Hope and the American Dream

Shelvin-Hixon Mill at full blast (internet photo)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

My friend, Linda, who for many years lived in Central Oregon, moved away last summer. She’s still going through boxes of stuff, over time collected, and recently sent me a book, Desert Sage Memories, published in 2002. It’s filled with the memories of many Central Oregon oldtimers.

In the early 1900s, this region, located in the heart of a virgin Ponderosa forest, became a dream site for the logging industry’s promoters. They worked hard to encourage the building of a railroad from Hood River to Bend, and after 1910, that rail line now completed enabled major sawmills to build production sites in Central Oregon. They thrived, producing and shipping worldwide.

Central Oregon became a destination for folks seeking adventures and opportunities. Many of the area’s long-time household names arrived here in the 19-teens, twenties, and thirties. Many associated to the mills became affluent, while others farmed, ranched, or hard-scrabbled to make ends meet.

In a story entitled, “The Rancher and The Nurse”, its key characters, Catherine and Priday Holmes, married in 1936. She was a city girl from Portland with a nursing degree. He owned ranch land in Black Butte and described their early life together as an adjustment for her. He explains that the “big house had no electricity, no running water, and no central heating. They used kerosene lamps and a hand pump cistern from a sink, or carried pails of water from the water ditch at the water supply. There were four wood-burning heating stoves and a huge kitchen range complete with water warming reservoir on the side. On the cool side of the kitchen was a 12×14-foot pantry with one-foot thick walls filled with sawdust for insulation. Foodstuffs were stored from floor to ceiling. Laundry was done with a Maytag gas-operated washing machine that had to be run on the open back porch because of the fumes.” He adds that they “raised [their] family on the ranch and stayed in that big house until [they] moved to Redmond in 1963.”

An adjustment for her, indeed. In those days, having the patience to deal with hardships and to keep learning fostered hopefulness, or goals of getting ahead and realizing the American Dream. Many stories in the book are from folks with names today adorning Central Oregon buildings, streets, and public lands. Maybe the history of Bend and its surroundings fascinate because there truly existed a national belief in the American Dream. Today, fewer Americans are certain it’s holding true.

Dear Friends: The magnificent Industrial Age fostered social progress and hope. Diana

3 thoughts on “Hope and the American Dream

  1. Did this book tell about the dueling railroad builders on both sides of the lower Deschutes? Heard they used to shoot at each other in the evenings for “fun.” If you haven’t heard this story, I’ll try to dig up a reference.


  2. Too bad the politicians and greedy folk are destroying many lives and purging our pride in America and corrupting our democracy. I loathe Trump et al.

    Sent from my iPhone



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