Bly, Oregon
Bly Oregon 97622
Bly is an un-incorporated town within Klamath County. Because of being unincorporated there is no city government, town council, chamber etc. Most issues affecting our town are brought before the community action team for resolution.

History

Establishment:

• T he actual founding of Bly is somewhat clouded and the date cannot be positively determined. Assumption is that was no settlement prior to 1870.

• Bly was first shown as being in Jackson County and then Lake County before becoming Klamath County. The original township site was platted and filed on June 28th, 1928 and was called Sprague River. In 1882 Klamath County was created out of Lake County and the name was changed to Bly.

• The Indians disputed the reservation settlement in 1864 and claimed that the land in the Sprague River Valley was to be included in the reservation. A survey was conducted and accepted in 1870 that did not include the Sprague River Valley known now as Bly.

• On July 25, 1929 the Klamath News reported Bly as a prominent town of about 300 people. "A fine new depot and a new well providing the purest of cold drinking water, is transforming Bly into a community of considerable importance."

• The US census of 1890 had a population of 119 and had grown to 145 by 1900. The 1905 election had 150 casting votes indicating a population of approximately 750 in the precinct. The 2000 census had a population of 486 in the area we consider to be Bly.

Settlers:

• Two of the first settlers to the area were Gearhart and Munz. Gearhart squatted on the land and never completed the claim process and simply relinquished all rights to the land when he walked away. John Gearhart made application for a post office in his home in 1873 and called the town Sprague River and stated "no village yet" but expected the post office to serve 100. The location of the post office has been recorded in numerous homes and locations and was even discontinued at least two times.

• Munz was a German bachelor that purchased the BK ranch. He shot and killed a disgruntled Indian, later gave himself up and was placed under $9000 cash bail. He later thought of the magnitude of what he had done and left the area. That $9000 was said to have built the first Klamath County courthouse.

• The three Bloomingcamp brothers then purchased the Munz Ranch. Henry was digging a ditch across the property using blasting methods. He was 300 yards away, under a tree, when the blast went off. A rock the size of a turkey egg hit him on the head and killed him. The other brothers continued to operate the ranch.

• Other early settlers included the Garrett, Owen, Casebeer, Reed and Obenchain families. Reed purchased the Pioneer Hotel with 20 rooms, became postmaster in 1904, was the proprietor of a large livery and feed stable, kept the stage station and owned the town hall known as Reed Hall.

• Ruth Obenchain provided us a copy of a letter from D Goldberg that either froze or starved to death near Bly. It is dated March 5th but does not have the year. The man was brought out in the spring in a casket. The letter is as follows:

"Say Cowboy,
Here is the long and short of it. When I could get out I didn't want too. But when I wanted to I couldn't. The morning I was set to leave it snowed, and snowed like hell, and I couldn't make it."

"After the storm I started to walk to Bly, but I got off the trail and got lost. After walking all day and night I gladly got back to the cabin with frozen feet. They were frozen so badly that I couldn't walk at all. I had to crawl on all fours. I tried to get to Richardson's ranch by crawling on all fours but I couldn't make it. And as you know there is not much food in the cabin, the only thing left for me was to starve. I am now without food for three day and feel pretty sick. The end is not far off now."

"Under my pillow you will find a letter to my mother, please see that she gets it. Also mail the suitcase to the same address. In the pocket of my Blazer (lumber jack) you will find about $12 which I trust will be enough for postage for the letter and suitcase, I would also appreciate it if you would stuff the blazer and the Army breeches in the suitcase before mailing it. That is I would appreciate as much as a dead man can appreciate anything."

"I thank you sincerely" D Goldberg

Logging:

• Extensive logging from 1929-1939 by the Pelican Bay Lumber Company and Ewauna Box Company caused a boom to the area in the early 30s. Pelican Bay Camp was originally located south of Bly near Robinson Springs and employed 200 men. The timber was transported by rail to Bly. Ewauna Box Company was located on Quartz Mtn.

• Several sawmills were located in or near Bly with the first being built by Crane in or around 1931. The last owner was Weyerhaeuser Company who purchased the mill in 1970. The doors were shut in 1984.

