A Crook County Historical Series
The George Roba Story
THE GEORGE ROBA STORY
An Immigrant from the Austro-Hungarian Empire Leaves His Legacy in Central Oregon's Paulina Valley
On January 27, 1882, an overcast and intensely cold day, the SS Suevia, a steamship that had left Hamburg, Germany, 16 days earlier, entered New York Bay and passed slowly by Staten Island.
On its deck, looking eagerly toward shore, was a steerage passenger named Gyorgy Janos Roba. There can be no doubt that he and his fellow passengers, who crowded the bulwarks to catch the first glimpse of their new country, were dressed in their warmest clothing for the temperature was only slightly warmer than the record breaking minus 6 degrees F set just three days earlier. And, like the immigrants who made the trip with him, his heart must have pounded with a mixture of happiness and excitement at what might lie ahead, homesickness for his parents and four sisters that he had left behind and relief for having accomplished what he had set out to do - come to America to build a new life.
As the steamer turned to enter the ice-encrusted East River and its ultimate destination, the docks of lower Manhattan, the sturdy ship passed Bedloe's Island , where in four years time the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the people of America, would stand to greet its new citizens. And probably few, if any, paid any attention to the barren island of Ellis, which ten years later would begin processing immigrants like themselves - more than12 million - in the six decades between 1892 and 1954.
Once the Suevia had completed its docking maneuvers, the gangplank was lowered and Gyorgy joined the crowd that was ushered to the Castle Garden Immigrant Recovery Center located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. There he gave up his given name to adopt the Americanized version, George. After telling the immigration officials that he was from Jernye, Czechoslovakia*, and giving his destination in America, he stood in line to receive a cursory routine physical examination. Once this was completed he was directed outside where he was met by his brother Andros, who had also Anglicized his Christian name to Andrew. No doubt they embraced with tears in their eyes. George and Andrew were the last two sons of Janos and Maria Roba's six surviving children, and the only two to migrate to the United States. Infant and early childhood deaths had claimed seven others. Andrew, 27 years of age, had worked in the coal mines to earn enough money to pay for his younger brother's passage. Born in 1862, George Roba was 20 when he stepped off the boat, undoubtedly in a starved condition as the fare for steerage passengers consisted of two spare meals a day; cereal or mush early in the morning and at mid-afternoon a bowl of thin soup and a piece of bread.
The year Roba arrived saw the first World Series game, enactment later in the year of the Immigration Law of 1882 which included the Chinese Exclusion Act and barred the insane, retarded and those likely to need public care. Also that year, a German scientist, Robert Koch, discovered the bacillus cause of tuberculosis - a disease which would later cause the death of George Roba in 1939 as well as that of his eldest son, Joseph, at the age of 30, in 1917.
Most immigrants who landed on Manhattan Island were too poor to move inland so they settled around the port where they had arrived, living in overcrowded tenements with inadequate or non-existent sanitary facilities. They worked at the nearby warehouses, shipyards and factories that elbowed the docks and wharves.
Records indicate that Andrew and George didn't tarry to see the sights, but immediately left the city that was then referred to as "The London of America". Their destination was a small coal mining community in Western Pennsylvania where Andrew was employed and where he had obtained a job for his brother.
When they arrived at the small town of Jernye, named after the town George had left, he saw many familiar faces for its inhabitants were primarily Czechs from the "old city" of Jernye and its environs. It was a growing community, and many who worked the nearby mines had managed to save enough money to send for their wives, families and siblings. And more were arriving each year.
Although he spoke only a few words of English, George was determined to learn. He spent many hours by kerosene lamp after his 12 hour shift studying the language and history of his adopted country so that he could earn his citizenship. He had an ear for language and was soon not only speaking English but understandable Polish, Ukrainian and Russian as well. This caught the eye of his supervisors at the mines, who put him in charge of a multiethnic work crew.
George Roba stayed in Pennsylvania six years before he came west. During these years he became friends with the three Sojka brothers (pronounced soy-ka) who had two sisters in Lazsnyan, Czechoslovakia. A deal was struck and George handed the brothers enough money to send for one of their sisters. To the surprise of all, both sisters arrived and George was given his choice of Maria or Zuzana. He chose the older sister Maria, who was just three years younger than himself.
Maria and Zuzana (later Susanne) Sojka were the only living daughters of Gyorgy and Maria Kudracs Sojka, who had also migrated to the United States.
