Prineville’s First Baseball Team

Baseball was a serious sport in rural America near the turn of the century. It was a game that could be played almost anywhere and frontier towns took great pride in supporting their teams. Prineville was one of the first communities to establish a baseball team in Eastern Oregon in 1890.

Several new members of the community had played baseball in the eastern part of the country prior to coming to Prineville and decided to form a local baseball team to play other emerging communities in Central Oregon. Many businesses would close their doors when a game was being played. Strong rivalries developed among local teams and a game was a major event covered closely by local newspapers. People would come from miles around to cheer on their team. Before and after games general celebrating occurred with social gatherings that included picnics and merriment. The early “wagon gate” parties were fun for all.

The Prineville “nine” played for community pride and wagers amongst fans was common. Surprisingly many small towns had teams including Antelope and Shaniko. Later Lamonta, Powell Butte, Madras, Bend and Redmond had teams. After the turn of the century Prineville boasted of having players that had played college baseball back east, including Hal McCall, the father of later Oregon Governor Tom McCall. Players were well respected members of the community and viewed as local heroes.

Baseball and horse racing were the major sporting activities in frontier Central Oregon until football was introduced in 1911. Shevlin-Hixson and Brooks-Scanlon sawmills in Bend sponsored baseball teams and railroad construction crews also sponsored teams. It was exhilarating for local fans when their team defeated rivals and devastating when they lost.

Community teams began to fade in popularity as the twenties arrived and as high school competition began to emerge.

Prineville Planing Mill Provided Finished Lumber for Many Early Homes

Lumber mills were among the first industrial operations in Central Oregon. Mostly rough cut lumber was produced at small mills for construction purposes. As early as 1878 attempts were made to establish a planing mill in Prineville and included construction of a water ditch to power a planing ill. The mill was located on Third and Claypool and had a series of owners until 1898.

Ed Harbin partnered with John B. Shipp in the operation and sold out to Shipp in 1898. By 1900 the planning mill was one of the most prominent manufacturing industries of Crook County. The plant produced most of the planed lumber for buildings in Prineville for a few years. The mill had a capacity of 15,000 feet of finished lumber and 10,000 sawed shingles per day. The best sawed shingles retailed at $3.00 per thousand at the mill, and finished lumber sold for $15.00 to $25.00 per thousand. The mill produced moldings, sash and wood turning for most ordinary building construction.

In 1905 Shipp partnered with Gardner Perry and built a new planing mill at 4th and Fairview near the present Prineville Swimming Pool. The new plant was steam operated and a 50 horse-power engine was installed. Shipp & Perry added a dry kiln to their operation in 1910. Lumber was off loaded at the kiln and processed through the heated kiln where it was dried before going to the planing mill. The mill had a work force of ten men.

Shipp & Perry operated the mill until 1919 when they sold it to Tum-A-Lum Lumber Company. Shipp was retained as a manager of the operation for a few years and the operation expanded. Eventually the mill was moved but it was the pioneer planing operation in Central Oregon.

Bannock Indian War of 1878 Caused Panic in Local Settlers

The Bannock Indian uprising of 1878 created a tense situation that resulted in many outlying settlers of Eastern Crook County moving to the safety of Prineville and other communities.

The Bannock Indians ranged along the Oregon-Idaho border and were a relatively peaceful tribe until they were confined to Ft. Hall during the Nez Perce uprising in 1877. They had difficulty subsisting on rations from the fort and mistreatment of tribal members led to hostilities in 1878. Chief Buffalo Horn began raiding and killing in western Idaho. Buffalo Horn was killed in a skirmish with the military and the Bannock were joined by Paiutes under the leadership of Chief Egan. The combined forces began a bloody path of destruction that ranged from the Steens Mountains to the John Day Valley.

Settlers began to congregate and fortify sites to repel the raiding Indians. Word of the killings and raids rapidly spread to Central Oregon and outlying settlers in the Post and Paulina Country rushed to Prineville to provide safety for their families. A stockade had been designated in Prineville as a gathering point if the uprising had come to Central Oregon but most hostilities were confined east of the John Day River.

Chief Egan had hoped to get to the Umatilla Indian Reservation and gain reinforcements for the combined war party but the Umatilla’s did not want to become a part of the bloody war and captured Egan and some of his warriors. Chief Egan was killed in an attempt to escape and his head was presented to the military as a peace offering. Without his leadership the raiders began to falter and eventually many of the warriors were captured.

