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Essay on the History of Buchanan
Introduction to Buchanan
Twenty-three miles east of Burns, Oregon on the Central Oregon Highway is a small place called Buchanan. Nowadays it has fuel pumps, a museum/jewelry store, and an equipment sales and repair shop. However, though it might be a bit quiet and relaxed now, Buchanan has a lively history worth a good essay or two. Buchanan has been a stage stop, a ranch, a store, a post office, and seen many wonderful and exciting days.
I chose to write an essay on Buchanan because it has an interesting history, and I have easy access, being as I live less than five miles away. In this essay, you shall find a brief history on the founder of Buchanan, information on the Oard’s stop, and some history on how it was then and now. I got my information from a real live expert, books, news articles, and oral histories, which came from the Western History Room of the Harney County Library.
History of George Buchanan, First Owner of Buchanan
Now, Buchanan got its name from George Buchanan, who was the founder and first owner of Buchanan. We simply must have a bit of history on him, being as he was so important to the making of Buchanan. George L. Buchanan was born in 1871 in Union County, Oregon. His parents were William D. Buchanan and Helen J. (Cullen was her maiden name). George came to Harney County in 1885 and settled on a ranch on Cow Creek. In 1893 he was married to Miss Alma Gates. George and Alma successfully ran a stage stop for eighteen years with their two daughters and son. On May 1st, 1911, the Buchanan Post Office was established with Hattie E. Buchanan as the first Buchanan Post Master. However, the post office was closed eight years later on June 30th, 1919, for reasons that I cannot identify. On February 5th of 1926, George Buchanan left for Portland to receive medical treatment. Poor George had been suffering from heart disease for several weeks, and it was thought that the lower altitude would help him recuperate. Sadly, he died two weeks later, on the 16th of February, at the age of 55, while with his sister Mrs. Amanda Martin. He left behind him his wonderful wife, two daughters (Mrs. C.A. Wetterstrom and Mrs. Harold Johansen), his son Roy Buchanan, his sisters Eliza Martin, Amanda Martin, Harriet Harrison and Josephine Spencer, his brother Joseph W. Buchanan and his brother-in-law Van Gates.
After the death of George Buchanan, Harold Johansen, George’s brother-in-law, and his family moved onto the Buchanan ranch to become the new manager of the ranch.
Even though I doubt he had any real influence on our topic, I thought I might add something on Joseph W. Buchanan, because he was brother to George Buchanan. Joseph Buchanan was the elder brother to George by about eleven years. He was born on April 19th, 1860, in Tama County, Iowa. Joseph served for at least one term in the Harney County assessor’s office. I’m not certain whether he served for a longer time, being as the book I got this information from was printed in 1905, and it said “He conserves the interests of the county in his faithful service in the assessor’s office, where he has served for nearly one term.” He also owned a large estate of six hundred acres on Rock Creek. I know little else of Joseph W. Buchanan, other that the fact that he out-lived his younger brother.
Location and History of the Stage Stop
Now, I’m fairly certain that you know what a stage stop is, but just in case you don’t, I will give you a vague idea of what one was. A stage stop was a place every 20 or 30 miles apart (for example Buchanan is close to 20 miles from Burns, as Drewsy is to Buchanan, and Juntura is from Drewsy, etc.) that was a place for the stage drivers to stop so passengers could take a break; a chance to water the horses, to get a fresh team, and enjoy some company along the way.
The Buchanan stage stop actually had two places that it was located. I know it sounds strange, and most likely doesn’t make sense, but I can explain. You see, there was a stop up on the hill behind Buchanan where an old barn stood (it is there no longer), but that is believed to be a minor stop, kind of like a rest area, a place to get out and stretch. However, the main stage stop was actually located farther down Crane Buchanan road, where the Temples now live.
If you were to travel to Buchanan today, you will find that the jewelry and Indian gallery, as well as the repair shop, are in a building labeled “Oard’s”. If one were to wonder what this meant, they might assume that it was an Indian name, or that it had something to do with the area surrounding it. Some curious folk venture in to ask Mavis Oard, the proud and knowledgeable owner of the business. She is not only friendly and interesting, but she is willing to answer any questions you might have about the items in the store or the history of Oard’s.