(Missing the traditions of the old country, and too old to change their ways, the elder Sojkas eventually returned to their former home in Mocsar, Czechoslavakia, happy in the knowledge their children had adapted to their new country and were all doing well).
Maria (now using the name Mary) and George Roba were married in 1886. She was 21, he was 24. A year later, they had their first child, a son they christened Joseph. The year after that a daughter, Anna, was born.
The Roba family records show George Roba arrived in Oregon sometime in the spring of 1888, so he wouldn't have been present for the birth of his daughter, Anna, who was born on November 13th of that same year. (On February 27, 1983, in a taped interview with Roba's fourth daughter Ruby Barkshire, she recalled the years before and after her father's arrival in Oregon as told by him).
What caused George Roba to come to Oregon was a restless spirit combined with an inner-drive of wanting a better life for himself and his family. He was also attracted by the offer of free land the government was granting under the Homestead Act of 1862, by order of which a citizen over the age of 21 was entitled to file a pre-emption claim for a quarter section (160 acres) of public domain land.
Roba left his wife and two children under the care of her parents, who had settled in the town of Galitzen, Pennsylvania, promising to send for them as soon as he could. He departed with a Russian traveling companion, Giorgy Stephenanji, who had heard of fortunes being made in the sheep country of central and eastern Oregon. Stephenanji convinced Roba they could hire out as sheepherders, get their living expenses paid for, and receive ewes and a small salary in return for their services. Stephenanji must have known, or heard, that most of the herders were either Basque or Irish because when the two companions arrived in Oregon, Georgy Stephenanji was introducing himself as George O'Neil. (Probably with a Russian accent!).
For some reason, probably a lack of knowledge of the geography of the state, they got off the train at Springfield rather than at The Dalles, where the route through Shaniko to Prineville, their ultimate destination, would have been much shorter. At that time, Prineville was the only major town between The Dalles and Linkville - later to be known as Klamath Falls. With no money left to buy a stage ticket, and certainly not enough to buy horses or a mule, they walked across the Cascades. "By shanks mare", as Roba would later put it. They took the McKenzie Trail to where it joined The Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Wagon Road between Sisters and Seven Mile Hill, near the head of the South Santiam River. At Sisters, the two companions were able to hitch a ride on a mule-drawn freighter that was going to Prineville. When they arrived, they began their job search.
In Prineville they met Hugh Lister. Hugh, the son of Tom Lister who had property in Rabbit Valley and Beaver Creek near Paulina, offered both men a job herding sheep. When Roba honestly admitted he "knew nothing" about sheep, he recalled Lister saying, "You will". They were given dogs with the sheep as well as provisions and a .30 - .30 carbine rifle. George Roba remembers saying, "I have never shot a gun before", and hearing Lister's reply, "You'll learn".
O'Neil (Stephenanji) was assigned to land adjacent to the Minifie ranch northeast of Paulina; Roba's territory ran west of Paulina Valley to the north fork of Crooked River. All of the land on which they grazed Lister's sheep was open range and would continue to be open range for another 18 years - until March 15, 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt, at the urging of George Chamberlain, Oregon's governor, signed a proclamation establishing the Blue Mountain Forest Reserve, which eliminated free grazing rights on all federal land in central and eastern Oregon.
At the end of the fall season, working as partners, Roba and O'Neil had each earned a little money and a small herd of ewes but not enough to enable them to start out on their own, or, for George Roba, enough to send for his family. They both worked until spring of the next year before Roba had accumulated sufficient savings to have his family join him. Mary and her two children boarded the train in Pennsylvania and headed for Oregon. Joseph would have been just over two and Anna was six months old. The day they left Pennsylvania, it was raining heavily. It was May 1, 1889, the day before the Johnstown Flood, a disaster caused by a collapsing dam that would send a wall of water as high as 40 feet through Johnstown, claiming the lives of 2,200 people. The Robas would learn later that some of the victims had been their friends as many of Johnstown's residents were of Czech descent and Johnstown was near the Czech community of Galitzen where Mary had been staying with her parents.
It is not known how Mary managed the arduous trip with the handicap of caring for two small children and not being able to speak English, but manage she did. All three arrived safely at The Dalles where they were greeted by her husband. George Roba had been working at Shaniko, at that time the largest wool gathering center in the world, hauling fleece. He was able to borrow a wagon from Hugh Lister to make the 70 mile drive north to The Dalles to meet the train and his family. They returned to Lister's sheep camp in Rabbit Valley, near Paulina, where Mary was given a job as camp cook.
