Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Crooked River Country: Wranglers, Rogues, and Barons

Crooked River Country: Wranglers, Rogues, and Barons

I grew up in western Oregon, which seems to have mostly been settled by pious, industrious folks who built schools and churches and otherwise set about contributing to their communities.  This is all well and good, but it's also pretty boring.  The history of central and eastern Oregon is much more "interesting" in both good and bad ways.  It was much more "the west" than the more densely inhabited Willamette valley.

This book is one of the better histories of the region, and covers both a lot of time and a fairly large portion of Oregon.

Some of that 'interesting' history is ugly and shameful - the book talks about orders, at a certain point, to kill all native Americans, with entire families being wiped out.

Other bits that are memorable include Prineville's "Vigilantes", a group of masked men who committed several murders in the name of "keeping order", who were subsequently faced down by another armed group, the "Moonshiners", whose leader was then elected sheriff in order to keep the peace in a more legitimate and lawful way.

A chapter on range wars is also reminiscent of many a western, with cattle ranchers pitted against sheep men.

There are a number of interesting tidbits, like the fact that Prineville didn't get a church until several years after its founding.  Or the location, in an 'island' in a lava field, of a popular place for rustlers to hide cattle before selling them on.

At times the book feels like it could have been edited and or organized a little bit better, but it's still a great, and very comprehensive look at the history of central Oregon.

The book ends with the death - in the early 1950ies - of the 'Moonshiner' who became sheriff in the late 1800s, bookending an era of local history.

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