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Keep the Show on the Road!

Bend & Central Oregon Roads 1910 (US97, etc.)

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Bend and Central Oregon have grown enormously in the past several years, but many historical roads have survived the growth. I made 8mm movies (1967) of Bend when I lived there over 50 years ago, and one is posted here. But this new post and the ones that I hope to follow deal with the roadways of Central Oregon much longer ago, in about 1910.

We are going to drive where the first automobilists drove at the turn of the last century. We will travel sections of the old California Banff Bee Line highway, and drive in the tracks of the first ever transcontinental auto race! We may visit a stage station or two, and provide some vintage road maps from the period for your perusal and interest.

I am posting this as an introduction. The story will evolve as I re-explore the old roads, and I will try to keep you posted as I learn more.

But here I want to to provide a quick and perhaps interesting insight into the development of roads and automobile travel in and around Bend, Prineville, Redmond, Madras, and into the surrounding area including Shaniko, Maupin, Dufur, and several tiny villages in what is called Central Oregon.. When I finish I hope you will be encouraged to drive the roads and see sights you might otherwise miss.

 

ShanikoMap.jpg

In 1900 the first railroad tracks reached the outskirts of Central Oregon, ending in Shaniko, a little over 80 miles north of Bend on our modern roads.. This “end of the line” was the beginning point for transportation into Central Oregon. Virtually all goods and people coming or going, went through Shaniko. The other way to go was over the high Cascades or on a very long steamer and overland ride via The Dalles, and believe me, a rail coach was much preferred!

 

ShanikoPaper.jpg

 

So freight wagons and people converged on Shaniko, and wagons pulled by teams of horses left and returned to Shaniko. It so happened that the area around Bend was also being promoted as the new mecca for agriculture, with irrigation projects and dry land farming offering the promise of a prosperous future for those who got there first.

It was not long before eager land developers and boosters realized that transporting boomers, newcomers, and land seekers in an automobile beat a long, slow, and muddy or dusty ride in a horse and buggy. And a ride in an automobile was a novelty for many in and of itself. Practically overnight, between 1909 and 1911 the automobile took over Central Oregon roads. According to the Prineville newspaper, in 1909 there were less than half a dozen auto stages operating in Central Oregon, and by 1910 there were 35, and as many as 50 automobiles a day were on the roads!! 

Unlike other areas where long distance road travel by automobiles grew out of a tourist and recreational interest, in Central Oregon the impetus was land, not primarily fun and “seeing the sights.”

My copy of the Weekly Oregonian of June 2, 1910 (above) shows the gathering of the auto stages at Shaniko, and one on the grade between Antelope and Shaniko to or from Prineville and Bend. Note that they competed with the horse drawn freight wagons for passage!!

 

ShanikoAntelopeCanyon.jpg

 

ShanikoColumbiaSouthern.jpg

 

And note the road bed, with several inches of mud, and the chains on the automobiles in Shaniko. Such were the travel conditions when the roads dried out enough for travel in the spring. Ah, the good old days.

Finally, the building in the background in Shaniko is the Columbia Southern Hotel, opened in 1901-02. It is still there! As a young man I remember eating there for lunch at the long community table with the retired sheep herders who were the hotel residents. They were a polite lot, but if you didn’t reach fast, you might not get any mashed potatoes from the big red serving bowl.

The photo here was taken on my last visit in 2007….my how time flies! I think one aging sign on the side of the Hotel then still advertised “family style” meals. I’ll check if it still is there when I visit. I hope I can make the trip next week, so as they say “Stay tuned.”

ShanikoHotel.jpg

 

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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