The Bowman Memorial Museum In Prineville

The Bowman Memorial Museum In Prineville

Oregon History: Bowman Memorial Museum

Nestled in the sleepy city of Prineville, Oregon is a historical treasure you will not want to miss – the A.R. Bowman Memorial Museum, otherwise known to us who live here as the Bowman Museum.

This is a spectacular place to visit and I urge you to set aside time to tour this incredible building that is chock-full of beautiful exhibits that depict beautifully Oregon history but especially Central Oregon’s origins and development.

Let’s take a bit of a virtual tour now and examine how the Bowman Museum started out and what it is yet to become.

Enjoy the videos and photos that I took on my recent visit to the museum. Even though there are many photos, I was hoping to capture the flavor of the museum on camera; likewise with the videos. There are many videos but these are short and give you a hands-on experience I hope for the exhibits at the museum. With all that I have presented here, there are still many, many more that I did not photo or videotape.

I shot most of the virtual tour with my little Flip video camera because the flash on my cameras would have been detrimental to the artifacts. I then captured the photos from the video stream to create the photos.

I hope you enjoy your tour and encourage you to come for a visit!

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All pictures and videos by Audrey Kirchner

A. R. Bowman and the Bowman Memorial Museum

Who was A. R. Bowman?

Arthur Ray Bowman was one of Crook County’s leading citizens. Born in Kansas originally, Bowman came to Prineville in 1910 after he had graduated with a law degree from the University of Washington. He was a prominent player in civic affairs and aided greatly in the development of Crook County.

He was most notably involved in the construction of Highway 26 which is still our main thoroughfare running east and west through Central Oregon. He also participated in such projects as the Ochoco Irrigation District and the construction of the Prineville Airport.

He would later also have the dam on the Crooked River named after him as well because he backed the project called the Crooked River Project which built the Prineville Dam. He also served as a county judge in Crook County from 1936 to 1942.

History of the Museum Building

building site where the Bowman Museum stands today on the corner of
Third Street and Main was a 1-story wood building constructed in 1883
and was first a drug store.

In 1901, this building was replaced
with a 2-story wood building which was known as Belknap Hall. Around
about 1908, this structure was actually moved to West Second and
Claypool Streets and was an I.O.O.F. lodge hall until its final
demolition in 1972.

The building that presently serves as the
Bowman Museum was built in 1910 by the Crook County Bank and it was a
building made not of wood but of stone from the local quarry. This
quarry is located near the Ochoco Viewpoint and the same stone was used
to construct the Crook County Courthouse about a year before the Crook
County Bank.

The Crook County Bank was in existence for 22
years. It was the Crook County Bank from 1912 until 1923 and then later
became the Bank of Prineville and the Prineville National Bank. In
1935, the building was purchased by A. R. Bowman and became his title
and loan business. Still later, it became the location for his
insurance business for at least 20 years.

If you visit the
museum, the first thing that you notice is the beautiful interior on the
first floor. Much of the old bank remains from the exquisite marble
counters and bronze teller cages to the etched art-glass, paneling of
mahogany and alabaster chandeliers. Although the bank failed in the
Great Depression, the building was never touched.

Bowman died in 1970 and the building was donated by his wife Alta and
daughters Jean and Elaine who deeded the property to the people of Crook
County stipulating that it must be used as a museum. The building
became part of the National Register of Historic Places on June 19,

The museum is maintained by the county and the Crook
County Historic Society. Admission is free but feel free to donate if
you visit and make sure you sign the registry!

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What You’ll See at the Bowman Memorial Museum

Remarkably, I have lived here 6 years and though I said absently many times ‘I need to go check out that museum’, for some reason or another, I just never went in. I’m so happy that I did because it is an incredible museum. The displays and exhibits are absolutely stunning.

I was particularly overwhelmed by the amount of artifacts that this museum contains. It is not just pertinent to Crook County history, however, and in fact, speaks of our ancestors and all that they left us in terms of our heritage and the early days of America.

Their exhibits are beautifully done and the information available is staggering. You are first consumed with wonder as you enter the museum and see the splendor that was the original bank. It is simply breathtaking with the marble counters and bronze teller cages – all left in precisely their original state.

The gift shop is a wonderful place to browse for information on anything and everything historical and how it pertains to Oregon history most specifically. There are wonderful tees and sweatshirts for sale and books by the hundreds. There are also many fine publications available for sale on-line and I will list those further along.

You can even purchase a beautiful afghan which depicts the Crook County Courthouse in all its glory and also honors the Crooked River Roundup and Les Schwab tires, one of the things Prineville is most famous for.

