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home : current news : current news January 16, 2018

1/2/2018 6:35:00 PM
New historical society forms
By Sue Stafford

The Three Sisters Historical Society was birthed when five local Sisters women discovered their shared interest in the history of Sisters and they have been working for the past eight months to get it established.

When history teacher Becky Lukens moved to Sisters in August 2016 with her family, one of her first endeavors in becoming acquainted with her new surroundings was to read about the history and geography of the area.

"Paulina Springs Books set me up with 'That Was Yesterday' (the consummate history of early Sisters) and 'The Biography of a Place' (a natural history of Camp Polk Meadow along Whychus Creek, north of town)," Lukens said.

Longtime Sisters resident Kathy Cooper has had an ongoing love affair with the history of the Oregon Trail, which her ancestors traveled in the late 1840s to settle in the Willamette Valley. For Cooper, "the history of Central Oregon, and specifically the crossroads area of Sisters, is an extension of the Oregon Trail story."

Karen Swank is a certified genealogist and lover of old things, who has put her talents and interests to work researching the early families who settled Sisters. While volunteering at the Des Chutes Historical Museum, she has secured over 200 photographs of the earliest days in Sisters from the museum's archives.

Zeta Seiple, who with her husband, Richard, moved to Sisters 14 years ago from California, loves "old stuff," local museums and the history of small towns. She served on the board of the former Sisters Country Historical Society, which was disbanded several years ago. She has continued to see the need for a historical society in Sisters. She worked with Jean Nave, the founder of the former society, to secure objects, photos, interviews, and printed material from the previous organization.

Sue Stafford's ancestors also came west on the Oregon Trail in 1852 and settled west of the Cascades. Her love affair with Central Oregon began as a child camping on the Metolius River near Camp Sherman. Since moving to Sisters 14 years ago, she has longed to see the history of the area preserved and shared with Sisters residents and tourists alike.

When the five discovered their common desire for a history museum in Sisters, they began seriously exploring the possibility of making it happen. In the last eight months, with the invaluable help of local attorney Roger Nelson, they have become incorporated and secured their 501(c)(3) charitable organization status. Strategic planner Jeff Tryens has helped them formulate their initial strategic plan.

Preliminary interviews have been conducted with descendants of early Sisters residents like the Leithausers, the Edgingtons, and the Trowbridges.

Three of the women have been assisting Kathy Deggendorfer of The Roundhouse Foundation with researching documents of historical significance relating to the recently purchased Pine Meadow Ranch and its early beginnings dating back to 1885.

Lukens explained the local interest being generated in the early stages of the historical society.

"We have found a synergy for this important project in Sisters. The town is growing and changing, and yet our respect for those who have come before us is clear. We need a place for people to see, touch and learn about our community's past while we consider our future," she said.

"We are very enthusiastic about and committed to our Three Sisters Historical Society. And we also know for it to be successful, we need many more people - supporters and volunteers who have a love of history and want to share the history of Sisters and the surrounding area with the community, the schools, and the many visitors who travel through here," added Seiple.

As the group plans activities for the upcoming year, they are hoping to invite some of the descendants to join them in the Rodeo parade. They are also planning to participate in the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show.

"We have submitted a special exhibitor application to the Quilt Show for this coming July to display two old quilts that were originally pieced and quilted by local women as gifts - one from 1913, as a birthday gift to another quilter, and one from 1935 as a gift for a new baby," reported Seiple, the project manager for that endeavor. "Both of these quilts are crazy-style quilts with embroidery and special stitching. Some of the same quilters worked on both quilts. Many squares on the quilt are signed by the quilter of each square. We know most quilters love old quilts and will want to look at these quilts up close to see the handwork of years gone by."

Swank explained her research into the early families who settled in the Sisters area. "We have a genealogical interest going in the Three Sisters Historical Society, both with family history files for early pioneers and their relationships documented on and"

Through a series of "pop-up exhibits" around town, the society will share with the public things like the history behind the place names around Sisters - roads named Gist, Fryrear, George Cyrus, Edgington, Perit Huntington, Barclay, Lundgren Mill, and others. The pop-ups will serve as the venue for displays until a permanent location and sufficient funds can be found for a museum.

"We know the pioneer namesakes and their stories as well as the history of those buried in our beloved Camp Polk Cemetery and hope to share that with you," Swank mentioned.

During the months of February, March and April, a series of three free "Fireside Stories" evenings will be offered by the society. At these events, residents will have the opportunity to hear interesting stories of Sisters' past, learn more about the historical society - its mission and goals - become supporters, and volunteer to be involved.

Lukens summarized for The Nugget one of the main reasons for the group's interest in establishing the historical society.

"We all live in this town which identifies deeply with its history; the downtown architecture, the schools' Americana Project and history curriculum, the quilt show, the rodeo, and the folk festival. All are thriving due to a fundamental respect for and delight in American traditions. And yet, Sisters has no museum."

Swank pointed out that not only will the historical society pay homage to the early pioneers. "We will continue to honor those who made Sisters what it is today."

Starting this month, there will be a recurring feature in The Nugget called "Did You Know?" in which snippets of history will be shared to engage the community with Sisters' past.

Contact Three Sisters Historical Society president Sue Stafford at threesisters

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