News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters — past and present

If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it’s part of a tree.

­ — Michael Crichton

Last week I got to volunteer at The Three Sisters Historical Society’s Sisters Museum, a charming place. As I looked through old pictures and artifacts of the earliest settlement of what we know now as Sisters, I began to understand some of the early forces that shaped our community. I was surprised to realize that Sisters is the oldest town in Deschutes County, and that the remnants of the Hindman Barn in Camp Polk is the oldest structure in Deschutes County.

My husband and I have lived in Central Oregon for over 40 years, where we raised our five children and grew a publishing company. Our family spent most of our years at Black Butte Ranch; then we lived at Camp Sherman for 15 years. Now we’ve moved into Sisters and are amazed at its rapid growth. Amazed but not surprised, because who wouldn’t want to live here?

We all love its beauty and the mountains that inspire and surprise us every day. We love the blue sky, the crisp air, and the always-changing seasons. Besides, it’s a regular town now with schools, clinics, stores, gas stations, a city hall, a library, churches, restaurants, and coffee and tea houses.

How good it is though, to tread lightly as we “own” a place. How good it is to remember those who came before. How they took risks, worked hard, and had losses and triumphs. In 1870, Samuel Hindman filed for a homestead and five years later established the Camp Polk Post Office. The Hindmans met the needs of early pioneers. Part of the Hindman barn, the oldest structure in Deschutes County, is still standing at the Camp Polk Preserve.

At Black Butte Ranch, where we lived for over 22 years, I would often walk by the remnants of an old cabin.

It was said to have belonged to Till Glaze of Prineville, who bought the range for his beloved horses.

It was a delightful place even then.

His son, Warren, remembers, “Our family home was in Prineville, but every year from 1881 to 1889, on the 5th day of July, Dad would load up the wagon, hitch up the team and we’d start for Black Butte… The second day’s travel always seemed long because we were so eager to get to the cabin.

I especially loved the big pine trees and Indian Ford Creek.

I distinctly remember one time that we saw several Indian teepees set up beside the creek.

(They) had dug a deep pool in the creek and were taking sweat baths in the teepees and then jumping into the icy waters.

There were always Indians camped in the area when we were there.” (Warren Glaze, as told to Frances Juris)

Before the earliest white settlers came, there were Native Americans who fished, dug roots, and hunted. They picked abundant huckleberries. When excavation was done at Paulina Springs pool at Black Butte Ranch some years ago, obsidian arrowheads were discovered — clues of the very earliest homeowners. I wonder if they dipped their hands into Paulina Springs for that cold, clear water that my own children loved so much.

Our home in Camp Sherman was in Metolius Meadows.

I learned from digging through old books that Metolius Meadows was the first golf course in Central Oregon.

The owners of Hansen’s Resort (now Lake Creek Lodge), who also owned the Metolius Meadows, had the idea in 1924 to put in a golf course.

It was rustic, with only six holes, and used tin cans as the holes.

It was a great idea, maybe just a bit before its time.

They brought in sheep to munch the grass down, as it was difficult to golf with such high grass.

But times were hard in the depression and eventually someone decided to plant the meadow instead with mint.

Now, as you walk along Lake Creek, you can find mint … a permanent gift from that mint farmer.

As we enjoy the hustle and bustle of our little town with its resort feel, it may be a good idea on a sunny day to get off the beaten track … to take the time to look … to wonder what was here many years ago. Do you know how Tollgate got its name? Do you know where the first post office was? Have you seen the Santiam Wagon Trail? Do you know the heartbreaking story at Fish Lake?

So many places, so many stories behind them. Understanding our history gives us a deeper appreciation of the forces that shape a city, a community. And, of course, it is people. People like you and me. We stand on the shoulders of ordinary, hardworking people who came here to make a place for themselves and for others. We too — transient as we are — have hopes and dreams to put down roots, to make this a better place. To love and care for this place that we call home.

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “The great eventful Present hides the Past; but through the din of its loud life hints and echoes from the life behind steal in.”

Places to see:

Sisters Museum, 410 E. Cascade Ave., Sisters, Oregon; Camp Polk Preserve, Camp Polk Road.

Books available at Sisters Museum:

“A History of the Deschutes Country in Oregon” by The Deschutes County Historical Society

“Oregon’s Sisters Country” by Raymond R. Hatton

“That Was Yesterday” by Tillie Wilson and Alice Scott.


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