Fake train robbery entertains tourists in 1913

Published Aug 18, 2013 at 05:00AM

Compiled by Don Hoiness from archived copies of The Bulletin at the Des Chutes Historical Museum.

100 YEARS AGO

For the week ending

August 17, 1913

Seattle excursion ‘held up’ when train is nearing Bend

The biggest long distance excursion ever conducted to any town of less than 5,000 people in the West, and what railroad men say was by all odds the finest equipped excursion train ever operated in the Northwest, arrived here Sunday evening with about 60 Bend enthusiasts from Seattle. The excursion is the second annual event of the kind made under the supervision of the Bend Park Company of Seattle. This year it came in over the Oregon Trunk Railway.

In addition to its elaborateness, there were special features to claim attention. One was a “hold-up” staged a couple of miles north of Bend, when the train was stopped by a band of near-robbers, and the passengers forced to look into the business ends of an arsenal of six-shooters, not to mention moving picture machines.

The second particularly unique feature was the banquet held Monday evening before the midnight departure of the visitors. It was given in a circus tent imported for the occasion and pitched on the lawn close to the D.E. Hunter log house.

The train was composed of three first class Pullman sleepers, a magnificent Great Northern observation car, a dining car and a baggage car. It arrived Sunday a couple of hours overdue.

Some of the delays were caused by the taking of many moving pictures on the way up the canyon — all the incidents of the trip will appear in “movie” houses throughout the country. One picture will depict the train crossing Crooked River bridge.

But the big delay was caused by the amateur train robbers. About a dozen members of the Emblem Club pulled off the hold-up. Of course the train crew was warned, so that the desperadoes had no difficulty in getting the locomotive stopped where they had placed a red flag. Also, thanks to prearrangement, nothing worse than blank cartridges were fired.

The moving picture machines had been hustled to the scene by auto from a place further down the line, and when the robbers attired in “chaps,” masks and all other appurtenances of wildwestness, and brandishing many guns, swarmed aboard the cars, every incident worth attention was recorded on the films.

These included several hand-to-hand encounters, in which innocent passengers were clubbed to death by the highwaymen, and one spectacular chase of an escaping victim who led his pursuers along the roof of the coaches, only to be shot by a lurking robber, and then “rolled” in the most approved manner.

All day Monday, pictures were taken about Bend and adjacent country.

Sunday evening, members of the Emblem Club dined aboard the train, while Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Lara entertained many of the visitors at their home.

Monday morning was devoted chiefly to wandering about the town, many of the excursionists climbing Pilot Butte and enjoying the magnificent view, doubly beautiful because of the perfect cloudless day.

75 YEARS AGO

For the week ending

August 17, 1938

Some Metolius ‘Firsts’

Last week, boatmen ran the Metolius river from its source to its mouth. In their perilous voyage, they passed from the vicinity of Black Butte to the Deschutes and then on down the river for a way. So far as is known, they were the first to accomplish this feat. The exploit has created much interest and has been a frequent topic of conversation, of news article and newspaper editorial ever since it was performed.

It may be worthwhile to go back in to the past and recall two other “firsts” in the history of the river. One of these is the first recorded sight and crossing of the river by white men. The men were those in the party led by Nathanial J. Wyeth south from the Columbia in late 1834 and the date on which they came to the river was December 16 in that year. The record is found in the journal of the expedition kept by Wyeth and published by the Oregon Historical Society.

There then is the record of that “first.” It is more than likely that other white men — Hudson’s Bay Company trappers — had preceded Wyeth but there is no record.

The other “first” is a part of the history of the Pacific railroad survey in 1853. Out of this came the first use of the name of the river in written and printed form.

The upper river was first seen by white men on September 27, 1853. The men were Lieutenant Henry Larcom Abbot and Dr. John S. Newberry and 10 others of the exploring party. The day before, they had come up the east slope of Green Ridge and “camped in a fine prairie.” On Thursday morning they “rose a slight hill & found a pitch of about 2,000 feet in half a mile.” Then they “descended to a gully & found Ptolias River which heads in the peaks between Mt. Jeff. and the 3 snow peaks.”

Elsewhere in his journal Abbot calls it the “Pty-ly-as” but in the published record the name of the river appears as “Mpto-ly-as.”

Apparently he had difficulty in combining letters to suggest the sound of the name he heard the Indians use. Someone has recently written that “Where Russian is concerned, any transliteration which makes an equivalent sound is as correct as any other.”

That is true of Indian speech as well.

