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Over the years many stories have been written about the experiences of John Cochran and his family on Doumecq Plains. John spent more years at Hover than on Doumecq. Much of the material in the story about Hover was taken from books written by Edith Erickson, copies of Courier the publication of the East Benton County Historical Society provided by Margaret Perkins, and a narrative written by Leo Montague. Marion Shinn compiled the information into the following narrative.

Before the winter of 1916 was over, the family had decided to move away from Doumecq. John Cochran, our grandfather, suffered more and more from arthritis, which was then called sciatic rheumatism. The cold winters on the plains made his suffering more acute. In the fall it would be time for Sidney, the last child at home, to go away to high school. That meant John would be caring for the herds of cattle and horses alone, whether he was in pain or not. Another deciding point was that there had been a very poor crop, which meant there would not be enough winter-feed for the animals.

Brother Billy, W. L. Cochran, had moved to the Horse Heaven Country in 1908. On March 4, 1909 he had written the hometown paper in Tennessee describing the country in this way: "The country I now call my home is quite different from Old Monroe County. Farming is much easier here. We plow eight horses instead of two and there are generally ten or twelve plows running in the same field or on the same land, and from 640 to 2000 acres in the field. We raise nothing but wheat. I live in what is known as Horse Heaven Country."

As John wrote of moving it is likely that Billy encouraged them to move nearer to them. Billy probably told John that the Horse Heaven Hills were a good place to turn animals loose and let them forage for themselves most of the winter and spring months. That would have sounded good to a man looking forward to feeding the animals in the coming winter. By this time Billy and Nora, his wife, had left the ranch and lived on acreage in the little settlement of Finley a few miles from their ranch in the hills.

It must have been difficult to consider moving away from Doumecq. John and Emma had lived on the Plains for nearly two decades and the hardships of earlier years were behind them. The wonderful new house that had been a dream for years had been completed and was the showplace of the community. The overall family unit had control of nearly 1000 acres of land, albeit some it was steep and hard to access. But it was time to move—, the family was nearly gone and the fun and excitement of a growing family was past. John and Emma still had a bit of wanderlust in their blood and were ready for a new adventure.

Making the move took a lot of planning and trading. Even though the economy of the Doumecq plains had improved over the years very little fluid money was available. Most of the transactions, except purchase of staple groceries and equipment, were accomplished by barter or trading work. John would need actual cash money to make the 300-mile move from Doumecq to the Horse Heaven hills. Traveling by covered wagon, as he had come to Doumecq at the turn of the century, was no longer possible. Raising money for a major move was not easy. Banks were very conservative especially when it came to lending more than annual operating capital to local farmers.

The transactions that occurred are complicated and the records are a little fuzzy—but we know what finally resulted. First of all, John mortgaged the 160-acre homestead for $3,200. The lender was C. S. Smith who the locals privately called 10% Smith. John’s loan was for 8% and there was no plan for paying the principal. A payment of $256 was to be made to Smith and the end of harvest each year. That was a lot of money for Doumecq farmers to pay in 1917. John took the $3200 as moving money and gave the homestead (and the debt) to his eighteen-year old son, Robert. Although there is nothing in our written documents, apparently the mortgaged ranch was to pay for Robert’s help in moving the horses from Doumecq to the new location. Robert never took over the house. He traded the ranch (and the debt) to Clark and Edna McCoy who immediately moved to the family house and took over the post office. (Emma’s name continued to be listed as the Postmaster until 1919).

Clark had been trading land, too. He traded part of Edna’s homestead and his 360 acres, which were very steep and non-productive, to the neighbor Ed Fick. The trade squared up both the Fick and McCoy property. The part of Edna’s homestead that was traded included good grazing land and most of the good water sources in Seven Springs canyon. In return Clark received title to some better farmland on the ridge top, known as the Garrett and Bicksell homesteads. Clark traded Robert the Bicksell place the old family homestead and the new house—and the $3200 debt. Robert had a piece of land debt free for his labor moving the horses. The total $3200 debt remained with the "home place" for more than twenty-five years and through three changes in ownership.

In preparation for the move Emma, Ruth, and Sidney moved to Clarkston, Washington. They rented the upper floor of a house and both Ruth and Sidney started to school. Ruth had spent the two previous winters at Walla Walla attending school and working for her room and board. Robert had been going to high school in Walla Walla and working for his board and room.

The horses were driven from Doumecq to the Horse Heaven Hills— a distance of about 300 miles. Robert, with the help of Ross Zehner and Butler Wells, drove them down Center Canyon, down the Waha grade and across the Snake River from Lewiston to Clarkston. The entourage traveled through Pomeroy, Dayton, Waitsburg, Dixie, Walla Walla, Lowden, and cross the Columbia River at Attalia. (See the story "Brave Cowboy Bob" in the family archives).

