Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area


Crocks Used for 'Canning'/Round-up Paid $15 A Month


By BURTON 0. LUM
Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 12 August 1962

August, one of the most enjoyable and pleasant months of the pioneer's years. The ripening of the wild currants, which constituted about the only real edible wild berry in the Tri-City area. The wild haw berries were too dry and mushy to be used. The wild currant was tasteful and made good jelly.

Fruit jars were unknown to the pioneers. The only method of processing fruit for winter use was by making jellies and jams and putting them down in large crocks. These large crocks were filled and then sealed with bees wax and a flour sack tied over to protect the wax.

There were three kinds of wild currants that grew in the Tri City region. The yellow, the red and dark red.

The wild yellow currant was the juiciest and most tart. The red and dark red were sweeter. Sand cherries were grown for making marmalade. Their flavor resembled somewhat the taste of the persimmon of the Deep South.

To secure other fruits to put up, the pioneer drove through the Horse Heaven Hills to the Jade Switzler's place situated on the Washington side opposite Umatilla. Switzler had settled there in 1847, two years before the California gold strike of 1849. He and his wife, Mollie, were loved by all old timers. I do not believe they had an enemy in the world. They had come from Tennessee and in their younger years they ran a pack train to supply the early placer miners of Washington, Idaho and Montana.

The country was so thinly settled in those early days that these early white people had to protect their lives from the Indians by their wits, if the Indians became too dangerous and surly. Aunt Mollie would pretend she was crazy, knowing that an Indian would not molest a crazy person. She had a regular act that she performed and was an actress of such ability that she always won her life. A portion of her routine was to whip her riding horse and chase the chief, who gave her a wide berth.

Jade Switzler was a tall spare man, well over six feet in height. He had lost the vision of one eye. How it occurred he never told. Aunt Mollie Switzler in her youth had been a beautiful southern belle and retained her looks and charm in her later years. She and Jade had two beautiful daughters. One became the wife of Judge Sharpenstean of Pendleton and the other became the wife of a famous stockman, Renwick Farrel.

The Switzler Ranch opposite Umatilla in these early days with its 25,000 head of horses, its buildings, equipment, and facilities would rival the present tv show of Bonanza. The Switzler U.S. Post Office was situated on the ranch. It was moved to its present location at Plymouth when the north bank railroad was built.

Jade Switzler made one of the largest sales of range horses ever made in the West. It was for 10,000 head. I rode as a buckeroo on this roundup and received $15 per month and room and board for myself, five head of saddle horses, saddle, lariat, bridle hobbles ropes, blankets and other equipment. This was the largest roundup for horses ever held in this area.

At the beginning the horses were driven down the Columbia and swam to the Oregon side of the Columbia at Arlington. Due to so many horses being drowned crossing the Columbia, they were ferried in special ferry built at Umatilla and driven down on the Oregon side to the processing plant 1ocated in a suburb at Portland. The sucking colts of the mares went with them free of charge.

Everyone who loves horses is glad that the gasoline and diesel motors have been invented. They are thankful that they and the electric motors have taken the drudgery from the patient, faithful horse and today the horse is one of man's most pleasant companions.


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