Sharing the Wright family’s Elk Creek homestead memories

The Wright family along with Rogue River Basin Project park rangers Justin Stegall and Edward Amerson pose for a portrait near the area where the family held their annual reunions along Elk Creek. (Corps of Engineers photo)

The Wright family along with Rogue River Basin Project park rangers Justin Stegall and Edward Amerson pose for a portrait near the area where the family held their annual reunions along Elk Creek. (Corps of Engineers photo)


A commentary by Justin Stegall, Rogue River Basin Project

As park rangers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rogue River Basin Project, Edward Amerson and I have many opportunities each day to answer a variety of questions from our visitors – from the fun “What do baby turtles eat” to more complex inquiries about how potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy in our hydroelectric power plants.

Rogue River Basin Project park rangers Justin Stegall and Edward Amerson accompany members of the Wright family on a tour of the Elk Creek Project where they visited the family's historic homestead and area where they frequently held family reunions. (Photo by Justin Stegall, Rogue River Basin Project)

Rogue River Basin Project park rangers Justin Stegall and Edward Amerson accompany members of the Wright family on a tour of the Elk Creek Project where they visited the family’s historic homestead and area where they frequently held family reunions. (Photo by Justin Stegall, Rogue River Basin Project)

Every question is different, which means we must always be on our toes.

It’s not often we the get the chance to just simply listen, but it does happen occasionally – like the time Linda Wright-Gerschler contacted our office regarding vehicle access into the Elk Creek Project area.

She mentioned the Wright family had once held their annual reunions at their historic family home site and property at the upper end of the Elk Creek Project – an area now known as the Seven Mile Swim, which the Corps manages for light visitor use and upland and aquatic species habitat.

We ended our initial contact with an appointment to tour the Elk Creek area together … and later that summer, that’s just what we did.

Linda showed up with family in tow, including her dad Gene Wright and his cousin, Leland “Buddy” Netherland, who had both lived on the Elk Creek property as young boys.

Wright family photo

John and Mary Vincent (Photo provided by Wright family)

The ranch had originally been purchased by Russell Winn and Ora Vincent-Winn in 1938. They sold the ranch in the early 1950s to the Tucker family who owned it until the 1960s when it was sold to make way for the Elk Creek Dam.

Gene explained that, prior to the Corps of Engineers’ land acquisition; the area had been the site of a working ranch and dairy. He pointed out where the foundation of the main house had been and where the cold storage shed was located.

History came to life for all of us that day as we continued to walk down the dirt road toward Elk Creek. The family talked about raising cattle in the fields, where the hogs were kept and how the chicken coop was designed on the side of a small slope.

Gene Wright and his sister Mary Ann Wright-Madison pose on the porch of the Wright family’s historic homestead on Elk Creek. (Photo provided by Wright family)

Gene Wright and his sister Mary Ann Wright-Madison pose on the porch of the Winn-Vincent family’s historic homestead on Elk Creek. (Photo provided by Wright family)

We paused near a deep pool in Elk Creek surrounded by lichen-covered cliffs and once again we went back in time.

“It was right about here where the wagon broke down,” Gene reminisced.

He said it had been his and his cousins’ chore to load the wagon with cow manure, and that it was so overloaded that day that the axle broke.

“So, we just decided to take the pitchfork and go fishing instead. Yeah, that’s right – the salmon were that thick,” he finished.

We came to the area where the family gathered for their annual picnics and ate from Tupperware containers filled with bright red tomatoes and other assorted fruits; the Wright family remembering their past meals along the bank while the kids skipped rocks in the slow pool of Elk Creek.

Through their stories that day, Ranger Amerson and I could see how meaningful the Elk Creek area was to Linda Wright and her family.

We support our great nation through our missions – flood risk reduction, fisheries and stewardship enhancement, hydropower and recreation, to name a few – and we perform this work with honor.

Sometimes, though, we also just get to stop and listen … as Park Ranger Amerson and I were honored to share the memories of the Wright family and walk with them through their history of the Elk Creek area.

Elk Creek, Rogue River Basin Project (Corps of Engineers photo)

Elk Creek, Rogue River Basin Project (Corps of Engineers photo)

The Elk Creek Project includes key oak savannah habitat for elk, deer and other upland game. (Corps of Engineers photo)

The Elk Creek Project includes key oak savannah habitat for elk, deer and other upland game. (Corps of Engineers photo)

 

Wright family photo

From left to right:  Ada Vincent, Gene Wright, Zella, Mary Ann and Herb Wright, Mary Vincent (Photo provided by the Wright family)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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