75 years ago

Large crew conquers 2000-acre fire on Emigrant Creek

A forest fire of undetermined origin started Saturday afternoon on lower Emigrant Creek in the southwest corner of the Malheur Forest and spread to 2,000 acres by Sunday night. Although the figures were not released through the Forest Service, it is understood that more than three hundred men were engaged in fighting the big fire. Crews form the Malheur and Ochoco Forests, Hines loggers and mill workers, ranchers, cooperator units and all Grant Union High School boys over 15 years of age battled the stubborn blaze in rough country. With the aid of bulldozers and tractor plows the fire was being held on a patrol basis Wednesday evening.

The Hines Lumber Company mill at Hines and logging operations at Seneca were closed down for several days so that their crews could help in controlling the blaze. Mrs. Virgil Belshaw of Dayville took over as cook and camp boss of the high school camp in an isolated section of Emigrant Creek. The high school crew was disappointed at having to leave the fire Tuesday night.

50 years ago

‘I always hitchhike,’ says Grandma

“The Lord blesses fools and children,” says 74-year-old Grace W. Small.

This is how a deeply religious mother of four, grandmother of eight, and great grandmother of 12 explains her retirement hobby – hitchhiking.

A central Illinoisan for 50 years who moved to Eugene 15 years ago, Mrs. Small arrived in John Day Sunday night of last week in search of the Prairie City to Pendleton wagon train.

Ancestors of hers, she recalls, crossed the Plains by covered wagon many years ago and she was fascinated in trying to catch up with a group having a similar experience.

Mrs. Small arrived in John Day in late evening. Cold and tired, she was treated to a hot bowl of soup by a friendly motor lodge operator.

Up early the next morning, she hitchhiked to Prairie City but learned she had missed the group by 24 hours.

“If I had been younger and prettier, I think Joe Stewart would have taken me out himself,” she said up on her return to John Day.

Back here, she made inquiries around town before heading west on Highway 26, and then north on Highway 395 at Mt. Vernon.

Mrs. Small never caught up with the wagon train, travelers report. It was, however, one of her few failures as a grandmother hitchhiker.

A few months ago, Mrs. Small hitchhiked to the Midwest to see her children. She crossed seven states in four days. She left with $5.00 and arrived with $6.25, she recalled.

From there she went back to her mother’s birthplace in Kentucky, and then into the south. Then it was Texas and Salt Lake City before returning to Oregon.

The children can’t come to her so she goes to them, she explains.

A few years ago Mrs. Small went to Europe and hitchhiked through Luxembourg and Germany. Again, by the tine she got to England she had more money than she needed for her return, so she wired the surplus ahead of her.

Mrs. Small is a small woman, hardly the type one would expect to find along the nation’s highways hitching a ride. Perched on her head is a black velvet hat that has served her well for a dozen years.

“I just look like what I am,” says Mrs. Small.

25 years

Windows to the Past

Imagine a window through which you could look thousands of years into the past to see who lied on this land and how they lived here.

That opportunity may soon exist as volunteers, teaming together with Forest Service archaeologists, sift through test pits at several sites, collecting bits and samples of a life long past.

Don Hann, district archaeologist on the Bear Valley Ranger District of the Malheur National Forest, said more than 1,800 potential excavation archaeological sites have been identified within the district.

For the past several weeks, Hann and other district staff and volunteers have been working at a site at the Starr Ridge Campground where they unearthed arrowheads, pieces of bone and obsidian and other artifacts.

The effort is part of the District Heritage Program and the Passports In Time program offered by the Forest Service.

The camp at Starr Ridge, Hann explained, is almost exactly on the dividing line of Native American tribes from the Columbia River and Great Basin.

The camp lies along a trail of winter villages in the John Day Valley and summer hunting and plant gathering camps along Starr Ridge and around Bear Valley.

Hann said the goal is to dig at least one or two pits at each identified site with hopes of finding the most ideal location to launch a full scale archaeological excavation project.

