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Negro Ridge

Negro Ridge: The Black Stock Tender at the Stage Stop at Negro Hollow
By Sherry Woods Kaseberg

For decades, Sherman County’s Nigger Ridge and Nigger Hollow were reportedly named for a black man, the stock tender at the stage stop there. The Geographic Names Board purged maps of the name Nigger and they are officially now Negro Ridge and Negro Hollow.

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.

I hoped to find the name of this man in order to propose new names to the Oregon Geographic Names Board that would reflect the history of the stage station and its stock tender. Other considerations were Stage Stop Hollow, Stock Tender Ridge or a variation, avoiding a proposal of family names that would likely be opposed during hearings.

In The Golden Land, A History of Sherman County, Oregon, by Giles French, he wrote, “Stage drivers swung their four in summer and six in winter over rutted and poorly marked roads carrying miners with buckskin sacks of gold tied around their middles on the way back from the mines, promoters looking for profitable venture, army officers or a few stockmen. Bradley, Carr, Billavu, Byrd, Mahon, Gardner, Ward, Shannon were some of the drivers’ names – horsemen all, who could sit atop a Concord coach twelve to fifteen hours a day and get the passengers and mails to the stops on time. They were romantic figures of their age, their stories repeated, their antics emulated, filling a spot now taken by movie actors and airplane pilots. A blacksmith went from station to station to shoe the horses once a month and Boomer, the paymaster, came as regularly to pay the station manager for his horse feed and time… There were many stage lines and many operators.”

I hoped to find records of the stage line owners and operators and maybe lists of their employees and payroll records. The 1860 census did not identify race for the 1,689 persons in Wasco County.  In the 1870 census, there were 31 people identified as Black; however most were Chinese, in spite of being identified as Black. The 1880 census for Wasco County identified 10 persons of the Black race, and two were women.

Sherman County was carved out of Wasco County in 1889. Names of stage stations and their locations changed from time to time, and a person tending the stock may have only been there one season. In general these early freight and stage roads were in use between 1860 and 1900, changing with bridge and road conditions, commerce and the completion of the interior railroads.

Authorized by an act of congress in 1867, alternating sections of public lands were allocated for the purpose of aiding The Dalles and Canyon City Military Road Company, and approved by the governor in 1868 and signed in 1869 for the construction of a military wagon road from Dalles City to Fort Boise on the Snake River. The Dalles Military Road ran diagonally southeasterly through Sherman County, from the Deschutes River, to Gordon Ridge and Erskine, over Nigger Ridge to the Nigger Hollow stage station, Grass Valley and south to Cross Hollows and Antelope.

Opportunity for future research and possible name proposals is a possibility for the next generation!