I’m all packed up and preparing to fly out tomorrow morning. These weeks have flown by (though not for my long-suffering wife, to whom I owe many favors), but home is calling me and it’s time to go.
In the meantime, we’ll continue our virtual eastern Oregon tour with a bit of history. Commenter Lilaine asked whether the town of Frenchglen had been settled by French people…so I looked up the name in Oregon Geographic Names, by Louis A. McArthur. Here is the entry, offering a peek into the “old west” past of my home state:
Dr. Hugh James Glenn was born in Virginia in 1824 and spent his youth in Missouri, where he was married in March, 1849. In that year he emigrated to California, and after working in the mines, in 1853 he settled temporarily in what is now Glenn County, California. After several trips across the plains, he brought his family to California in 1868 and settled there permanently. In 1867 he began to buy land on a large scale and in 1874 he was reported to own 55,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley. He was known as the Wheat King. He was killed by one Miller on February 17, 1883, on his Jacinto Ranch only 17 days after his oldest daughter Ella had become the bride of Peter French.
(Aha, we’re catching on now!)
French was born John William French in Missouri in 1849 and came to California as a child. During his teens he took the Christian name Peter and worked for Glenn on the Jacinto Ranch. In 1872 Dr. Glenn sent Peter French to southeastern Oregon as a scout and land buyer. French bought large holdings for the Glenn account and became a partner in the French-Glenn business. He was impressed with the valley of the Donner und Blitzen River for cattle raising and among other properties, bought a small ranch from a local cattleman and prospector who was using a P branding iron. This place was a favorite of Peter French and became his headquarters, with the name P Ranch. The P Ranch became one of the most famous properties of the West and was the center of very large holdings. Pete French was shot and killed near Sodhouse on December 26, 1897, by Edward L. Oliver. This tragedy was the result of an altercation over some land, and Oliver was acquitted by a jury. For many decades the P Ranch and the French-Glenn holdings were landmarks in Harney County. Frenchglen post office was near the P Ranch, and the name of the office perpetuates the name of the owners of the enterprise, with a single modification in spelling. A large part of the property is now in the Malheur Migratory Bird Refuge.
Interesting that both Glenn and French were murdered. It really was the wild west.
Remember the name Peter French — you’ll see it again in a few days.
(Note: readers who are interested in the status of the wildfire burning near Frenchglen can find an update here. In a nutshell, the fire is very close to Frenchglen and the residents have been given evacuation notices, but as of this article they were staying put. Meanwhile, a second fire burning in the southeast corner of the state is now the largest Oregon fire in over a century, at more than 800 square miles.)