Online

To read the digital copies of historic Deschutes County newspapers and other newspapers across the state, visit the University of Oregon Libraries’ Historic Oregon Newspapers website, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu.

(Newspaper images from University of Oregon Libraries)

A collection of historic newspapers have been digitally preserved, offering a rare glimpse into life in Central Oregon, from the frontier days to World War II.

The Deschutes Historical Museum discovered the collection was kept on microfilm at the University of Oregon Libraries. The museum paid about $1,000 to digitize the microfilm so it could be available online.

Now, anyone can digitally flip through The DesChutes Echo, Laidlaw Chronicle, La Pine Inter-Mountain and the Abbot Engineer. The museum was also able to digitize vintage copies of The Redmond Spokesman, from 1910 to 1914.

“They all capture these vivid moments in time,” said Nate Pedersen, community librarian with Deschutes Public Library and a Deschutes County Historical Society board member. “It’s interesting to see these settlements in Central Oregon. Communities that either no longer exist or have substantially changed.”

The whole project started last year when Pedersen noticed the library had every copy of the Abbot Engineer, a weekly newspaper for the combat engineers at Camp Abbot, a World War II military training camp in present-day Sunriver.

Pedersen wanted to better preserve the 57 issues published between 1943 and 1944. He contacted the University of Oregon Libraries, which has become a clearinghouse for all historic newspapers in the state through its Historic Oregon Newspapers Project.

The university already had the Abbot Engineer on microfilm, so Pedersen used a couple hundred dollars from the library’s budget to digitize the microfilm. The library’s physical copies have been sent to the Deschutes Historical Museum.

A digitized collection will allow the public to search for an individual by name, Pedersen said. A relative of a soldier who was at Camp Abbot could search online to see if anything was written about that person, he said.

Pedersen sees the Abbot Engineer as a valuable and entertaining piece of local history. The issues feature cartoons, pictures of pin-up models and stories about daily life at the camp published alongside news of World War II.

The most exciting news was when women would visit the camp, Pedersen said.

“It’s an army of men,” he said. “The paper is very much catered to that audience.”

After digitally preserving the Abbot Engineer, Pedersen asked if the university had other Deschutes County newspapers in its microfilm collection. Sure enough, the university had limited copies of the other publications, including just three issues of the La Pine Inter-Mountain from 1921.

“These are small one-off newspapers that haven’t existed for a very long time,” said Kelly Cannon-Miller, Deschutes Historical Museum director.

Starting newspapers in these Western towns was a profitable venture for clever businessmen, Cannon-Miller said.

For example, The DesChutes Echo, which began in 1902 — a year before The Bulletin — was founded by A.C. Palmer, a former U.S. Lands Commissioner and Crook County clerk.

As clerk, Palmer processed all land claims in the region and knew the claims legally had to be published in the nearest community newspaper. By starting the Echo, he was getting paid on both ends for processing and then publishing the land claims.

“He was making a lot of money off of that,” Cannon-Miller said.

Palmer’s moneymaking scheme did not last long, and he was accused of fraudulent land claims activity. He sold the Echo in 1903, but the printing press later burned down and the paper ceased in 1904.

Another early businessman, William A. Laidlaw, launched the Laidlaw Chronicle in May 1903 as a way to promote his new town in present-day Tumalo. Laidlaw described the town in his paper as the most fertile land in the West and made promises of railroads and irrigation. People flocked to the town.

By 1906, the Laidlaw Chronicle was filled with advertisements from numerous business including a pool hall, skating rink, two doctors and two lawyers.

However, Laidlaw’s promises were never fulfilled. Residents ran him out of town and he moved to Portland. The locals reportedly hanged Laidlaw in effigy in 1907 and 1912.

“He got himself really sideways with the residents in the community,” Cannon-Miller said. “Everybody got tired of promises that were never filled.”

A common theme throughout all of the historical newspapers is how they advocate for the region, Cannon-Miller said.

“The fun thing about them is they are very promotional,” she said. “Trying to start these towns and encourage people to move here. Most of what is in all of them is very congratulatory and cheerleading for each place.”

The newspapers that started at the turn of the century were part of the city-building taking place on the High Desert. Western frontier towns were transforming into organized, incorporated cities. And the newspapers were the fabric of those communities.

“Starting a town could be a business venture. That is what was possible then,” Cannon-Miller said. “It gives you such a picture of what life was like at that point in time.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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