Sherman County Historical Society and Museum
Open Daily 10 until 5 May through October
Monday 21st Oct 1805...bought Some pounded Sammon from the natives, and Some white root cakes which is verry good...Saw a great quantity of pounded Sammon Stacked up on the shores.
Sergeant John Ordway

Museum visitors are reminded that the first Euro-Americans on the scene were fur trappers, traders, explorers, surveyors and dreamers following the Indian trails and the Columbia River currents to this region. Lewis and Clark named Le Page River for one of their party, now the John Day. The Pacific Fur Company expedition under the command of Wilson Price Hunt passed this way in 1811 and John Day, for whom the river is named, was in this party.  David Thompson's exploratory group representing the British Northwest Fur Company traveled down the Columbia River to the sea in 1811. John C. Fremont of the U.S. Topographical Corps, explored the region in 1843, making note of the fertile, grassy hills.

October 22d Tuesday 1805 ...we discovered the entrance of a large river on the Lard. side...we landed at some distance above the mouth of this river and Capt. Lewis and my Self set out to view this river above its mouth...

William Clark

November 2...At noon we crossed John Day's River, a clear and beautiful stream, with a swift current and a bed of rolled stones...Some of the emigrants had encamped on the rivers... November 3. After two hours' ride through a fertile, hilly country, covered...with good green grass we descended again into the river bottom [Columbia]...reached the ford of the Fall river [Riviere aux Chutes, Deschutes]

John Charles Fremont, 1843

The Great Migration began in 1843 as hundreds of determined and eager pioneers set off from Missouri for the promised land in Oregon. Seasoned and weary travelers reached the John Day River and the plateau where the Trail forked, the right fork leading to the Deschutes River mouth and The Dalles, the left fork heading southwesterly along Grass Valley Canyon to the rushing, rocky Deschutes River some 30 miles upriver from its mouth, the difficult Cutoff to the Barlow Road. 

September 5 [day 126] J. Day's River a long and steep hill to descend. 1 mile to the hill ascending from the river. 1 mile of a very steep and rocky hill...saw 2 graves, 6 dead cattle...

John Fothergill, 1853

Great clouds of dust settled onto the Oregon Trail as settlers rushed to fill the Willamette Valley. Most Indians in what is now Sherman County had moved to reservations. A few hardy stockmen grazed their herds on the bunchgrass hills and some solitary families offered services to travelers at river crossings and stage stops. Settlers by the hundreds began to move into the region in the 1880s, coming from all directions. Second generation Willamette Valley pioneers bounced back to the east side of the Cascade Mountains to obtain large acreages of cheap land. Farmers plowed the tough sod and planted wheat, using common sense and hoping for a little rain and a little luck. 

...Men came to the bunchgrass hills between the two rivers eager for land. They came...on river steamers, they rode stages...they pushed their tired horses and creaking wagons...Between the two rivers they sowed the golden land.

Giles French
The Settlers, 1880-1920


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