The uprising was relatively brief but resulted in several deaths and the destruction of several ranches. It was the last great show of resentment by the Bannock and Paiute against the white man who had deprived them of their country.

Many of the settlers that had fled to Prineville for protection returned to their ranches but some decided that they would remain near the growing community.

Early Freighting was Often a Hazardous Occupation

Early freighters of Central Oregon were hardy men that managed slow plodding horse or mule teams over narrow, dusty, muddy and sometimes hazardous roads. Freight to Central Oregon came by two main routes. Shipments arrived either from the Willamette Valley over the Santiam Wagon Road or from The Dalles along parts of The Dalles to Canyon City wagon road. When the Columbia Southern rail line was built from the Columbia River to Shaniko in 1900 most freight shipments were to and from the rail terminus at Shaniko. The first roads were not much better that cow paths and passages down canyons were often steep and dangerous. During the dry season the roads were thick with dust and loose material. Cow Canyon grade descending down from Shaniko Flats to Trout Creek frequently had mishaps as rolling rocks or rattlesnakes would spook the horses and off they would gallop. There were recorded instances of freighters being killed by wagons overturning as horses raced out of control down the narrow road bank which was often only a few inches wider than the wheel base of the wagons.

During the wet season travel was particularly strenuous and hazardous. One old time freighter recalled that during a very wet storm he had to pave the roadway with part of his shipment of wool to get the wagons over the ruts and muddy bogs. It also was related that returning freight from The Dalles often included heavy bags of beans bound for Prineville. When a heavily laden wagon became bogged down in the mud the freighters would off load bags of beans to lighten the load and use the beans to fill the ruts. Later in the year plants would sprout from the beans in the ruts and it was a common site to see lines of beans growing along the road.

Other trouble spots along early wagon roads included the grade from Antelope to Shaniko, over Grizzly Mountain pass from Hay Creek to Prineville, and Trail Crossing on Crooked River near Crooked River Gorge.

It was also exciting times when wagons traveling in opposite directions met on the narrow canyon roads. Lead horses were often outfitted with bells to signal to other wagons that they were approaching.

Freighters often spent several nights under the stars as they brought their shipments to and from Central Oregon. They had to weather storms and drought and negotiate road hazards but they were critical to supplying the interior of Oregon with necessary goods.

Gold Discovered on Ochoco Mountains in 1871

Ochoco Mine or more commonly known as Mayflower Mine was located along Ochoco Creek just northeast the present Ochoco Ranger Station site. Central Oregon had missed out on the early gold mining activity that had occurred in eastern Oregon, but in the fall of 1871 a gold discovery was made that created a short burst of mining activity.

That fall some settlers from West Branch near Mitchell were taking wagons of grain to Warm Springs Indian Reservation to be ground to wheat. The settlers included Preacher Mansfield, James Howard and two neighbors named Belcher and Evans. The first evening they camped on upper Ochoco Creek. Mr. Howard remarked to his fellow travelers that the terrain looked similar to ground that he had mined in California. The men set up camp and had supper before taking empty frying pans to the creek and panned for gold. The first pan showed sign of gold. This excited the men but they decided to continue on their way to complete their chore of grinding the wheat to flour, but agreed to return to the gulch where they had discovered sign of gold and locate claims.

They returned to the gold site in January of 1872 and built a rough log cabin at the confluence of Ochoco Creek and Scissors Creek. They then went prospecting and found more gold. News of the discovery soon spread and by the spring of 1872 miners began struggling in. The location became known as the Howard Mining District. Water ditches were constructed for placer mining and a small town soon emerged and was known as Scissorsville.

During the next several years mining activity continued with mine shafts constructed and about $100 worth of gold per ton of ore was produced. It was not a significant amount of production and the site never became a major mining operation. Scissorsville soon became known as Howard. The mines later became known as the Mayflower Mine.

Ownership of the mine changed on several occasions over the years and Lewis McAllister operated the mine for several years. Some placer miners from Idaho jumped his claim early in 1911 and a feud developed. On May 28, 1911 McAllister was cleaning some ditches on his claim when he was shot and killed by one of the placer miners, Ernest Robinson. Robinson was acquitted on grounds of self defense.

After McAllister’s death sporadic mining activity occurred but eventually mining ceased and only remnants of the old mine shafts are all that remain of the once bustling mining district.