Having reached the “Ptolias River” the Abbot party crossed it, finding it to be “a large river 50 to 75 feet wide & difficult to ford.”

The rest of that day and all of Friday was spent in exploring the country to the west but at the same time they worked down stream and Friday night found the party on the river “camped very near its northern point opposite a castle rock the base of which was 800 or 1000 feet above the stream.”

The next day, the explorers went down the river to the ford on the old north and south Indian trail and there we leave them.

50 YEARS AGO

For the week ending

August 17, 1963

‘64 Olympic ski team due in area August 25

Seventeen young alpine athletes are on their way to the cool Oregon Cascades to get in shape for perhaps the greatest event of their lives.

Bend, Bachelor Butte and Elk Lake will be the three-cornered training ground for the 1964 Olympic ski team.

Included on the team is Oregon’s Jean Saubert of Lakeview. She is a student at Oregon State University. Miss Saubert is the team’s only representative from the Pacific Northwest.

It will be the first time in history that a U.S. Olympic ski team has had a summer training session. It also will be the first gathering of the athletes as a team.

Normally such an event would rate a shouted warning of “here they come!” Not so this bunch. Nothing but work for two solid weeks awaits the Olympians. Central Oregon’s Elk Lake will house the team during its two-week stay. The rugged, mountain atmosphere will provide the right isolation and create an atmosphere for strict training.

Little fanfare will accompany the Olympians’ visit. Immediately upon their arrival the team members will get right down to business. No festivities will be offered them here.

Tough, deliberate Coach Bob Beattie, offers the team members nothing but the business at hand — training. Team members will make their initial assembly in Portland, and will get a uniform outfitting there. Immediately upon finishing this, the Olympians will trek to Bend.

After they leave Bend, the United States team will enroll at the University of Colorado or other colleges in the Denver area for one term. Coach Beattie wants them together so they will be able to train together as a squad on weekends.

Their visit to Bend and the Bachelor Butte slopes was made possible by the Bend Skyliners, who caught wind of a rumor that Coach Beattie was looking around for a summer place in the west to train his Olympic team. The Skyliners learned this while attending a Pacific Northwest meeting at Wenatchee, Wash. Beattie was head speaker there.

Hiking, rowing boats and general conditioning is part of the rugged schedule the Olympians will follow. Most of the skiing itself, will be early morning skiing, from daybreak to about 8:30. The skiers will want to be on the slopes when the snow is the hardest. Bachelor Buttes’s upper slopes have permanent snow fields.

25 YEARS AGO

For the week ending

August 17, 1988

A family town, a company town, Gilchrist marks 50 years

Fifty years ago, Frank William Gilchrist plucked his wife and children out of the clear cut timberlands of southern Mississippi and loaded them onto a railroad coach bound for 80,000 acres of untouched Oregon pine — enough to feed a sawmill for decades.

Enough to build the sawmill and the millworkers’ cabins and store and just about everything else in the town and dubbed — naturally enough — Gilchrist.

Many things have changed since 1938. Many sawyers have been replaced by computers. Frank R. Gilchrist long since has replaced Frank W. as the family’s patriarch. Gone is the clear-cut philosophy, replaced by selective cutting practices that will keep timber flowing through the family mill for years.

But much remains the same.

For instance, every inch of every building — the cabins, the houses, the sawmill and one long building that houses a grocery store, mercantile, barber shop and restaurant — still is the property of the Gilchrist Timber Co. The only exception is Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church — and, says Frank Gilchrist, “If they don’t hold Mass at least once a year, I’ll repossess that.”

The cozy cabins of the town still stand amid the pines like a scene from a nursery rhyme — an appearance strengthened by the fact that every building in town is painted brown. And not just any brown: It’s a color locals refer to as “Gilchrist brown.” It’s a shade reminiscent of gingerbread, and it’s interrupted only by the cheery Scandinavian folk art motifs that are painted around doors and window boxes.

Company officials get tired being questioned about the monochrome color scheme.

“It’s a hell of a lot easier to paint ’em all one color that it is to have everyone pick a color,” explains timber company President Charles Shotts.

Still, most Gilchrist residents admit they’re living in a community unlike any other.

“The more and more I think about it, I guess we are dinosaurs,” says one longtime company man.

But most Gilchrist residents wouldn’t have it any other way.

Who can argue with the rent, for instance? Gilchristers pay $80 to $90 a month. The only property tax payer in town is the company and when the plumbing goes bad or the lights go out, locals just call the Gilchrists.

“If you’ve got a town, you’ve got to take care of it,” says Frank Gilchrist.