Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Muddy kneeprint leads to killer’s capture

Persistent police work and a corduroy kneeprint in a muddy river bank led to the arrest of a teenage Pendleton boy in a shocking murder case in October 1943.

June Reiman, a 16-year-old resident of the McKay Creek district five miles south of Pendleton, left her home Oct. 3, 1943, armed with a .22 rifle. She told her family she was going to hunt along the creek, but when she hadn’t returned by sunset a search party was formed. Her partially nude body was found just 150 feet from the family home in a grassy, brushy area at about 8 p.m. that evening. A blow to the head and asphyxia from blood in her lungs were determined to be the cause of death. There were no signs of a struggle, and the rifle was not found with her body.

A manhunt was begun, but clues were scarce. Local, county and state investigators joined the search, and the .22 rifle June had been carrying was found the next evening in a pool of water about 150 feet away from where June’s body was discovered. The gun’s stock was partly broken, indicating that it was likely the weapon used to strike her head. A medical examiner’s inquest into June’s death revealed that, although an attempt had been made to attack her, no sexual assault had been committed. A 60-year-old man found walking along the highway near the murder scene was held by police for questioning, but he was not charged with a crime and was eventually released.

June’s funeral was held Oct. 6 with schoolmates from Pendleton High School serving as pallbearers and singers.

Almost a week later, Pendleton police arrested a 14-year-old boy and charged him with June’s murder. Ronald Elder, a ninth grader and neighbor of June’s on McKay Creek, was identified as a suspect after a confidential tip that he had come home the night of the murder with wet feet. After his arrest, Elder was taken to the riverbank where the impression of corduroy trousers had been found in the mud. Elder immediately confessed to the killing in front of three police officers. Elder said he had come across June the afternoon of her death and they had walked along the creek bank together, planning to shoot fish in the deeper pools in the creek. She had allowed him to carry her rifle. He was walking behind her, he said, when suddenly an uncontrollable urge to kill her came over him. He pointed the rifle at the back of her head and fired.

After June fell to the ground, Elder turned her onto her back and started to undress her, but a noise in the bushes startled him and he ran, crossing the creek and tossing the rifle into a nearby pool — but he slipped, and went down on one knee on the bank. He returned to the highway where he had left his bicycle and returned home. He later joined the search party, coming near her body twice during the evening.

Elder denied having clubbed June with the rifle, and eventually led officers to the recovery of a single .22 shell casing near the crime scene. But the autopsy revealed no trace of a bullet. Despite the discrepancy, Elder was charged with second-degree murder.

Ronald Elder pleaded guilty to the murder of June Reiman on Nov. 16, 1943, and was sentenced to a mandatory life prison sentence. Instead of serving his sentence in the Oregon State Prison, Elder was held in the state prison hospital due to his age. State penitentiary warden George Alexander said he had not made plans for Elder’s education, but thought maybe they could make a dentist out of him in perhaps five or six years. He would be eligible for parole after serving seven years of his sentence.

Elder eventually was freed from prison, married and had a family. He died Oct. 29, 2004, at the age of 75 as the result of injuries from a car accident.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Poor aim saves three lives in shooting fracas

The week running up to Christmas 1910 was an exciting one when a man ran amok in downtown La Grande with a gun. But not a single person was injured.

It was business as usual in the downtown La Grande shopping district on Dec. 23, 1910, when Earl West, a wood cutter, arrived on North Fir Street in front of the Dutley Bakery and across from the Julius Fisher saloon. He was carrying a 45-60 short-barreled Winchester and, according to the La Grande Observer, was “intoxicated and mean and probably crazed by drink.”

West first aimed at a passing buggy just a few feet away carrying two women, firing off two shots in rapid succession. Passers-by gasped in horror, but somehow both bullets went wild, probably burying themselves somewhere in the nearby railroad yard.

Incensed by his failure, West then whirled around and set his sights on Ray Baun, who had frozen in his tracks when the first cannonade went off. Baun was just a few feet away when West jacked another shell into the chamber and pulled the trigger.

But nothing happened. The third shell stuck in the breech.

While West frantically tried to return his weapon to working order, saloon owner Julius Fisher and a hastily formed posse overpowered him. West was taken to the city jail to sleep off his drunken rampage.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Novel weapon used in Pendleton holdup

An East Oregonian employee walking through Pendleton in December of 1898 was accosted by three “holdup” men employing a very different kind of weapon.

W.L. Shiverick, the secretary and treasurer of the Pendleton newspaper, was walking down Webb Street (Southeast Emigrant Avenue) toward the newspaper office, then located on the corner of Webb and Main streets, around 7 p.m. on Dec. 8, 1898. At a point halfway between the Pendleton Woolen Mills and the Robert Forster planing mill and sash factory, Shiverick noticed three burly men in a farm wagon “pulled by two fleet footed plow horses ... dashing up Webb street at a rate not less than four miles an hour.”

As the wagon pulled alongside Shiverick, one of the “highwaymen” fell out of the wagon, grasping at his pistol pocket as he hit the ground. He advanced on his nervous target and uttered a blood-curdling challenge: “Who (hic) goes there?”

Shiverick recognized the man as someone who was behind on his newspaper subscription payment, and blustered, “I’ve a bill against you, sir, for $4.80 for the weekly.”

His challenge silenced the man for a time, but then, recovering his courage, the would-be holdup man continued his attack. “Zhat don’t make (hic) any (hic) differensh. You got (hic) to take a drink.” Drawing the pistol from his pocket, he shoved it into Shiverick’s face with a command to drink. The pistol was loaded to the muzzle with cream whiskey.

To save his skin, Shiverick complied with the demand, and the “highwaymen” continued on their way. The EO employee then hunted up a policeman and related his harrowing tale.

Law enforcement immediately began a search for the trio, having no clues to their identities except their full names, addresses, physical and mental condition at the time of the attack, and their current whereabouts.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Body found in Columbia defies identification

Two Eastern Oregon men stopping at the Columbia River near Wallula in November 1923 to refill the radiator of their car discovered a skeleton with a fractured skull in the river, weighted down with rocks.

Clarence A. Gibbs and John Fehlen found the skeleton Nov. 4, 1923, in a back eddy about 15 miles east of Umatilla, between a rock and an old log that was partially buried in the sand. Rocks were piled on the body, and the action of the water had worn away most of the flesh. Even the clothing was mostly gone. A fracture on the left side of the skull, a broken jaw and several missing teeth pointed to death by violent means.
Umatilla County Sheriff Zoeth Houser and county coroner J.T. Brown recovered the remains and what was left of the clothing. The body had been dressed in men’s outer clothing, including a mackinaw, blue vest and overalls, but the undergarments found led them to believe the deceased was a woman. The coroner determined the body had been in the water at least six months, and possibly as many as 10.

The Umatilla County district attorney received information that a man and a woman appeared in May 1923 at a house near where the body was found and asked for food. A hobo camp had existed a short distance up the river from the crime scene at the time the couple was seen in the area.

A Baker-area couple, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Rogers, heard about the discovery and thought maybe it was their daughter, Edna Pitman, whom they had not heard from in months. Edna and her husband, Elgin Pitman, had lived near Echo for a time before disappearing. The Rogerses gave the coroner some identifying characteristics to look for on the skeleton, including curved finger and toe bones, a nicked tooth and a scar on the shin bone from an accident with an axe, all of which were confirmed by the coroner upon examination of the skeletal remains.

Edna’s parents said they did not like their son-in-law, and rumors were that he bragged about reuniting with her after a short separation so that he could kill her. Law enforcement immediately began a search for Elgin Pitman.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 19, the sheriff’s office received information about another possible identity for the body: Josephine Covak, who had gone missing April 6 from her home in Portland. An O.-W. R & N. railroad employee identified Covak from a photo as the woman he saw in the company of a man along the railroad tracks near the crime scene in April or May of that year. The man was later seen alone along the same stretch of tracks, and was warned off by railroad employees.

On December 10, Umatilla County deputy sheriff T.B. Buffington received information that Edna Pitman had been found alive and well in Los Angeles. Photos of Edna and Elgin Pitman were sent to the sheriff’s office, and former neighbors of the Pitmans in Echo positively identified the couple. The Pitmans had moved from Echo to Burley, Idaho, and from there to Flagstaff, Arizona, before settling in Los Angeles, and were the parents of a baby girl.

The photos of the Pitmans were mailed to Edna’s parents as proof their daughter was still alive. The remains, still unidentified, were ordered interred by the coroner.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Civic-minded tot gathers cache of trash

Not everyone bemoaning the litter befouling the streets of Pendleton is a taxpaying grown-up. In 1969 an enterprising young man took the initiative to clean up one of Pendleton’s biggest tourist attractions — to the surprise of his father, who didn’t even know the boy was gone.

Blair Ranslam, a 3 1/2-year-old Pendleton boy, was spending Nov. 20, 1969, with his father Bob Ranslam, the manager of Pendleton Grain Growers’ feed and seed store on Southwest Dorion Avenue. Ducking his father’s watchful eye, Blair crossed busy Dorion and Court avenues and entered the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds, where he found a large plastic bag and filled it with trash.

Young sanitation tech Blair Ranslam shows off his hard work after collecting trash at the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds Nov. 20, 1969 (EO file photo).
Meanwhile, his father had finally noticed the boy was missing from the store, and Blair’s frantic parents began a search, then called the police. The boy was eventually found with his bag of litter and returned to PGG.

“The policeman came and said my daddy was looking for me,” Blair said, also remarking about the big bullets the officer carried.

“Lot of junk over there,” he said later.

When asked what he planned to do with the garbage he had collected, Blair said he planned to put it in a fireplace, but wasn’t sure where, since his family didn’t have one.

