Klamath County Historical Society brings back Echoes No.12

Devere Helfrich photo, Klamath Echoes No. 12 Bill Duffy rides Specs in the saddle bronc competition on July 3, 1955, at the Beatty Rodeo. The photo is one of many in the recently reprinted Klamath Echoes No. 12.

September 5, 2005

Klamath Falls Herald and News


Lenora Johnson, a 23-year-old blond-haired school teacher, held a gun in each hand as she confronted two drunken men who invaded her schoolhouse near Beatty.

When the men entered her living quarters at the school and refused to leave, she fired into the floor beneath the men's feet.

When they still refused to leave the school. Johnson fired both guns, striking one man in the leg, sending him to the hospital. The other man fled.

Johnson became known as the "two-gun school ma'am."

The incident happened in November 1932 at a school for Klamath Indian children eight miles outside of Beatty. It is recounted in a newly reprinted issue of Klamath Echoes, a series of historical journals published by the Klamath County Historical Society.

Issue No. 12, originally published by the historical society in 1974, relates the early settlement and development of the Sprague River Valley. It includes several articles and many photos of the area including the towns of Beatty, Sprague River and Bly.

Ten issues of the 16-volume Klamath Echoes series were out of print for several years. The Klamath County Historical Society, which published the series in the 1960s and '70s, has reprinted most of the out-of-print issues.

Issue No. 12, available for $10 per copy, includes several pages on Yainax, a sub-agency established in 1869 to serve the Klamath Indian Tribe. A boarding school was established at the sub-agency, serving as many as 110 children.

The Indian boarding school at Yainax closed in 1907, according to the Echoes journal. Indian students continued to attend "day schools" for several years afterward.

White settlement in the Bly area began in the early 1870s. Among the early settlers was William H. Gearhart, a Missouri native who drove cattle into what would become Klamath County in the 1870s. The entire area was part of Jackson County at the time.

By 1888, there was a store and hotel at Bly, but the town saw little growth until the Strahorn Railroad reached the area in 1928. A sawmill was built in Bly in 1931, ensuring a spot on the map for the town.

The sawmill in Bly underwent several ownership changes, eventually being acquired in 1970 by Weyerhaeuser Co.

The Echoes journal indicates telephone service reached Bly in 1904, followed by electricity in 1929.

The first car to be seen in Bly arrived in October 1907. The state of Oregon in 1923 selected the road through Bly as the best route for a major highway.

Klamath Echoes No. 12 Students and teachers stand in front of the girls dormitory at the Yainax Indian Sub-Agency, which operated a boarding school for Klamath Indians for nearly 40 years.

The first Beatty store was built in 1915, and a hotel opened at Beatty in 1938, making the townsite a popular stopping place on the Klamath Falls-Lakeview highway, according to Echoes.

The town of Sprague River sprang up in 1923 beside a large new sawmill in the valley. By 1938, a school at Sprague River had 58 students enrolled. But with the mill's demise in 1943, the town dwindled, and the school was closed sometime after 1964.

Echoes No. 12 includes several pages of history on the Strahorn Railroad, more commonly known as the Oregon, California and Eastern, or OC&E Railroad. Construction began in May 1917, reaching as far as Olene by the end of the year.

The OC&E reached Hildebrand in 1922, Sprague River in 1923 and Bly in 1928. During the 1960s, two trains per day ran over the OC&E, hauling logs to Klamath Falls. Plans to continue the line to Lakeview were never realized.

Several photos in the Echoes No. 12 show views of the communities of Yainax and Bly, as well as travel through the area before the era of paved highways.

Copies of the Echoes series are available for purchase at the Klamath County Museum gift shop, 1451 Main St. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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