an elephant loose on Umatilla Indian Reservation land.

The monkeys escaped from a cage at the Round-Up caretaker’s house June 10, 1951, when he opened the cage to feed them. Two of the monkeys took up residence in the trees near the E.O. Stratton and Forrest Zirkle homes on Northwest Eighth Street. A third monkey was discovered at the Dean Oliver home on Southwest 18th Street on June 13.

Mrs. Oliver saw the monkey in her yard and, after a little thought, lured the monkey into the garage with a trail of breakfast cereal. Police caged the relatively tame animal and took the “two-apartment” cage to Northwest Eighth in an attempt to round up the other two, who were eventually lured into the cage with bits of broken banana. All three monkeys were put on display in their cage on the lawn of the police station.

One of the monkeys, which had been given to the police by the driver of the truck as repayment for taking care of the animals after the crash, escaped again June 26 after a grass fire near the Vern Hollinsworth home on Southwest Seventh Street endangered him. Mrs. Hollinsworth opened the cage door and he followed her to the porch, where she chained him.

The monkey broke loose from the chain on the arrival of Officer Clifford Murray and escaped into the trees, and for several hours policemen tried everything they could think of to lure him back to the cage. Tear gas backfired, as the monkey avoided it and it blew back onto the officers, driving them away. Oranges doped with knockout drops only gave the monkey “a cheap drunk.” Finally, officers Bryan Branstetter and Orville Simmons gave up when their shift ended at 8 a.m., leaving youngsters Jerry Lane and Diana Johnson to man the trap.

Jerry attached a cord to the door of a cage baited with cookies. The monkey entered once and, when the door stayed open, returned again for more food. Jerry slammed the door shut on the second foray and the monkey was back in custody. The monkey was moved to a bigger, permanent cage and Jerry and Diane each earned a dollar for their help.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pendleton lawmen capture Los Angeles killer near Echo

A nationwide manhunt was brought to a close near Echo in December 1927 when two Pendleton lawmen captured William Edward “The Fox” Hickman. Hickman was wanted for the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Marian Parker of Los Angeles, and was on the run when state police officer C.L. “Buck” Lieuallen and Pendleton police chief Tom Gurdane stopped his stolen car just outside of Echo on December 22.

Marian Parker disappeared from her school in Los Angeles December 15, 1927, after she was released with a note saying she was needed at home. Hickman allegedly picked her up outside the school and then delivered a ransom note to the girl’s father, signed “The Fox.” The father agreed to the ransom and paid it, and the kidnapper said he would drive down the street and let Marian out of the car. Marian’s father was following the kidnapper’s vehicle and saw a bundle tossed out of the car. He found his daughter’s dismembered body inside the bundle. The kidnapper was quickly identified as William Hickman, a Los Angeles resident originally from Kansas City.

Early investigation of the kidnapping and murder was slow until a $20 bill known to be part of the ransom turned up in Seattle. A green Hudson sedan also was stolen in the area at about the same time. A service station attendant in Portland identified Hickman as someone who had bought gas there on December 22, and he told police the car was headed east. A short time later the East Oregonian received a report from the Associated Press about the sighting of Hickman, and editor E.B. Aldrich phoned local and county police with the news.

Sheriff R.T. Cookingham set up in Umatilla in case Hickman decided to head north. Chief Gurdane and Officer Lieuallen pulled up near Echo and were just lighting their pipes when the green Hudson drove by, heading east. Lieuallen took up the chase and soon pulled up next to Hickman at 40 mph with Gurdane on the running board, pointing a pistol at the other driver. Hickman pulled over and when Gurdane pulled open the Hudson’s door a pistol dropped to the floorboard from where Hickman was holding it between his knees. He surrendered without a struggle and was taken to Pendleton, where he was lodged in the jail.

Newspaper reporters from around the country descended on Pendleton for the story, and hundreds of people crowded into the jail to get a look at the prisoner. Hickman was taken back to Los Angeles where he was tried, convicted and hanged.

Gurdane and Lieuallen also traveled to Los Angeles, where they were feted by officials, motion picture celebrities and others. They took the stage at the Pantages theater in LA and later San Francisco, where they described the arrest and lectured on law enforcement in front of hundreds of people. They also split a $5,000 reward for Hickman’s capture.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Famous Cayuse twins overcome ‘bad medicine’ superstition

Some of the most well-known photographs taken by Major Lee Moorhouse were those of the famous Cayuse Twins, Tox-e-lox and A-lom-pum, daughters of Cayuse chief Ha-hots-mox-mox (Yellow Grizzly Bear). The photos, presented as a set, show the girls as infants in cradleboards: somberly studying the photographer in the first, and crying in the second. The photos became a financial windfall for Moorehouse in the early 1900s and brought worldwide attention to the Cayuse people. But the chief had to do some fast talking when they were born because of a superstition brought about by another set of twins that almost caused the decimation of the tribe before the arrival of white men to their land.