And where did the litter come from? “Some people came over there and throw it down. They should throw it in a garbage.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Self-inflicted gunshots just part of the job

On Nov. 20, 1929, Jim Letts borrowed a .41 caliber revolver from a deputy in the Umatilla County sheriff’s office in Pendleton and, in front of four women, the deputy and a reporter, shot himself in the side. Those in attendance laughed when Letts pulled the trigger.

After shooting himself, Letts coolly passed the gun back to the deputy, then took out his pocket knife and pried the bullet free. But there was no parlor trick involved — Letts, you see, was only giving his sales pitch. Shooting himself, sometimes multiple times a day, was how he made his living selling bullet-proof vests.

“I’ve shot myself more than 4,000 times in the past five years,” he bragged.”

The vest he wore for his demonstrations was made from laminated steel plates, and would stop everything from BBs to a .45 caliber bullet. Letts traveled throughout the country marketing his wares to law enforcement, and though heavy-caliber bullets dented the protective steel plates slightly, the vest could withstand multiple shots in the same spot.

“Of course the police and sheriff’s departments are my customers, so I always go to them to demonstrate,” Letts said.

Shooting himself caused a slight stinging sensation, he said, and there was the chance that an impact in the right spot could crack a rib, but in general he was fearless in demonstrating the stopping power of vest for all types of pistols.

Letts also carried gas bombs and other weaponry, “The proper equipment,” he said, “for a good lively defensive war.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Practical joke creates mad stampede

A vaudeville actor played a practical joke on a group of musicians in November of 1917 and created such a stir that the theater where he was performing was cleared in a matter of minutes.

Gerald McCormick, a member of a vaudeville team playing the Alta theater in Pendleton on Nov. 14, 1917, was a handsome Irishman with the ability to alter his features to the extreme, a useful skill for a man in his line of work. During that afternoon McCormick inserted false tusks in his mouth, ruffled up his hair, hunched his shoulders and distorted his facial features, then walked into Alta manager C.G. “Guy” Matlock’s private office, demanding whisky in a husky voice. Matlock was so frightened that he was a nervous wreck for the remainder of the day.

McCormick was so pleased he decided to continue his prank, with Matlock in on the joke. Early in the evening a stagehand heard a hoarse voice crying “I want whisky,” and turned to see the most horrible face he could imagine. He fled and told the other stagehands and members of the orchestra, who were in the restroom under the stage, about the wild man he had seen. Matlock, who was present in the company of McCormick, also related his experience. Members of the orchestra began to feel uneasy, while McCormick slipped out of the room.

Suddenly, a great shaggy head thrust itself through the door of the orchestra pit and said, in a guttural voice, “I want whisky.” The piano player shrieked and made for the door to the orchestra pit, but the male musicians were faster. Out through the orchestra pit they ran, and members of the audience, seeing the terror on their faces but not knowing the cause, joined the stampede out of the building.

Matlock, knowing the joke had gone too far, jumped to the stage in an attempt to allay the panic, but only the people in the first few rows heard him. Men, women and children joined the race for the exits, though strangely enough no one thought the building was on fire. Someone suggested perhaps an armed German spy was hiding backstage. The Alta was emptied in a matter of minutes.

Outside on the sidewalk, people began to feel a bit sheepish and questioned the cause of the stampede. No one knew, and many didn’t want to know. About half of the crowd returned to the safety of their homes to hide their agitation, while the rest braved the theater again to watch the show.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Money tiff creates literal rift

A man angry about money he felt he was owed in October of 1984 made his point in a rather destructive way.

Calvin Sullivan, a 37-year-old Spokane resident, and Helen Blanchard of Pendleton argued over money on Oct. 29, 1984. According to Lt. Ed Taber of the Pendleton Police Department, Sullivan paid Blanchard some money earlier in the day but returned in the evening asking for the money back. Blanchard called police after she refused to return the money, and Sullivan refused to leave the premises. She reported that a man was trying to enter her home at 8 S.W. Goodwin Ave., and then the police dispatcher heard a loud crash. The line went dead.

When Blanchard refused to return his money, Sullivan had jumped into his Chevy Blazer, revved the engine and drove onto the front porch, crashing into the front door. He then backed up and took another run at it, breaking through the front wall of the house.

No one was injured, but parts of the front wall collapsed. Sullivan’s Blazer received minor dings. He drove away and was picked up by police later in the evening as he drove through downtown Pendleton.

Sullivan was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, driving under the influence of intoxicants and reckless endangerment.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Torrential downpour drenches Pendleton

An electrical storm that hit Pendleton on October 11, 1951, dropped an inch of rain on the town and caused widespread flooding.

After a summer with very few thunderstorms, a storm reaching several miles in width and traveling northeast began about 3:20 in the afternoon and continued for an hour and 40 minutes. The fury of the storm was focused mainly within the city limits, with only a sprinkle occurring two to three miles both east and west of town.

A half inch of rain fell during the first ten minutes of the storm, drowning Southwest Emigrant Avenue at Tenth Street in several inches of water. Highway 30 in front of Eastern Oregon State Hospital was covered a foot deep, interrupting traffic, and after the storm the highway department had to use a blade to clear the road of silt.

Basements across town were flooded by water pouring off both the North and South Hills, including homes on the North Hill and along the Umatilla River levee, a garage in Sherwood Heights with “a river of water” running through it, Main Street businesses including Payless and the East Oregonian, and the Pendleton police station, which was located in the basement of City Hall.

Two to three inches of water poured into the basement of the First Christian Church, deflected from the South Main Street slope by cars parked nearby. On the Terall Ramage farm five miles from Pendleton at the foot of the Helix grade, the garage washed away and a tree blocked the front of it, the lawn was covered in silt and the family was trapped inside the home for a couple of hours. The gravel dike at the Harris Pine Mills log pond washed out when the Umatilla River rose suddenly.

But as fierce as the thunderstorm was, it was dwarfed by a storm on July 3, 1904, when two inches of rain fell on Pendleton in a 24-hour period.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pendleton native among 9/11 victims

September 11, 2001: a day that shook the U.S. to its core.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, it was sometimes a long and difficult process to identify the victims. Almost a month later, after matching DNA from a sample of hair from a hairbrush, Pendleton native Mike Selves was verified as among the 188 people killed during the attack on the Pentagon.

Selves, a 53-year-old retired lieutenant colonel who had gone back to work for the Army as a civilian, was apparently in his office near the Pentagon’s helipad when the hijacked plane crashed into the building. His wife Gayle, who visited the scene, said it appeared that the impact of Flight 77 was right near her husband’s office.

A 1965 graduate of Pendleton High School, Selves joined the Army in 1969, serving in Korea and Italy. He worked for the Pentagon for 15 years before retiring in 1996, then returned to work as a civilian two weeks later, serving as the director of the Information Management Support Center for the Secretary of the Army. Selves was scheduled to retire for good in 2002, and he and wife Gayle had planned to move from Fairfax, Va., to Hilton Head, S.C., to enjoy golf at their timeshare house there.

During a memorial service in Pendleton, Selves’ friends spoke about a warm and generous man who was always ready with a smile. “He was good at jokes,” said good friend Mike Burns. “They weren’t very good jokes, but they made us laugh.”

Members of the PHS Class of 1965 presented Gayle with a Pendleton Woolen Mills “Freedom Blanket” in their friend’s memory.

Selves also left behind parents Jack and Florence Selves of Pendleton and sister Karen Hart of Umatilla.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Eerie car noises confound passers-by

Next time you take the farm rig into town, be sure you check it out underneath. You may have an unsuspecting passenger.

A woman living on a farm just outside Pendleton (who was unnamed in the Oct. 19, 1938 East Oregonian article) ran into town for supplies and parked her car on Main Street. As she got out of the vehicle, she and startled passers-by immediately notice some eerie sounds coming from the car.

“What is it?” someone asked. “A new kind of horn on your car?” The woman, equally puzzled, listened carefully. If she were at home, the woman said, she would guess the sound was a chicken in distress.

Someone thought to look under the car, and after a thorough search found a ruffled hen clinging to a fender support, probably with a very unusual feeling in its crop.

The woman placed the hen in the back seat, where it settled in comfortably and waited patiently for a ride home while her owner finished her errands.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Helix man plots murder of family

A Helix man with a history of violence when intoxicated attempted to kill his wife and son in October 1901, then committed suicide in the county jail.

Fred Albershardt, a 59-year-old immigrant from Germany, was well known to have a violent temper when drunk. The Albershardts lived at the home of John Timmerman about a half mile from Helix, where Mrs. Albershardt worked as a housekeeper after the death of Timmerman’s wife. On Saturday, Oct. 12, 1901, Albershardt was drunk and caused such a ruckus that Mrs. Albershardt and Timmerman had to leave the house until he quieted down.

On Monday morning Albershardt rode the train to Pendleton, where he bought a revolver and cartridges, saying they were for his son. He visited local drinking establishments before heading home. When he arrived, he stopped near the windmill in the yard and called to his wife. She came out onto the front porch, but felt something was wrong and came no closer. He started to walk toward the house, but then turned toward the barn, where their son Gus was sleeping.

Realizing what he meant to do, Mrs. Albershardt asked her husband if he had a gun. When he didn’t answer, she ran to him and pulled his coat aside. He grabbed her by the arm and pulled the revolver, aiming two shots at her head, which missed. He fired a third time at her chest, hitting her in the right shoulder and knocking her to the ground.

Gus, hearing the racket, peeked through a crack in the barn siding and witnessed the shooting. Remembering a recent trip to the mountains with his father, who told him that something was going to happen within a week, Gus hid amongst the horses, and his father was unable to find him when he searched the barn. Albershardt soon gave up and took off on foot through the canyons and stubble fields. Mrs. Albershardt managed to get to the house and hide under the sofa.

