Ghosts of Grizzly’s Past

May 16, 2010 at 11:06 pm (Historic Cemetery, History, Landscape Photography, Old Homesteads, Oregon, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Southeast side of the Newbill House with Horse Barn and Windmill

Southeast side of the Newbill House with Horse Barn and Windmill

 As heard at Burmeister’s Stockman’s Exchange Saloon Faro tables…

“Let the cards remain where they fall and the Devil take the hindmost!”

Central Oregon doesn’t readily spring to mind when people think about the wild, wild west, but Prineville and some of the surrounding areas were about as wild as they came.

Back in the early 1880’s a strange combination of politics and large scale cattle ranching brought forth a vigilance committee that on the face of things formed to guard the peace and remove the undesirable elements from the area.  Well, they were honest about one thing:  they removed the undesirable elements, but they were undesirable only to the newly formed Stockman’s Committee/secret vigilance society.

Led by Colonel William (Bud) Thompson, brother of Senator S. George Thompson and Judge John M. Thompson, this Stockman’s exchange included powerful members like Elisha Barnes, the then current Mayor of Prineville and his brother, George Barnes, attorney at law.  The rest of the mob has been rumored to include Sam Newson, Joe Hinkle, Gus Winkler, Sam Richardson, Jim Lawson and John Summerville, though at the time every member’s identity was kept very hush-hush.

As it happens, Colonel Thompson encouraged Aaron Crook and his son-in-law, Stephen Jory to claim a homestead and begin fencing on the north slope of Grizzly Mountain, not far from Prineville.  The problem was that Lucius Lambert Langdon already owned that particular stretch of property, and Colonel Thompson knew it.  It seems that during the previous, particularly harsh winter, Lucias trespessed on Thompson’s lands and cut some rye grass to feed his starving stock.  This really was nothing more than an irritation to Thompson, but it seems to have put him in the frame of mind to eliminate all the small time cow and sheep outfits in the area.

The Newbill House stands close to the disputed lands.

The Newbill House stands close to the disputed lands.

Lucius Langdon was known thereabouts as an artist with his colt .45.  When he confronted the men fencing off his legally owned land, they left for lunch and returned armed.  He returned as well and tried to evict them again, but met violent resistance.  Aaron Crook drew on him and Stephen Jory rushed him with an axe.  Futile actions it seems, for Lucias shot them both dead while their wives watched from about a quarter mile away.

As Lucius’ bad luck would have it, Garret Maupin happened to be riding by and heard the gunshots.  As the rider approached, the idea that perhaps he had unwittingly played right into Colonel Thompson’s schemes struck him and he jumped on his horse and rode hell for leather, intending to take himself to the Dalles and turn himself in, fearing he wouldn’t even make it to trial in Prineville.

As things turned out, he was right.  He was captured and housed not in the brand spanking new Prineville jail, but in Sam Jackson’s Culver Hotel, where he was guarded by Deputy Sheriff Jerry L. Luckey.  Lucius’ hired hand and good friend, a full blooded Shoshone Indian named William Henry Harrison stayed with him, not under arrest, but to keep him safe until his hearing the next morning.  Unfortunately, not only couldn’t he safekeep his good friend, he couldn’t preserve his own life as events unfolded.

Newbill House standing in Grizzly, Oregon to the north of the cemetery

Early the next morning, masked men stormed the barroom in which Luke was held, knocked the deputy to the ground and shot Lucius Langdon dead.  After that they looped a lariat around William Harrison’s neck, drug him behind a galloping horse through the town and hung his dead body from the Crooked River Iron Bridge that stood on the present day West 2nd Street and Deer Street in Prineville.

Luke’s brother, George Langdon was on his way into town with Luke’s wife, Emma La Francis Langdon for the hearing, arriving after Luke’s demise.  Emma was in such a rage that she stormed across the street and purchased a gun and bullets, returning to the barroom to kill Deputy Luckey.  True to his name, he ducked out through the hail of gunfire without suffering a single strike, and hid out until the widow left town.

Southwest side of the house featuring the attached icehouse and cistern cover.

This was the beginning of the vigilante era where the upholders of the law brought a reign of terror upon Central Oregon.  For some reason the vigilantes seemed to prefer dispensing their justice in saloons in the area, often shooting their unsuspecting victims in the back of the head.  Al Swartz was shot in the back of the head at Burmeister’s Stockman’s Exchange Saloon while playing cards.  Mike Morgan was shot in the back of the head at Burmeister’s as well, for the crime of owing one of the Barnes brothers $6.00.  William Thompson killed Mike’s brother, Frank Morgan, shooting him in the back of the head at Kelly’s Saloon.

