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Crook County's 2022 Pioneer Queen, Eloise (Bushnell) Brummer, has a passion for history, and her enthusiasm for family history is tangible in her everyday life

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - Eloise Brummer stands proudly in front of a storage pantry, a family antique that she salvaged from the old Bushnell homestead. Eloise refurbished the family treasure, and keeps it on display in her home.Eloise (Bushnell) Brummer, the 2022 Crook County Pioneer Queen, is a fourth generation Crook Countian, and her husband, Jerry, is a fifth generation.

Eloise and Jerry have two children, Colin, and Kitsi, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Colin and his wife, Fara, live in Paisley, Oregon with their two daughters, Grace, and Faith. Kitsi and her husband, Michael Bass, live in Prineville, and they have five children, Lyndi, Capri, Catherine and twins, James and Jacob. Kitsi and Michael also have four grandchildren.

Recently, Eloise and Jerry celebrated their 50-year wedding anniversary in November by renewing their wedding vows. The couple wanted their friend Russell Rhoden to do the ceremony, but he was in Uganda, East Africa, on Nov. 12.

"He said, 'But I can do it from over here.' We did it by Zoom in the top floor of the courthouse in the courtroom at 4:30 on Friday," exclaimed Eloise. "It was just really fun."

Jerry noted that Russell had to get up at 2:30 a.m. his time to conduct the ceremony. Eloise said that the courthouse has special meaning to both she and Jerry. Jerry's great-grandfather helped build the regal structure. They were joined by good friends and family for the special occasion.

The couple have many close friends that they enjoy spending time with, including an annual tradition with friends, Jim and Sandy Carpenter, Shirley McCullough, Don and Helen Geer and Keith and Elsie Snyder — at the Cowboy Dinner Tree, near Summer Lake, Oregon. They also love camping with their special friends.

Eloise also loves to research homesteads and visit them to see what is there. She has attended historian Steve Lent's tours through the Bowman Museum throughout the years. She speaks fondly of the variety of adventures she has experienced in these day trips, exploring historical sites in real time.

As a person who pays attention to detail, Eloise keeps a daily journal, and she proudly showed her sundry journals that she has kept since she was a young girl.

"This is what day you washed the car, what you did that day. It is a journal. Its where we went or who stopped by," she explained.

A fulfilling career and a range of talents

Eloise eventually had an opportunity to work closely with her passion for history when she began working for the Bowman Museum. She also logged 26 years with Crook County in a variety of capacities. She started out in the clerk's office, where she was employed full time. Later, when budget cuts struck, she took a new job at the county library.

Around the same time her employment with the county began, she started volunteering at the museum.

At the time, Lent was working at the front desk, a post she would eventually occupy and become a fixture. She said her job entailed processing artifacts and serving on the collection board, which determines what donated items are put out for display. Her colleagues, however, said she served another, and perhaps more important purpose.

"She has been the face of the museum for people coming in — greeting and sharing a lot of information," Lent said at the time of retirement in April 2020.

The Brummers have not only served with the Crook County Historical Society, but they also played a prominent role on the Pioneer Queen selection committee for the past 30 years.

Eloise has a passion for history, and her enthusiasm for family history is tangible as she pores over albums, books and pictures of her family heritage. She is especially intrigued by her father's early years in Crook County.

"I love it, especially if we have a connection with it," said Eloise of her love for family history.

"Like refinished furniture, I have refinished several pieces of furniture, but they were (from) family. Like the old sewing machine in the corner," she indicated the New Royal antique sewing machine and cabinet that she brought back to life.

Eloise pointed out other pieces in their home, including an old kitchen storage pantry that came from the Reif Homestead. She pointed to a spice rack she proudly displays, as well as a group of shelves hanging on her wall. Jerry had taken pieces of the barn wood from her family homestead and built these beautiful pieces of furniture. Eloise also loves refurbishing old furniture that has connections to her family. She has numerous

pieces inside her home that belonged to her family, that she has brought back to life and are now part of her cherished home furnishings.

