Pamplin Media Group – The first cars bend too much for the slope in Cow Canyon


The director of the Deschutes Telephone Company of Bend ordered the Holsman car in Chicago in 1906

One of the first automobiles to arrive in Bend was purchased in Chicago in 1906 and shipped by train to The Dalles. HC Ellis, director of the Deschutes Telephone Company of Bend ordered the car, a Holsman, which had a two-stroke engine with high wheels.

This vehicle was purchased due to the high road hubs in the areas of central Oregon served by the company. Some of the high centers were tree stumps. The roads of central Oregon at this time were used only by freight cars, stagecoaches, and buggies.

After the car arrived at The Dalles, it was difficult to find gasoline as there was none at The Dalles. A supply was obtained from Goldendale, Washington, after several days. Ellis shipped some of the fuel to the line so that it could be recovered in transit.

The car created considerable excitement in the Dalles as it traveled up the Columbia to the Deschutes River crossing at Freebridge. There was only one other car in The Dalles at that time.

The Holsman slowly ascended the Rattlesnake Canyon from the Deschutes crossing to Moro. He was late while he waited for the arrival of the shipped fuel. The car reached the head of Cow Canyon after sunset. Highway 97 is now a high-speed highway down the canyon, but by 1906 it was a very rough wagon route.

The car was moving very slowly on the narrow, steep road. The driver must have chosen the “path” by the dim lighting of the primitive headlights. The slope began to narrow and the passenger side of the car was dented and scuffed. Passing through a narrow notch, the fenders were torn from the vehicle. By the time the vehicle reached the bottom of the slope, the fenders were pieces of metal. Fenders have been removed at the Heisler Stage stop on Trout Creek. The staging operator kept the wings exposed for several years to show the madness of the “last generation machine” in the land of horses.

The car eventually reached Bend and was a wonder to the local residents, even though it looked awkward with no wings. Obtaining gasoline was a problem and it had to be shipped from Shaniko. Gas at that time ranged from 75 cents to $ 1 per gallon.

The car was used for several years by Ellis and his phone team. It was a rough introduction for the automobile to the primitive roads of central Oregon.

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