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Historical Homestead Museum a hidden gem of Lake County

July 23, 2014 by

Fort Rock may be small in stature, but it remains big in representing the history of north Lake County, thanks largely to the Fort Rock Valley Historical Homestead Museum.

Named after the enormous rock formation one mile north of town adorned with the same name, Fort Rock is one of the few surviving communities that formed in the county after Congress passed the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909, which expanded the lands available beyond the 160 already offered at $1.25 per acre or a $15 filing fee after five years of residence under the Homestead Act of 1862. Under the Enlarged Homestead Act, settlers were given 320 acres of property if they built a home and cultivated the land for five years.

From 1909 through the 1920s thousands moved to the area, causing numerous towns to spring up, but with the extreme weather conditions and difficulty of dry desert farming by 1920 many of the families had left. Today only Fort Rock and Silver Lake remain of the original communities that sprung up during the homestead land boom.

The Homestead Museum represents this lost part of Oregon history, preserving twelve furnished buildings relocated to the museum grounds from their forgotten original homesteads to showcase life in Lake County during the homestead boom and bust.

Opened in 1988 just west of Fort Rock, the collection of structures comprising the museum grounds includes a church, school, store, doctor’s office, and several houses and cabins meticulously preserved true to the homestead era. Each building is complete with furniture, dishes, tools, and other items authentic to the time.

Every building in the outdoor museum, organized to resemble a town square, has a unique story to tell as a representation of the communities that once littered north Lake County. From a general store built around 1910 that is the last surviving original structure of Fort Rock to cabins and houses built by homesteaders around 1912, each building is carefully maintained to tell the story of the rugged individuals who first made North Lake County home.

Other items around the museum grounds include vintage gas pumps, a windmill, outdoor garden, piano, and farm equipment.

Tours are available, or information sheets are offered at the entrance for those who would rather wander the grounds at their own leisurely pace. A bookstore and gift shop welcome visitors, with a suggested donation of $4 for adults and $2 for children 6-17 years old for tours of the museum grounds. The museum is not state-supported, therefore it depends on memberships, donations and admission fees to remain open.

The museum is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The Fort Rock Valley Historical Homestead Museum is located at 64696 Fort Rock Rd. in Fort Rock. For more information or to schedule a tour call 541-576-2251 or frmuseum@centurylink.net.

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