For three more years Roba worked for Lister, and each year his share of ewes grew in number. During the winter months he was able to supplement his income by doing leather work, leather repairs and odd jobs for the Lister ranch. With what wages Mary earned as camp cook their savings steadily grew.
It was while working for Lister on the sheep range that George Roba met a man called Wagonblaster (first name unknown) and saw the ranch Wagonblaster was working in Paulina Valley. There was a two-story clapboard house on the land as well as a fairly-new barn that had been built the year Roba arrived in Oregon. The land also had water; Paulina Creek, a year round stream, ran through it and provided for both stock and field irrigation. In addition, there was a quarry nearby which could supply stone for a more permanent building. Roba, whose family was staying in Paulina during the months he was herding sheep, took an immediate liking to the place. He knew it would make a proper home for his son, daughter and wife - who was now pregnant with their third child. Luck was with him, as Wagonblaster's family had already moved to the Willamette Valley and Wagonblaster was making plans to sell his place and join them.
It is not known what kind of a deal was struck between the two men as there seems to be no record that Wagonblaster ever had a deed. Nor is there a record of a title transaction between the two men. It can only be surmised that one of two things might have occurred. The first being that Wagonblaster had intended to homestead the land but never completed his five years of proving it up as required by the Homestead Act. Whether he even filed is unknown as no such record can be found at the Land Office in The Dalles or the county clerk's office at the Crook County courthouse in Prineville, the county in which this property is located. The second possibility might have been that Wagonblaster intended but never got around to filing under the General Preemption Act of 1880 (which was repealed under the Revision Act of 1891), another law that allowed squatters to use unappropriated public land. Whatever the case, Roba moved his family into the Wagonblaster house where his second daughter, Mary, was born on April 3, 1892. (Records do exist that show Roba filed under the Homestead Act as a citizen on August 1, 1898, and was granted 160 acres by President William McKinley. This Homestead Certificate No. 2879 is on file at the Land Office in The Dalles.)
When George and Mary Roba moved into the first home they had ever owned, the town of Paulina and the surrounding areas that formed the core of the Paulina community - Beaver Creek, Supplee (Upper Beaver Creek), Wolf Creek, Paulina Valley and Rabbit Valley were settled by ranchers. Most of Roba's neighbors were cattlemen, but he, the Listers, O'Neil and a few others raised sheep.
The town of Paulina was founded in 1870 and named for Chief Paulina, a renegade Paiute Indian of the Walapi tribe of Snake Indians. A post office was established in 1880, but there were only a few buildings, one being the home of the first postmaster, John F. Bowen. It also served as a make-shift blacksmith shop. The closest store was in Prineville, 56 miles west and supplies were sold by travelling peddlers who also acted as disseminators of news throughout the county. Paulina itself would have no school until 1906, but Paulina Valley, nine miles north, below the Roba Ranch, had a school in 1898. It was located in a vacant house that had been owned by a bachelor. This was the school where Joseph and Anna (and later, Mary) would attend and where they would learn English from their teacher, Miss Ida Priday. Two Claypool boys, from the Claypool ranch located below the Roba's, also attended school there.
Until 1896, the Paulina area was a close knit community of ranchers, with families dependent on, and supportive of, one another. George Roba and his family were well liked, and Roba a blocky, square shouldered man with friendly dark brown eyes and a large handlebar mustache was always among the first to lend a helping hand to any neighbor in need. Although he was just five feet seven inches tall, at 160 pounds he was as strong as much larger, well muscled men.
As Roba's herd of sheep grew, so did his family. On March 23, 1894, the Roba's second son and fourth child was born. He was named George after his father and maternal grandfather. On May 17, 1896, another girl was born. She was christened Eula Susan.
In 1896, the same year the Roba's fifth child was born, an event occurred that would directly affect the future plans of George and Mary Roba. The Izee Sheepshooters was formed.
Prior to the formation of the sheepshooters, whose goal was to confine sheep to specified grazing areas, the cattlemen in eastern Oregon had suffered through four difficult winters: 1858-59, when cattle herds, just getting a start, were decimated; 1861-62, when temperatures fell to between 20 and 40 degrees below zero for as long as 40 days; and 1874-75, when the cattle death rate ran as high as 50%. However, the most devastating winter of all was in 1884-85, when cattle losses reached 95%. The habit of the ranchers through these hard winters had been to graze their stock in the foothills the year around and not provide them with hay or any type of shelter between winter and spring. When ice and snow drifts covered what little natural food there was, cattle, caught in the heavy snow, died by the thousands.
