Central Oregon was one of the most isolated of places in the U.S. in the 1870s. The first Euro-American settlers and the re-located tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation tried stock ranching and dry-farming with limited success. Small communities formed Warm Springs, Prineville, Shaniko, Farewell Bend, Harper, and other locations.
The lure of open rangeland attracted many of central Oregon’s first settlers.
Initial Settlement: Raising Stock:
Stockmen first came into central Oregon from the Willamette Valley in the 1860s in search of seasonal grazing.
Through the 1870s and 1880s large ranches were established on some of central Oregon’s more favorable land.
Rail transportation enabled sheep ranchers to ship their lambs and wool outside the region.
End of the Open Range:
The establishment of public lands and forests limited the practices of open-range grazing.
In order to make use of central Oregon land, dry-farming techiques were developed and promoted in schools of agriculture, regional congresses, and expositions.
Survival on the High Desert:
In some areas dry farmers scraped by while in others they prospered. Still, no one was able to live up to the Jeffersonian ideal of self-sufficiency.
Early advocates recognized that the settlement of the West would require large-scale irrigation projects created with the help of the federal government.
Completed in 1946, the largest of the central Oregon irrigation projects was the North Unit project which extended from Terrebonne to Gateway.
Pre-Industrial Communities: Prineville:
Prineville was the first of the central Oregon town to establish its roots in 1868.
Pre-Industrial Communities: Redmond:
The history of Redmond is closely allied to the progress of irrigated farming.
Pre-Industrial Communities: Madras:
The establishment of Madras as a market town for regional goods coincided with the opening of the Oregon Trunk Railway in 1910.
Pre-Industrial Arts and Culture:
Most central Oregon settlers had to make their own entertainment through folk arts, music, letter-writing, and story-telling.