And so it went until a brave group of citizens formed an anti-vigilance group called the Moonshiners, so named because they patrolled at night to try to stem the vigilante violence.  Ultimately the Moonshiners brought Central Oregon back to the legal justice system, driving the vigilantes out of town.

Panoramic view of the Newbill House on the Grizzly Grasslands

The first vicitms of Colonel Thompson and his band of scary men populate the Grizzly cemetery.  Their graves are unmarked amongst the 19th century headstones, leaning at odd angles from over a century of frost heave.  Aaron Crook and Stephen Jory, unwitting pawns in an old west power game as well as Willliam Henry Harrison, also in an unmarked grave rest in the little knoll in the windy grasslands at the foot of Grizzly Mountain, not far from the disputed property line.

The little town of Grizzly was established around 1880, but a fire destroyed most of the buildings including the schoolhouse in the 1950’s. 

The Newbill House remains close to, if not on Lucius Langdon’s disputed land.  It houses nothing now but birds, its gay antique wallpaper hanging in shreds and the once proud house fallen into dangerous disrepair with the advance of time.  The old horse barn is ready to collapse in on itself and the windmill keens its grief every time the winds rush over the grassland.  The cemetary sits about a quarter mile to the south of the house, whispering of the difficult lives and deaths of the pioneers that tried to make a life in the Central Oregon desert.

Northwest side of the Newbill House

Special thanks to the current owners of the Newbill House and Grizzly Cemetery for allowing me access to photograph this unique piece of Oregon history.

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25 Comments

  1. Scott said,

    Very cool pictures, great back story of Central Oregon history.

  2. Shirley Langdon Wilcox said,

    This was Lucius Langdon, not Lucias Langdon. The middle initial “L” was for Lambert. He was 31 years old at the time of his death and had two daughters. His son, and namesake, was born six months later. His widow Emma remarried to John Archibald.

    • eponaleah said,

      Yes, thank you for catching the spelling error. I understand that one of his daughters was named Daisy and she was almost of marriageable age. Do you know his other daughter and son’s name? I did know that his widow married John Archibald after she gave up on ranching in Grizzly and that Luke’s brother George left the area as well.

      • Orvill S. Paller said,

        Shirley Langdon Wilcox and I have spent considerable time researching the family of Lucius Lambert Langdon. Lucius was my great-grandfather’s 1st cousin.

        Lucius was born 15 February 1851 in Prophetstown, Whiteside Co., Illinois. He married Emma Louise Lefrancis on 15 February 1875 in Whiteside Co., Illinois. They were the parents of (3) known children:

        1. Mary M. Langdon – b. 10 Jul 1877 in Linn Co., OR and died on 3 April 1936 in Albany, Linn Co., OR. Buried on 7 April 1936 at Sand Ridge Cemetery, Lebanon, Linn, Oregon. Her death certificate cites her place of birth as Linn Co. although I have no evidence to this effect. Mary married William E. Anderson on 29 September 1895 in Crook Co., OR. William was born about February 1865 probably in Albany, Linn Co., OR. Together they had one known son, Richard E. Anderson born on 7 Jun 1896 in Albany, Linn Co., OR and died on 25 Sept 1967 in Seattle, King Co., WA.

        2. Daisy V. Langdon – b.Abt Nov 1879 in Oregon and died on 26 August 1936 at Corvallis, Benton Co., OR. She married (1) Frederick P. Claypool on 29 September 1902 at Crook Co., OR. She married (2) Clark Phalander Terwilliger. Frederick P. Claypool was born abt. August 1878 probably at Syracuse, Linn Co., OR and died 13 May 1914 at Portland, Multnomah, OR. Clark Phalander Terwilliger was born on 10 April 1868 at Homowack, NY and died 12 May 1950 at Linn Co., OR. One child by marriage (1) – Langdon Claypool. Langdon Claypool born on 21 April 1906 in Oregon and died 21 July 1982 at San Diego Co., California.

        3. Lambert Lucius Langdon – b. 20 Sept 1882 in Oregon and died 1 February 1946 at Twin Falls, Twin Falls Co., Idaho. Buried on 5 Feburary 1946 at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery, Twin Falls, Idaho. Married (1) Myrtle Munn on 2 December 1911 at Linn Co., Oregon. Married (2) Marian O. Smith on 25 May 1928 at Hailey, Blaine Co., Idaho. Myrtle Munn was born 9 Jan 1893 probably at Tangent, Linn Co., Oregon and died 21 February 1928 at Twin Falls, Twin Falls Co., Idaho. Marian O. Smith was born 3 March 1911 at Jamestown, Chatauqua Co., NY and died 11 December 1996 at New Plymouth, Payette Co., Idaho. There were (4) children by his first wife and (5) children by his second wife.

