Early stage lines to Central Oregon
The first known stagecoach service to the Ochoco country was in 1872.
Newspaper ads listed service from The Dalles to Prineville via Tygh Valley, Oak Creek, Warm Springs and Willow Creek. The line was operated by the Pioneer Stage Company owned by the Shultz brothers of The Dalles.
The stage crossed the Deschutes River via Campbell ferry near Warm Springs. Stage service was on a weekly schedule, leaving The Dalles on Monday morning at 7 a.m. and arriving three days later at Ochoco. The return trip was made leaving Ochoco at 6 a.m. Thursdays. The schedule increased to tri-weekly by 1879.
The stage route later changed to cross the Deschutes River at Sherar's Bridge and via Bakeoven and Cow Canyon. In 1882, service left The Dalles three times a week beginning at 4 a.m., and it took 43 hours to arrive in Prineville.
George M. Cornett, of Prineville, operated the stage route from the 1880s to just after the turn of the century. Stage companies required watering stations about every 12 miles and inns for overnight stays about every 50 miles. If locals did not provide the service, the stage companies had to provide the facilities.
Sherar's Bridge was the first major stop on the route from The Dalles to Prineville. Horses were changed and passengers would eat a late lunch. Early overnight lodging was at Bakeoven where there was a stage stop and inn. The stages did not run overnight. Passengers would have dinner at Bakeoven then would rise early to be off to Prineville, heading down the long and steep Cow Canyon.
Stage patterns changed when the Columbia Southern Railroad was constructed from the Columbia River to Shaniko about 1900. The Prineville stage then connected with the afternoon train and traveled down Cow Canyon or sometimes through Antelope to Lamonta to overnight then on to Prineville. After arrival in Prineville, some stages continued on south to Silver Lake and Lakeview.
Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.