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Crooked River Country

Wranglers, Rogues, and Barons

David Braly


North Central Oregon’s hostile country and severe climate bred genuine Wild West legends—hardy souls who defied immense adversity. Despite range wars, drought, lawlessness, and economic depression, a desolate wilderness ultimately became an industrial power.

Finalist, 2005 Spur Award for best western short fiction


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Crooked River Country is a sweeping account of north central Oregon’s thrilling history, beginning in ancient times but focusing primarily on the period between 1800 and 1950. Bordered by intimidating natural barriers, the rough country and harsh winters produced equally hardy inhabitants. Legends include Billy Chinook, Chief Paulina, Elisha Barnes, James M. Blakely, Newt Williamson, James J. Hill, Johnnie Hudspeth, and Les Schwab.

In the early 1800s, only Native Americans, fur trappers, military expeditions, and missionaries roamed the forbidding mountains, canyons, forests, and desert. After mid-century, encouraged by the new land donation act, pioneer families discovered lush pastures nestled in the expanse between the Cascades and the Blue Mountains. A flurry of small towns materialized.

The homestead boom sparked deadly Paiute raids and range wars. Native Americans were forced onto reservations. As land became more precious, the “Vigilante” ranchers terrorized settlers with showdowns and lynchings, and gained a foothold in both local and state politics. “Moonshiners” fought back. Cattle ranchers slaughtered sheep (and sometimes shepherds) in conflicts over grazing rights. Dishonest politicians and capitalists misused road-building laws to profit from vast amounts of stolen timberland.
Steamship and railroad lines opened the region even further. Citizens erected schools and libraries, and the territory gradually became less wild. Big eastern lumber companies arrived, harvesting trees and constructing the largest pine mills in the world. Then the stock market collapsed, and central Oregonians faced severe economic depression intensified by prolonged drought.

New Deal programs and repercussions from World War II eventually spurred industrial and population growth. Today, although desolate corners and past mysteries still haunt Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson, Wasco, and Wheeler counties, Crooked River Country presents a captivating and thoroughly-researched saga of the region’s astonishing transformation.

Photographs / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 308 pages (2007)


Finalist, 2005 Spur Award for best western short fiction

Additional information

Weight 1.27 oz
Dimensions 9 x 6 in