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Sherman County – Places

We drive by places and wonder about how their names came to be. We hear stories about long-gone hamlets and country schools and wonder where they were.

Some places are named for the native peoples: Indian Cove, Tumwater Falls, and Lake Umatilla, and some for early settlers 1880-1885: Barnum Creek, Biggs Junction, Buckley School, Coon’s Corner, Erskine Springs, Fraser Road, Fulton Canyon, Gerking Canyon, Helm Springs, Kaseberg Lane, Kenny Spring, King Lane, McDermid Lane, Michigan District (French & Heath families), Moore Lane, Perrault Canyon, Price Springs, Sayrs Road, Willerton Grove, Woods Lane, and Woodworth Grove (Locust Grove).

Some names are based on geographic features: Adobe Point, Beaver Tail Butte, Box Canyon, Egypt Road, Grass Valley, Lickskillet School, Mud Hollow, Sand Spring, Stair Step Palisades on the John Day River, Starvation Point, Sugar Loaf, Toad Lane, and Webfoot Springs.

A few remind us of long-ago events: China Hollow, Dead Horse Canyon, Dipping Vat Canyon, Jackknife Canyon, Negro Ridge, Spanish Hollow, Telegraph Canyon, Baseline Road, Bourbon Lane, China Hollow, Goat Ranch Lane, Klondike, and Liberty Lane. Three are named for women, Lucy Payne Spring, Lucy Payne Canyon, and Penny Spring.

Some are on private property. Be respectful. No trespassing, please.

Biggs ArchC.M. Rowley Was Here – 1875KennethMattie’s HumpMoody IslandNegro RidgeSherman County Place Names, Streets and RoadsWorld War II Veterans Historic HighwayQuadrangle Maps, U.S. Geological SurveyTownship and Range SystemZola

Biggs Arch

Biggs Arch is on the bench above Hwy. 30 on the segment of the Oregon Trail where wagons descended to the river about a mile west of Biggs. Barely visible from Highway 30, it can be reached by hiking up the trail between the Oregon Trail markers, and can be viewed from I-84 a short distance west of the grain elevators.


C.M. Rowley Was Here – 1875

He may have been marking a homestead or mining claim. The inscriptions were transcribed by landowners years ago. The terrain is steep. An 1862 survey noted there was a road from John Day River to Tigh (Tygh) Valley running diagonally through Section 35.



“Townsite of Kenneth, Or. ~ Filed for Record May 27 A.D. 1889. This is to certify that Jennie McPherson, widow, and Angus Cameron, unmarried, have surveyed, platted and set apart as a town site to the public forever the following described real estate situated on the Northwest quarter of the Northwest quarter of Section Ten, Township One South, Range Seventeen East of the Willamette Meridian, in Sherman County, Oregon. Said town site to be known by the name of Kenneth and containing in all Ten Blocks.


Mattie’s Hump

This geographic feature less than a mile east of Biggs Junction is a basalt bluff in Section 9, T2N R16E, around and over which Highway 30 was built. On October 30, 2010, the Oregon Geographic Names Board voted to recommend approval of two names for geographic features in Sherman County, Biggs Arch and Mattie’s Hump near Biggs Junction.

Teri Sanderson of Biggs knew Mattie and wrote, “I have always known that section of road out of Biggs toward Rufus to be called Mattie’s Hump by the locals. Even my kids knew that. Mattie and Clyde became good friends with my husband Terry’s parents, Hap and Eudora Sanderson, when they bought the Biggs property from Mattie and Pete around 1970.”


Moody Island

This island is a sand bar over a rock base. It supports some grass and shrubs and varies in size according to seasonal flows. It is located above the highway and railroad bridges and the Oregon Trail crossing of the Deschutes River, and lies between Heritage Landing and Deschutes State Park.  Fishermen favor the spot in season.


Negro Ridge

Negro Hollow runs southeasterly through sections 7, 6 and 5, T2S, R17E, a tributary of Grass Valley Canyon. The stage stop location of interest is east of Hwy. 97 between Moro and Grass Valley, the stage road running diagonally southeasterly through present day Sherman County from the mouth of the Deschutes River… the same route as for The Dalles Military Road.

According to local historian, A.J. Price, the stage station at this site for the line running from The Dalles to Canyon City was operated by a Negro stock tender where the road crossed Negro Ridge and Negro Hollow.


Sherman County Place Names, Streets and Roads

Compiled by Sherry (Woods) Kaseberg in 2009, Sherman County Place Names, Streets and Roads is a spiral-bound 180 page collection of notes about places, streets and roads in Sherman County, published in honor of our storytellers and record keepers.It may be purchased at The Museum Store, Sherman County Historical Museum in Moro, Oregon.


World War II Veterans Historic Highway

At the gateway of the World War II Veterans Historic Highway, the last two of the 18 signs honoring Oregon WWII Veterans were installed on November 9, 2012, south of Biggs Junction.  These signs mark Camp Rufus as the northern entry of this historic route and first highway in the nation to be dedicated to represent appreciation to veterans and inform the traveling public about the WWII training sites served by two major highways east of the Cascades: US 97 from the Columbia River to the Oregon/California border and State Route 126 from Redmond to Prineville.


Quadrangle Maps, U.S. Geological Survey

A quadrangle map shows a tract of the country and is one of a series of map sheets produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. Sherman County quadrangle maps may be purchased through specialty outlets, Powell’s books and USGS.


Township and Range System

Section: Basic unit of the system, a square tract of line one mile by one mile containing 640 acres. Within each section, the land is described as half and quarter sections. A one-sixteenth division is called a quarter of a quarter, as in the NW1/4 of the NW1/4. The descriptions are read from the smallest division to the largest.

Township: The largest unit grouping is the township, 36 sections arranged in a 6 by 6 array, measuring 6 miles by 6 miles. Sections are numbered beginning with the northeast-most section, proceeding west to 6, then south along the west edge of the township and to the east. It is named in reference to a Principal Meridian [P.M.] and a Baseline. T2N, R1E refers to Township 2 North (of the Baseline), Range 1 East (of the Principal Meridian).

Range: Assigned to a township by measuring east or west of a Principal Meridian.
Range Lines: North to south lines that mark township boundaries.
Township Lines: East to west lines that mark township boundaries.
Principal Meridian: Reference or beginning point for measuring east or west ranges.
Base Line: Reference or beginning point for measuring north or south townships.


Zola was a dream of a town by George S. Pershin who laid it out on the Northwest quarter of the Northeast quarter of Section six in two North, 17 East of the Willamette Meridian. That makes it lie just southwest of the townsite of Rufus, cornering that city.

Although no lots were sold it had streets and alleys. Streets were named Garfield, Lincoln, Main and Canyon and the other way they were Walnut, Chestnut, Maple and Pine, from which a Sherlock Holmes might deduce that Mr. Pershin was a Republican who came from a wooded part of the country to settle on the comparatively barren slopes that stretch toward the Columbia.


Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. – Abraham Lincoln