More than a century before the birth of Tox-e-lox and A-lom-pum, another set of twin girls was born to the Cayuse chief Qui-a-min-som-keen and his wife. As they grew up they became the loveliest maidens in the country, and not only the men of the Cayuse tribe but Walla Walla, Yakama and Nez Perce warriors sought to win the girls as brides. Their fame spread across the Blue Mountains to the Bannock tribe of the Grande Ronde Valley, the hereditary enemies of the Cayuse, and two Bannock chieftains crossed the mountains to assess these beauties for themselves. Seeing the rumors of the girls’ beauty were true, the chieftains managed to kidnap the twins, carry them back to their home country and marry them.

The Cayuse declared war on the Bannocks, and attempted to enlist the Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes to their cause. But the Bannocks heard of the declaration and moved swiftly, meeting 700 Cayuse warriors with 1,000 of their own at the site of present-day Umatilla. A desperate fight followed and many were killed on both sides, but the Bannocks had superior numbers and only a fierce wind storm brought the battle to a halt. After the wind abated and the air cleared of dust and sand, both sides attempted to return to the battle but were again stopped by a heavy rain and hail storm.

The superstitious tribes retreated and consulted their medicine men. A Bannock approached the Cayuse camp and said the Great Spirit had advised his tribe to compensate the Cayuse for the twins with a large gift of ponies. The peace offering was accepted, more for fear of the wrath of the Great Spirit than a desire for material gain. The opposing sides buried their dead in a common grave and departed for their homes.

But the trials of the Cayuse were not over. Their journey home was overshadowed by an intense thunder and lightning storm, and on returning to their encampment the medicine men were told to learn the cause of the Great Spirit’s wrath. After a time they reported the Great Spirit was displeased because the Cayuse had permitted the twins to live, and ordered all future twin girls must be killed at birth, or misfortune would overtake the tribe again.

Ha-hots-mox-mox was an enlightened man, and desperate to save his daughters. He told the tribe that he had been shown a vision while on a hunt on the Little Minam. He said the Great Spirit had promised him twins that would bring good fortune to the whole tribe. Visions being important to the Indian people, the girls were allowed to live.

The girls were joined by twin brothers when they were 15 years old. Major Moorhouse lost no time in adding a photo of the new twins to his collection, but he was unable to make them cry; the mother was present and it is said Moorhouse feared to resort to poking them with a stick, as he was rumored to have done with the girls (but vehemently denied).

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WW II bomber crashes kill 14 near Pendleton, Boise

During World War II, Pendleton was a training site for bomber crews supporting the war effort in the South Pacific. A pair of crashes killed 14 men and injured two more on March 16, 1942, when B-17 Flying Fortress bombers went down between Pendleton and Boise, Idaho, during separate routine night training exercises from the Pendleton air base. A second crash happened just 10 days later, but all 10 crewmen parachuted to safety.

One of the B-17s crashed three miles southwest of Gowen Field, near Boise, at approximately 2:30 a.m. on March 16. Four men were killed in the crash, and two men were seriously injured. One of the flyers killed in the crash was 2nd Lt. Charles Hosford III, of Butler, Pennsylvania, the pilot of the bomber. The 25-year-old Hosford had been married just a month before in the Pendleton base’s chapel to Helen Pruitt of Pendleton, and celebrated his birthday the day before the crash took his life.

The second bomber crashed 20 miles south of Pendleton in the Blue Mountains, and salvage crews struggled through the snow to recover the wreckage and the bodies of the 10 crew members, who all perished instantly in the crash. The wreckage was strewn over a mile-wide area after the plane hit one ridge and then caromed across the canyon to the other side. Only parts of the tail and one wing were found intact.

A third Flying Fortress crashed shortly after takeoff on March 26, landing a half mile from the home of Jack Shafer, who owned a ranch six miles northeast of Pendleton, near Adams. Shafer first caught sight of the plane traveling at about 5,000 feet with smoke trailing from its motors. A few moments later the 10-man crew bailed out and parachuted safely to the ground. The plane then went into a left spiral and crashed to earth “like a ball of flame,” according to Shafer, strewing wreckage over a half-mile area. The first Army men to reach the crash site were six African American privates from an infantry division stationed at Walla Walla, who were en route to Walla Walla from Pendleton when the crash occurred. They took charge of the scene and stood guard duty until the crash crews could arrive from Pendleton Field.

On a lighter note, one of the sergeants involved in the March 26 crash complained, “With all that territory to land in, I had to light on a barbed wire fence and tear my pants.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shower of rocks baffles police

Pendleton police were baffled when a resident of 1802 West Railroad Street [S.W. Frazer Ave.] reported a rain of rocks, pebbles and sticks falling onto the roof of their house, apparently out of thin air, on April 2, 1915.

The house was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Henderson Crowner, their daughter Helen and Eldon Hutchinson, the 16-year-old cousin of Mrs. Crowner. Sometime during the afternoon of April 2, Mrs. Crowner, Helen and Eldon heard what sounded like stones hitting the roof of the house. When they went outside to investigate, rocks ranging in size from pebbles to boulders were rolling off the slanted roof to the ground. A search turned up no one who could have been throwing rocks on the roof, and the shower continued while the investigation was being made, seemingly coming from all directions.

