Hay Creek Ranch workers responded to a buggy crash that took the life of a 12-year-old 100 years ago.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - A 1917 afternoon outing for a young Ashwood woman, her daughter and her sister in east Jefferson County ended tragically when a buggy accident claimed the life of Freda Lafollette.
Tragedy often took place in the frontier era of Central Oregon. One of the saddest tragedies occurred on April 16, 1917, when a family outing resulted in the death of a 12-year-old girl when the horses pulling a buggy started running and the buggy crashed.

Mrs. Ira Ray, of Ashwood, her daughter, Golda, and Mrs. Ray's 12-year-old sister, Freda Lafollette, began a pleasant afternoon ride in the buggy. The buggy was coming down a hill when one of the tugs became unhooked, and the horses started kicking and running.

Mrs. Ray was driving the team of horses and lost control of the team, and all of the occupants were thrown out. Freda was killed almost instantly when her head struck a rock, and Golda was seriously injured. Mrs. Ray was also injured. Their rig was completely wrecked and unusable. The accident took place at an isolated site between Ashwood and the old Earl Mill near Trout Creek.

Mrs. Ray became frantic when she discovered that her sister was dead, but she gained enough composure to place her daughter in a comfortable position and managed to gather one of the horses. She tended to some of her daughter's injuries and decided that she must go for help.

She mounted the horse that she had captured and rode horseback toward the sawmill, which was 12 miles away. She was in extreme pain from her injuries and overcome with grief at the tragic passing of her little sister.

While riding for assistance, Mrs. Ray went to a ranch about five miles from the site of the accident and asked for help from Jim McMulain. He informed her that he and his team had been working hard and were too tired to give her any assistance and told her to get help elsewhere.

She raced on in tears to the Earl Sawmill, and Mr. Southwick assisted her by sending aid to the accident site, then he took her into Ashwood.

The Hay Creek Ranch sent a sheep truck from one of their camps near the scene to rescue the injured daughter and gather the corpse of the little girl. The ranch also sent a truck to gather Mr. Ray, who was at a road camp 10 miles south, and brought him to Ashwood in the early morning hours.

Because it was such an isolated location, it took a while to get medical aid. The Jefferson County Coroner was called and made an examination and brought the body of Freda Lafollette into Madras, where her parents took charge of the body.

It was a time of grief for the Ashwood and Madras communities as well as all of Central Oregon. Mrs. Ray and her daughter took several weeks to recuperate from their injuries.

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