Winters in the remaining years of the 1880's and 90's continued to be unkind. Then came 1889-90, which was recorded as one of the four worst winters to hit the northwest before the turn of the century.
Until the mid -1880's the cattlemen, desperately working to rebuild their herds and stave off starvation, had not faced competition for grazing lands. During these years, there were practically no sheep east of the Cascade Mountains. (The first band to arrive was in 1880. They were pastured in and just east of what is now called Big Summit Prairie.) By 1896, in Crook County alone, there were over 300,000 sheep (compared to a total of 40,000 head of cattle). By the year 1900, over two and a half million sheep would crowd the slopes of eastern Oregon's grazing lands. In some locations there would be as many as 450 sheep per acre, pasturing in the same spot for as long as four months.
Cattlemen, concerned about the growing hordes of sheep and the damage the sheep were doing by eating the rangeland grass down to the roots, tearing up the fragile soil with their cloven hoofs until there was nothing left but dust, and fouling the water holes, began to react: First individually, then in smaller groups and eventually into organized groups, the first being the Izee Sheepshooters. IZ was a brand used by M.N. Bonham, a stockman who ran his cattle 30 miles east of Paulina between Snow Mountain and the south fork of the John Day River in nearby Grant County. As far as can be determined, the initials had no meaning, and relatives of those who worked for Bonham have stated he chose the two letters for one reason only - their simplicity. It certainly couldn't have been for the town of Izee, because it didn't come into existence until November 6, 1889, when a post office was established there and Carlos W. Bonham became its first postmaster. M.N. Bonham had been using the IZ brand years before that. (Author's note: The Izee post office was discontinued July 31, 1954.)
Even though they had organized solely for the purpose of keeping sheep off their rangelands, the first victims of the Izee Sheepshooters were not sheepmen but a small group of peaceful Columbia Indians, led by Chief Albert. For generations this tribe had used the area near Deer Creek to hunt and gather food. One day a local rancher, John Hyde, passed by their camp and they rode out to meet him. A heated discussion followed in which Hyde was accused of stealing some of their ponies. Hyde rode away in anger and returned shortly after dawn the next day with a group of armed men. In the ensuing fight Chief Albert was slain, along with a rancher, George Cutting, and the Indian who had killed Cutting. With these killings the violent nature of the Izee Sheepshooters was established as they proudly bragged that the fork of Deer Creek, where the battle took place, should henceforth be known as Dead Indian Creek.
In 1898, the year the Roba's sixth child, Rose (who they would call Ruby) was born, the activities of the sheepshooters increased dramatically. This was mostly due to an act by the United States Government: The creation of the Cascade Forest Reserve. This act closed the Cascade Mountain range to all grazing. During the first two years of its existence, sheep owners who had formerly used the Cascade Mountains for their summer range were forced to move eastward to the Ochocos and Blue Mountains. This influx of additional sheep further aggravated tensions between cattle and sheep interests as competition grew for already crowded forage land.
The two preceding years had seen violence that was contained mainly in the Snow Mountain area and Izee country. Now, it would turn west to the community of Paulina. In addition to sheep from the Cascade Mountains, sheepmen from Shaniko, Antelope and the John Day River ranches were pushing their herds to Paulina Creek - near the Roba ranch - and making incursions onto historic cattle grazing land on the Beaver Creek cow range. Alarmed at this massive invasion, Paulina cattlemen sought the help of the Izee Sheepshooters, who sent Henry Snodgrass, one of their members, to help them organize. In the latter part of July, they met late at night, eight miles northeast of Paulina on Wolf Creek, just six miles due east of the Roba ranch. ( Note: For map readers, the exact location is near the center of Section 18, Township 16S, Range 24 east of the Willamette meridian.)
Standing before a lone pine tree and a bonfire that lit up the night, Snodgrass outlined the rules by which the Izee Sheepshooters operated. He stated that if anyone disagreed with these rules, they should leave the meeting. Two eyewitnesses later recalled the requirements he put forth: The first was that if, in the process of killing sheep, it was necessary to kill the herders or camp tenders they be buried and nothing was to be said. The second stated that if a sheep shooter was killed, his body would be taken home for burial and no mention was to be made about how he died. The third stipulation was if any sheep shooter was arrested or brought to trial the others would agree to go on the witness stand and, if necessary, lie under oath to obtain an acquittal. (In later years, it would be told that when a member of a sheepshooters organization was dying, a death watch would be held by other members to see that, for reasons of conscience or ramblings from illness, the dying man would not disclose the names of any of his compatriots.) Only three men turned their backs and left the meeting: Fred Powell, Billie Congleton and Sam Courtney. The rest agreed to follow Snodgrass's proposal and, well after midnight, voted to form the Paulina Sheepshooters Association. Among them were some of Roba's closest neighbors.