The Helix marshal was called, and he notified Umatilla County Sheriff William Blakeley. A manhunt lasting most of the night finally turned up Albershardt about 16 miles north of Helix. He was brought to Pendleton and lodged at the county jail.

When interviewed, Mrs. Albershardt said that for the last 20 years her husband had been cruel and abusive. When they lived near Meacham, she said, he tried to kill her with an axe and she had to run for three miles through the snow to escape him. She had wanted to file for divorce for years but was afraid he would follow through on his threats to kill her and their son.

Sometime during the night of Oct. 17-18, Albershardt hung himself in the county jail. A coroner’s inquest ruled that the attack on his family had been premeditated, and that Albershardt had planned a murder-suicide. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the potter’s field.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Doolittle’s Raiders lose leader

The leader of a daring daylight bombing raid over Japan on April 18, 1942, that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific during World War II died Sept. 27, 1993, at age 96 at the home of his son in Pebble Beach, Calif.

Ret. Gen. James H. Doolittle is well known in Eastern Oregon as the leader of Doolittle’s Raiders, who trained with their B-25 bombers at Pendleton Field beginning in 1941 after the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbor. Born in Alameda, Calif., Doolittle spent part of his childhood near Nome, Alaska, where his father was a gold miner. He enlisted in the Army in 1917 during World War I, earning his wings in 1918. Following the war, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1922 by flying from Jacksonville, Fla., to Rockwell Field near San Diego in 22 hours and 30 minutes, the first coast-to-coast flight in less than 24 hours.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989 by President Bush, who described him as “the master of the calculated risk.” He was also a recipient of the Medal of Honor and many other awards.

His bombing raid on Japan actually caused little major damage, and a later Naval War College study could find no serious strategic reason for it. But Doolittle’s raid stirred the morale of the American public, and gave notice that Japan was not safe from attacks on their home soil by U.S. air power. Spencer Tracy portrayed Doolittle in a 1944 film about the raid, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Controversy rages over identity of first Round-Up queen

The world-famous Pendleton Round-Up began in 1910 and continues to be one of the most popular rodeos in the world. Each year a bevy of beauties reigns over the festivities, and the Round-Up queen and her court, along with a pair of Native women representing Happy Canyon, spend 12 months traveling across the country to represent Pendleton and its iconic rodeo.

For 68 years, Laura McKee Thompson was accepted as the first queen of the Pendleton Round-Up, reigning over the 1911 rodeo. But a Sept. 14,1979 East Oregonian article reignited controversy that began in 1978 when Mildred Searcey, an Athena historian, author and former Round-Up Association office manager, declared that Bertha Anger Estes was actually the first Round-Up queen, though she was not elected as such by the Round-Up Association board. And Patty Daly, office manager for the Round-Up Association, said that official Round-Up records list Bertha Estes as the first queen.

In the run-up to the first Round-Up in 1910, local merchants sponsored young ladies who would sell tickets to the rodeo and ride on the business’ float during the Westward Ho! parade. Bertha Anger was sponsored by the People’s Warehouse and rode at the head of the float. After the rodeo was finished and the ticket sales were tabulated, she was declared the winner of the contest. But a search of the East Oregonian archives for 1910 and 1911 uncovered no mention of Miss Anger being the official queen. The only mention of her name was as one of 50 young ladies who were to dress in costume and ride floats in the parade.

Genevieve Clark Tromblay, a member of the 1910 and 1911 courts, said it wasn’t until after the parade that it was suggested they were the first Round-Up court. “They never really got that settled,” she said. “It’s all mixed up and nobody’s left anymore that’s connected with the People’s Warehouse to say.”

Mary Johnson of Hermiston, a family friend and surrogate niece of Laura Thompson, formally challenged the designation of Bertha Anger as the first Round-Up queen. She said it wasn’t until seven years later, in a Sept. 20, 1917 article, that any mention was made of the 1910 court. When Thompson herself was interviewed in 1978, she said she had no doubt that she was the first Round-Up queen, and had been considered so for years. The 1911 East Oregonian made special mention of “Round-Up Queen Laura McKee (later Thompson) surrounded by her maids, Misses Genevieve Clark, Iva Hill, Norma Alloway and Muriel Saling.”

“Aunt Laura has always been accepted as the first queen,” Mary Johnson said. “It was very embarrassing and humiliating for her when they said last year it was Bert Anger. It hurt her.”

So who really deserves the title of first Round-Up queen? The question may never be answered.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Famous sculptor re-emerges from obscurity

After Umatilla County Sheriff Tilman Taylor was killed during a jailbreak in 1920 in Pendleton, the much-loved lawman was immortalized with a statue by renowned sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor, a resident of Pendleton from 1914-1916 whose love for the American West was legendary. More than 50 years later, Proctor’s daughters returned to Pendleton during the 1973 Pendleton Round-Up and talked to the East Oregonian about their famous father, whose name had since faded from the public eye despite a vast body of work in public spaces across the United States.

A. Phimister Proctor works on details of the Til Taylor statue in his studio in Belgium in 1927 (EO file photo).
Hester Proctor and Nona Church were in Pendleton to see the Round-Up and visit with Hester’s 1915 classmate, Mrs. H.S. McKenzie. Miss Proctor remembered her father’s fascination with horses and his love for the Round-Up, where he met characters such as Jackson Sundown, whose 1916 championship saddle bronc ride was funded by her father when Proctor put up Sundown’s entry fee. Proctor also spent a summer with Sundown and his family in Cul de Sac, Idaho, taking photos that would serve as models for another of his famous sculptures, “The Warrior.”

Some of Proctor’s other work can also be seen in Oregon. “Pioneer Mother,” whose model was Pendleton’s Elvira Brown Matheny, and “Pioneer Father” are both at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and the UO Art Museum contains “Indian Maid and Fawn,” a copy of which is in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in New York City. A statue of Proctor’s favorite hunting buddy, Teddy Roosevelt, stands in Portland.

Other famous statues include plunging mustangs in front of the University of Texas Memorial Museum in Austin; Gen Robert E. Lee in Dallas; “Pioneer Mother Group” in Kansas City, Mo.; and “On the War Trail” and “Bronco Busters” in Denver. Two of his works grace the nation’s capitol: four 9-foot-high by 18-foot bronze bison, the famed Q Street Buffalo, and two buffalo heads in bas-relief on a fireplace mantle in the White House.

Proctor lived to be 89 years old, and passed away in 1950. As famous as he was during his lifetime, his name slipped into obscurity after his death. A second interview in September 1973 with Kalispell, Mont., art dealer Bernie Kushner and his wife Palma included a handful of the hundreds of photographs taken and collected by Proctor during his time as an artist. The Kushners were traveling through the United States, visiting the sites of Proctor’s most famous sculptures to refresh memories of the sculptor. Kushner had also helped the Proctor family gather many of his original working models from across the country, from which bronze castings were made and sold.

“We want his reputation revived. He was great,” said Bernie Kushner. “There’s nothing obscure about his work.”

Today, the Alexander Phimister Proctor Museum is located in Hansville, Wash., near Seattle, and in 2005 donated approximately 100 original Proctor artworks to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Suspicious fire destroys Round-Up grandstand

A fire thought to be incendiary in nature destroyed the covered wooden grandstand at the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds on Aug. 15, 1940, during the early innings of a softball game between the champion Pendleton Elks and the Sioux City Colored Ghosts.

A crowd of 1,500 people was watching the game when smoke was first detected in the east side of the grandstand. According to reports, the fire started in a storeroom used by the visiting team as a changing room, and was originally thought to have been ignited by a discarded cigarette. But police later learned a young boy came into the Nirschl service station two blocks from the grounds, “unstrung and sobbing,” to report he had seen a man start the fire.

As the fire spread, fans climbed over seat backs and railings to flee across the grass infield, escaping through the gates near the bucking chutes on the north side of the grounds. Many ran for the Umatilla River, wading across and climbing the far bank. Someone also turned a score of riding horses loose from the barns on the property, and the animals ran wild, trampling Clarence Ogren, 25, and knocking down Mrs. W.C. O’Rourke.

Nine people were injured during the fire, though none seriously, including Clarence Horn, blistered badly while carrying his wife, who had fainted in the panic. Joe Caglione, the watchman for the Round-Up Grounds, said he had paused in his security rounds to watch the game when he smelled the smoke. When he investigated, the fire was already well underway, and he rushed to evacuate his wife and daughter from their living quarters just 20 feet from the storeroom where the fire started. Others risked their lives to help evacuate the stands, finally driven out by the intense heat of the fire as the last of the crowd escaped.

Within 15 minutes of the fire bell sounding at 9:30 p.m., a crowd of 5,000 people had arrived to watch the destruction, not only of the grandstand but of the historic stage coaches, covered wagons, buggies, surries, buckboards and prairie schooners stored beneath.
The grandstand at the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds burns on Aug. 15, 1940 (EO file photo)

A man was questioned by police after they were told he had been seen in Pendleton the day prior to the fire, and that he had threatened to burn the grandstand after his request to take part in the Westward Ho! Parade was denied. He was given an alibi by friends, and his name was not released to the media.

Round-Up officials declared the show would go on, despite a time frame of less than a month for rebuildiing. Fundraising efforts raised $23,000 and crews worked day and night for three weeks to build the new 3,000-seat grandstand. Contractors worked at cost, and an architect drew up the plans for free. The Westward Ho! Parade was staged using antique vehicles donated from around the region.

The brand new seating was ready for Round-Up fans just in time for the iconic rodeo’s Sept. 11 opening day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Local nurse found insane after disappearance

When Nellie Baker of Pendleton left for Portland in June of 1912 to serve as a private nurse, her mother thought nothing of it. Three weeks later, Nellie was found in a padded cell in a Portland jail after she was discovered wandering the streets in a state of insanity.

