2001 Pioneer Queen rules over events
- Pamplin Media
- Central Oregonian - Features
Since 1936 when the Pioneer Association elected Celestine (Johnson) Miller as the first Pioneer Queen, Crook County women have continued to be recognized for the contributions of their pioneer families as a way of keeping local history alive.
>The 2001 Crook County Pioneer Queen shares her pioneer family story
To qualify, the nominee must have family with history in Crook County going back at least to 1916, the date when the present county boundary was formed. This year's nominee is Betty Webb whose parents arrived in the Post area in the early 1900s.
Her parents, George and Christena Cannon, met at the Post grocery store/post office. At the time, Christena was working at the establishment as clerk. While hauling a load of hay nearby, George had injured his hand, and seeking first aid, stopped at the store for help.
This meeting marked the beginning of the couple's lifelong commitment as they were married shortly thereafter in Prineville. "My dad was four inches shorter than my mother," Webb explains holding up an old photo of the newlyweds taken after their wedding in 1920. "So to have this picture taken, he stood up on a box."
After returning from the big city of Prineville, the couple continued to live in the Post area, settling on Newsome Creek. George worked as a ranch hand and to help make ends meet Christena cooked and provided boarding for passing cowboys.
Betty was born in 1923 at the small family home in Post, the second of three children.
Her parents, like many folks of the time, were active in the community and participated in most events at the Post Grange. George acted as a sort of bouncer, helping to keep the peace during public dances and as auctioneer for the pie and basket socials of the time. No dance would be complete without some knee slapping tunes and so Christena helped to provide music for the events, playing the piano.
Betty and her sister Ellen had to get up early every morning in order to walk the six miles to the Newsome Creek School. "There was a lot of school that we missed that one particular winter when it snowed so bad. We had a long way to walk," she said. "The snow was deep and we weren't very long legged."
The Great Depression made already difficult times even more challenging for the family as they continued to wring out a living, seeking employment where ever it was available.
For years George worked at the quicksilver mines near Ashwood until he was injured in an industrial accident. "They gave him a job of fixing up gas drums to store oil in, to operate the mine in the winter, when one tipped over and blew up," she said.
Already suffering from mercury poisoning from working at the mines, George now struggled to cope with severe burns to his legs. Determined to see that at least one of his children graduated from high school George committed his meager accident compensation to Betty's education.
"He took his compensation money to pay for my board and room with the Ed Wells family in Prineville," Webb explained.
Working after school at various jobs to help pay for expenses, Betty started school in Prineville in 1938, and things went fairly smoothly for the first three years of high school.
"I should have started my senior year in 1941, but because my dad had died, the family funds were at an all time low, so I went to work for the Bonnyview Ranch mowing and raking hay," she said. When school resumed in the Fall of 1942 she went to work for the local phone company in Prineville as a night operator, to help meet school expenses.
She met Marion Webb in 1943 at a grange dance and a year later they were married. The house they lived in after they were first married is only a stone's throw away from where the Webb's retired on Melrose Avenue, a testimony to the affection that the family has for this county. "I can't imagine living anywhere else," she said. "I was born 23 miles from here and I haven't come far in my 78 years. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I love all the people here and I have a lot of friends."
Marion worked as a timber faller most of his life, and Betty worked for Southside Market until 1959 when their only child, Jolene was born. After that, Betty worked at home, raising her daughter until 1962 when she was offered a job at the meat market at Erickson's Grocery, a career that lasted 32 years.
After her husband died in 1998, Betty began a new career as community volunteer. Giving of herself and taking time to help others is a common thread that runs through her life, one that she continues to follow today.
These days she divides her time between delivering meals-on-wheels for the senior center and acting as advocate, and running errands for, elderly in assisted living situations. "If what I do helps, that's all I ask," she said.
Being honored as this year's Pioneer Queen came as a bit of a surprise for Bettty Webb, but with her characteristic good humor, she is determined to make the most of the opportunity, even though she says she doesn't feel old enough to be nominated.
In addition to attending the coronation, the new Pioneer Queen will also have the opportunity to ride in next year's parade with past Pioneer Queens.
The annual Pioneer Queen potluck picnic is scheduled for Sun., Aug 5 at 12:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend this celebration of local pioneers.