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From Hay Creek to Bear Creek, Wiltse was an active evangelist and homesteader

PMG PHOTO - Steve LentWilliam Wiltse was an early Evangelist in Oregon that came to Central Oregon to settle. William was born in Mohawk Valley, Vermont, in 1845. He grew up near his birth site and when the Civil War began, he joined the Union Army as an enlistee from the state of Minnesota. He was with General Sherman during the controversial march through Georgia to the sea.

After the Civil War, he settled in Iowa and met Emeline Bethel. She had been born in Wisconsin in 1853. They were married in 1869. William studied the ministry for two years after their marriage and became an ordained minister of the Christian Church. He was appointed as an Evangelist in Oregon in 1883 and was sent to the Eugene vicinity in the Willamette Valley.

The family lived on a small farm near Harrisburg for 11 years. William traveled many miles to provide church services to scattered settlements. Hoping to provide a better income to his family, he sought better farming opportunities to supplement his ministerial duties. He heard of good grazing land in Central Oregon and in 1894, he came to the region and filed a homestead claim in the Hay Creek vicinity. A home was established, and William conducted services alternatively at local settlements that included Hay Creek, Willow Creek, Haystack, Culver, Madras, Grizzly and the Community Church in Prineville.COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM - Early Evangelist William Wiltse and wife, Emeline

William and Emeline had nine children, several of whom remained in Central Oregon and became prominent in the development of the region. They lived for several years in the Hay Creek region. Their two sons, William and Lloyd, later homesteaded on Bear Creek south of Prineville and were joined by their parents in 1913. Three daughters married local ranchers that also operated in the Bear Creek locality. The family became engaged in farming and stock raising. William continued to provide minister services in the local region as most areas did not have ready access to regular church services.

William continued living near Bear Creek for the rest of his life. He became ill and on March 16, 1927, he died at the home of his son, Lloyd, at the base of Bear Creek Butte. He was 84 years old at the time of his death. Emeline lived on for several years, living with some of her children, and she died on March 28, 1942.

The pioneer Evangelist had provided ministerial services to the scattered early settlements of Central Oregon, and his children became prominent citizens of the developing frontier.


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