Early Automobile to Bend Too Large for Grade in Cow Canyon

One of the first automobiles to arrive in Bend was purchased in Chicago in 1906 and shipped by rail to The Dalles. H.C. Ellis, manager of the Deschutes Telephone Company of Bend ordered the car, a Holsman, which had a two cycle engine with high wheels. This vehicle was purchased because of the high centers in the roads in the areas of Central Oregon serviced by the company. Some of the high centers were the stumps of trees. The only use made of Central Oregon roads at that time was by freight wagons, stage coaches and buggies. After the car arrived in The Dalles it was difficult to find gasoline as there was none in The Dalles. A supply was obtained from Goldendale, Washington after several days. Mr. Ellis shipped some of the fuel up the line so it could be picked up in transit.

The car created considerable excitement in The Dalles when it lugged up the Columbia to a crossing of the Deschutes River at Freebridge. There was only one other auto in The Dalles at that time.

The Holsman slowly creeped up Rattlesnake Canyon from the crossing of the Deschutes to Moro. It had a delay while it waited for the shipped fuel to arrive. The car reached the head of Cow Canyon after the sun had gone down. Highway 97 now is a high speed highway down the canyon, but in 1906 it was a very rugged wagon road.

The car moved very slowly down the narrow and steep road. The driver had to pick the “trail” by the dim illumination of the primitive headlights. The grade began to narrow and the passenger side of the car became dented and scraped. While passing through a narrow cut the fenders were torn from the vehicle. By the time the vehicle had reached the bottom of the grade the fenders were scraps of metal. The fenders were removed at Heisler Stage stop on Trout Creek. The stage stop operator kept
the fenders on display for several years to show the folly of the “new fangled contraption” in horse
country.

The car finally reached Bend and was a wonder to local residents, even though it looked awkward without fenders. Obtaining gasoline was a problem and it had to be freighted in from Shaniko. Gas in those days ranged from 75 cents to one dollar per gallon. The car was used for several years by Mr. Ellis and his telephone crew. It was a rough introduction for the automobile to the primitive roads of  Central Oregon.

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