Thursday, February 28, 2013



Here stands the last remaining homestead on the ranch. All the others are long lost to time and nature, though a discerning eye can pick up the occasional remains. The Kirkbride Place was homesteaded by Alfred W. Kirkbride after the turn of the century. When we first moved here I had the inkling to take some photos while the place was still standing. I wanted to track down his kin and share a piece of their family history that they might get a greater sense of their great-great grandfather's life.

Such romantic nostalgia no? Unfortunately from what I could learn, Alfred never married or had any close kin.

I know Alfred was born April 20th, 1887 in Smith Center, Kansas to Orlando Cloud Kirkbride and Sara Ann Kinser. By 1910 he moved to Central Oregon and lived in the local area at a boarding house. Sometime between 1910 and 1917 he moved to the homestead site along the creek. According to his WWI draft registration from 1917 (age 30) he was a single Caucasian man short of stature and stoutly built. He had grey eyes and dark brown hair and was not bald. In 1920, his younger brother Charles E Kirkbride farmed with him.

He died the 30th of March 1936 and is buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in The Dalles.

Here is what remains of the homestead he carved out for himself and lived in for over 20 years:

The Homestead Act of 1862 signed by President Lincoln opened up public lands to homestead claims (homestead claims could be made up through the 1980s in Alaska). If you were the head of the household and over 21 years of age you were eligible for 160 acres of land. To get the deed though, one had to live on the site for five years and "prove up" or make improvements to the property to demonstrate their intent to live there. Many homesteaders failed to make it through the five years and never ended up with a deed to the land they worked. Two doors, two windows and two rooms were part of the requirements for the homestead. A barn had to be raised and fruit trees had to be planted.


The old barn collapsed years ago.


An old apple tree and a massive cottonwood tree still stand ever vigilant.


Today, the canyon bears the name Kirkbride canyon as a testament to the man who was. The name of the creek links back to Kirkbride as well. Tub Springs was so named for the long wooden tub set in the stream to clarify the cool spring water.

Back at the home place, the roof has a hole and is swaybacked as an old horse. A century of contraction and expansion gives the slope a prickly appearance as the nails wriggle free. The windows are broken and the walls sag. In the loft the ravens once built a nest and there is an abandoned packrat midden in the bedroom. Two creaky box springs remain as well as the skeletons of two small wood stoves. Any other scraps of historic nostalgia have been long since carted away. In the kitchen there remains a tattered and curled scrap of wallpaper - the faintest outline of a white fleur-de-lis. It seems such a delicate and dainty adornment for the homestead of a life-long bachelor.



Every year the homestead leans and sags a little more. I don't know how much longer it will remain standing. For now though I feel a sense of reverence and appreciation for the enormous amount of hard work it must have taken to carve out a place like this from scratch by yourself. If Nathan's family had not shared that same determined, homesteader spirit, the ranch would not be the place I call home today.



Jarom and Rachel said...

Back in the late 70s and early 80s my mother and father contemplated going to Alaska and staking out some land before they had kids. I really enjoyed this post. I love hearing about the history of the ranch.

Lori Callister said...

Wonderful post, thank you for sharing this ...

Verneal Maze said...

I am a descendant of ALfred W Kirkbride's younger sister,Grace Leona Kirkbride. Grace married Thomas J Hunter and they had 12 children, but only 5 lived to be adults. Their eldest daughter Effie was my mother. She married Luther L Gregory and they had 6 children, I'm the eldest. Alfred had several brothers and one sister. Verneal Gregory Maze

Katia said...

How wonderful to connect with family of the Kirkbrides. I'm so glad I took the time to share photos and stories of the old homestead. The building has developed a dramatic lean and I think this will be the final winter before it collapses. Do you happen to have a photo of Alfred? I would love to be able to put a face with the name.

Verneal Maze said...

Yes I have a picture of Alfred Kirkbride, I'll try sending it. Verneal

Verneal Maze said...

How would I send a picture of Alfred W Kirkbride? Verneal Gregory Maze

Katia said...

Send me an email:
How exciting!

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