Jess Edgington was born in Sisters in 1918. His father Ellis Edgington
homesteaded in Bull Ridge near Plainview and later traded that
land for a ranch on Squaw Creek. His parents met in Plainview where
his mother was a school teacher in 1914. Jess finished Sisters
High School in 1936, in a class of six. He spent 4 years at Oregon
State studying animal husbandry and range management, planning
to come home to the ranch and apply it. But in 1942 the war broke
out and he spent 3 years in the China/Burma/Indian Theater in a
veterinary company (The 13th Mountain Medical Battalion). He went
around the world. When he returned he went back to the ranch, raised
cattle, worked for the Forest Service, managed timber on the Ranch,
was a packer, and worked for the Postal Service for 17 years as
Postmaster. His sister Georgia Gallagher was also interviewed for
this project. He lives with his friend Ali in Sisters.
Memories of June 9, 1938
I remember 60 years ago today I was leading
a pack trip with 8-9 horses and 4 passengers traveling over McArthur
Rim in a snowstorm. The snow was so deep there that it obliterated
the road and you couldn’t tell where we were going because of the snowfall.
There were 6-8 feet deep holes around the trees and we had to take
care to keep the horses out of them. But we finally ended up at
the Tumalo Creek Ditch Cabin, up there near Broken Top Crater.
They were working the ditch then, just barely. People had gone
in there and they had a big pot of beans on. We ate their beans!
It’s always been an important date in my mind because we
were supposed to be there in 2 days and it took 3 days - we got
Forest Service to Postal Service
I was working in the meantime for the Forest
Service. Jerry Benson was my immediate boss for a while. Earlier
I usually just worked for the Ranger. There weren’t very many people working for
the Forest Service then. I took some of the personnel up to Carl
Lake in 1963 horseback, coming out we got in a big storm and got
wet and soaked, when I got home I ended up with pneumonia. Had
difficulty getting out of the hospital. That’s when I had
to change. I left the ranch and worked for the Postal Service for
seventeen years. And after that I kept managing what timber we
had left. I’d started earlier to break the place up into
homesites- we had 1200 acres starting out. I bought it from Dad
Where are your favorite places around Sisters?
Well it doesn’t matter as long as you’re in the high
mountains. I’ve requested my ashes be deposited at Honey
Lake, where I spent my honeymoon, on the west side of the South
Sister. We came down James Creek through the Indian Holes. It’s
the most beautiful spot in the world. The elk were laying in the
meadow and Separation Creek runs through there.
What are your favorite creeks or lakes around Sisters?
Well the Metolius River was my favorite for
years. With the exception that Squaw Creek has always been my
backdoor spot. That’s
where I learned to fish and where I started flyfishing. Now I can’t
get to any of them because I can’t stand up well enough to
keep from falling in the creek. I have to get the pictures out
now and remember.
Observations about Squaw Creek
There are several important points about Squaw
Creek that ought to be noted. There’s the high spring period when there’s
winter snow runoff. Then there’s the May-June period when
the creek is so muddy that a fish couldn’t see to bite anything.
Then there’s the low period in August- September, when you
probably don’t have water running through Sisters unless
you have a good year, like we’ve had the past 2-3 years.
It’s hard to say what it will be because it varies. The ice
jams created some of the high water, and the other high water was
I remember particularly one session of high
water. We had our bridge wash out about 5 different times over
the years. One of the years we had a log across and we were going
to school. Dad was out helping us across and for safety’s
sake he put a rope around each one of us. So my sister Jean got
out there in the middle and fell in. He just let her float down
the creek and pulled her in to shore and sent her into the house
to get warm. That creek is very cold.
There’s one thing about the creek, I’d like to mention.
You said you’d like to know about the ebb and flow of it.
Soap Creek used to have a beautiful fall where it comes into Squaw
Creek. Next time I went up there I couldn’t find that fall
, I couldn’t figure out what in the world had happened. That
thing had backed up against a dam and filled it with cinder and
rock and everything else till it was overflowing, about 12 feet
I suppose. It was a natural occurrence. Later, something come along
and undermined it and let Soap Creek wash out that material that
had closed it.
That was another color of the water- soapy.
Soap Creek was soapy. And Squaw Creek was muddy and Park Creek
was muddy depending on time of year and what they were running
through up there (the layers of earth the creek ran thorough).
Now you don’t see it.
What else do you remember about your times on Squaw Creek?
I fished a little. I took a bath in that creek
in November. I can justify the statement that it’s cold.
You could let your Ivory Soap float down the creek a ways then
run and get it and wash off and get out.
