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.

Seniors shun transport for away game, walk instead

Five Pendleton High School students decided to forgo gas-powered transportation in February 1967 and instead make tracks for a basketball game in La Grande under their own power — on foot — in an attempt to drum up a good showing from the Pendleton community.

Seniors Dale Simpson, Dennis Vest, Alan Wilhelmsen, Mark McGee and Jim Lieuallen started out at 3 a.m. Feb. 10, 1967, on their way to a basketball game pitting the hometown Buckaroos against the La Grande Tigers, scheduled for 8 p.m. that evening. “It sure was cold until the sun came up,” one of the walkers said.

When asked if any of the quintet had done any training in preparation for their trek, Vest said no — “But I ran around the house last night.”

Two of the trekkers, Wilhelmsen and Vest, started out at a run but soon dropped back to a more reasonable pace. By 9:30 a.m. they were 26 miles into the 52-mile hike, and about a mile and a half ahead of McGee and Lieuallen; Simpson had wrenched his knee at Deadman Pass and dropped out at the 21-mile mark. He was picked up by the chase car driven by Steve Townsend and Don Paddock, who also carried fresh socks and the walkers’ lunch, which they planned to eat at Meacham.

Simpson rejoined the hike after a short rest and logged a total of 38 miles. Vest dropped out soon after he passed Meacham after only 35 miles. Lieuallen walked 43 miles, and Wilhelmsen a little more than 50 miles. McGee was the only one to make it the entire way.
Simpson said the walkers planned their trip carefully so they would arrive in plenty of time for the start of the basketball game, but at the end of the trek the boys were so tired they didn’t actually attend — they listened to the game on the car radio on the way home to Pendleton.

The following day, the hardy quintet vowed to make a second attempt to walk to an away basketball game, this time to Milton-Freewater. But Simpson said they would wait for their blisters to heal before making final plans.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mysterious blue light baffles locals

Snow plow drivers Manuel (Swede) Erickson and Barney Thompson didn’t know what to make of a strange blue light bobbing above Highway 204 over the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon in January of 1955. Turns out they weren’t the only ones to report the phenomenon.

The first reports of the light came in mid-January from Erickson and Thompson, who were plowing snow between Weston and Elgin on Highway 204. Erickson said they saw a blue light bobbing over the highway and stopped the plow, dimming the headlights. The light seemed to be coming toward the plow, but stopped when they did. The light then started moving up, down and sideways, and after a moment moved upward and vanished over the trees to their left with an audible hum. The light reappeared in the sky to the right of the plow team, emitting a bluish glow with the occasional blue flash, then disappeared again. Erickson and Thompson said they came within 500 yards of the light before it vanished.

A week later, another late-night snowplow driver, Robert Backus, stopped to check one of his chains and notice he was casting a shadow. He looked up to see the blue light bobbing overhead, humming. Backus got back in the plow and started up again, and the light followed him for a short time before slowly moving down a canyon and disappearing. Others reported similar sightings, including two women who saw a blue light flashing on and off near McNary Dam.

Reporters for the La Grande Observer returned to the spot where Backus saw the light on Jan. 27, but all they saw was the morning star shining with spectacular brilliance and an eerie light. Backus and others with the reporters said the star was nothing like the mysterious blue light they saw.

Erickson thought maybe the light was a helicopter, but none were known to exist in the area. Backus, a veteran of both the Army and the Navy, said while the movement was similar, the hum was not.

Another man who saw a similar phenomenon 15 years earlier while hunting offered a possible explanation. Charles DeSpain of Riverside saw a blue light on the south side of Bridge Creek about 60 miles south of Pendleton and wrote a letter about it to the Atomic Energy Commission. The AEC suggested the light might be caused by a “jack o’lantern glow” from decomposing phosphorus deposits, or a magnetic phenomenon similar to the aurora borealis.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hermiston woman reunited with long-lost son

When Evelyn May’s family broke up in 1946 in Yakima, Wash., she wasn’t sure she’d ever see her 3-year-old son Tommy Anthony DeRosa again. In 1982, after a series of phone calls and with the help of state police agencies on opposite coasts, May was reunited with Tommy when he traveled from his home in New York to Hermiston to meet her, as well as five siblings and their families.

May’s other children, including sons Walt and John Blankenship and daughters Mary Kligel, Carol Longhorn and Janet Bailey, knew they had another brother, but weren’t sure where he was. May thought Tommy’s father might have taken him to New York after the couple split up. “We used to watch American Bandstand on television, and Mom would say, ‘Watch for your brother.’ She had some baby pictures, that was all,” said Kligel.

Walt Blankenship took the initiative and began a search for Tommy. He spent $104 on phone calls and learned that there were 15 Anthony DeRosas listed in New York phone directories. When he asked an officer with the Oregon State Police in Hermiston for advice, it was suggested he contact the New York State Police.