Nellie Baker was a 26-year-old nurse who periodically performed private nursing duties for Pendleton residents. She told her mother she was approached by a Miss Huntington in June 1912 to accompany her to Portland as a nurse and companion. The two women supposedly left for the city on June 23 and took rooms at a Portland boarding house. Nellie sent several letters to her mother about their trip, but her last communication was received in Pendleton on July 5. At about the same time, the landlady of the Portland boarding house noticed that Nellie had not visited her room for three days, but had left all her personal belongings behind. She immediately called the police.

On July 15, Nellie was identified as an inmate of a padded cell in the Multnomah County jail, where she had been since July 3. She had been found wandering the streets of Portland, completely insane, and was unable, or unwilling, to hear or speak since her incarceration.

Pendleton police began their investigation by attempting to locate the mysterious Miss Huntington, but could locate no one by that name in town. Nellie’s mother insisted that her daughter had received a call from a woman on the north hill and had gone to talk to her. A taxi arrived early the next morning to take Nellie to the train, but no one at the station saw the young nurse in anyone’s company, and the brakeman of the train testified that Nellie traveled to Portland alone. This led investigators to theorize that “Miss Huntington” was a figment of Nellie’s imagination, and that she had already been suffering from some kind of mental breakdown before she left Pendleton. But friends, including a Pendleton doctor, insisted Nellie was perfectly rational when they talked with her prior to her departure for Portland.

Portland police were criticized for not identifying Nellie earlier, as Pendleton police had sent her description and a photo when she disappeared in early July. But in their defense, Portland officers related that when she was picked up Nellie was using the name Gertrude Wilson, and she gave a lurid story of an attempted abduction into white slavery. She told officers that she and her mother had moved from Minnesota to Stanfield several weeks prior to her disappearance, where they had attempted to start a chicken ranch. Their endeavor had failed and they lost all their money, and she had gone to Portland on the promise of a job. When she arrived, Nellie said, she had been met at the train station by the husband of her alleged employer, who had attacked her and attempted to drag her into a taxi. She had escaped from him just before the police spotted her on July 3, she claimed.

Portland police had taken Nellie to Stanfield in an attempt to find her mother. “Gertrude” had told them her mother dressed like a man, and lived in a hut there. When her mother couldn’t be located, Nellie jumped out a second-story window of the hotel where she was staying and hid in the sagebrush, but was soon found. On her return to Portland she was put in a straitjacket and locked in a padded cell at the jail for her own safety.

Nellie’s mother telegraphed Portland authorities that she would travel there to make arrangements for her daughter’s care. On July 17 a letter from Nellie’s sister said that Nellie had regained her powers of speech and had briefly admitted that the Miss Huntington story was a complete fabrication, but later recanted. A piece of clothing known to have been worn by Nellie when she left Pendleton was found, badly torn, but no cause was ever found.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pendleton woman drowned in steamer wreck

A holiday trip ended in tragedy for a Pendleton woman in 1921 when the steamer ship she was sailing on ran aground in dense fog on Blunts Reef off the northern California coast.

Ruth Hart, a telegraph operator for the O.-W. R. & N. Railroad in Pendleton, boarded the steamer Alaska in Portland on Aug. 5, 1921, en route to California for a month-long holiday. The following evening the steamer’s inexperienced crew lost its way in heavy fog off the northern California coast south of Eureka and, though they changed course several times, the steamer was allowed to travel too close to shore. The foghorn near Blunts Reef was heard, but couldn’t be located.

When the steamer crashed into the reef, the passengers flooded the decks in an attempt to secure a place on the ship’s lifeboats. But the green crew badly bungled the launch of the loaded boats and two were upset, throwing their passengers into the water. The ship sank in just 30 minutes. Captain Hovey was last seen on the bridge of the steamer with two wireless operators, one of whom bailed into the water just before the steamer went under.

The survivors, clinging to debris from the sunken steamer, floated for hours before the steamer Anyox, alerted by the S.O.S. calls from the Alaska, arrived at the crash site to begin rescue efforts, eventually picking up 166 of the more than 210 passengers and crew. Many of the survivors were covered in fuel oil from the steamer’s ruptured tanks. Residents of Eureka provided, food, clothing and baths for the rescued passengers, most of whom were transported to San Francisco the following evening. Fishing boats from nearby villages had the grim task of hauling the bodies of the dead ashore.

Though accounts of the accident varied, passengers and crew said the wreck would not have occurred if the steamer had not been traveling too fast along the treacherous coastline in an attempt to make up speed. The inexperienced deck crew also took much of the blame, one boatswain stating that only five of the 14 crew members were competent in their duties.

The dead washed ashore for days. On August 10, the body of a girl about 25 years of age wearing a wrist watch bearing the initials R.G.H. and a lapel pin with the letters O.R.T. (Order of Railway Telegraphers) was found. Ruth’s sister, Julia Metzler of La Grande, traveled to Eureka to identify her body and bring it home.

Ruth Hart was laid to rest August 15, 1921, next to her parents at Olney Cemetery in Pendleton.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

1979 total eclipse wows Eastern Oregon

A large portion of the United States is gearing up for a total solar eclipse that will be visible from coast to coast on August 21, 2017. Beginning at 8:46 a.m. at Yaquina Head Lighthouse near Newport on the Oregon Coast, the eclipse will darken a more than 60-mile-wide swath of the state before moving on across the continent. Most of Central Oregon is in the path of totality, and it is estimated that a million people will travel to Oregon for its cloud-free viewing opportunities. And it will be the last time in our lifetime that Oregonians will be able to watch a total solar eclipse from home — the next one to cross the state won’t happen until June 2169.

The first known documentation of a total solar eclipse was made in China in 2137 B.C. Two Chinese astronomers, named Hi and Ho, were tasked with bringing back the light by banging drums and shooting arrows at the giant serpent they thought was swallowing the sun. However, they lost their focus during an unfortunate bout of heavy drinking, and lost their heads to the royal executioner as a result.

The last time Eastern Oregon was in the path of a total solar eclipse was Feb. 26, 1979. The eclipse began around 7:15 a.m., just as schoolchildren would have been on their way to school, and school districts around the area either delayed opening or opened early so kids would have supervision during the celestial event. Many districts geared the day’s lessons around the eclipse, making homemade viewers to safely view the sun as it was gradually covered by the moon’s shadow. The 1979 event was an annular eclipse, meaning the moon was a little further away and therefore did not completely obscure the sun’s corona, even at totality.

Local pilots loaded friends and family into their planes and took off from regional airports, seeking a vantage point above clouds that threatened to block the view. Hermiston residents cheered when a break in the cloud cover appeared just as totality was imminent. Other residents traveled to the nearest public observatory, in Goldendale, Wash., where more than a thousand people viewed the eclipse from atop a butte above the Columbia River. In Portland, people had to be satisfied with photos taken by others; their view was blocked by overcast skies.

Before 1979, the last total solar eclipse seen in Eastern Oregon occurred on June 8, 1918. And though Pendleton received 99.5 percent totality, many residents traveled south to Pilot Rock and east to Baker City to see the eclipse in its full glory. The naval observatory at Baker City photographed the eclipse using a 65-foot camera, the largest in the area.

Haven’t been able to score a set of eclipse glasses? You can make a homemade viewer with two pieces of cardboard, a piece of aluminum foil and tape. Cut a one-inch-square hole in the center of one sheet of cardboard and tape a piece of foil over the hole. Poke a tiny hole through the center of the foil with a sewing needle. To use the viewer, turn your back to the sun and place the cardboard viewer over your shoulder. Use the other piece of cardboard as a screen, moving it closer and farther away to make the image of the eclipsing sun larger or smaller.

Looking directly at the sun during a total solar eclipse, even for a short time, can permanently damage your eyesight, as 121 people discovered during an eclipse in 1970.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Soaring temps spur classic experiment

August in Eastern Oregon invariably means high temperatures. With thermometers topping 100 degrees, most folks seek a way to escape to cooler climes. For an East Oregonian photographer in August of 1967, the intense heat of the concrete canyon of downtown Pendleton created the perfect scenario to attempt to prove or disprove a classic “just how hot is it” experiment.

EO photographer Virgil Rupp wanted to know if it was indeed hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk on August 14, 1967. Rupp first enlisted an assistant, Elaine Alkio, a 1967 graduate of Pendleton High School. She donned a bikini, armed herself with a couple of eggs and a box-opening knife (having no kitchen implements at hand), and began scouting for a promising “frying pan.” Almost immediately a crowd — consisting mostly of men — formed, and a dispute broke out over whether concrete or asphalt would better serve the experiment.


Alkio gamely cracked her first egg amidst helpful advice. “Higher!” someone called. The egg splattered upon hitting the pavement.

“I’ll just scramble it,” Alkio said.

Another egg was cracked as the crowd grew larger. It splattered too. But, wielding her improvised spatula, Alkio showed onlookers that, with patience, you can indeed cook an egg on a sun-scorched patch of concrete. Rupp’s article, however, did not say how long it actually took for the eggs to cook, or what the eggs looked like when they were done.

The average air temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit during that week translates (according to internet research) to concrete temperatures north of 140 degrees. But in a 2013 NBC News article by Rob Lovitt, even at air temperatures of 128 degrees in Death Valley, despite monumental efforts by visitors to the state park there, eggs would not cook on pavement. Concrete and asphalt are poor conductors of heat, and cracking an egg onto either surface will cool it below a temperature sufficient to cook the egg. And it makes a huge mess, park rangers lamented.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cartoonists need to eat, too

When 10-year-old Steven Hess got into his groove, remembering to eat wasn’t always at the top of his list. But in 1969, the budding cartoonist had already begun a career that would eventually bring him national acclaim.

