Bend History

The Frontiers Men
Not until 1834, so far as is known, did the first white explorers visit the Bend country. They were members of the Nathaniel Wyeth party who came from their camp on the Columbia River seeking beaver. Prior to the Wyeth visit to the area, Peter Skene Ogden had visited Central Oregon in 1825-26, but his beaver trail took him up Crooked River past the Prineville site and east into the John Day Valley. The Wyeth trail was pretty well erased when the next explorers visited the area. That was the John C. Fremont party that toted a cannon over Tumalo Creek just west of Bend and on south to the Klamath Marsh area before crossing the highlands into the lake country and naming Summer Lake.

Gold hunters undoubtedly crossed close to the present Bend area in their rush to the John Day Valley with its golden pebbles in 1862, but left no trace of their visit. Then came the pioneer stockmen to take advantage of the verdant meadows of the upper Deschutes country. One early-day stockman filed on a portion of the present site of Bend, but his identify is unknown. He is merely a number in the US Land Office records in The Dalles; the filing was made on July 11, 1874. Later, others filed on the same land. One of these early claiments was Tom Greer.

Out of the north from Tygh Valley in 1877 came John Y. Todd, to buy the relinquished right of Tom Greer to the old “Farewell Bend” Ranch for $60 and two saddle horses. The pioneer ranch was near the former Brooks-Scanlon plant, which is now the Old Mill District, on the east side of the Deschutes River. At the ranch travelers obtained their last view of the Deschutes in its majestic sweep around great bends, and the ranch obtained the name of “Farewell Bend.”

There was no thought of an eventual town or a city at the present Bend locale in those pioneer days. But on a spring day in 1900, there arrived on the present site the covered wagon of Alexander M. Drake, a Midwest capitalist, who heard of irrigation possibilities in the upper Deschutes country. He founded the Pilot Butte Development Company, and the nucleus of Bend began with the construction of a lodge. Bend became incorporated by a vote of the people in 1904, with officers taking over their duties in January, 1905. A.H. Goodwillie was the first mayor.

A Name for the Town
Earlier, when Bend’s future was still uncertain, there was a controversy over a name for the new hamlet. In the late 1870’s, William H. Staats filed a claim on the Deschutes near the “Farewell Bend” Ranch (which had been obtained by John Sisemore from John Todd) and made a rival bid for travelers. Each maintained a stopping place and each for a time had a post office. Staats platted his town as “Deschutes.” Some called the community “Staats.” Drake favored the name “Pilot Butte” and a bid was made for “Farewell Bend.” But officials in the Post Office Department in Washington, DC, decided Farewell Bend was too long and they finally approved the name “Bend.” After Bend’s incorporation, it gradually absorbed Deschutes.

Form of Government
Bend changed in 1929 from the council form of government to that of City Commission – Manager form, with three commissioners. George P. Gove was the first mayor under the new form of government, with C.G. Reiter as the first City Manager; the mayor being elected by the other commissioners from their own ranks. The charter was later changed to require seven commissioners and in 1995 the Charter was re-drafted to change the title for the elected representatives from Commissioner to Councilor. The Mayor continued to be elected by his or her peers until 2018 when the Charter was changed to allow the citizens to choose.

Source: All About Bend, Oregon
Compiled, edited and published by the League of Women Voters of Bend, Oregon
May, 1967

Des Chutes Historical Museum