Then we used to build various dams. We ran
water to Plainview, we had a Ranch over there. Each year you’ve got to do certain
amount of work on your dams and some years they’re clear
gone. And our bridges were washed out during the same margin of
time.. I’d guess 5 times over 1918-60 (~40 years) where we
had to build a bridge every once in a while
How has the creek has changed?
There’s less water-I still don’t know why. I was going
to say there’s more water taken out now maybe, but I doubt
that. You have the record that I have (irrigation district water
Memories of Floods
I haven’t seen one since 1964. Somebody around here might
have seen something that seemed high to them but it wasn’t
high as they get. After we moved from the ranch , around 1960,
the bridge we crossed on was 12 feet above the creek and 4-5 feet
above the bank. That year the ice jammed someplace and it came
down the creek, picking it up as it came. It piled up against that
bridge till it was clear up over the top of a car on top of that
There haven’t been big floods like those in a long time.
Maybe because the creek isn’t running the same as it used
to. It doesn’t run through those cuts up there that created
all the mud and the sludge. I think it’s because it’s
melted down below those.
Memories of Winters, was there more snow in the past?
I think you’re truly correct on that.
Probably clear back to about 1918 was a winter of big snow. Horses
froze to death. They called it 4 feet of snow locally, half a
mile upstream it was deeper.
Early Irrigation- The Snow Creek Irrigation District-1906
They kind of pulled a shenanigan on that creek
that comes down into Squaw Creek- Snow Creek. Snow Creek originally
went into Squaw Creek. They went up there and sheared it over
and sent it into the meadow there at Three Creek. . The year
was probably around 1906. That was the Snow Creek Irrigation
District that did that and my grandmother was part of it and
my dad was part of it and probably a few others. They wanted
the water for irrigation for their ranch...it was a big place.
It’s being subdivided now.
It’s where those viewpoints are on the Bend road.
More on Irrigation- water availability
1912 water rights were not worth a hoot. 1902’s no good.
We used to run 1902, and 1903 and 1904 out to Plainview when the
creek was high, you could run some then, but after July you don’t
get that, it’s not there anymore. So the only people getting
their water were from the 1880-1900 dates.
(And people with rights after 1900 often didn’t get their
water rights) That’s why you saw those were vacant spots
all out through Plainview and anyplace you want to look around
the country here where people tried to make a living and couldn’t
and had to give it up.
Concerns about the future of Squaw Creek.
I don’t know how much capability our
group (Friends of Squaw Creek) has to get control of water. In
my opinion, the best way for us to get water is drill a well
and pump it into the creek.
Hopes for the future of Squaw Creek? Advice?
All you can do is say, if you can drill a well
or buy someone’s
water right off the ranch. It takes a lot of money to do it. It
brings a point in mind that is separate from the farming situation.
The people here in Sisters came and they like it and they see it
and they’d like to have water running through Squaw Creek
all the time. But they’d like for the people who own the
water rights to give it to them. Well the equitable way is for
everybody to put an equal amount in. If the farmer feels that he
can, he could contribute a little bit but he wouldn’t be
compelled to contribute anymore than I would be as a retired person.
I’d like to see Squaw Creek run.
Early memories of Three Creek Lake
In 1934, I camped up there with a cousin on
the 4th of July and there was nobody up there. The road was closed
but we took the horses. The meadow before you come to the spillway
of the outlet had some green grass on it, not much and a little
piddly bit of water running. Anyway we camped there. The lake
good for us, so we always fished the creek. The lake was hard to
reach out and get to it and it possibly was even frozen over then,
I don’t know. That creek running out of Little Three Creek
lake used to run fish. I think they were stocked there. I was fishing
up there where there was quite a little drop off into the creek.
I caught my hook up in the top of a tree up there on the bank and
I was up there digging around trying to save my tackle and I fell
into that creek bottom. I don’t know whether I broke something
or not but I had to walk all the way back to where our camp was
which seemed like a lot of miles then. But I got an old tree limb
and made a crutch out of it. It worked out all right.
The water that ran from Little Three Creeks
to the big lake ran in a ditch that was built there. Otherwise
I suppose that overflow ran on down into Squaw Creek someplace.
It’s a little bit
hard to figure that in my mind. Maybe it worked over into the Jackpine
draw area there. It’s all supposition.
Memories about fishing on Squaw Creek
We fished a lot but we didn’t catch much.. I suppose 30-40
was the most I ever caught in those days.. Squaw Creek didn’t
have big fish in it.
The fish that are in there that I know of were
native rainbow and they were small. I don’t know why. Except
that it was cold water and not very much feed in it.
And we had a few Bull Trout or Dolly Varden
as we called them then. We used to catch small ones. Most of
the time the dam (irrigation dam on Squaw Creek) stopped them.