        I have additional information and documents on this family – as well as on the families of Lucius Lambert Langdon’s brothers George Ransom Langdon and Perry Greene Langdon – both of whom were in the Crook Co., Oregon area at the time of Lucius’ murder.

      • eponaleah said,

        Thank you for the wonderful information. Do you have any idea about to whom Luke and Emma’s land passed after his murder and Emma leaving the area?

    • Grace Castle said,

      Thank you for this informative page. Just wanted to mention, though that it was Aaron Crooks, not Crook. One of my grandsons is a direct descendant of Aaron Crooks. I have been researching the Crooks family history so it was interesting to see the comments from the Langdon descendants. 🙂

  3. Bonnie Cassell said,

    Great article on Central Oregon. The pictures adds to the interest of the history. Thanks!

  4. Karen Antkowiak said,

    I was wondering if there is a way to get in touch with Shirley Langdon Wilcox and Orvill Paller. I am the great great grand daughter of Lucius Lambert Langdon and would love to see the information they have. Thank you so much for the great article.

  5. Allyson Kissell said,

    My aunt is June Newbill Law and she grew up in the Newbill home in Grizzly. June is 93 and lives in Eugene in an assisted living community but she proudly identified the pictures of her former home. Thanks for giving her a chance to remember.

    • Cathy Parker said,

      How interesting to know that June Newbill Law grew up in this home. We visited the home a number of years ago…and after some persistence found the cemetery. My gr grandfather was John Sylvester Newbill and his Newbill Grandparent’s are buried there. He left Oregon and ranched in Washington so details of the Oregon Newbills are a bit more removed.

  6. Sharon M said,

    Wondering if you or someone reading here, happens to know how close the old town of Cross Keys is to Grizzly? It’s hard to learn much about it on the internet, but according to old maps looks to be just North of Grizzly Butte.

    I’m looking for the gravesite of a family member who died in 1882 in Cross Keys. She could be buried at any of the small cemeteries in the area, but Grizzly Cemetery might be close.

    • eponaleah said,

      Hi Sharon,

      Cross Keys was located northwest of Willoughby and south of Shaniko (about 22 or 23 miles south). Willoughby was located north of Grizzly Butte. I have an Oregon map from 1881 which shows Cross Keys. I think the Hay Creek Cemetery was closer to Cross Keys than the Newbill Cemetery at Grizzly. If you are interested, I can probably scan that section of the map and email it to you, but I will be out of communication for about a week or so. Just comment back here and let me know if that is something you are interested in.

      • Sharon said,

        Thanks eponaleah, I thought you might know something about Cross Keys. I live in Central Oregon, so I see a trip to Hay Crk Cemetery in my future now. I would love a copy of that map when you have the time, but theres no hurry. I’ll need all the help I can get to find that Cemetery!
        Love your pictures and blog, thanks for posting them.
        Sharon

    • Pam Roach said,

      There is a great website called FindAGrave.com It is free to browse and free to belong. Check it out. If you need help with it, let me know:)

  7. Linda McCormick said,

    I am doing some research on Andrew & Eliza Spalding Warren. I have found information that says they moved to Grizzly in 1873 from Brownsville, Oregon. Was there any kind of a community then? They were cattle ranchers. Their daughter, America Crooks, lived in Prineville.

    • Pam Roach said,

      You should contact Steve Lent at the Bowman Museum in Prineville, Oregon. He is the Museum Historian and very knowledgeable about the area.

      • Linda McCormick said,

        Thank you!!!!

  8. Pam Roach said,

    Aaron Crook and his son-in-law, Stephen Jory are not in the Grizzly Cemetery on FindAGrave. Do you have proof that they were buried there?

  9. Gloria Williams said,

    I understand that it has been a few years since you posted this article. However, do you mind sharing with me who the current owners are? My Father-in-Law and his family have a done a great deal to help develop the town of Prineville (back in the day) and I would like to take him there to see this and would like to ask for permission first. It seems that Grizzly is only about 20 miles from his place of Business that is named after the Mountain.

    • eponaleah said,

      Hi Gloria, I am sorry that I can’t share that information with you as I no longer have it. I am sorry. Perhaps you could find the property owners through a property search through the county clerk. Good luck to you and I hope you find what you are seeking.

      • Gloria said,

        Thank you. Have a Merry Christmas!

      • eponaleah said,

        Thank you! Happy New Year!

  10. Cathy Parker said,

    Thank you. Very interesting synopsis. Home of my gr gr gr grandfather, Nathaniel Newbill. I have visited the site and nearby cemetery. Very fascinating.

  11. Teresa A. Hunt said,

    wonderful posting and comments here ❤

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