CENTRAL OREGON HISTORY: Wheeler County pioneer and cook
Elizabeth Jane "Betty" Hendrix was born on April 22, 1890, in Cutshin, Kentucky. She later moved to Laurel County, Kentucky and attended schools. She attended Berea College in Berea, Kentucky and received a certificate in 1912 from the Normal School, which allowed her to teach. She taught school in nearby communities for three years.
She met Laurence McCoy "Coy" Shell and in 1915, they married. They moved west, seeking work at ranches, but they soon returned to Kentucky. Two of their children were born there. They moved back to Oregon after a few years. They lived in several towns before moving to Wheeler County. Betty took some cooking lessons from her brother-in-law, James Shell, and began a cooking career.
They bought a ranch on Butte Creek, west of Fossil, in the late 1920s. Their children attended the one-room Butte Creek School, and if the weather was too inclement, Betty would teach them at home. It was a rather hard life, but everyone kept busy. Their son, Burton, herded sheep but did not come home one evening, and there was a big storm. Betty took a lantern and found him near the edge of a cliff and guided him down a hill.
Betty also developed some mechanical skills by taking apart and repairing their Model T Ford. Their son, Burton, bought a ranch on Alder Creek in 1936, and the family moved there. In 1940, they moved to Fossil. It is not certain what happened to Coy as there is little mention of him, and research failed to find a record of his death. Betty worked in several cafes in Fossil. Two of her boys enlisted to serve during World War II. With many of the local boys going to war, the Kinzua Mill was short-handed. Betty went to work at the mill and later was the cook at the company hotel. She worked there for 14 years.
In 1960, she moved to Dayville and operated a café and retired when she was 79. She traveled a few years, then went to live with her son in Jerome, Idaho. She passed away on March 30, 1987, and is buried in the Jerome, Idaho cemetery.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.