Lynchings Lead to Opposition of the Vigilantes

Violence reigned supreme in Prineville just before Christmas in 1882. Al Swartz was killed by a shotgun blast in a local saloon on the evening of December 22 and early the next morning the bodies of two men staying at his ranch were found hanging from a juniper tree near Prineville. The vigilantes were beginning to “flex their muscle” in justice of the rope.

The same night that Swartz was murdered the vigilantes arranged to lure Sid Huston and Charles Luster from the Swartz Ranch to the house of W.C. Barnes. The vigilantes had spread rumors that Huston and Luster were associated with Swartz in a stock rustling operation. Some prominent citizens claimed that Luster was wanted by some of the vigilante group for winning a horse race that he had been paid by them to lose. Huston was never indicated in any crime.

The young men were dragged from the Barnes house and lynched from a juniper tree on the outer limits of Prineville. Their bodies were found the next morning by C. Sam Smith and James Blakely. They reported that the men had been shot in the back of the head after they had been hanged.

The vigilante group quickly claimed that they had ridded the community of a lawless element. Interestingly one of the alleged vigilante members had been shot by young Huston during the lynching. W.C. Foren was a blacksmith who had been a deputy marshal who was supposed to be guarding Lucius Langdon the night he was killed by the vigilantes earlier in the year. The vigilante group claimed that Foren had been kicked by a horse he was shoeing during the night of the Huston and Luster lynching. No one was allowed to see Foren and he died a few days later.

An inquest was held into the lynching deaths and it was determined that “Sid Huston and Charles Luster came to their death by hanging by the neck and by gun shot wounds inflicted in the head by parties to us unknown December 23, 1882” Not surprisingly the foreman of the inquest was the same acknowledged leader of the vigilantes that had been on the Swartz inquest. No one was ever brought to justice for the lynchings, but grumblings began among local citizens even though many were afraid to talk out loud about the violence. The seeds of opposition to the vigilantes had begun.

Forest Fires Took Huge Toll in Early Days

Central Oregon has had numerous large forest fires over the years but until recently none were of conflagration type. Although large acreages burned the damages were mostly limited to the timber stands and natural resources.

Early news reports of fires outlined some of the fires and the results of the blazes. Many fires had occurred in early settlement but received little reporting. One of the earliest reported fires by the Bend Bulletin occurred in August of 1908 and was located on Paulina Mountain southeast of Bend. Head forest ranger of the Rosland District, F.P. Petit, “came to Bend Monday to secure men to fight the fire, which extended over an unbroken line for 15 miles and was traveling to the southeast.”

It was reported that Petit called for 150 men to fight the flames, but all that could be found were some locals in Bend. A call went out to Prineville, Shaniko and Moro for men to come help fight the fire. Pickup labor was paid $2.50 per hour to fight fire. Rain arrived to help control the fire.

Another fire of note was started by lightning on June 6, 1910 near the mouth of Jefferson Creek west of the Metolius River. The fire burned a huge area five miles down the Metolius River and up to the top of Green Ridge. Another fire started by lightning on the same day near Edison ice cave burned over 7,000 acres.
One of the most expensive early forest fires occurred in August 1924 near Wasco Lake. It required more expenditure of funds than any other fire on The Deschutes National Forest up until that time. It spread through 2,517 acres of timber in a very rugged area. The cost to control the fire was $18,125.

The Bend Bulletin reported that firefighters were handicapped by “fallen logs, thick underbrush and steep hillside.” Most of the fire fighters were men from the McKenzie Pass road construction crews. Local residents on the Metolius river baked pies and doughnuts for the firefighters. There were several large fires during the 1930’s including one on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation that burned over 100,000 acres of mostly sage, grass and juniper. The Minto Pass fire of 1945 was a hold over lightning fire that consumed over 4,000 acres just north of Santiam Pass. It only received a small note in local newspapers as the surrender of Japan during World War II was the big news item. But as the fire grew it began to share headlines with war news. A crew of 150 men was fighting the fire and U.S. Marines from Klamath Falls were requested to help fight the fire. Eventually over 600 men were used to fight the fire but it was finally extinguished by a late August rainstorm.

Fires have occurred on a regular basis in Central Oregon through the years and the fires of recent years have been more complex and damaging because of the extension of homes into the wildland environment and the build up of fuels over the years that typically would have burned in the natural cycle.