Displays at the Bowman Museum

Just some of the things you will enjoy at the Bowman

Period dress – from baseball uniforms to women’s finery – military uniforms to nurse uniforms – corsets to Indian dress
Forestry displays complete with manuals and tools of their trade
Ranching and homesteading displays and artifacts
Gemstones and rock-hounding displays
Arrowheads and Indian artifacts
Guns and rifles
Combat equipment
Firefighting equipment
Memorial to firefighters lost – a tribute to the Echo of the Wildlands Firefighters Monument located in Ochoco Creek Park
Books upon books of Crook County photographs from people to buildings to documents
Gift shop and book store
Original bank front with its original construction
Bank vault complete with the safe inside – as well as many other artifacts such as old typewriters, ink wells and office equipment
Railroad history and equipment displays
Tack room which is full of saddles including a beautiful woman’s side saddle
Branding irons and all sorts of horse tack
Photography exhibit complete with a large wall photo of a family having their portrait taken and surrounded by all kinds of antique cameras from huge to small
Parlor area displaying a beautiful dining room set, old piano and several china cabinets
Other parlor furniture such as a gramophone, chairs and even a highchair
Bedroom display along with furniture and period dress
Paulina store and post office exhibit
Butter churn and kitchen equipment
Many of the things you’d find at the general store
Display devoted to medicine and old medical equipment such as tonsillectomy chair
All manner of equipment and medical items from throat lozenges to pills and doctor bags; even a wheelchair and a nurse’s uniform
Telephones, radios and telegraph equipment
Genealogy research room
Several sports displays including uniforms and many pictures of the various teams
Toys and games display from checkers to dolls to toy pistols
Ranching and cowboy paraphernalia including camp stoves and other tools of their trade

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Outside Facing Main Street
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Memorial Plaque
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Inside showing old bank
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More inside showing old bank
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Tack room
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Outside facing Third Street
No Photo
Ranch Under the Rimrock (Central Oregon) 1968 by McCALL
Current Bid: $9.95
New Era : Reflections on the Human and Natural History of Central Oregon by…
Current Bid: $12.95

Coming Soon – Expansion at Bowman Museum

In November, the Bowman Museum will be expanding. They have purchased the building next door and will be expanding into that building as well. The construction is anticipated to be done in 2011 and will offer much needed space and allow the museum to expand.

Some of the wonderful things coming in the future include:

Fenced outdoor exhibit garden
Collection care center
Research library
Office space
Western heritage gallery
Community room
Les Schwab exhibit
Archive room
Timber exhibit hall
Raised stage area for events
Oral history space

This expansion will allow more in the way of tours and such things as traveling exhibits. This will also allow for additional permanent exhibits which tell the story of Crook County – from the Native Americans who lived alongside the early Americans to the farmers and ranchers that make up the history of this area, to the great accomplishments of Les Schwab.

It will also provide a larger place to hold meetings, lectures and reenactments of history.

The Bowman Museum will also be moving in an internet direction by collecting and preserving electronically all of its documents so that they can be accessed on the web around the world.

A research library will also give anyone from professional to amateur the ability to access historical and genealogical records.

I am waiting eagerly to see what more the Bowman Museum has in store for us!

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Tours and Field Trips

The Bowman Memorial Museum not only is a great place to visit, but it is a great place to arrange tours and field trips.

An example of a wonderful tour is the Steens Mountain Historical Tour.  In the past, on this tour the participants met at the Frenchglen Hotel and took in the grandeur of Steens Mountain via access on the Steens Loop – a very old and bumpy road through spectacular geological scenic areas to the eventual panoramic views of Steens Mountain. This tour was enhanced by Carrie Gordon who gave information on the geology of the area while Steve Lent provided historical information.

Another great tour was the Oregon Trunk Tour.  This is a tour of the abandoned railroads of Crook County. 

Tours are an excellent way of getting out and seeing more of the area but also absorbing history. 

Call the museum for this year’s events but these are some of the most notable annual events.

Field trips and local historical site visits – every spring and fall there are trips to different areas around Old Crook County (call for details)
Tours of downtown buildings
Lecture series on events and prominent people in history
Spring field trips – check website for more information or call the museum
Courthouse tours – Tuesday or Thursday at noon from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  This is a 1-hour tour that takes you all the way up to the clock tower
Summerfest – Crafts and Activities Fair at Pioneer Park where the Historical Society hosts an information booth. This is during the Crooked River Roundup.
Splash and Dash – Booth on the 4th of July participating with other events such as breakfast by the Chamber of Commerce, barbecue lunch, music, arts and crafts and other food booths
Pioneer Queen Picnic and Coronation – early August each year.
Fall lecture series “Looking Back” – September through October – every Friday night through mid October.