• In 1934 a mill was built about 10 miles NW of Bly that was to become Ivory Pine. Many of the local folks refer to the community as Podunk. Ivory Pine was described as a pretty wild place and had a house of “ill repute” as well as a string of houses and a dance hall. Children from Ivory Pine were bussed to Bly to attend school. The last timber was run through the mill in 1948 and the community was dismantled.

Schools:

• There is evidence that a school was established in 1873 in a log house but the exact location is not known. Weather and distance prohibited school being held in the winter months so classes were held during the summer months only. School was sometimes cancelled if funding for the teacher ran out.

• "A handsome new school was constructed in 1910" but it burned to the ground in 1932. The gymnasium was built in 1928 and is still used today. A new building was constructed to replace the burned school in the same year. Records show that in 1887 there were 3 students, 1930; 44 students and 2 teachers. The Gearhart Elementary School now has approximately 75 students with high school age bussed to Bonanza a distance of 40 miles.

• A theatre was constructed in 1948 and named the Arch Memorial theater. There was standing room only on opening day. It is currently being used as a Hardware and Craft Store. The Logger's Club located about 1 block east of the theater, printed matchbooks that read "In the heart of the theater district."

Cemetery:

• The first cemetery was located where the Forest Service and homes now stand. There was once evidence of 7 or 8 graves with only one having a tombstone, which read "Cruickshank". This man was said to work at the Bloomingcamp Ranch, got drunk, fell off the saloon steps and was killed.

• Later a cemetery came into use about 3 ½ miles west of Bly on land now owned by Marc and Kandy Hill. It was used from 1901-1943. Research revealed that "Oscar Laboree a prominent and wealthy stock man died from rheumatism of the heart" and was buried at cemetery on 9/29/1918 according to the record of funeral obtained from his relatives. Many graves in the cemetery have gravestones of slab lava rock that are no longer readable.

Range Wars:

• Bly did have a range war in 1925 between two sheep men who quarreled over a black sheep. One was killed and the other sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released after 5 months and $5000 bail. He was retried in 1927, found guilty, and sentenced to 1 to 5 years. He died in prison in 1930 ending the sheep/cattle war.

Bars/Saloons:

• Bly has had several hard liquor bars and beer parlors over the years. Cowboys have been known to ride their horses into the bars. At one time the bars kept a "black list" of those not able to purchase alcoholic beverages. There are many wild stories over the years of fights and killings occurring as a result of alcohol.

• The Justice of Peace owned the liquor store and a drunk came on a Sunday wanting liquor. After being refused he threw a rock through the window. The owner had a hook for a right arm, came out and hooked the drunk under the jaw and killed him. Nearby children describe the sound of the bones breaking. This same fellow later shot and killed his wife with a shotgun. He received jail time after killing his wife.

• Many card games (some illegal) were held in the local drinking establishments.

• The bowling alley/bar/dance hall was not allowed to sell liquor so those wishing to drink would bring their own alcohol and buy the mix from the proprietors. Teenagers were hired to set pins and made between $0.01 and $0.05 per row.

Balloon Bombing:

• On May 5, 1945 the Reverend Archie Mitchell, his pregnant wife Elsye and 5 children from the Sunday school class of the CMA church in Bly went on a picnic east of Bly. As Reverend Mitchell parked the car his wife and the children called out to him that they had found something. Before he could reach them an explosion shattered the quiet Saturday morning. Elsye and the five children became the only civilian casualties of Word War II on the continental U.S.

• The incendiary bombs traveled over 6200 miles on air currents. The expectation was to divert attention and resources from the war effort by causing vast Western wildfires.

• The government immediately censored the story for that if the Japanese knew their bombs were reaching North America they would redouble their efforts. The silence did not last long after the six deaths. The tragedy was first announced that Mrs. Mitchell and the five children had been killed while on a fishing trip by an explosion of "unannounced cause." Within two weeks the Government abandoned its censorship and issued a statement describing the balloon bombs and warning people to avoid tampering with strange objects.

• The Japanese have donated dolls and paper cranes that on display in the elementary school and the CMA church. Cherry trees were planted, by the Japanese, at the church and at the site of the bombing as an apology.

INTERVIEWS

Interview with Harry Obenchain 1st.

Interview with Harry Obenchain 2nd.

Interview with Ruth Obenchain

Interview with Ed and Opal Patzke

Interview with Corky Smith

Interview with Donnie Wessel