Crook County Roots

Eloise was born to Leland Merle Bushnell and Frances Dorothy LaNell. Known by his middle name "Merle," he lived in Crook County in the small town of Roberts before his family moved to Powell Butte, then Lower Bridge before returning to southwest Oregon in Grants Pass. He worked in the hop fields in Grants Pass, and his family farmed all the places that they lived. Eloise's dad was the oldest of eight kids, with three girls and five boys.

Family members that came to Crook County to obtain a homestead in the early years of 1900 (1909-1910) were Merle's parents and his grandparents, including Ulysses (U.S.) Bushnell and Nannie Ruth (Higgins) Bushnell. Merle's aunt Kate (Bushnell) Colvin and husband, Levi, also obtained a homestead and worked the ground and raised cattle for two years. They came to Crook County in 1908 from Coos County by wagon.

"This was called Home Hollow Creek," she said of the area where her grandparents and great-grandparents homesteaded. This name came from the combined homes of U.S. and Levi Colvin, where they made their homestead claims.

They later sold their holdings to Charles Houston, who owned several pieces of property in the area. U.S. and Nannie moved to Redmond, where they passed away and are also buried in Juniper Haven Cemetery.

Eloise's father worked at the Robert and Hazel Lister Ranch above Paulina as a cow boss in 1936. He met Frances Dorothy LaNell, Eloise's mother, when she was also working in the kitchen, cooking for the buckaroos and hay farmers.

"She cooked for 15-20 people, three meals a day," she added.

The couple were married Oct. 2, 1942, in Prineville. Merle later leased the ranch (Earl and Almeda Laughlin), which was a short distance beyond the large Lister ranch. Eloise and her sister, Nancy, were both born there, and in 1952, her family moved to the ranch on Combs Flat Road, which they purchased from Frances's great aunt and uncle, Gertie and Bruno Reif.

"Mom's mother died when my mother was six years old," noted Eloise of her mother's early years. Gertie and Bruno raised her from when she began high school.

"Part of the land purchase my parents made with Bruno and Gertie Reif in 1951 or 1952. Gertie was my blood relative--sister to my grandmother who died when my mom was six--so Gertie and Bruno were like surrogate grandparents to me. That homestead was Bruno's parents' (Frank and Mary Reif), and it got absorbed into the Bushnell name through in-laws," Eloise further clarified of her family homestead.

"Dad farmed and raised sheep and cattle over the years, plus pigs and chickens. He did mill work for many years before retiring. I was not a cowgirl, so I sold my horse and bought a bicycle at age eight," noted Eloise. "My parents lived there until my dad passed away on April 10, 1989. My mother sold part of the place but left the separate parcel of land for her kids and grandkids — the Reif Homestead."

Frances passed away, June of 2016. Both parents were buried in Juniper Haven Cemetery.

Eloise emphasized that although the homestead is only five miles from the highway, the road, which is on private ground, takes an hour to get to.

"We have had lots of good fun with it, and we just love going over there. We still have it," she concluded.


Eighty-Fifth Annual Crook County Pioneer Picnic

Crook County Historical Society

August 7, 2022

12:30 p.m. Pioneer Park

Eloise (Bushnell) Brummer

Representing and honoring the Bushnell Family

Welcome--Rock Gerke

National Anthem--Lori Jo Breedlove

Invocation--Charles Hughbanks

Introduction of Past Queens--Rock Gerke

Entrance and introduction of 2022 Queen Eloise (Bushnell) Brummer--Husband, Jerry Brummer

Crowning of 2022 Queen Eloise--Crystal Madison

Presentation of Queen's Bouquet--Queen Eloise's granddaughters

Queen's Response--Queen Eloise

Music selection--"Precious Memories" Merle Boehlke

Queen's & family histories--Queen's Sister, Nancy Knoche

Music selection--"Lay Up Your Treasures in Heaven." Merle Boehlke

Placing of Memorial Bouquet furnished by the Historical Society--Queen's grandsons

Awarding of prize--Rock Gerke

Benediction--Charles Hughbanks

Special thanks to the Crook County Fairgrounds, Crook County Parks and Recreation, Tastee Treet.

Cake and ice cream will be served after the picnic, courtesy of Tastee Treet and the Crook County Historical Society.

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