The Oard’s area was established in 1932 by the mother- and father-in-law of Mavis Oard. At first it was but an ordinary station stop, but it expanded into what it is now in 1952. During World War II, most of the few men that lived at Buchanan were away fighting, and so there was only one hired man around besides the women. As a way to support themselves, during the war, the Buchanan ladies enhanced the Oard’s station. It offered gasoline, a few things to eat, and pretty much the same type of inventory that it has today (with the exception of the Indian art, which Mavis brought to Oard’s as her hobby and trademark).
Mavis F. Oard
Mavis is the friendly and knowledgeable owner of the Oard’s business, which she has owned for over thirty years. She has a collection of last century relics, such as old typewriters and antique dolls. Mavis also has a vast collection of Indian art and jewelry, which is her passion to collect. Her inventory comes from Arizona, California, and a lot of other places. A couple of times a year Mavis goes to Indian art dealers and makes selections and purchases to add to her collection. She also owns the machinery and repair parts side of Oard’s, which is her main business.
It was very lucky that I had Mavis to give me so much information about Oard’s. She has given me a lot of material to use, which you have just read under the “Oard’s” heading.
Now I shall give some back ground on Mavis. Mavis’s family homesteaded in the Buchanan area in 1872 or ’73. Her husband, James Richard Oard, and his family lived in Buchanan growing up. After Rich (for that was what he was called) and Mavis got married, they moved away for a period of time. During that time, Mavis began collecting the Indian art that she loves so. Mavis and Rich moved back to Buchanan permanently in 1949.
That is where you can still find Mavis today, with her collection of wonders. It is that collection that drew so many foreigners to Buchanan. You see, Mavis and her crew have been keeping guest books over the years. These guest books allow visitors to sign in their names and addresses, along with any comments they might have. There have been people from 48 states inside, not to mention Germany, Australia, Honduras, England, Canada and Spain. According to Mavis, they come in large groups. “They seem to come in herds. One year we had lots of Japanese folks. The next year there were a lot of Germans,” she says.
Undoubtedly, Mavis is what makes Oard’s so unique. Mavis is and was part of the history of Buchanan. She knows so much history about it, and she willingly shared it with me for this essay. I am very appreciative to her.
Buchanan is the small stop on Highway 20 that offers gas, a few snacks, and a parts/repair shop. It also offers a lively and entertaining history. If you were to go to Buchanan today and stop at Oard’s, you could truly appreciate its mysteries and its history as well as its antiques, beautiful jewelry and Indian artifacts. I’m sure you could get more out of it now, after knowing some of its history, and you would appreciate your stay at the little gas stop even more. You could really enjoy the trip.
"A Lively Little History of Harney County, A Centennial Souvenir Album 1889 - 1989" pub Feb 25 1989 by the Harney County Chamber of Commerce Centennial Committee, printed by Desert Graphics.
"An Illustrated History of Baker, Grant, Malheur and Harney Counties, With a Brief Outline of the Early History of the State of Oregon" pub 1902 by Western Historical Publishing Company (does not give city of pub.)
"Geo. L. Buchanan Dies at Portland." Crane American [Crane, OR] 19 Feb. 1926: Unkown.
Harney County History Project. AV-Oral History #273 Page 3. Subject: Glenn Sitz. Place: Burns, Oregon
Harney County History Project. AV-Oral History #43. Subject: Roy Buchanan. Place: Burns, Oregon. Date: 1970’s
"Local Personal." Crane American [Crane, OR] 5 Feb. 1926: Unknown.
"Local Personal." Crane American [Crane, OR] 12 Mar. 1926: Unknown.
Martin, Dana. "Treasures!." Ruralite Apr. 1985: 16-17.
Oard, Mavis S. Personal interview. 30 Jan. 2009.
Ulrich, Roberta. "Oasis for Artwork Flourishes in Desert." The Oregonian [Salem, OR] DATE: Page.
Zaitz, Les."Oasis in Desert Offers Art, More." Keizertimes [Keizer, OR] 8 May 1997: 4.
I would especially like to thank Martha Corrigan, who helped in the Western History Room.