The first official act of the Paulina Sheepshooters Association, in conjunction with the Izee Sheepshooters, was to establish a "deadline" (later to be called a "deathline"). This was a boundary beyond which sheep would not be allowed to graze. This line was marked by blazes cut on trees, pieces of tin nailed to trees or stumps, or strips of cloth from worn-out saddle blankets. Later, written signs were posted. For many illiterate herders and tenders who didn't understand their significance, these signs might as well have been their death notices as they innocently passed through these warnings not knowing what they were. Occasionally, a sheepherder would have the cloth signs read to him and word spread not to go beyond the "talking paper".
The Paulina Sheepshooters first major strike was just six miles northeast of where they had met to organize. Here they slaughtered a band of sheep owned by W.B. Mascall of Dayville. The sheepshooters called the area Battle Ridge. It still carries that designation on current Forest Service maps and is located between Beaver Dam and Rager Creek.
One of the habits of the sheepshooters was to name, or rename, sites where they struck against significant groups of sheep. Another of these was Big Springs, near Paulina, where rancher Ed Showns' sheep were slaughtered and the herder's dog was killed and left in the spring. This spot has been referred to as Dead Dog Spring ever since.
Life at the Roba's continued as normal, unaffected by the violence that was beginning to surround them. George, an avid follower of national and local news, made his trips into Paulina for supplies and to pick up a copy of the Prineville Review or an infrequent copy of the Portland Oregonian, left by a traveling stage passenger. He took particular pride in taking care of the four laying hens that came with the ranch. At that time, eggs in the Paulina area were a rarity and when he went to town he would fill a lard bucket with eggs, packed in straw, and leave them with one of his neighbors - either Mrs. Vince Circle or Mrs. Luther Claypool. On his return home he would stop to pick up a cake they had baked for him in appreciation for the eggs. When winter came, he didn't know what to do with the chickens to keep them alive in the cold weather, so he dug a pit in the ground, covered it with boards upon which he piled a mixture of sod, manure and hay and fixed a ramp for the chickens to enter. He shooed them into this shelter, enticing them with oats he fed his horses, and left them until it was warm enough to let them out. His daughter remembered the luxury of having eggs all winter long, and not having to search out the hiding places where chickens normally laid their eggs. All four hens survived.
Mary Roba, who could speak only a few words of English, clung to many of the ways of her Czech ancestors. On certain days of the month, she would refuse to work in the garden and if someone in the family developed a wart, she would go out at night during the new moon, look at it over her shoulder and, speaking aloud in Slavic, wish it off on someone else. Much of her time was spent cooking on an old wood stove that had been left behind by the Wagonblaster's. Her grandchildren fondly remembered the pleasant smells and tastes of her palachinki (Czech potatoes), kapusta (sauerkraut), haluski (potato dumplings) and kolashi (yeast rolls and noodles) that she prepared in huge quantities.
Starting in the spring of 1899, Roba received threatening letters warning him that his sheep were in cattle country and advising him to sell them while he could. Roba ignored them. He knew, and was liked by, all the cattlemen in the area and it can be surmised that he felt they would leave him alone if he didn't openly sympathize with the more militant sheepmen. At this time he had over 2,000 head of sheep.
Then, in late fall, an incident took place that was to forever end George Roba's dream of becoming a wealthy sheep rancher.
Joseph, now at the halfway mark between 12 and 13 years of age, had been put in charge of watching a large band of sheep corralled above the Roba ranch house. The sheep camp, located in a natural shelter on higher ground, overlooked three levels of geographic rise topped by Snow Mountain and the Maury Mountains. The camp consisted of fenced ground (mainly downed trees and bunched brush with short stretches of connecting hand-made wooden fence), a tent and a camp wagon. With cold weather coming on and because he was almost out of supplies, Joseph and his dogs herded the sheep back to the ranch, almost three miles south, to lay in a supply of provisions. That night as it snowed, he slept in his own bed. The next morning, the family woke to see smoke rising from the area Joseph had just left. Roba and his son rode to the camp to investigate. When they arrived, they found everything had been burned. The smell of kerosene was heavy in the air, and several fire-blackened kerosene tins littered the ground. Circling the camp they found horse tracks leading to and from the corral. They followed these hoof prints southeast. The trail led them behind a ridge just east of their house. The tracks continued on and passed through the gate of their closest neighbor.
