Fireside Story evening features Cyrus family
Last updated 3/16/2022 at Noon
The Cyrus family of Cloverdale has a rich seven-generation history in Oregon, much of it part of the local fabric of Sisters Country. That’s the topic of Three Sisters Historical Society’s (TSHS) first Fireside Story Evening of 2022.
The Tuesday, March 22 event starts at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m. to allow time for socializing and perusing books for sale from the museum. The evening will be hosted by the Cyrus family at Brand 33 at Aspen Lakes, 16900 Aspen Lakes Dr. The event can also be livestreamed on the TSHS Facebook page. Any COVID-19 restrictions will be posted and followed.
Keith and Connie Cyrus, and their children Pam and Matt, will bring history alive as they share family stories and reminiscences. Attendees will hear about their ancestors’ arrival in the Willamette Valley in 1847 via the Oregon Trail, as well as family tales of Central Oregon dry land farming and drought, their historic Lazy 33 brand, water rights and ditches, sheep and cattle wars in 1895-1906, freight hauling to Shaniko and Prineville, Army troops training in Sisters Country during World War II, schools and school district boundaries, and other entertaining history of Sisters and the county.
The seven generations of the Cyrus family have called Oregon home dating back to 1882, when Enoch and Mary Cyrus moved from Scio, Oregon in the Willamette Valley, first to the mouth of Skull Hollow east of Smith Rock, and in 1883, to the Gray Butte foothills between Terrebonne and Culver. They homesteaded 160 acres, adding acreage to it several more times.
Enoch became known for his Cyrus wheat, which was a hard fall wheat that made excellent flour. They also had a few milk cows and chickens, horses, and up to 3,000 head of sheep. Their brand, the Lazy 33, was registered in 1882 and is still used by Matt Cyrus today.
In 1899, Mary filed on 320 acres of desert land in the Cloverdale community that could be irrigated with water from then Squaw Creek (now Whychus Creek). They built a small board-and-batten house on the property at the corner of current-day Cloverdale and Jordan Roads and moved in 1900. Enoch was the first to grow alfalfa in Cloverdale.
Enoch and Mary had seven children. Their third son, Omer Mason Cyrus, homesteaded 160 acres near Haystack Butte near Culver, a half-mile from his parents’ Gray Butte farm. In June 1900, Omer married Hattie Peck of Culver. They lived on the Haystack farm until 1934 when they sold the land to the U. S. government following seven years of drought. In 1936, they bought a farm in the Cloverdale community, east of Sisters.
Omer and Hattie’s third son, Willard H., was born in 1912 in Culver and grew up on the Haystack farm, attending school in Culver. Willard moved with his parents, Omer and Hattie, to the Cloverdale farm on Highway 126 in 1936. He worked the farm with his father. Remembering the devastating drought years, Willard worked hard clearing and preparing the land for crops. He eventually purchased the land originally belonging to his grandparents, Enoch and Mary Cyrus on Jordan Road.
He married Mae Godard in 1937 and they had four children, the oldest being son Omer Keith and the oldest daughter Kay, both of whom still live in Cloverdale.
Keith attended Cloverdale Grade School, Redmond High School, and Oregon State College. He remembers driving his dad’s baling machine at age seven. Besides helping his father on the farm, he raised sheep for 4-H, winning many prizes at county and state fairs. He attended the national 4-H Congress in Chicago in 1958.
A year after he graduated from high school, in 1959, Keith and sister Kay purchased 440 acres of farmland for $50/acre with money they had earned in 4-H. Later Keith purchased Kay’s share and over the years has added acreage to the farming operation, which over time has included seed potatoes, alfalfa hay, grain, certified mint root and oil, sheep, Holstein steers, and hogs. The frame of the potato cellar located on the north side of Highway 126 was built by Keith’s dad from cedar that Keith brought over from Springfield.
Keith married elementary school teacher Conida (Connie) Bucher of Bonneville in 1961 and they had five children, Matt (who continues the farming legacy), Brian, Pamela, Joseph, and Grant. Over the years of farming, Keith has been recognized for his farming techniques and his community involvement.
He was awarded a plaque for being an outstanding conservation farmer. In 1974, the Oregon Jaycees honored him as one of the three outstanding young farmers in Oregon. He has been the past president of the Deschutes County Farm Bureau, chairman of the Central Oregon Potato Growers Association, on the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Committee, American Agriculture Marketing Association, Whychus Creek Irrigation District, County Planning Commission, Deschutes County Cattlemen’s Association, and director of the Cloverdale Volunteer Fire Department.
Three Sisters Historical Society members are admitted to the event free, nonmembers pay $10, and 2022 memberships can be purchased at the door. Two more Fireside Story Evenings are scheduled for April 19 and May 17 at FivePine Conference Center. There will also be an opportunity to sign up to volunteer for TSHS and/or the Sisters Museum. A complimentary beverage service will be available (coffee, tea, lemonade, and water). Families with children are welcome. For event-related questions call 541-610-6323.