News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Author to describe timber history

Timber and railroads were what built and supported Central Oregon in the early 20th century. Local historian Steve Lent, of the Bowman Museum in Prineville, will bring that time alive with his photographic presentation of “The Rise of the Timber Industry in Central Oregon” on Tuesday, January 21, 7 p.m., at the Three Sisters Historical Society Fireside Stories Evening at FivePine Conference Center.

Lent, a Prineville native, is well-known in the area for his keen interest in local history. His guided history tours and local presentations are always popular events as he shares lively stories and vintage photos of significant historical events, people, and places throughout Central Oregon.

The earliest mills were small local operations to provide lumber for homesteaders and early ranchers to build homes and barns. Those mills, numbering in the hundreds, were either steam or water powered and had limited production capabilities.

When the timber supply began to be exhausted in the northern woods of the Midwest, large timber operations looked to the West to acquire large holdings in Central Oregon. The area was covered by dense forests of ponderosa pine, so large they were called “monarchs” – 165 feet tall and four feet around.

Lumberman M. J. Scanlon of Minnesota purchased 16,000 acres of forest in Central Oregon in 1898. Dr. Dwight Brooks, also from Minnesota, joined Scanlon in purchasing more timberland in Deschutes County. They then waited for the necessary rail lines to be built (1911) to carry finished lumber out of their proposed Brooks-Scanlon mill, which eventually produced 625,000 board feet of lumber per day in 1926.

Lent will relay the history of that mill as well as others that operated in Bend, Prineville, Gilchrist, and Sisters, and the multitude of logging camps that supplied the mills with timber, including the Brooks Camp here in Sisters.

Lent is a 1972 graduate of the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Science degree in history. His first career was in wildland fire management, serving with the U. S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. He retired from that occupation in 2002 and became the assistant director of the Bowman Museum in Prineville.

Through the years, Lent has twice served as president of the Crook County Historical Society. He has written three books on “Central Oregon Place Names” (Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes counties), and has also authored three books of photographic history of Prineville, Crook County, and Madras.

Lent has also published two books that are compilations of his writings for local newspapers, titled “Islands in Time” and “Pillars in Time.” Additionally, he has contributed writings to several other books. He writes a weekly local newspaper column on local history. He is a member of the Western Writers of America.

In 2001, Lent was awarded a commendation award from the National Association of State and Local History for contributions to local history. He has also been a recipient of the DAR Medal for Historic Preservation. He currently is the historian for the Bowman Museum.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the January 21 event. Society memberships may be purchased which will provide free admission to all four Fireside Evenings this winter.

On February 18, Steve Stenkamp will share his stories and photographs of “Lost Oregon Ski Areas,” remembering those areas skied by locals and visitors before the advent of large mechanized ski resorts. On March 5, prolific Oregon author and Central Oregon native Jarold Ramsey will present “Words Marked by a Place,” with stories from the homesteading era of Central Oregon.

Just in time for hiking season, on April 26, Oregon author of 22 books Bill Sullivan will present “Hiking Oregon’s History,” a slide show based on his book of the same name, that is an armchair hiker’s tour of Oregon’s most scenic historic sites. He will provide “a glimpse into Oregon’s largest museum — the great outdoors.”

Historical society memberships are $25 for individuals and $40 for couples/families. General admission for non-members for each Fireside Evening is $10.


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