Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Prior Family Were Pioneers/Artesian Well Failed

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 7 January 1962

My recollections of the Prior family date back to their arrival in 1894—the year of the great floods and high waters of the Columbia, Snake and Yakima Rivers. George Prior, the father, was a tall, slightly stooped man. He always wore a long light-red beard. The Indians called him “Sorrel Tipso” which meant sorrel grass. This pre-dated the more modern slang of calling a beard “spinach.”

The oldest child of the Prior family was Robert. Bob, in his youth was a great horseman and buckeroo. He became one of the best sulky drivers in the Harness Circuit of the Northwest. Trotter or pacer, Bob with little use of the whip, could get all the speed possible out of his horse. He seemed to have a magic hand on the reins. His horse seldom broke its gait.

Robert attended Pullman College graduating from its veterinary course. He went on to McGill University located in Canada. It had, at that time, the highest rated veterinary school in the world. Graduating from McGill, Robert returned to Washington and become its state veterinarian in charge of its animal husbandry, a position he held for nearly a half century.

Archie Prior, the second son of the Prior family was a herdsman at heart. He liked the sheep as much as his older brother Robert disliked them. Archie attended Pullman taking all of the classes in animal husbandry and agriculture that were in its curriculum at that time. He also took a commercial business course. Archie had a keen mind for business and exceptional administrative abilities. In his death, the state lost a valuable citizen, one who not only developed much of its physical resources, but also gave much to the advancement and support of its cultural and moral well being.

Beth Prior, the oldest daughter, was a sweet, quiet girl, well liked by everyone. She was graduated from the then Ellensburg Normal School. For many years she was a successful teacher in Yakima County.

The youngest member of the Prior family was a girl. If my memory serves me right, her name was Phoebe. She was much younger than her brothers and sister and myself, therefore I know little of her history.

I have been searching my memory of the past 56 years for some recollection of Mrs. George Prior, the mother, but am sorry to report that my memory is still a blank.

The 65,000 acre Prior ranch in the Horse Heaven country of Benton County I believe still contains my father’s homestead which we called Maple Springs. It is situated some eight and one half miles southeast of Kennewick. My older brother Charley’s homestead adjoined it. Maple Springs was developed by my father, C.E. Lum. The water seeped out of the solid basalt. Father drilled and used much powder in opening up the water vein. He was in hopes of securing an artesian well. The water level of the well, however, never raised higher than four feet from the top of the well. He installed a two inch cast iron pipe siphon in the well which extended to within two feet of the bottom and carried the exhaust end of the siphon down the canyon for about three hundred feet to fill a series of watering troughs.

All of the Priors were held in the highest esteem by the pioneers. They were intelligent, industrious, cooperative and honest.

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