Alarmed, Mrs. Crowner called the police. Chief Kearney arrived soon afterward, but was unable to locate the cause of the shower. The barrage continued at intervals throughout the evening and the next morning, and the next day the police returned to continue their search for the source of the rocks, to no avail.

A neighbor, Ben Pierce, who lived at 501 Maple Street [S.W. 16th St.], was skeptical about the story until he witnessed it with his own eyes. Pierce described rocks rolling to the ground off both sides of the roof, but said he was unable to see any of the missiles until they were within a few feet of the roof. Sticks were also strewn about the roof. He went inside the house and found stones, chips and a handful of dirt that had come down the chimney. Another neighbor, Thelma Coffman, had a boulder the size of a man’s head land near her feet, but it hardly dented the ground. When another rock hit her in the head she “felt it no more than if it had been a feather bag.”

The house, a small three-bedroom building with no attic, sat by itself in the center of a large lot. High bluffs rose behind it about 50 feet away with several clumps of bushes at the base, but the police beat the bushes and found no one hiding there. According to neighbors, anyone throwing stones from that distance would have cracked the shingles, but no such damage was found on inspection of the roof. And there was no way for anyone to hide on the roof itself.

The incident frightened the house’s occupants so much that they refused to sleep there. A search of the East Oregonian archives did not turn up any information that the mystery was ever solved.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Celilo Canal opening includes wedding, christening

When the Celilo Canal was opened in the spring of 1915, it opened the Pacific Northwest to river shipping from the Pacific Ocean to Spokane, Washington, and Lewiston, Idaho. Prior to the building of the 8.6-mile-long canal and locks, movement of passengers and goods from points east of The Dalles on the Columbia and Snake rivers to Portland was difficult and dangerous, requiring passage over two sets of rapids and Celilo Falls or a tedious portage around them. And any large boat that traversed the dangerous narrows toward the sea had no way to return upstream.

The first steam ships traversed the new passage on April 28, 1915. The “Inland Empire” headed downstream carrying a cargo of 15,000 pounds of wool and the “J.N. Teal” steamed upstream with a load of chartered guests — the first ship ever to navigate that portion of the Columbia from west to east. The two ships passed in the lower lock amid pandemonium as the ships’ passengers and hundreds of others who had arrived by auto and the Portage railway celebrated the momentous occasion.

The steamer “Undine,” which had left April 29 to make the first continuous trip from Portland to Lewiston, arrived there on May 3 for a celebration that included the governors of Oregon, Idaho and Washington, a number of U.S. senators and representatives and many mayors and other local notables. On the return trip the “Undine” stopped at many communities to participate in festivities celebrating the opening of river shipping throughout the Inland Empire.

Pasco and Kennewick, Washington, combined for a celebration on May 4 that included an “allegorical wedding” of the Columbia and Snake rivers, complete with a bride (Kate Williams of Kennewick as “Miss Columbia”), a groom (Frank A. Jones as “Mr. Snake”), bridesmaids and groomsmen representing Spokane, Pendleton, Walla Walla and North Yakima, and Washington Sen. Wesley L. Jones to perform the ceremony. Following a parade in Pasco, the “wedding” was performed in a grove of trees on the Kennewick side of the confluence of the rivers.

Umatilla threw a huge party attended by hundreds of locals including most of the populations of Hermiston, Echo and Stanfield and 200 people who arrived from Pendleton and points east by special train. In addition to an inspection of the “Undine” and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ steamship “Asotin,” the celebration included a recreation of an attack by Indians on Fort Umatilla and an outdoor dance. Every home in Umatilla opened its doors to give beds to strangers attending the festivities. The “Undine” and “Asotin” continued downstream at 5:30 a.m. the next morning on the way to Big Eddy and the Celilo Canal ceremonies.

A highlight of the official opening ceremonies on May 5, attended by a reported 10,000 people, was the christening of the canal with water from cities on the Columbia River and each of its tributaries, including Astoria (Pacific Ocean); Lewiston (Snake); Pasco-Kennewick (Columbia); Pateros, Wash. (Methow); Okanogan, Wash. (Okanogan); Spokane, Wash. (Spokane); Kooskia, Idaho (Clearwater); Whitebird, Idaho (Salmon); Palouse, Wash. (Palouse); Walla Walla (Walla Walla); Pendleton (Umatilla); Bend (Deschutes); Hood River (Hood); Underwood, Wash. (White Salmon); Claskanie, Wash. (Claskanie); Kalama, Wash. (Kalama); Vale (Malheur); Kelso, Wash. (Cowlitz); Owyhee, Ore. (Owyhee); Warrenton (Youngs); Thompson, Mont. (Flathead); Portland (Willamette); John Day (John Day); Eugene (Mackenzie); Corvallis (Mary’s); Albany (Calapooia); Lebanon (Santiam); McMinnville (Yamhill); Oregon City (Clackamas); Willamette (Tualatin); Troutdale (Sandy); Washougal, Wash. (Washougal); Sand Point, Idaho (Pend d’Oreille); Bonners Ferry, Idaho (Kootenai); Buena Vista, Ore. (Luckiamute); and Lyle, Wash. (Klickitat).