The son of Henry and Betty Hess of Pendleton, Steve began drawing at a very young age when he saw a little boy’s face in a spoonful of peas. His grandmother encouraged him to draw what he saw, and a passion for art was born. “I’ll draw all day long until I am real, real tired, then rest,” Steve said. “I’ll eat, of course, then start drawing again.”

By the age of ten Steve had created a comic strip featuring two crickets, Freddy the Freeloader and his rich cousin Richy, and the conniving Baron Von Dudley, who was always scheming to steal Richy’s money, in a round-the-world chase. “The Baron is real mean, but not tough enough to fight bare-handed,” Steve said in an Aug. 14, 1969 interview with the East Oregonian. “He sneaks around and carries a sword. The Baron doesn’t know that Richy keeps his money and treasure map in his hat.”
Steve Hess of Pendleton works on his comic in this Aug. 14, 1969 East Oregonian photo.
Steve continued to draw comics throughout his school years, and then studied illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle.

Steve didn’t always dream of being a cartoonist, though. When he was younger, he wanted to be a comedian. And while stand-up was never in the cards for him, he has made his contribution to the world of comedy, illustrating storyboards, characters and backgrounds for commercials, television shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” and Cartoon Network.

Steve worked as a lead illustrator and storyboard artist for Bent Image Lab and Happy Trails Animation in Portland from the early 1990s through 2008, and is currently helping care for his elderly parents.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Blue Mountains may extend to Idaho

A story in the July 9, 1987 East Oregonian speculated that the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon, commonly thought to extend from Dayton, Washington, to John Day, Oregon, may actually extend as far east as Idaho and include some of the state’s most iconic peaks.

The gentle slopes of the Blue Mountains are in stark contrast to the rugged peaks of the Wallowas and Elkhorns in the northeast corner of Oregon. But most geologists and science writers would include the Elkhorns near Baker, the Strawberries near John Day, the Wallowas and even the Seven Devils range in western Idaho as part of the Blues. And it all has to do with plate techtonics, the motion of land masses that move across the globe on a sea of molten lava far beneath the crust.

According to the theory, one of those pieces of the floating shell, the North American plate, has been colliding with and, in places, overriding the heavier Pacific plate for millions of years. The movements of the plates in relation to each other has, in the case of the Elkhorns and Wallowas, created massive mountain ranges where the North American plate has scraped up features from the Pacific plate, a process called accretion. Studies indicate that the Wallowas were at one time volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. Geologists think that the Elkhorns, including the Anthony Lakes area, were pieces of the ocean floor. And as more pieces of the Pacific plate stack up on the North American plate the coastline — once found in western Idaho, then central Oregon — continues to move westward.

The Blues have a more complicated history. As the Pacific plate is driven (subducted) under the North American plate it melts, re-emerging as lava through thousands of fissures and volcanoes. The Columbia River Basalts, lava flows that covered more than 15,000 square miles in only a week, at depths of up to two miles, occurred sometime between six and 16 million years ago. And for reasons as yet unknown to scientists, the basalts folded in places and formed the hills and valleys familiar to Eastern Oregon residents.

Stan Prowant, a geology professor at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton in 1987, suggested that the Blue Mountains actually should be called the “Blue Holes.” Familiar features such as the Blue Mountain Anticline, which extends from central Oregon to the Meacham area, and the smaller Rieth Anticline just west of Pendleton, are examples of the upward folds caused by this geologic action. And Pendleton and Pilot Rock lie along the Agency Syncline, a downward fold in the basalts.

And geologic activity continues in the Blues. Earthquakes shake the area an average of every 15 years, some registering 5 or higher on the Richter scale. And geologist Mark Ferns of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Resources in Baker suggested in the story that future lava flows would not be out of the question. “Troy would be a good place,” Ferns said. “That’s where the most recent flows originated.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Shifting sands reveal giant mastodon near Hermiston

Frank Swaggart, a rancher in the Westland district near Hermiston, unearthed what University of Oregon scientists said was the largest mastodon find in Oregon when shifting sands revealed whitened and fossilized tusks and bones on July 6, 1954.

Swaggart immediately called local amateur paleontologists Bob Buchanan, an insurance salesman; Frank Swayze, a retired banker; Kelly Tiller, a van operator; Walter Hamm, a retired druggist; and Frank Adams, an Arlington businessman, to investigate the find. The ancient creature partially uncovered in Swaggart’s initial diggings indicated a prehistoric pachyderm of massive proportions. One of the tusks measured nearly 8 feet in length, and a bone thought to be a femur, the upper leg bone, measured more than 3 feet long. The men left the find in place and called in scientists from the University of Oregon in Eugene to perform a proper investigation of the site, located about two miles north of the Umatilla ordnance depot.
A mammoth tusk and what is either an upper or lower jaw of a mastodon are studied by Bob Buchanan, Frank Swayze and Frank Swaggart, all of Hermiston, in this July 7, 1954 East Oregonian photo.
 A research trip to the Hermiston library revealed the creature likely grazed the site, a former lake, during the mid-Pliocene era about 5 million years ago. Once Dr. J. Arnold Shotwell, curator of U of O’s museum of natural history, and his assistant Huntley Alvey arrived at the scene on July 22, they verified the mastodon was one of the late-era two-tusk types (mastodons with four tusks also existed during the early Pliocene), and the largest specimen found to date in Oregon. They carefully made plaster casts of the beast’s skull and tusk and employed the help of West End volunteers to remove the remains for study and display in Eugene. Dr. Shotwell and Alvey also unearthed the remains of rhinoceros, camel, ground sloth and three-toed horse, also dating to the mid-Pliocene, near the mastodon find.

At the close of the official dig, the public was invited to visit the area, and encouraged to report any further significant finds.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Roommate argument leads to brutal beating death

A Pendleton man was beaten with an axe by his longtime roommate on their front porch after an argument in August 1930. He died minutes after police arrived.

On the night of August 10, 1930, James Jarnagan walked up to the Pendleton fire chief, W.E. Ringold, and confessed he had just killed his roommate, U.G. “Doc” Ruud. When Ringold brought Jarnagan to the Police Chief Charles Lemons, Jarnagan went on to relate, “He’s not dead yet, but he soon will be.”

Chief Lemons loaded Jarnagan into a police car and raced to the three-room home Jarnagan, 55, and Ruud, 63, had shared for many years just across the railroad tracks from the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds. They found Ruud sitting in a chair on the front porch, his feet perched on the porch rail, and his still-smoldering pipe beside him on the floor. He was unconscious but still breathing, though barely. An ambulance was called, but before it could arrive Ruud died of his injuries.

Jarnagan told his story the following morning at the police station in front of Chief Lemons and District Attorney C.C. Proebstel. He said he and Ruud were quarreling over cooking and alcohol, and that Ruud had struck him during a struggle. To defend himself, Jarnagan said, he grabbed a heavy axe and struck Ruud in the head several times with the blunt part of the axe head. He was not nervous during questioning and did not seem worried about the outcome of the case, but didn’t seem to remember many details of the incident.

Police were inclined to doubt Jarnagan’s story, however, considering Ruud’s body did not look like it had been involved in a struggle — rather, it looked as though Jarnagan had stolen up behind Ruud and launched a surprise attack while the older man was relaxing on the porch. Officers who guarded the crime scene overnight also discovered a hammer hidden in Jarnagan’s bed. And while Jarnagan claimed he had been drinking the night of the murder, no liquor was found in the house. The owner of the home, Jim Spencer, told authorities that Jarnagan had been told he would have to move out the day before the murder took place.

Jarnagan was charged with first-degree murder, and friends took up a collection to fund his defense. Dr. W.D. McNary, who had observed Jarnagan at the state hospital for a month following the murder, was asked about Jarnagan’s sanity during the trial. Dr. McNary said that while Jarnagan was indeed sane, his mental capacity left him unable to plot and carry out a deliberate murder.

A plea of guilty to second-degree murder was accepted by Judge Fee, and Jarnagan was sentenced to life in an institution.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pendleton boy shanghaied to England

A Pendleton native was “shanghaied” at the turn of the 20th century by a Portland man and forced to serve on board a ship traveling to England, where he was abandoned.

Ed Bentley, an 18-year-old native of Pendleton, was staying at the Portland Sailor Boarding House when another man forced him aboard the Sofala, a ship heading to Bristol, England, with a group of other young men. The youths were forced to sign as sailors before the mast and then serve aboard ship.

Shanghaiing, or crimping, was a practice of kidnapping people to serve as sailors, and flourished in port cities including Portland in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The practice was driven by a shortage of skilled labor aboard ships on the West Coast due to mass abandonments during the California Gold Rush.

Larry Sullivan, the man behind the forced conscriptions, sent a letter to the East Oregonian protesting that young Bentley had been treated well and paid $20, or 4 British pounds, per month. In reality, according to a March 28, 1900 East Oregonian story, when Bentley arrived in Bristol he was paid $10 per month instead of the promised wage (a total of $50), and was charged $10 by the captain for his board during the voyage. The captain also paid $25 of Bentley’s wages to Sullivan for his “recruitment.” This left Bentley with $15, which was not enough to pay for passage home.

Bentley had also fallen 80 feet from the ship’s royal yard during the voyage, breaking his ankle. Instead of medical attention, the captain gave him a dose of castor oil and a few curses, and Bentley was forced to bind up his ankle himself, which healed badly.

Ed Bentley Sr., of Pendleton, was unaware of his son’s fate until after the ship had already crossed the Columbia River Bar, and sent money for his son’s return to the U.S.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Class project recreates Great Wall

Pilot Rock Elementary School teacher Glen Dyer didn’t mess around when teaching his students about geography. In May of 1995, Dyer’s sixth grade glass finished a recreation of one of the seven modern wonders of the world using a very tasty building material.

