In light of a recent review about Aundy in a nation-wide publication that stressed how inappropriate all the historical details were for the time period, I feel the need to set the record straight today.
If any of you read the book and wondered “would there really have been telephones and indoor bathrooms then?” – the answer is YES!
This seems to be something that some reviewers, mired in their Hollywood legends of the West, can’t quite seem to get past. For those reviewers who think I just randomly threw in details, I spent hours researching the history of Pendleton, visiting the county museum, and communicating with the resident history expert to make sure my facts were straight.
One of the reasons I chose Pendleton as the setting for this series (besides the fact I like the way Pendleton Petticoats rolls off the tongue) is because it was such a modern and progressive town in the early 1900s. I didn’t want the typical poor, dusty, struggling-to-survive town that most people assume existed in all “frontier” towns of that time period.
I wanted a town that was thriving, bustling, growing, filled with unique details and excitement.
Pendleton was the perfect choice.
Here are a few of the reasons why:
• In 1890, a geographer (Donald Meinig) noted that Pendleton was “one of the most prosperous and progressive towns in the interior.” It had well-graded streets, a new electric light system, a new water system, eight churches, a good public school system, and twenty fraternal organizations.
• Modern and progressive, Pendleton first saw telephones arrive in the county in 1889. In 1892, a toll line connected people in Umatilla County to other Northwest cities. In 1902, the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company opened the first telephone office in town.
• As 1899 rolled into the early years of the 1900s, Pendleton was a bustling, booming city. Not only was it the fourth largest city in the state, it was truly an entertainment and commercial hub, serving people for miles around.
• In 1900, someone visiting Pendleton would have found 32 saloons, 18 bordellos, milliners, candy stores, general stores, hardware stores, livery stables, farm implement stores and much, much more.
• In 1904, Pendleton paved the streets in the busy downtown district with asphalt, the second city in Oregon to do so.
•A 1911 photo of downtown shows a busy street with cars crowding in among the buggies and horses for the Pendleton Round-Up. By 1915, Umatilla County had the second most vehicles registered in the state behind Multnomah County (Portland area).
• Houses ranged from small cottage-style homes to an elaborate 28-room mansion.
•Ranching and farming is a huge industry in Pendleton, as it has been since the mid 1800s. In 1900 alone, an estimated 440,000 sheep produced more than two million pounds of wool along with millions of bushels of wheat. Well-off farmers and ranchers would have been able to have all the “modern” conveniences in their homes in 1899.
So for anyone who has questioned the “historic authenticity” of Aundy, there are some historical truths.
Pendleton was, in fact, a very exciting and modern place to live during the time period of the story.
I hope this clears up any question or confusion in regard to the Pendleton Petticoats series. If not, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.