That’s where I’ve
seen them. I remember 2 big ones that cleaned all the fish out
between what was then the Cloverdale dam, which had a chute they
had to go over to get up and I don’t think they ever got
up. We caught one of them. We didn’t see them often but we’d
only be on the creek 4 months out of the year. You’ve got
that high period when you can’t fish and it’s dangerous
to be there anyway. Then you’ve got the muddy stretch when
they can’t see to eat. Then you’ve got July and August
and September when it’s reasonably good. So there’s
lots of fish in there that I don’t know about.
I remember a steelhead that Louie Luckenbill
spotted and he said “You
got a spear?” and I said “I got one over at the house”.
So we went over and got it and he speared a big steelhead. So that
shows you... that was in 1944. Right above the bridge that goes
in to Frisbee’s house, near our Ranch. I got arrested there
when I was 13 for fishing without a license. They took my pole
away and said they’ give it back when I got the license...
and I felt pretty small. It was easier than getting fined.
There were a few white fish in it and a few
eastern brook. I always thought that the eastern brook probably
came down over Squaw Creek falls and came from Park Creek where
they stocked a few of them in the early times. I saw a Bullhead
in it one time. You don’t
expect a Bullhead in Squaw Creek, that’s entirely out of
reason. I think he came up out of Squaw Creek Irrigation Pond.
I think they probably put some in it. I don’t deny that there
could be some big fish in Squaw Creek coming up from that pond.
I think that’s a possibility. So if somebody says I don’t
know what I’m talking about why they may be right from the
standpoint that I didn’t ever catch up with them.
It’s probably entirely true that the
steelhead spawned at Sisters City Park. There was a station down
at Camp Polk where they took steelhead eggs for a number of years.
That I knew about.
Squaw Creek’s never been a fishing concern to anybody really.
We , the kids in town, probably used it more than any grown ups
because it didn’t produce enough to when you could drive
to the Metolius or lower Squaw Creek. We used to go to lower Squaw
Creek down where it goes into the Deschutes- that was a little
bit more exciting because there was more variety down there. Fish
came up out of the Deschutes. What kind of fish did you catch down
there? There were occasional white fish and occasional Redsides.
I don’t know if a Redside and a Redband are the same or not.
I suspect that they’re the same. Redband makes it sound kind
of special and they are. They’re the prettiest little things
you ever saw.
Memories of hunting and deer
We hunted a little bit. I remember killing
a nice buck on main Squaw Creek up there above the falls. You
used to be able to drive in to the creek. We used to drive to
the creek there other times and hike into Green Lake and fish
and hunt and come out the same day. Across the meadows, up near
Red Meadow you hit the trail that goes over the pass into Green
Lake. Otherwise we weren’t
very big on hunting. About the time we wanted to hunt we had to
hay up or do something else, so we hunted when we could.
I wanted to talk to you about the deer population.
know if it means anything or not. Here around Sisters in town they’ve
probably got more deer than they ever had. But you can drive all
day through the mountains in the wooded area west of Sisters and
never see a deer. I think there’s either less deer or they’ve
migrated to the alfalfa fields, I don’t know which it is.
I know in 1952 I had so many deer on the ranch up there that I
built a deer fence around 260 acres. I walked out in the alfalfa
patch one day and I counted 80 deer in it and I said to myself “If
there’s 80 in here there’s probably 160 out outside
on the edge waiting”. That’s when I decided to build
a fence, took me a year to build that thing.
But that was the point I wanted to make. We
have a spot up there by the Editors House (Eric Dolson’s House) that we called “Mule
Valley” and there used to be lots of deer in there, specially
in early fall. You’d find all kinds of deer in there. I remember
one year, it didn’t happen often, but we needed a little
meat. It was in November, out of season, it was starting to be
winter. We took horses, the hired man, a fellow from Burns that
was working for Dad at the time. We run into a bunch of deer, just
running. And he was on a feisty little horse that wouldn’t
do anything but jump up and down and sideways and he hauled off
and shoot that deer on the run and shouted “I think I got
him” and he did. I couldn’t even have held onto the
gun let alone shoot it.
Changes in wildlife ?- species that have decreased?
There have been drastic changes all the way
down. I listed what I thought. There’s fewer deer, fewer coyote, fewer cougar,
fewer bobcats, practically no bear, and the wolves are gone. I’ve
seen 2 wolves in my time, in the 1930’s. Probably about 1932,
up toward Pickup I saw one and I saw one on Quinn meadows (near
Elk Lake) in 1937. Well no I saw another one! And that was interesting
because no other animal chases a deer like a wolf does. He just
follows them along, maybe a quarter mile behind, but he’s
right there. I saw that deer come with its tongue hanging out,
panting and running and I watched him a while and here come the
wolf, just following along. I found out later he’d gone north
of town here, I don’t know where he caught up with him.