Amidst a papier-mâché landscape, students used more than 2,000 sugar cubes to recreate the Great Wall of China in their classroom, and topography challenges abounded. “You have a river right here and a valley right here and you have to build between them,” said Andy Anderson, 11, while pointing out features of the class project, which took almost a year to build. The class was given little more than building materials and a map, and Dyer left the students to suss out dimensions, craft the landscape and glue together thousands of sugar cubes along the humps and bumps of their painted terrain.

Andy Anderson, far right, talks about a class project to recreate the Great Wall of China in this May 24, 1995 East Oregonian photo

Students worked in teams on the eight-foot-long project, assembling the wall in segments before linking them together. At times, they said, it seemed like their structure took as long to build as the Chinese counterpart, which spans 4,000 miles and took 1,200 years to build, beginning in the 5th Century B.C. “If you didn’t get something glued in the right place, you had to tear it all down,” said Jennifer McLean, 12. “It was frustrating at times.”

The project was not the first for students of Glen Dyer. Other classes built a replica of the Nile River, and created balloon rockets and water-powered bridges, among other things. “I like to see them discover it on their own,” Dyer said. “I don’t want to give them anything that says, ‘Make it my way.’ There are many ways to do it.”

Along with creativity and construction skills, students used applied math and science to build the wall, and social studies and English while exploring the reasons why the Great Wall was built and writing formal reports on the project.

China’s Great Wall was originally built as a tribute to the country’s strength, but successive generations extended the wall to keep out invaders. The wall is wide enough for 10 people standing shoulder to shoulder or six people on horseback.

“It’s a pretty good idea because it paid off,” Anderson said. “It kept everybody out and kept in their own religion and culture. It kept them from the outside world.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chicken dinner lures lumber industry to Pilot Rock

Al Moltke, one of the founders of the Pilot Rock Lumber Company, wrote a booklet about the early history of the company for a union get-together in 1954. He told Virgil Rupp of the East Oregonian in a June 1977 interview that it was a chicken dinner in the “wild and wooly cowtown” of Ukiah that brought him, Elmer Kerns and R.B. Fields from Wenatchee, Wash., to Eastern Oregon in 1939.

The three men, who worked for Wenatchee Box Corporation, were looking for a new field of operations because their timber supply was running out. Kerns had already made an initial trip to the area near Pilot Rock, and reported that not only was there a stand of virgin timber worth drooling over, the cattle also roamed the area in grass up to their bellies. Moltke took a look with Kerns in the fall of 1939, and liked what he saw. But it was the 50-cent all-you-can-eat chicken dinners in Ukiah that sealed the deal for Fields.

Moltke was a little disappointed with Pilot Rock at first, however. He was expecting “a picturesque Columbia River port,” not realizing that the rock for which the town was named was a stony butte that had been used as a landmark for early settlers.

But the forests impressed the trio, and Kerns set about tying up 300 million feet of timber that Merritt Griswold and the Eastern Oregon Timber Syndicate had tried to exploit as early as 1906 but gave up on during World War I. And while the 55-mile haul over Battle Mountain was a daunting prospect, Moltke envisioned a day when big diesel trucks and trailers would solve the problem.

The Wenatchee men negotiated with Newt Toyer, Rupe Erwin and George Carnes to develop a mill site in Pilot Rock, which broke ground Feb. 19, 1940, and opened June 19, just four months later. The Kerns Co. remanufacturing plant opened in June 1943 to make ammunition boxes for WWII. It converted to peacetime commodities such as ironing boards and furniture parts at the end of the war in 1945.

The original mill is still in operation today, under the ownership of Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weston hotel destroyed in tragic fire

The Hotel Royal in Weston was destroyed April 30, 1911, when a mysterious fire broke out in the early morning hours. Several nearby businesses were damaged in the blaze, and one guest staying at the hotel later died from his injuries.

The owner of the Hotel Royal, J.N. Klein, and his family were asleep in the hotel when the fire started at around 2 a.m. Klein first awoke to the sound of falling glass and rushed to his office, which was totally consumed in flames. After getting his wife and younger son to safety, he stood at the bottom of the staircase and shouted to awake his older son and two guests who were sleeping on the second floor, but they later told him they did not hear him. All three were able to escape the flames, but were injured in the process.

Klein’s son fashioned a rope out of bedsheets and was lowering himself to the ground when the knots slipped and he fell, injuring himself on broken glass. He was also burned on the face and hands. A guest at the hotel, Eph Williams, also attempted to lower himself from a second floor window on a makeshift rope that failed, and he broke his hip when he landed. He also sustained a head injury in the fall, and later died from his injuries. In the excitement, none of the three staying on the second floor made use of ropes left in each of the rooms for the purpose of escaping a fire.

Local fire crews and Weston residents rushed to the scene to help quell the fire, but by the time they arrived the blaze was too well established, and wooden buildings near the hotel also caught fire. The heat was so intense that windows and glass doors were broken on nearby businesses. The Hotel Royal was completely destroyed, and five other businesses were damaged.

The local baseball team was part of the firefighting efforts, and worked until almost prostrate with fatigue to subdue the fire. But when they contacted the Walla Walla team the next morning in an attempt to cancel a planned game, the Walla Walla team refused.

Klein temporarily moved his hotel business a few blocks up the street to the Marshall building, which he had previously leased as an annex to his hotel. Klein rebuilt his hotel, christening it the New Hotel Royal, but sold the business in December 1911 and moved his family to Los Angeles in July of 1912 to work in the brick yard business.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Germans surrender to Long Creek man as WWII winds up

In the final days of World War II in Europe, as the charred body of Adolf Hitler was dug out of his secret bunker, a Long Creek man took part in a raid on German territory in June 1945 that garnered the surrender of more than 2,000 Nazis, including six generals.

Second Lt. Harold Willingham of Long Creek was part of the Signal Corps attached to the U.S. Third Infantry Division, Seventh Army that was searching for a German command post near Bernau, Austria. Headed by Lt. Col. George Fezell, a group of three wire trucks and a reconnaissance car rolled into Bernau in early June but retreated due to small arms fire. Fezell turned his men loose with a 37mm gun that convinced the bourgomeister of the town to surrender. The headman was also directed by Fezell to call three adjacent towns with orders to give up to the advancing Third Division.

One of the surrendered towns contained the command post Fezell and his men were searching for. Four generals and 300 men at the post were ordered to pile into whatever transportation they could find and report immediately to Bernau, where they surrendered to 2nd Lt. Willingham and 1st Lt. Gilbert of the signal company.

Also bagged in the raid was a nearby airfield, though one pilot jumped into a plane and made his getaway. Following the surrender, Lt. Col. Fezell and his men went to work setting up an advance command post for division headquarters.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Major Lee Moorhouse a Pendleton legend

One of Pendleton’s most famous and beloved residents, Major Lee Moorhouse, died of an embolism on June 1, 1926, at the age of 76.

Moorhouse was born in Iowa in 1850 and came to Oregon with his family in the Morgan train of pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The family settled first near Pendleton in 1861, and then near Walla Walla where Moorhouse lived until the age of 14. He then set out to work in the mines in Idaho and British Columbia where, despite his young age, he was quite successful.

Later he returned to the Walla Walla area, where he studied civil engineering with the Oregon & California Railroad. He was appointed county surveyor in Pendleton soon after finishing his studies. He also went into business with merchant Lot Livermore in Pendleton and John Foster in Umatilla.

Moorehouse was appointed assistant adjutant general of the Oregon state militia in 1878 during the Bannock War, with the rank of major, and held that post for four years while serving as secretary to Governor Stephen Chadwick. At the same time, he was named superintendent of Prospect Hill Farm, a 4,000-acre grain business owned by a company of Portland men 18 miles west of Pendleton.

In 1883, Moorhouse was appointed by President Harrison as Indian agent for the Umatilla Indian reservation, a post he kept for many years, and he made many friends amongst the tribes during his time representing them. During his later years he also engaged in real estate, insurance and law. He was deputy clerk of the Oregon Supreme Court for 25 years and also served as treasurer of the city of Pendleton.

But perhaps he was most famous for his amateur photography. He was best known for his photos of the Cayuse Twins, taken in 1898, but his collection of negatives featuring the native peoples of the West was the largest in the United States, and his photos were used to illustrate scores of Oregon histories. He also had a large collection of native memorabilia, and he was one of the foremost historians of Oregon and Indian lore of his time.

Moorhouse’s services were attended by scores of people from all over Oregon. He is buried at Olney Cemetery in Pendleton.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Train conductor welcomes new passenger at 40 mph

A conductor for the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company (O.R. & N.) in May of 1903 was flustered when a baby boy made a surprise appearance on a regular run from Pendleton to Portland.

The No. 5 train left Pendleton on May 27, 1903, under the direction of Conductor Maher. Maher was feeling pretty good about the run, which was on time and running smoothly at about 40 mph. Checking his tickets, he noticed nothing unusual about the passengers.

Near Troutdale, however, about 30 minutes outside of Portland, Maher was approached by an elderly gentleman who turned out to be a doctor. The man told him that a woman in the chair car, a Mrs. Sears from Sumpter, was in a “delicate situation” and would be adding another passenger to Maher’s list in very short order.

At first Maher was horrified, and then annoyed, that Mrs. Sears’ impending delivery might ruin his perfect run by creating a delay. Then Maher was furious at Conductor Nash, who had turned Mrs. Sears over to his care in Pendleton without giving him a heads-up about her condition, but soon realized it was not Nash’s fault. Maher dithered about asking the advice of the train’s engineer, Jim Randall, as he usually did when he had a perplexing problem, but realized that Randall had no experience with childbirth, either — his wife generally took care of that sort of thing while Randall was away from home.

