A Pioneer Queen of Jefferson County
Leita Binder was born Feb. 13, 1898, in Lockwood, Missouri. Her parents were Stephan and Elizabeth Binder.
The family came to Central Oregon from Missouri by train in February 1905. They transferred from The Dalles to the Columbia Southern Railroad that went to Shaniko. From Shaniko, they took a stage coach to Willowdale and then into The Basin where Madras soon developed. They eventually settled on Agency Plains and began dryland farming winter wheat.
Leita attended Mud Springs School. She later rode horseback to Madras to attend Madras Union High School. She did not finish high school.
In 1909, her family moved to California in the hopes that a climate change would benefit her mother's health. Unfortunately, her mother's health deteriorated, and she died there in 1911. Leita and her family returned to the farm, and she had to learn numerous domestic and farm chores.
The workload was staggering, and Leita suffered a physical breakdown and had to spend six weeks in a hospital. When she regained her health, she went back to work. When she was 14 years old, she cooked for eight men on a harvest crew, made bread and canned fruit. It was a hard homestead life, but she later referred to that period as among the happiest of her life.
Leita became acquainted with Waldsee "Walt" Richardson, who also had a homestead nearby. He was born on May 19, 1901, in Linnton, Oregon. Later in 1901, he came to The Basin with his parents.
Leita and Walt's relationship grew, and they were married Sept. 18, 1918. They began dryland farming near her family home. They farmed until drought conditions and the Great Depression led to their leaving the farm and moving to Madras.
Walt did a variety of jobs and eventually drove school bus for 25 years for Jefferson County. Leita was honored as Jefferson County Pioneer Queen, and Walt was honored as Jefferson County Pioneer King in 1972.
Leita served on election boards, worked with the local Red Cross, and worked as a clerk at Madras Grade School. She was very active in local social organizations.
Walt died in July 1978. Leita lived on for several years and died in 1990. Both she and Walt are buried in Mount Jefferson Memorial Park in Madras.