The cattle were shipped by railroad and they were unloaded at the siding at Hedges. John rode on the same train as the cattle and was there when they were unloaded from the rail car. There were no corrals to hold the cattle. It must have quite an experience for John as he worked to keep the cattle under control. Ruth remembered that her father arrived at his brother Billy’s home in Finley on Thanksgiving Day.

There is no record of where the cattle were driven from the railroad siding in Hedges or where Bob Cochran and has helpers finally left the horses. Sometime that winter John negotiated to move to the Gregerson place in the Horse Heaven Hills that was next to Uncle Billy’s farm. There is no record whether land was purchased or rented. Probably trading horses and cattle was part of the deal. Roy Cochran, Billy’s son, had married Merle Gregerson and they lived in Uncle Billy’s house.

The Gregerson house was a typical two story farm-house with ten foot high ceilings, bedrooms upstairs, a kitchen with a big cast iron range, a large living room that served as the dining room, a front porch, a back stoop and a privy down the back path. Windows and doors may have been tightly fitted when first installed, but long since had shrunk in the arid climate, leaving cracks through which the wind whistled and the dust sifted. The windows rattled in the wind, which blew much of the time.

In Grandpa John’s letters to Grandmother Emma he wrote of the mild winter, how sleek looking the horses were, and how well his niece could cook. He did not mention the dry and treeless land or the unceasing wind and sand storms. He wasn'’t one to dwell on unpleasantness or adversity. Grandmother, Ruth and Sydney arrived at the Horse Heaven hills in late fall or early in the spring of 1918. Grandmother knew what the country was like, having visited Uncle Billy and Aunt Nora one time in May. Ruth and Sidney were totally unprepared for the stark contrast between their past home and the barren hills! Doumecq had canyons with streams of flowing water for the cattle and the weather was usually calm.

In the barren Horse Heaven hills the summer sun burnt Ruth and Sid’s skin and parched their throats as they drove the cattle down to the Columbia River for water, through the concrete arch under the SPS Railroad at Mottinger and then drove them back to the hills to graze. The ranch was about 8 miles from the river. There was little rain and few wells—every farm had one ore more cisterns. Everyone hauled water from the Columbia River—the little amount coming from wells was too alkaline for most uses. About twice a week Grandfather took his four or six horse team and water wagon to the river to haul water for household use.

The water tank was filled near the old Mills place a couple of miles south of the little village of Hover. Water wagons were backed into the river as far as possible and water was dipped or pumped into the tank that was mounted on the wagon frame. These large tanks held about 500 gallons. Small wagons were filled by dipping the water one-bucket at a time, but big ranches had pumps. Uncle Billy had a big tank and during harvest it kept one man busy all day hauling water. Grandpa John farmed with his Brother Billy’s equipment.

At the end of summer Ruth and Sidney happily headed back to High School in Kennewick where they boarded with families during the week. Most often, they went home to the hills on weekends catching a ride with a neighbor or Grandfather would "herd" his old model T Ford into town to pick them up and buy necessary supplies in the same trip.

Their first winter was especially cold, one in contrast to the previous season. Grandmother said she did not stop shivering from December to April. Fuel was in limited supply, with dealers in Kennewick having to ration coal to their customers. The big potbellied stove in the middle of the classroom in School District 9 in the Horse Heaven Hills could not keep the place warm, even when it was glowing red. The Directors closed the school until the weather warmed. The teacher left for a warmer climate and never returned. When school convened the Directors hired Grandmother to teach the rest of the term. This was the first time she had been in a classroom as a teacher since marrying Grandfather in 1883. She saved her pay and used it to buy seven and a half acres of sagebrush covered land just below the irrigation ditch in the little town of Hover. She had enough of life in the Horse Heaven Hills.

This region along the Columbia River was not always so quiet. The famous Longmire wagon train passed through in 1853. In 1854 the U.S. Congress authorized Mr. E. J. Allen to operate a ferry across the Columbia River three miles upriver from Wallula. The fee was set at $5.00. By 1862, 600 passengers and 150 tons of freight were crossing every week. The road was called the Cascade Wagon Road. It went from Walla Walla, over the Horse Heaven Hills into Yakima and on to Puget Sound. John Mills started a sheep ranch on 113 acres along the river in 1882

In 1900, due to the efforts of James J. Hill, the Great Northern and Northern Pacific RR decided to establish a railroad through the area. The new railroad was named the Spokane, Portland and Seattle (SPS). Construction started in 1905 and that brought much activity to the area.

In 1902, Northern Pacific took over the holdings of the Yakima Irrigation Improvement Company and started construction of the Horn Rapids ditch to bring water from the Yakima River to the Columbia. This was to be the Kennewick Valley Canal network.