Maher finally decided he would talk to Mrs. Sears in hopes that she could be persuaded to wait to deliver until they arrived in Portland; she had waited all this time, certainly she could wait another 25 minutes? But by the time Maher had decided to just make the best of the situation, news came that a 10-pound baby boy had joined the passenger list.

Mother and child were made as comfortable as possible, and the other passengers were so impressed with the graceful handling of the incident that they assured Maher they would not hesitate to entrust themselves to the O.R. & N. in a similar situation.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Arlington relocation work unearths ancient ‘god’

Hermiston resident John Estes was working on the relocation of the city of Arlington in May 1963 when a piece of heavy equipment he was using started giving him trouble. Angry, Estes picked up what he thought was a rock to throw at the machine in frustration. Just before it left his hand, Estes took another look at it and, fortunately, had second thoughts. The “rock” turned out to be a tiny depiction of an ancient Aztec god of wind, sky and water. The original statue, Estes found after doing some research, was six feet tall and made of solid gold.

The unusual thing about Estes’ find was its location — 75 feet down in the top of a mountain. Also found in the same area were camel bones, part of an elephant and a huge tusk thought to have come from a prehistoric mammoth. The finds were carbon-dated at Oregon State University in Corvallis to around 12,000 years old.

But the little Aztec god wasn’t Estes’ first find. In 1954 he was digging near The Dalles on another relocation project and unearthed what the Smithsonian Institute thought was an Indian chief’s grave, containing a 250-year-old ceremonial hatchet made from pipe stone. One side of the hatchet showed an “Indian calendar” and a Spanish gaucho, while the other side depicted a symbolic map of the rivers. Estes learned about the hatchet from a book “as big as the front end of my car.”

Estes said in an interview that one collector offered to finance a college education, including a doctoral degree, for one of his children in exchange for the hatchet. Estes turned him down.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

‘Dirty book’ creates uproar in Weston

A novel published in the 1930s by Eastern Oregon native Nard Jones caused quite a stir with residents in his home town of Weston, who thought some of the characters and scenarios were just too familiar.

The book, “Oregon Detour,” follows a group of teenagers from the fictional town of Creston through high school, graduation night, their first sexual exploits and the early years of marriage. And though Jones published a note in the Weston Leader newspaper claiming the book was a work of total fiction, critics, including Weston’s powerful Saturday Afternoon Club and the Methodist Church, attacked the book as “dirty” and the characters and situations as only thinly disguised — the town’s minister appeared as a doctor in the book, and the fictional high school principal was named after Weston’s real-life derelict.

George Venn, a literature professor at Eastern Oregon State College, read a student’s paper on the book and applied for a grant in 1982 to investigate what really happened, he told a group of Pendleton library supporters on April 21, 1983. He talked to Weston residents, some of whom thought the book was funny. Others told Venn they’d tried to find the book for years, but every copy placed on the shelves of the Weston Public Library had mysteriously disappeared for years. Local libraries were told not to loan copies of the book to Weston, and the few copies that did exist in 1983 could be read, but not checked out. One resident Venn interviewed figured there was a chest somewhere filled with copies of the book.

The book still had its critics, though. Members of the Saturday Afternoon Club asked Venn during his inquiries, “Why are you going around trying to get the skeletons out of the closet?” And the son of a member claimed his mother was one of the story’s characters, and that Jones was trying to “drag people in the dirt.”

Jones, a graduate of Weston High School and Whitman College, distinguished himself as a writer and actor, and penned 17 novels including “Swift Flows the River,” a bestseller. Venn figured Jones wrote “Oregon Detour” during a brief stint working at his father’s store in Weston after college, but the book was published while he was living and working in Seattle as a columnist, editorial writer and associate editor for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Despite the controversy, Venn thought the book was worth reading for its “insight into the life in a small community.” For those interested in reading “Oregon Detour,” 28 copies are currently available in Eastern Oregon libraries, including two at the Weston Public Library.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lucky lamb brings coolness to school

The last survivor of triplet lambs born in early February 2000 near Umatilla took up residence at Umatilla High School after being rejected by its mother at birth. Too small and fragile to be left on his own while his owner was at school, Lucky the lamb quickly became the school’s center of attention, and showed that farm life can be fun and educational at the same time.

Sophomore Daniel Bolen brought the lamb to school because 20-day-old Lucky needed constant care, including bottle feeding every two hours. Bolen finessed a deal with school officials: Lucky could tag along to school and the lamb could become a teaching tool for ag classes.

FFA adviser and ag teacher Jennifer Henning’s classroom became Lucky’s home-away-from-home. The lamb immediately adapted to his new surroundings, wandering around the room and investigating the students, occasionally nibbling at their clothes. Students vied for the chance to give Lucky a bottle of milk, and corralled him when he escaped into the hallway to follow kids to other classes. “He gets attached,” Henning said.

With the help of ag advisers from Umatilla and Hermiston high schools, including Umatilla principal Don Miller, Bolen turned Lucky from a skinny, bony weakling into a healthy and curious animal. And FFA classmates helped bob Lucky’s tail, tag his ear and give him shots as part of the class curriculum, to prepare him for his life on the Bolen farm after he was old enough to wait patiently at home for his meals.

In the meantime, Lucky changed the way FFA was perceived at the school. Henning said students “can see that not everyone in FFA has to be from a farming family.”

Bolen agreed. “Everyone thought that FFA was just the hick club. ... Lucky shows that there are parts of FFA that can be cute too.”

Organized in 1928 to encourage young people to stay in agriculture, FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) has grown to 7,859 chapters in schools across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization focuses on development of leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

McNary Dam troubled by determined beaver

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were scratching their heads in the spring of 1957 after a beaver, just doing what comes naturally, attempted to plug up the dam’s navigation locks.

Joe the Beaver became a celebrity with his attempts to shore up the “leaky” side of the hydroelectric dam near Umatilla on the Columbia River. But lock attendants foiled the resolute rodent’s activities with a series of hydraulic tests in the locks that destroyed his work and, after the Inland Navigation Company’s tug “Chief” cleared the downstream lock with its barge tow on April 15, 1957, Joe threw in the towel and followed the tug downstream in search of a more amenable abode.

A rather dejected beaver returned to McNary Dam on April 25 and resumed residence in his little pool, seemingly tolerant of the trickles that escaped past the guard wall as the navigation locks were put through their paces. With the spillway gates closed and the full force of the river routed through the power turbines, Joe was able to bask in the sun and contemplate another attempt at building his dream pond. But impending spring runoff and the possibility of opening of the spillway gates had Corps employees keeping a weather eye on Joe for any resurgence in lock-blocking activity.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

State quashes drive-up beer stands

Imagine, if you will, driving your car up to a sidewalk stand serving beer and having a frosty brew delivered to you without your ever leaving the driver’s seat. Before May of 1934, it was allowed in the state of Oregon.

A May 16, 1934 article in the East Oregonian reminded readers that the Oregon State Liquor Control Commission had issued an edict that people frequenting these sidewalk stands must be standing under the roof of the establishment while quaffing their glass of beer. And while Pendleton beer stands were following the new rules, owners and patrons weren’t very happy about it.

Beer stand owners complained that their establishments were too small to accommodate the crowds that frequented them. And customers had a different beef: Standing inside the beer stand made it more likely you would be pressured into buying a round or two of drinks for your friends, instead of just quenching your own thirst on the cheap.

The OLCC, however, didn’t put any restrictions on the number of bottles of beer that could be sold to car passengers, or even on jugs of beer as long as the cork was firmly in place as it was passed over the bar. But the customer could only drink the beer after driving away from the stand.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bomb charge linked to love triangle

A Condon man wound up in U.S. District Court in Portland in 1975 facing charges of planting a bomb in a rival’s car.

Roy P. Urie, 61, was accused of possession of an unregistered dynamite bomb and possessing a firearm (bomb) not identified with a serial number. A federal indictment said Urie had placed a bomb in the engine compartment of a car owned by Charles W. Riggins of Portland on May 19 or 20, 1975. Riggins and Urie reportedly shared an affection for Ina Deniz, 44, who had lived off and on with Riggins and Urie at different times and had moved back and forth between Portland and Condon.

Riggins discovered the bomb as he drove to his job as a Federal Protective Service policeman in downtown Portland on May 20, because the car was “running rough.” Prosecutor William Youngman claimed a “love triangle” had led to the bomb’s placement. Defense attorney Thomas Schnieger pointed out that all the evidence against Urie was circumstantial, and that Urie was in Condon the entire time during which the bomb could have been planted in Riggins’ car.

During the trial, Urie admitted he threatened Riggins but didn’t try to hide the threats. And there were no eyewitnesses to the manufacture or planting of the bomb. Schnieger also said Riggins lied on the stand about a fight with another man in which he was knocked down a flight of stairs and suffered several broken ribs.

Urie was acquitted of the charge.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Curiosity leads to day-long search for Umatilla man

Curiosity, they say, killed the cat. Luckily for Darel Beemer of Umatilla, being curious is not always fatal. Beemer was the subject of an intensive search and rescue effort in March of 1999 after he disappeared during a trip to McNary Dam.

Beemer, 25, was one of a group of developmentally disabled clients of Rise, Inc. on a social outing to the hydroelectric dam just outside Umatilla. He had gone into the bushes around 3 p.m. on March 16, 1999, to change into a dry pair of pants after wading in one of the ponds on the dam’s grounds. When he failed to reappear, Rise Inc. employees began a search. An hour later, Umatilla County Search and Rescue was called. They were told that a fisherman saw Beemer climbing the dam’s fish ladder within the first hour he went missing.

Ed Beemer, Darel’s father, was puzzled at how the young man could have breached dam security, but said Darel was able to get into places others could not. “He’s pretty limber,” Beemer said.

