Hi! Today I would like to share with you the history of Sisters, Oregon, famous for its mountains, friendliness, rodeo, quilts, and coffee. I love Sisters, and I would like to inform you on Sister’s history, people, and charm.
Let’s start with the history, the Three Sisters Mountains were named Faith, Hope, and Charity around 1840 by a Methodist Mission in Salem, and the area surrounding them was named Sisters Country.
During the first 20 years that Oregon was being settled, Sisters Country and Central Oregon were mostly passed over. Although Oregon became a state in 1859, the story of Sister Country did not begin until 1865. In 1865 Captain Lafollette and a commission of Company A-1st Oregon volunteers moved about 4 miles southeast of Sisters to subdue groups of Indians, they settled a camp on Squaw Creek. They settlers never had to fight any Indians, and probably never saw any. They did, however establish Camp Polk, which was named by Captain Lafollette in honor of his county. The settlers remained at Camp Polk until 1866, and that was the longest any white men had ever lived in the area, as far as anyone knows. Next, Samuel Hindman filed a claim on a homestead in Sisters country in 1870. Part of his claim included a piece of the Camp Polk territory, and that piece became his home. Five years after that Samuel Hindman established a post office and a store. Most likely there were only four or five families living in Sisters Country in 1880, but the more and more families began settling in the area. Sisters Country was quickly becoming established, and the first school in the Sisters school district was built in 1885. It was only a log cabin and was two miles north of Sisters. The year it was built 30 children attended the school. The building was later moved to the city of Sisters and used as a home. In about 1890 a one room school house was built in Sisters, and was the first school in the city limits. It was replaced ten years later by a two room school house, which was built on the location of Sister’s present middle school. Sisters was quickly growing and becoming a real town, and not just a couple of pioneers living in the middle of nowhere. In 1895 it looked like this:
As you can see at this point it had multiple businesses, and a decent amount of people. Later, in 1912 the small school was replaced by a six room schoolhouse, and that schoolhouse served the good people of Sisters for 42 years. This is what Sisters looked like in 1910:
And again in 1914:
As you can see there was a lot of growth in those four years. Main St. went from looking like only a few buildings to several good sized businesses. In 1912 Hotel Sisters was built by John Dennis, and you can actually see it in the background of that picture. Hotel Sisters replaced the Sisters Hotel, and had 19 rooms. You can’t tell in the picture because it’s not super clear, but Hotel Sisters has now become Bronco Billy’s Ranch Grill and Saloon. In 1923 and 1924 Sisters was suffered two severe fires, from unnatural causes, one that destroyed the Post Office and Drug Store, as well as other businesses and homes. In 1937 a separate high school was built, and the building is now that brick school administration building you see upon arriving in Sisters. In 1940 the first annual Sisters Rodeo was held, and became a well-loved tradition that is still be celebrated today. This is a picture of the Sisters Rodeo parade in 1946:
Also in 1946 Sisters, Oregon officially became an incorporated city, although many still thought of it as the wild frontier until the 1950’s. In 1978 the city of Sisters passed an ordinance requiring businesses to have 1880’s style storefronts, and this necessity has brought charm to the town as well as endured it to tourist.
Now that I have shared a few facts about the city of Sisters, Oregon, I would like to share with you the people who made Sisters Country into what it is today. David Warren Allingham was a short, loveable man, with short well cut whiskers. He moved with his wife, Margaret, to a homestead on the Metolius River in 1885. Their homestead later became the Allingham Guard Station. In 1893 Margaret became post-mistress, and their home became the post office until three years later when it was discontinued. The Allinghams were known as good people and fine neighbors. Their son, Lowe Allingham, helped settle many pioneers in the area, and owned the land on the lower area of the Metolius River. Their other son, Otha, owned many cattle, and worked for the Black Butte Land and Livestock Company. Later, he moved to Bend were he became a firefighter and became a life member of the Fire department.
Another family that helped to build Sisters into what it is today was the Wilt family. The Wilt family came from Kansas to Sisters Country in 1885. John Wilt, his wife, and two sons and his brother Mark and Nannie Wilt homesteaded near Squaw Creek. J.J. Wilt, one John Wilt’s sons, wrote an account of their experiences. He tells of one winter that was very, very cold. Many horses and cattle froze to death or died of starvation. He remembers also how cougars killed a lot of deer, which was a problem because the settlers needed to sell the deer hides. One of their neighbors, Mrs. Fryrear, had a colt that was killed by a cougar. She saddled her horse with a very proper side-saddle and rode out to the area where one of her colts had been killed by a cougar. She found the cougar in a tree and shot the seven foot beast dead. J.J. Wilts also remembers how much fun he had fishing in Sisters as a boy, and all of the good times he had in Sisters Country with his brother and parents as a child. He later married Hattie Barkman. These were just a few of the families that built Sisters into what it is today.
Today Sisters is a charming little tourist town,best known for their Rodeo, Quilt Show, and Sisters Coffee Company. This year Sisters will be enjoying the 74th Sisters Rodeo, well known as “The Biggest Little Show in the World” since it began in 1940.
Every year Sisters is packed full of excited tourist and locals who are enjoying the Sisters Rodeo. Then there is the Annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, which occurs every year on the second Saturday in July.
The Quilt Show is a long anticipated event in Sisters, and often the highlight of many Sisters ladies year. It is perhaps what Sisters is most famous for, and every year about 12,000 people come to the event. While many people are enjoying the quilts they can also enjoy coffee, tea, and Italian sodas at Sisters Coffee Company.
The friendly atmosphere and log cabin style of the business make it an enjoyable place to be, especially at Christmas. These things, and many others, make Sisters a wonderful city. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about Sisters Country, its history, its people, and its charm. If you would like to know more about Sisters, Oregon I would recommend you read the book that I got most of my info from, the book is “That was Yesterday”: A history of the town of Sisters, Oregon and the surrounding area, by Tillie Wilson and Alice Scott.
It’s a very interesting book with lots of cool pictures. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history. I love that the history of Sisters has been preserved through this book, as it is very important to know our heritage. Job 8:8-10 says,
“Ask the former generation
and find out what their ancestors learned,
for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.
Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?” .