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Books in gift shop
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Teller cage
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More books
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Old bank
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Calendars for sale
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Another book
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Book for sale
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Blanket for sale
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Book for sale
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More books
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Available at Bowman Museum and On-Line

Field trip guides are also available at the Bowman Museum or on-line for some of these great field trips. This also gives you an idea of what kinds of field trips are available. There are many, many more than listed here – check on-line for all of them!

Ochoco Mountain Mines – this guide includes information on many mines in the area from Champion, Independent, Mother Lode and Blue Ridge to name but a few

Bear Creek Country – this guide gives history on homesteads in the Bear Creek area of southern Crook County.

Crooked River National Grasslands – this guide gives information on such places as the Weigand Homestead and Stage Stop, the Gray Butte Cemetery, and Lamonta Camp.

Forest Service Centennial – guide to a tour of Ochoco Forest.

Lieutenant Watson meets Paulina – guide based on historic sites from Prineville to Paulina.

Steens Mountain Historical Tour – this is the guide for the trip as mentioned above and was a 2-day trip.

These field trip guides and many others are available on-line or at the museum for $10. On-line ordering can be done through PayPal.

Books On-Line and at the Museum:

These books are also available and are just a sampling of what you can find on-line to order through PayPal or in the museum itself.

Cowboy Poetry and Barn Sour Verse by June Collins – $28.00

Business History by Keith Snyder – $29.95

Trails to
the Ochoco Valley by Andrew G. Ontko – $12.95

School Days
of Old Crook County by Irene Helms – $14.95

The History
of Crook County, Oregon 1994 by the Crook County Historical Society – $45.00

These are just some of the offerings on-line and at the Bowman Memorial Museum.  Check it out!

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Butter churn
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Branding display
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Sports display
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Piano in parlor
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Clothing store
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Baseball jersey
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Clothing store logo
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Branding irons
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Prineville railroad
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Football pads
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Letterman’s sweater
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Baby announcement
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Sports display
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Crook County photos
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Memorial to fallen firefighters
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Baseball and glove
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Forestry pamphlets
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Telephone pamphlets
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Oregon or Bust

Oregon History: Bowman Memorial Museum

If you’re looking for an interesting place to visit in Central Oregon, the Bowman Memorial Museum is a great place to accomplish that!

Their staff is well informed and wonderfully helpful in giving you more information or setting up tours and field trips. They can also give you all the background information on the history of this area regarding its various aspects and subjects from homesteading to railroads to Indian history.

How to Become a Partner in the Bowman Memorial Museum

There are several options for someone wanting to support the museum in terms of membership:

Pick a level of membership on-line and pay through PayPal
Fill out an on-line form and receive a bill for payment
Join the Bowman Museum annually – form is on-line

Full membership includes participation in field trips, quarterly newsletters, attendance at 4 general meetings, periodic lectures and 10% discounts in the gift shop.

Endowment Participation

You can give to the Crook County Historical Society’s Endowment Fund in several different ways as well:

Outright gifts – this includes cash, property or securities
Deferred gifts and charitable remainder trusts – The Bowman Museum receives the principle while you continue to collect the income
Planned gifts through wills – you bequest a specific amount of money, property or percentage of your estate to the Bowman Museum

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Tack gear
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Another saddle
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Another saddle
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Nurse’s uniform
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Clothing display
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Eyeglasses display
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Finished glasses
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Tonsillectomy chair
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Rancher gear

Oregon History and the Bowman Museum

I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of one of the nicest museums I’ve had the opportunity to visit.  This will give you an idea of what the Bowman Museum has to offer in terms of Oregon history.

The future holds much for the museum with its planned renovations and I can’t wait to see what else the Bowman Memorial Museum will have in store for the people of Central Oregon.

Learning where we came from is a great gift and a wonderful educational opportunity – hope to see you at the Bowman!

Oregon’s Promise: An Interpretive History
Amazon Price: $13.07
List Price: $19.95
Oregon Or Bust: True Short Stories from the Descendants of Oregon Trail Pioneers, Prospectors, Trappers, and Settlers in the Great Northwest
Amazon Price: $19.62
List Price: $29.99
New Era: Reflections on the Human and Natural History of Central Oregon
Amazon Price: $3.99
List Price: $14.95
The Oregon Companion: An Historical Gazetteer of the Useful, the Curious, and the Arcane
Amazon Price: $10.21
List Price: $29.95
Hiking Oregon’s History : The Stories Behind Historic Places You Can Walk to See
Amazon Price: $11.36
List Price: $18.95
Roadside History of Oregon (Roadside History Series)
Amazon Price: $10.00
List Price: $24.00

Old Bank and Gift Shop Area

General Store Displays

Bedroom Display

Tack Room Display

Quilt Display

Photography Exhibit

Railroad and Forestry Displays

Gemstone, Indian and Cowboy Displays

Gift Shop