So were there wolves here? Yeah, there were never any wild events.
There were more bear here than wolves. Georgia probably told you
about our bear hunt ? No?
The Bear hunt Story We went up Squaw Creek
almost to where the bridge is now, there was no track or trail
in there except the deer trails. We came upon fresh bear sign
down below in that flat area (just below where the bridge is
now). He had crossed the creek and we had a big old dog with
us, a big rough dog, he was a stalker. He got the scent of that
bear and took out after him and I couldn’t
keep up with him. Pretty soon I heard him tackle the bear. He let
out a great whoop and all the noises that a dog will make tackling
something. The next minute I heard him let out a yelp in the other
When I finally caught up with him he was laying
knocked out , unconscious but his legs were just a traveling
as fast just as fast as he could go. He was laying on his side.
The old bear had knocked him just one, knocked the whey out of
him. I got the dog up and administered First Aid to him and then
set him on the track again, thought catch up with him. I was
carrying an old 34 Krag, pretty much big as a cannon, I couldn’t do much with it,
but I thought maybe I could shoot a bear. Finally found out the
dog was not on the bears track, he was on the road to home as fast
as he could go. He’d had enough.
Concerns about our fish and wildlife
Well I wonder, what their real plan is for
Squaw Creek. I’ve
been curious about it. In those days we thought they should stock
the creek, which they did not do. They wouldn’t stock it
because the irrigators wouldn’t put a screen in their ditches.
I can understand that. I can remember the screens laying out on
the side of ditch channels. So we haven’t had anything but,
I call them, wild trout. I don’t know how wild they are.
I don’t know if they were ever stocked when they put those
screens in at first, because that’s been 80 years ago I suppose,
somewhere like that. They never did use them, I never did see them
working. I think it was a matter of the game commission refusing
to let their stock run out into the fields and perish there.
The Cattle Business in Sisters Country
After the war, I went into business with dad,
after a fashion. We kind of had to start over again with cattle.
We had what was called the Bull Springs Cattle Association, under
lease from Brooks Scanlon... the township area from Sisters to
Tumalo. But that petered out. This is not a cow country here.
We’d be fine if there
was only 2-3 people trying to operate.. But the Forest Service
has never been pleased with our cattle operation in this country...Good
reason for it. I can understand it better now than I could then.
How has Town changed?
The town people never used to care much about
what went on with extra things around here. Their interest was
in logging and their jobs. They liked to fish and hunt, I know
that. But as far as taking any care of Squaw Creek or anything
like that, that’s was
just somebody else’s concern.
I think there’s a vast amount of caring
now. People that are here and see the potential of a stream going
through town, a steady stream, not an off and on one.
Concerns about what’s going to happen
in the future in town?
Why worry? I assume that there will be more
homes built in the space that’s made available (by the sewer). But that’s
quite a while in the future I think. I still think you’re
going to keep pride in ownership. And you’ve got all of outdoors
here that is important - the mountains.
Forests-The old Wilson Mill on Pole Creek
The book that Tillie Wilson wrote would give
you some information on it. Our old home up there (Edgington
Ranch) originally had an old sawmill (The Cox Mill), the first
sawmill in the area, a water powered mill. And when that quit
operating Wilson bought the machinery and moved it over to Pole
Creek. And I think you’ll find
in that water adjudication paper that he filed on 20 acres of water,
which is what Cox filed on at the ranch there for water power.
It was actually a transfer, they used the old machinery and got
an equal amount of water out of Pole Creek.
(Looking at pictures of old wooden wheels made
out of tree rounds) And here are some pictures of something I
don’t tell people
about, you can’t move it but it’s still up there and
you can see what they were logging with. It’s really interesting.
The wheels were cuts from logs. They had a metal axle of course.
There was so much weight on one of these wheels that it just curled
that metal up. They hauled logs in out of the woods with that,
horse drawn. I don’t know what else was involved with it
whether there were rear wheels on the thing or not. It’s
part of the early history and I always felt it ought to be known
about or observed. I don’t suppose that mill ran very long.
I know the story used to be that they’d put a log on the
carriage and start it going and then they’d go home for lunch
and come back and take that board out. There were small mills all
over the country.
Jess gives directions on tape to Mill site
Have you worked in the Forests?
Yeah, I worked in the mills too. They were
doing sustained yield management, no clear cuts that I knew of.