About 23 hours after he was first reported missing, a pair of Darel’s pants was found near an elevator door inside the dam complex. Searchers eventually found him hunkered down in the Grout Tunnel, at the 235-foot level. Jan Good, the coordinator of the search and rescue team, said she was told Darel liked to play hide and seek, and the tunnel was the perfect place for a game. Also, Darel was unable to speak due to Down syndrome, and so was unable to lead rescuers to his hiding place.

Ed Beemer was grateful Darel was found, a little dehydrated and cold, but none the worse for his day-long ordeal. “What he did, he did for no other reason than curiosity,” he said. And he credited the search and rescue team and Rise inc. employees for giving “110 percent” during Darel’s disappearance.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Morrow County sand storm stalls auto delivery

In 1917, autos were big business. As more and more people traded in their horse and buggy for gas-powered transportation, deliveries of vehicles from the Portland area to Eastern Oregon were a regular occurrence. In March of 1917, two men on a routine delivery run discovered just how wild the weather could be on the dry side when a wind storm interrupted their trip through Morrow County.

E. E. Hall and T.J. Tobin left The Dalles on Friday, March 23 with two new Fords they were delivering to Pendleton. They reached Cecil in northern Morrow County at 1 p.m. and started across the long stretch of sand. Before long, a violent wind storm lifted a dense cloud of sand and soil into the air and blinded the drivers. Also, the iron content of the sand that got into the Fords’ motors caused a short circuit, stopping them in their tracks.

Hall and Tobin were forced to spend the night there, and spent part of Saturday trying to get the cars running again. They finally borrowed horses and rode 11 miles to the nearest telephone to call for help from Pendleton, then used the horses to pull the cars to a nearby ranch, which was deserted. Leaving the cars there, they rode on another five miles before finding a place to spend the night.

Meanwhile, Robert Simpson of the Simpson Auto Company, Thurman Motorman and Tom Keating set out from Pendleton in a Chevrolet Saturday afternoon to rescue Hall and Tobin, but there was so much sand in the air they got lost in the Sand Hollow area. The trio drove around aimlessly for a while, then cut a wire fence to make another circuit, and at 2 a.m. Sunday morning happened across the farm house where Hall and Tobin had abandoned the Fords. They sheltered from the storm in the empty house the remainder of the night and set out at daybreak to search for the missing men, locating them later in the day.

The Fords were towed to Echo, where the party of five learned another shipment of 14 Fords traveling by boat had been forced to put in at Irrigon. They met the boat and decided to drive the cars to their final destinations, leaving some at Hermiston, some at Echo and bringing the rest to Pendleton.

Simpson cautioned autoists wanting to travel through Morrow County by way of the Oregon Trail that it would be some time before all the sand was cleared away.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Round-Up Indian director dies in hunting accident

Robert Chauncey Bishop, known in Pendleton as Chauncey, who served during the 1920s as the Pendleton Round-Up’s Indian director, was killed in a freak hunting accident near Pendleton in January of 1927.

Chauncey was part of the Pendleton Woolen Mills legacy, and managed the Pendleton mill, which he and brothers Roy and Clarence bought in 1909. Other mills in Salem and Washougal, Wash., were managed by the Bishop brothers’ parents, C.P. and Fannie Bishop.

On the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 15, 1927, Bishop was hunting ducks near McKay Dam with two friends, Glen Stater and Sol Baum. The trio was wrapping up their hunting activities, and Stater was standing near the car talking to Baum, who was sitting inside. Stater said Bishop disappeared into a gully on his way to the car, so neither man witnessed the accident.

Both men heard a gun shot but weren’t immediately concerned, thinking Bishop was shooting at ducks. When he didn’t appear after a few minutes, the men hurried to the gully and found Bishop lying in shallow water at the bottom, head downward. The shotgun was a short distance away, the recoil having thrown it from Bishop’s hands.

Bishop reported he had slipped on a rock and the gun went off accidentally, hitting him in the abdomen. It was a new gun, Stater and Baum said, and Bishop admitted he did not have the safety on when he slipped. He wasn’t bleeding badly, and was able to help his friends get him to the car.

The men drove Bishop to St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, where he was immediately taken into surgery. He survived the surgery and was able to talk to his family, some of whom had traveled from Salem and Portland when news of his accident was received.

But later his condition started to deteriorate, and he was given a blood transfusion, donated by his brother Clarence, at 10 a.m. the next morning. Bishop briefly rallied, but died at 11:15 a.m. Sunday.

In addition to his brothers and his parents, Bishop left behind two sons, Robert, 17, and Charles, 13. His wife had died in 1918 during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and Chauncey was laid to rest next to her in Salem.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Quarrel over watch leads to assault, suicide

A small island in the Columbia River midway between Wallula and Umatilla was the scene of an attempted murder and suicide in April 1908.

Switzler’s Island was the property of John B. Switzler, who took up residence on the island in 1882 and built a house, barn and outbuildings, and planted 40 acres of orchards. The orchards were abandoned in 1894, however, when flooding of the Columbia washed out most of the trees. At 105 feet above sea level and 25 feet above the river’s high water mark, the island contained about 750 acres of farmable land.

The ownership of the island was the subject of multiple legal battles, and in 1908 squatters had taken over part of the property. Two men, Fred Deitz and Joseph Paterman, were living in one of the houses on the island. Paterman had returned to the island on April 10 after several days of trying to find work. It was then Deitz’s turn to look for a job, but he refused to leave his watch for Paterman, and a quarrel broke out. Deitz had just stepped out of the house they shared when Paterman appeared behind him with a shotgun and fired at point blank range, hitting him in the shoulder. He then loaded Deitz’s unconscious body into a wheelbarrow, intending to dump him in the river.

Deitz soon came to, and a knock-down drag-out fight ensued during which the wounded man was severely beaten. Paterman then walked away, leaving Deitz on the ground, with the intent to get a hatchet and finish the job. When Paterman returned Deitz pleaded piteously for his life, and Paterman agreed to spare him. He placed Deitz in the shade of a tree and announced his intent to kill himself.

After Paterman left, Deitz made his way to another house on the island, where he told the story of the attack. He was taken by boat to Umatilla, and while on the water they heard Paterman fire two shots, and later saw the house go up in flames.

The wounded man was taken by train to Pendleton, and was treated while en route by Dr. J.A. Best, who happened to be on the train. It was believed Deitz would survive the brutal attack.

Searchers returned to the island and found the burned body of Paterman in the ashes of the house the two men had shared. Paterman was known in Pendleton by the director of the Salvation Army, who said Paterman had sought shelter there earlier in the month and had been angry at Deitz over $50 he had lent to his partner, and what he considered Deitz’s general mistreatment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Island theater pays homage to Round-Up City

Members of the armed forces sacrifice a lot in the service of their country. In return, various types of entertainment are provided, when and where possible, to afford service members a little respite from the realities of war — the USO is a prime example. During World War II, an army detachment headed by the former commander of Pendleton Field built their own movie theater and stage on Saipan Island in the Marianas and named it after the home of the Pendleton Round-Up.

In November of 1944, Colonel Lyman L. Phillips, the former Pendleton Field commander, sent a photo to Pendleton mayor Sprague Carter from “somewhere in the Marianas” showing a large wooden platform with a curtain in the rear and featuring an upright piano. The front of the stage bore a sign with a bucking horse and the name “Pendleton Bowl.” Hundreds of sandbags were available as “reserved seats”  — reserved by whoever got to them first.

From the Nov. 4, 1944 East Oregonian

The name of the theater, according to Col. Phillips, was a unanimous decision by the soldiers that constructed it. Pendleton was well known throughout the many fronts of the war due, to the many residents serving in the armed forces since Pearl Harbor, but also because of the world-famous rodeo.

Col. Phillips also sent copies of posters for various shows staged at the theater, including ”The Mariana Melodiers,” the movie “Thousands Cheer” featuring an all-star cast, and Cpl. Stasik and his accordion.

A copy of Ground Crew, a mimeographed newspaper produced by the unit, also was included in Mayor Carter’s package. It sported the headline “Betty Hutton is Coming!!!” and assured Ms. Hutton she would have plenty of police protection during her visit. The paper also included a poem called “Horace and Lyman Were Colonels” that told of the unit’s travels in many places, each verse ending with “They’re our COs, they can do no wrong.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Injured man crawls for help after fishing accident

A Bingham Springs man who broke his leg during a fishing expedition in February 1917 displayed nerves of steel and lusty lungs when he was forced to crawl for help through deep snow to find shelter and medical attention.

Lou Bulin set out on a quest for big trout Feb. 16, 1917, despite the five feet of snow on the ground in the Blue Mountains near his home at Bingham Springs. While trying to jump over the stream at about 3 p.m. he slipped, and when he fell he struck a rock so hard it broke two bones of one leg. Bulin was two miles from the springs and the nearest assistance, so he broke up his fishing pole for a splint and began crawling toward home.

Bulin made slow progress, having to pull himself around a bluff that overhung the river, and only through the desperate strength of his hands and one good leg did he manage to keep himself from falling into the water. After crawling about a mile and a quarter through heavy snow, Bulin was exhausted and suffering tremendously from the cold and the pain, and started calling for help.

Forest Ranger Baker, who lived in a cabin above the springs, and W.W. Hoch at the mountain resort both heard Bulin yelling, but ignored it at first because they thought it was a coyote yipping in the distance. When they finally decided they were hearing a human voice, both grabbed their guns, thinking Bulin had treed an animal. Baker found Bulin first, and left to secure a horse after Hoch arrived and built a fire for the half-frozen man. Baker and Hoch finally managed to get Bulin back to the springs by 9 p.m.

Dr. E.O. Parker of Pendleton was called, and traveled by freight train and horse to arrive at the springs around 1 a.m. Dr. Parker did what he could for Bulin, and transported him to St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton the next day, where he spent several days recuperating from his ordeal.