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Abandoned Culver-area homesteads make Natl. Historic Register


Two abandoned homesteads that are now part of the Crooked River National Grassland in Jefferson County are among Oregon’s latest entries in the National Register of Historic Places.

The two locations the Julius and Sarah McCoin homestead and the Enoch and Mary Cyrus homestead sites. The sites in the Culver area typify the settlement and abandonment of hundreds of homesteads in Central Oregon from 1868-1937, and are on the Crooked River National Grassland, managed today by the US Forest Service.

The U.S. Forest Service’s primary roles relate to natural resources. However, it also plays a role in caretaking important cultural resources on federal land. These two sites are important examples of homesteads that were settled in Jefferson County in the 1880s and abandoned during the Great Depression.

More than 700 homestead claims were filed in Jefferson County before the termination of the homesteading laws. Of the 225 homesteads within today ‘s Crooked River National Grassland, more than 90 appear to have been abandoned as homesteads after only a few years of habitation.

The two sites evoke the homesteader experience with their surface and subsurface archaeology, surface features, domestic plantings, and the agricultural landscape.

Enoch Cyrus, a leader of several community organizations, was one of the first farmers to grow winter wheat in eastern Oregon in the late 19th century and to mechanize farming.

A prized variety of winter wheat (‘Cyrus Wheat’) is named after the family. The majority of wheat grown in Oregon today is winter wheat. The McCoins’ primary agricultural endeavor was livestock, including sheep and high quality horses.

Long-term instability in precipitation, collapsing farm prices, cumulative effects of environmental degradation, and indebtedness brought about the collapse of most of the homesteads.

By 1934, fewer than 50 of the 700 original homestead applicants remained in Jefferson County. Some Jefferson County residents petitioned the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt for assistance.

The result was the Resettlement Administration, a federal relief agency, purchasing uneconomic farms, retiring them from intensive cultivation, and helping farm families find new opportunities in other places.

“We applaud the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to preserve and develop cultural heritage resources,” said Chrissy Curran, the deputy state historic preservation officer. “These two sites help us understand how the families sought to carve out an existence in Central Oregon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

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