Charlie Morris told me later they’d been clearcutting for years but I didn’t
know it. I worked 2 different years in the mills around 1936. I
worked for Ed Spoo’s Mill and I worked for Morris Hitchcock’s
Mill. I was an Edgerman. He takes the slab that was cut off the
log and judges what kind of board can be made out of it. You’ve
got a variety of saws in front of you on a long extended handle.
You can try to make clear lumber and common, whatever you think
is the best. I didn’t always know that much about lumber,
but I think I learned. I worked for Chapman who was a District
Ranger during the summers around 1935, when I was a Junior in high
school. I worked on Fire Crew on some of the fires. The main one
I remember was on that Two Spring Trail in the Metolius. I worked
some carrying a load of bread on the Williamson Mountain Fire.
Then we did pruning and thinning, those were winter time jobs when
we went out with crews of 15 people. Some of the fallers cut down
I wasn’t so concerned about clearcuts back then because
we had lots of trees and we didn’t visualize a clear-cut
for heavens sake. We knew that they did it over there on the forest
on the westside. But that was bad to do it over here. I’ve
since been able to understand why they need to in cases, when you
see all the dead timber down and all the beetle kill and all that.
But I still don’t like to see it when it doesn’t have
to be done.
I like that sustained yield. You can drive
out through a lot of the forest here now and see the trees that
were left and they’re
Favorite Forest Areas?
Ali and I went up the McKenzie Highway the
day before yesterday. And took the first road to the left (1028?)
and there’s some
of the prettiest mature yellow bellies in the country in there
yet. There’s not a sustained field of them, they’re
scattered, but they’re beautiful. That’s what we had
when we were on the ranch on that piece of property Johnson’s
had, just solid pine, go from one pine to the next and never be
seen practically. The big pines are still up there.
Concerns about the Forest
I could take a jab at the Forest Service here
on clearcuts. I wrote them a letter a long time ago when we were
talking about the effect of logging and where should the boundaries
be. Georgia and I together worked from Soap Creek clear thorough
to Black Crater. At that particular time I don’t think there were very many
clearcuts on it. And I told them I didn’t think there should
be any clearcuts on it because it’s just going to change
its appearance. And there’s a beautiful little lake up there
in the hole in the middle of that.
I don’t like to see a clear-cut because I know how many
years it took to make a tree 6 inches on the stump. And it’s
cut down and bulldozed and put in a burning pile. I don’t
know if the ones that are planted are going to be any better or
as good and it’s going to be that many more years before
they’ll be big enough to fill up that vacant spot.
The view is more important now than it ever
used to be. Nobody cared much about a view. We just went outdoors
if we wanted to look at the mountains. Now you’ve got to
have a clear shot so you can see them. So views are important.
I heard that some Warm Springs Indians camped at your ranch and
left a little kid there while they went up berry picking?
That little gal.... “I want my momma..”. Dad knew
the Indians pretty well. This family came, they were going up to
Santiam, to the Big Lake area for berries. I think he had been
there before and worked some up at the ranch. The Indians have
told us that, that ranch was part of their heritage, in the meadow
there, that was really part of what should have been part of the
reservation. Anyway, they came through and left that cute little
gal, she was just a little babe, about 3 maybe. I can still see
the tears running out of her eyes, she was so lonesome. She was
so glad when they came back. They didn’t leave her long,
because they got up there and found the berry situation was not
good so they came back. Those buckskins over there are some things
that the Indians made for me, a vest and gauntlets. Naomi Wagner
was the Indian lady that made those, that was in 1936. Why did
she make them for you? Dad gave her a bunch of deer skins, so that
was part of a business transaction, it wasn’t a gift necessarily,
but it was nice.
The Indian name was “Whychus” for here (Squaw Creek).
But mother said she could remember one time when they called it “Clark’s
River”. That was kind of a lost cause I think because I never
heard it since then, but she told me that.
Did you hear the Indians call it Why-chus- the Indians that you
talked to? No I didn’t but I read it. I remember “Seeksequa” (another
name , possible Paiute). I imagine this country was predominately
Advice from Jess?
I’d like people to know that it’s a dangerous creek
when it’s flooding. Kids shouldn’t be playing too freely
about it. And also it’s a difficult stream to fish. You could
fish anyplace you wanted on it and you likely could fall over anyplace
and break your leg or head or anything else- you have to be careful.
The pools are scarce and that might be something
that could be helped a little bit. But the coldness of the water
and the fast flow surely must have an effect on the fishes. I
think as far as a fishing stream is concerned I can’t see
why the game commission decided to make a fly fishing stream
out of it. I can understand catch and release if they want to
do it that way, because that might bring it back. But Ali likes
to drown a worm.