Last week joining Hann and Deanna Maley, an archaeological technician with the Forest Service, were fourth and sixth grade students from the Prairie City School and fifth and sixth grade students from the Seneca School.

Billed as an opportunity to “see the dirty side of archeology,” the field trips allow students to get a hands-on opportunity to dig in the dirt in search of things such as arrowheads, obsidian, pottery fragments and bones.

Over the length of this project, which extended from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16, Hann estimated there were 35 to 40 volunteers donating hundreds of hours of time to help with the work.

Among those working out there last week was Dale Medeiros, a resident of Delray Beach, Florida, who was working on her 11th archaeological dig. Joining her was John Shafer of Dallas.

Hann explained that the archaeological excavation is important because it will establish the pattern of movement of Native American tribes in the area.

In the Starr Ridge and Bear Valley areas, he said, it appears members of the Paiute Indian Tribe traveled from the south Great Basin region to meet with tribes such as the Umatilla and Warm Springs from the Columbia River.

The bits of evidence collected from the carefully sifted soil offer an insight into what people of that time were doing and when they were here.

Charcoal found with objects is used to date the pieces. Obsidian flakes, as an example, would indicate some kind of camp where hunters would hone spears and arrows in preparation of the hunt. Larger pieces of obsidian, Hann explained, might indicate a quarry site.

In the area of Starr Ridge, Hann said the indications are that Starr Creek was the location for numerous family camps. In fact many, he believes, were scattered around Bear Valley, which was the focal point where hunters and gatherers would meet for group activities.

Because the obsidian is native to the area of Strawberry Mountain, its trade and transfer to other areas in the region provide an interesting insight into the trading and social patterns of those converging in the area.

Obsidian was an important trading commodity at the time, and it enables archaeologists such as Hann to chart how far trade extended and between what people.

In addition to trade, hunting and gathering, the summer meeting at Bear Valley also provided an outlet for other social activities.

Each sample collected is carefully placed into a plastic bag where it’s labeled and identified with the site and pit number, surface, type of samples, the date and discoverer.

Artifacts such as arrow and spearheads also paint a vivid picture of the technological changes among people of this area over the past several thousand years.

The projects now are being done only on publicly owned land, but Hann said he hopes to work toward developing partnerships with private landowners to dig test sites.

This marks the largest Passport In Time project in Oregon, Hann said, and will hopefully encompass numerous sites within about a three-mile radius of Bear Valley.

10 years ago

New doc in county lured by small-town lifestyle

Dr. Zachary Bailey joins the staff of clinic

A new doctor and his family are finding Grant County a good fit.

Dr. Zachary Bailey recently joined the medical team at Strawberry Wilderness Community Clinic after finishing his residency at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah. He graduated from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Bailey said that he and his wife Heather chose John Day in part because they both grew up in small towns and want to give their three small children a similar experience.

Another draw for Bailey is the opportunity to practice a broad spectrum of family medicine.

“I like to do a little bit of everything – deliver babies and take care of families, orthopedics and sports medicine,” he said.

After meeting the staff at the clinic, Bailey said he felt even more comfortable with the idea of making Grant County his home.

His family recently camped at Magone Lake with Drs. Andrew and Andrea Janssen, his coworkers at the clinic.

“I felt like we would make good partners,” Bailey said. “They have good hearts.”

Bailey’s hobbies include hunting, fishing, tennis and garage saling. His wife enjoys soccer, gardening and photography and keeps her pharmacist license current.

Dr. Bailey participated in the John Day triathlon for Hunger Aug. 29, teaming up with nurse anesthetist Dave Allen, and he plans to run in Prairie City’s half-marathon Saturday, Sept. 19.

His family enjoyed the talent show and rodeo during the Grant County Fair in August, and Bailey also attended Sen. Jeff Merkley’s recent town hall meeting in Canyon city.

“It’s nice to see people so actively engaged in the betterment of their community,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of that and contribute where I can.”

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