Not only did state police in New York locate the correct Anthony DeRosa, they handed off a letter to him written by Walt. DeRosa immediately called Walt, asking, “What took you so long?” He said he had always hoped he had siblings, but didn’t know how to find them, or if they even existed. He was told as a boy not to ask about his mother.

DeRosa next called his mother, by chance on her birthday, and told her that not only had she found her long-lost son, but also a daughter-in-law, Lynn, and four grandchildren.

DeRosa flew into the Tri-Cities Airport on Jan. 17, 1982, and was immediately swept into the arms of a family he hadn’t even dreamed of just a month before. He spent two weeks getting acquainted with his mother and a few dozen family members before returning to Queens, N.Y., where he worked as a truck driver and supervisor at a dairy. DeRosa planned to bring his family for another visit the following summer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

‘The Gard’ rewarded for stellar service to county

Marie Gard is a pioneer when it comes to Umatilla County law enforcement. “The Gard,” as she was affectionately known during her career with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office, was the first woman hired as a correctional officer at the Umatilla County Jail. Her dedication to the sheriff’s office earned statewide recognition in January of 1998.

Gard began her law enforcement career in 1971 when she was hired as a dispatcher. She learned about the job from a Pendleton police detective who investigated after she was held up at gunpoint at the local Western Union office, where she was the manager. When the office closed, the detective encouraged Gard to apply with the sheriff’s office.

The diminutive Gard, who stands just under 5 feet tall, maintained a gentle demeanor until she was attacked by a female inmate she was booking into the jail. She then learned self-defense tactics from her male coworkers. Gard’s work ethic so impressed Sheriff Jim Carey she was offered a correctional officer position in 1981 — and she did her job so well Carey was encouraged to hire more women at the jail.

Though most of the male inmates at the Umatilla County Jail towered over and tried to intimidate her, Gard said she was never assaulted by any of them, avoiding physical altercations by relying on her “silver tongue” to get her out of tense situations. And Gard believes women are more likely to use intuition and communication skills during confrontations with inmates.

Sheriff John Trumbo rewarded Gard’s decades of service to the county by nominating her for a statewide award. In January of 1998, after 27 years with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Marie Gard was named Oregon Community Corrections’ 1997 Supervisor of the Year.

Gard remained with the sheriff’s office until her retirement in December 1998. She continued working as a part-time security guard at the Umatilla County Courthouse in Pendleton for another 17 years before retiring for good in February 2016 — a career spanning 45 years under nine different sheriffs.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Joyriding teen vows no more thrills

A Portland teenager was arrested near Meacham after engaging state law enforcement agencies in a state-wide manhunt in 1931, and his young female passenger was cured once and for all of thrillseeking after spending time in a local jail.

Merle Smiley and 17-year-old Peggy Carnahan left Portland together Jan. 14, 1931, after “borrowing” a car from a Portland garage. The couple traded the car for another one and $20 cash in Mosier, then continued east on their joyride. Portland police posted an all-points bulletin for the pair, and a Umatilla County sheriff’s deputy spotted them near Meacham two days later, where they were arrested.

Smiley was returned home by Portland authorities the same day. Carnahan, who confided to a reporter that she had run away with Smiley because she “wanted a thrill,” had a few adventures to ponder as she awaited her own transport home. Besides two days on the lam and her arrest, she got to spend the night in jail with two Native American women as companions — one of whom told her fortune — and had an unflattering “rogue’s gallery” photo taken as part of her stay in Umatilla County.

Carnahan declared she was ready to go home, and vowed to be a good girl from then on.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Non-traditional campout rings in the new year

Snowy weather and the winter holidays provided some fun, and a chilly campout experience, for three Hermiston brothers in the final days of 1973.

The sons of Dr. and Mrs. Milton Johnson of Hermiston, including 19-year-old Jeff, Jerry, 15, and Joey, 12, spent three days in the family’s back yard building an igloo in the classic Eskimo fashion, including a tunnel for entrance and a door made out of a huge chunk of icy snow.

Inside the eight-foot-wide by four-foot-long igloo, the boys laid a carpet for a floor and lit candles for light and warmth. The ceiling, measure seven feet high in the center, was made of a few pieces of lumber covered liberally with snow.

Construction foreman was the family’s black cat, Kohoutek, named for the “comet of the century” that was due to pass by the earth in early 1974.
Igloo builders (from left) Jeff, Jerry and Joey Johnson of Hermiston show off their Eskimo-style hut in early 1974. (EO file photo)

Once the igloo was finished, on New Year’s Eve, the Johnson brothers decided to celebrate the holiday by camping out in the igloo overnight. Temperatures dropped to five degrees during the night, making it an event destined for the family scrapbook.