Crystal White Stearns was a matriarch of a ranching family
Crystal White was born Dec. 20, 1899, in Mitchell. Her parents, Charles and Valeria White, were early residents in the Mitchell vicinity, and her grandparents were pioneers of the region.
Crystal attended school in Mitchell and came to Prineville to attend Crook County High School as it was the nearest high school at the time. Her father was not keen on the idea of her attending high school, but she was determined to get an education.
She boarded with the Lister family in Prineville and worked for room and board. One summer, she herded sheep to earn enough money to continue attending high school. She graduated from CCHS in 1918. After graduating from high school, she taught school in Mitchell for one year. She then moved to Prineville to work in a clothing store.
While attending high school, she became acquainted with Harry Stearns. He was born into a prominent local ranching family near Prineville on June 22, 1897. Harry was a dashing and popular young man. Their relationship blossomed into romance, and they were married Nov. 22, 1919.
They first lived in Walla Walla, Washington, where Harry had gotten a job working for a local bank. When Harry's father became ill, they moved back to Prineville to help manage the family ranch just south of Prineville. Harry and his brother Cecil shared management of the ranch. Harry managed the business side, and Cecil worked the cattle operations.
Crystal loved working with horses and was eager to help with ranch operations, but Harry's father frowned on women helping with the cattle unless there was a dire need for an extra hand. She helped with cooking for the ranch crews and managed domestic affairs.
Harry's father died in 1923, and the ranch was incorporated with Harry, Cecil and their mother as stockholders.
The ranch operation began to grow, and most of the money earned went back into cattle or land acquisition. Crystal was often frustrated that there was little money available for household improvements as everything went back into the cattle enterprise. It became one of the largest cattle operations in Central Oregon.
Cecil retired, and Harry and Crystal took over the entire ranch operation. Harry and Crystal had three daughters. Crystal managed the home and established a garden that she very much enjoyed tending. Crystal also was very active in organizations in Prineville including the P.E.O. Sisterhood, Shumia Club and Eastern Star.
Harry died Jan. 16, 1971. Crystal lived on for several years and died Feb. 14, 1982. Both are buried in Juniper Haven Cemetery in Prineville. Their daughter Joyce Barney took over management of the ranch before it was eventually sold.
Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.