In the community

Four Rivers Cultural Center history presentation set to delve into Malheur County’s early years

ONTARIO – They came out of a shriveled land in the Midwest and set new roots, established a community and eventually a school in what was then known as Lincoln Heights north of Ontario.

Construction of the Owyhee Dam triggered the influx of new people to Malheur County and at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Four Rivers Cultural Center’s Meyer McLean Performing Arts Theater, longtime local residents Roger Findley and Cliff Harris will deliver presentation about the unique community.

The event is free.

“It is all about the history of this area and its development,” said Findley.

Much of the land around Ontario was undeveloped sagebrush but the Owyhee Dam changed the paradigm for people seeking a new start, said Findley.

“As they completed the (Owyhee) dam they needed to have all of these people to make the land productive,” said Findley.

Eventually about 75 families settled across 7,000-acre-plus area known as Lincoln Heights. A school was built and people began to farm because water was available from the Owyhee Reservoir.

Most of the people came from the Dust Bowl states of Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas, said Findley. The Dust Bowl ravaged Midwest agriculture, caused by drought and a failure to prevent soil erosion.

“Some showed up in 1935 but most came in 1937, 1938 and 1939,” he said.

Findley said the new homesteaders faced challenges including no water, no electricity and no mail delivery except for close to the roads.

Another problem the newcomers faced, he said, was sanitation.

Findley said that was solved with the construction of concrete toilets in outhouses, courtesy of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

“She told (then president) Franklin Roosevelt to build toilets for those folks and install them. They were nicknamed Eleanors’s  because of her effort,” said Findley.

His presentation will also include stories about the contribution of Japanese-American farmers to the region.

“All of it will be rich history,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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