Names Board visits John Brown Canyon


To celebrate canyon's new name

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Jerry Ramsey, who spearheaded an effort to rename a canyon near Pelton Road from Negro Brown Canyon to John Brown Canyon gathers with others from the Jefferson County Historical Society and the Oregon Geographic Names Board on Friday to celebrate the change.Members of the Jefferson County Historical Society and the Oregon Geographic Names Board met Friday just off Pelton Road to toast a man who died more than a century ago.

En route to their meeting in Prineville, members of the Oregon Geographic Names Board met with the Historical Society just above the 160-acre homestead of John A. Brown, an African American who moved to the area in 1881, built a two-story house, grew fruit and vegetables, and raised stock for sale in Prineville, which was the closest town at the time.

Jerry Ramsey, who spearheaded the effort to change the canyon's name from "Negro Brown Canyon" to "John Brown Canyon," organized the event to allow the board to see the homestead location.

Phil Cogswell, president of the board, noted that the canyon was known originally known by a racial slur — "N----- Brown Canyon" — for decades after Brown left, until the board automatically abolished the name in the 1960s, changing it to "Negro Brown Canyon."

He was pleased to be part of the name change process. "This was one of the fun ways to really honor a memory in a respectful way," he said.

Brown "proved up" and got title to the property in 1888, but sold part of the property to pioneers Ed and Sarah Campbell, after whom Campbell Creek was named.

In the mid- to late 1890s, Brown left the area, and said he'd be back, but as far as can be determined, he never returned, Ramsey said. Brown was buried in Prineville in 1903.