It is hard to imagine the emotion that must have flooded through George Roba's mind. Or the betrayal and despair he must have felt. Many years later, a granddaughter recalls Mary Roba saying, after the neighbor's son was killed while trying to ride an unbroken horse, "There is a God who punishes evil doers".
(Note: The author visited the campsite with Glenn Helms, the husband of Roba's granddaughter, Irene Helms. It is currently shown on Forest Service maps as Burnt Corral and Burnt Corral Springs. The area had been heavily logged and no traces of the fire or old camp exist, but this gentle basin with its beaver dammed streams would have been an ideal spot to hold sheep. Helms, a colorful character "pushing 80", pointed out the abundance of fauna like the "Ochoco cougars" (pine squirrels) and the "tail-up-straights" (chipmunks) who inhabited the place. Both the author and Helms suffered through examples of flora Helms termed "beggar's lice", clinging weed seeds that seemed to take forever to dislodge.)
After the incident at his corral, Roba began selling his sheep. The railroad now ran from The Dalles to Shaniko, where demand for sheep was high, so Roba did well financially. By the spring of 1900, his last few hundred head were grazing by the upper falls of the North Fork of Crooked River. Roba's plans were to fatten them up and take them to market just before fall when the going price would be at its highest. It was then the sheepshooters struck again. The sheep had been left unattended to graze, and were crowded off the high basalt cliffs to their deaths, a method the sheepshooters had developed to save ammunition or the tedious job of clubbing sheep. They called it "rimrocking".
Lesser men might have reacted bitterly, or packed up and moved, but Roba stoically accepted his losses and kept himself occupied with his ranch. He suffered no ostracism from the cattlemen around him, and now that he no longer had sheep he was fully accepted back into the community as a friend and neighbor. This is confirmed by the fact he was soon adding to his savings by providing custom leather goods for them made from tanned elk, deer and cowhides.
On July 20, 1901, Andrew, the Roba's seventh child and third son was born. Two years later, on July 3, 1903, they had their fifth daughter, Nell.
The year Nell was born a smallpox epidemic swept through Crook County. Prineville, where the Paulina community got their supplies, was hit particularly hard. The disease was spread by William Vasbinder, a timber buyer from Pennsylvania who had spent a night at the Poindexter Hotel in Prineville and the following evening at the Columbia Southern Hotel in Shaniko. Three weeks after Vasbinder left Prineville, 18 cases of smallpox were reported. Within four weeks 350 people, half the town's population, contracted the disease. In two month's time the percentage of infected residents had risen to 70%. Prineville, the only major town between The Dalles and Linkville (Klamath Falls), was fortunate to have two medically trained doctors: Horace P. Belknap, a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Medicine and John Henry Rosenberg, a University of Oregon Medical School graduate. The two men quickly organized the community to fight the virus through quarantine, inoculation and fumigation. Two pest houses were acquired and a camp was set up outside of town, at the racetrack, to confine the worst cases. Even one of Prineville's two houses of ill-repute was turned into a hospital and the madam and her charges volunteered their services as nurses. The contagion spread, due to lack of access to sufficient vaccine (called "points") and schools, churches and businesses were forced to close. Gatherings of any kind were forbidden. In an effort to contain the virulent infection referred to as "the spotted death", adjoining counties erected barriers on roads leading into Crook County. Stagecoach travel came to a standstill and even heavily fumigated mail was not allowed to pass.
The Robas, undoubtedly as frightened as the rest of the residents of the county and fearing for the health of their children, stayed within the self-sufficient confines of their ranch. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the disease ran its course and stopped.
After the smallpox danger had passed, and when Mary was pregnant with their ninth child, Roba turned his attention to building a new, two-story wooden house to hold his growing family. Why he didn't become a cattleman can only be guessed at, but possibly it was because the violence of the sheepshooters had escalated beyond any sense of reason. By now, two additional groups had been formed to ally themselves with the Izee and Paulina Sheepshooters: The Silver Lake and Camp Creek Sheepshooters and the Crook County Sheep Shooting Association.
The confrontation of cattle and sheep interests was further exacerbated as tens of thousands of sheep from the Mormon communities in Idaho and Utah were driven onto already overcrowded grazing land. ... to be continued.