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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Discovering Where You Live by Paty Jager #history

Last summer about this time we accepted an offer on our place in central Oregon and started hauling the rest of our stuff to our property in eastern Oregon. We have a new house(still needs siding) and my husband started a new job that he loves. Now that we are getting settled, I've started exploring the area and its history.

I'm discovering stories and areas that I'm pretty sure will have to end up in a historical western book down the road. One of my favorite places that we drive by every time we make the 40 mile trip to town is Lawen. All that exists of it now is a large building with the word Lawen on the side of it. You can tell it was a store and perhaps a gas station at one time.

I found a book in the Harney County library that is called: A Lively Little History of Harney County. At the time the book was published the say a post office and gas station is all that remains of Lawen. This book was published in 1989.

According to the book in the 1880's the area around was highly sought after by homesteaders and squatters because of it's lush meadow land on the edge of Malheur Lake. The original town was located 2 1/2 miles south of the current location. The post office was established in 1887. The town had a population of 100 at one time and several businesses.

An account by a woman who grew up in the area said the children walked, rode horses, and ice skated to school.  She could skate from her back door to the school yard fence. Their favorite winter pastimes were skating parties, potluck suppers, and dances at the schoolhouse.

Another remembers arriving in Lawen in 1898 and thinking it was a big settlement with 45 students in the school. At that time Lawen had two stores, a dance hall and saloon, livery stable, a drug store, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, and Harney County's first female doctor. She also operated a health resort and swimming pool at Crane hot springs.

Most fo the clothing was sewn at home and washed on a washboard. about ten miles down the road is Crane Hot springs. When the women were looking for a treat while doing the laundry they would haul their tubs, washboards, and clothing to Crane hots springs and wash the clothes. They say the clothing seemed whiter and brighter after being washed in the mineral water.

The water from the hot springs was cooled in long ditches so the livestock could drink it.

I have a feeling the hot springs and the town of Lawen is going to be showing up in one of the stories in my next historical western romance series. I've already started formulating the letter in my head that will bring the hero to the area.

How often do you see a place or hear about it and your mind automatically begins formulating a story to go with it?
Writing into the Sunset 


  1. Loved your post! Looking forward to reading the story about Lawen, OR. I often make up stories about old towns, even though I am not a writer. It's just a fun thing to do!

    1. Hi Karen, I meant to add photos to this and forgot. While the town/building isn't much to look at now, after ready the history I can see so many possibilities for the story and the town. Thank you for commenting!

  2. The same thing happened to me on a historical tour of Palo Pinto County, Texas. One of the place was a ranch founded in 1859 and passed down in that family and still a lovely ranch today. That ranch inspired my Stone Mountain Texas series and is near the site of my upcoming series. Sometimes we see things that speak to us, don't we?

    1. Hi Caroline,
      Yes! The dilapidated building doesn't look like much, but I could see how the area had to have been so much more.

  3. Interesting as I've driven that road many times but never knew of the town there. Eastern Oregon is full of such though. Actually so is where I live in the Coast Range. Even where our home is used to be a small community. Not far from us was a dance hall that some of the old timers remembered going to before it was burned. A lot of history gets burned.

  4. Rain, Yes! That's one of the things I love about eastern Oregon is the fact you can find a ghost town on nearly every road. It gives me settings for stories. ;)

  5. "How often do you see a place or hear about it and your mind automatically begins formulating a story to go with it?"

    All the time! My latest HEAT LIGHTNING is set in an area I personally know. In the book, I call it Outlaw Ridge. In reality, that geographic area doesn't really have a name. The day I saw it years ago, that spark of imagination hit.


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