In 1902 Herbert A. Hover, president of the Kennewick Land Company, bought thousands of acres of land began sending out brochures promoting the virtues of the area. He envisioned that this small section of the state would become a city. Two prosperous villages came into existence. The little town of Finley was named after the man who had promoted construction of a school in the area. The other population center was named Hover after the land promoter. The village name was correctly pronounced Hoever sometimes pronounced Whover, and by uninformed readers as Huhver. These two little hamlets were not actually in the Horse Heaven Hills. However, the Hills were only a mile away and were definitely a part of the environment. The hot dusty winds blew from there in the summertime and the cold dusty winds blew from there in the wintertime. When the SPS railroad rejected the bids from both Hover and Finley for the site of their roundhouse in favor of Pasco both towns began to decline and soon became small farming communities revolving around their schools and churches. The land became very productive when irrigation water was available and there was a ready sale for most of the products that were raised. The ditch ran along the flatland a short distance from the base of the Horse Heaven Hills

Although records are scarce and sometimes conflicting, it appears the Cochran family moved to the little village of Hover sometime in the spring of 1920—it might have been 1919. Edith and Bob McCoy were the only members of the family who are now alive and both were too young to remember. The boom of earlier years had already been a bust, and land was cheap. They rented a small house from Mr. Hampton next to Charley and Lily Evans’ farm and down the lane from their newly purchased land. Grandpa set to work clearing the sagebrush and Grandma did her usual chores of cleaning, cooking, and canning. With abundant irrigation water and sunshine, she raised a magnificent garden. She liked working out-of-doors and took on the task of helping neighboring farmers during peak labor demands by picking and packing the produce that grew so well.

Grover Montague and Steve Holcomb owned 23 acres of land across the road from the Cochran property. Grandpa traded at least one horse to Grover for labor to help build the house. Ruth, the youngest Cochran daughter, went to the Normal School long enough to get a teaching certificate. She spent her first teaching year in Burbank, which was only about 25 miles from Hover. The next year she got a job in Hover and was able to rejoin the family full time. After two years she would have been required to go back to school to renew her certificate and Grover urged her to make other plans. Grover and Ruth were married in May 1922. They lived across the street for nearly 15 years and were very much a part of the extended family in Hover.

All the Cochran children except Sidney and Ruth were grown by the time John and Emma had moved into their house in Hover. The house was much smaller than the one of Doumecq, but would have been more than adequate for an older couple. However the term "family" varied from year to year or from week to week. All of John and Emma’s children or some of their family used the Hover house as their home sometime in the 1920’s.

Clark McCoy and his children, John, Louise, Bob, and Margaret moved from Doumecq after the death of Edna in the winter of 1923. The children called the Cochran house at Hover home until their adulthood. Both Margaret and Louise had descriptions of their life at Hover in their biography in the Chronicles. Louis Shinn spent the winter of his freshman year with his grandparents and went to high school. Nellie Sheets, John’s niece, spent a year with them while she was going to high school.

Inez graduated from nursing school and joined the Red Cross Nursing Corp at Fort Lewis during World War I. After the war she went to Hover and again joined the family circle. Her mother encouraged her to grab the invitation to be a nurse in Nome and later Juneau, Alaska. Hover was her home between jobs until she married the local Methodist preacher Erling Bergen in 1932. She helped at home as farm worker or a nurse, whichever was needed, until her marriage.

Mary taught in several schools through Idaho, Washington, and probably Montana. Most of these years she spent her summer months working and living at Hover. She was in Hover when sister Inez made an urgent call for help and Mary joined the tiny staff in the small Methodist hospital in Nome with two nurses and one doctor as they tried to cope with the flu epidemic among the Eskimos.

Robert graduated from High School and went for a year at Washington State College which would have been considered an A and M (Agricultural and Mechanical) institution. He joined the family in Hover and leaving WSC and soon met and married Edna Ashby. Robert traded the Bicksell place he had acquired by trade from his father and Clark to Joe Vaughan for the ferryboat across the Columbia River that operated from Hover. The closest village on the other side was Attalia. The ferry was old and was powered by a steam engine. He and Edna moved into a house adjacent to the ferry landing. Three children, Pat, Dick and Nancy were born there. There was no ferry schedule. When someone rang the bell on the other side of the river the crew stoked the fire and went across the river to get them. Clark McCoy worked as fireman for a time. When Robert acquired the ferry it had a good business, but traffic almost came to a standstill when the bridge across the river was completed at Pasco.

Omie spent time in that part of the state a couple of times. Her first school, after graduating from Lewiston Normal, was in Finley. She did live for half a year in the house in Hover. In September 1926 she left Nome, Alaska on the last boat to be closer to medical attention during her first pregnancy. Paul was born in March 1927 and they returned to Nome on the first spring boat in June 1927. Her visit was a festive time and the "Aunts" took every opportunity to show off the young offspring. In April Mary, Omie, and Zenna persuaded Sidney to drive Robert’s big Buick to Doumecq to see the old homestead—probably the first time they had been back as a group since leaving for college years before. The road from Whitebird was only dirt and it was rainy. The car slid off the road and Ray Shinn had to take a team of horses to pull them back on the road.

Zenna spent very little time at Hover. After graduating from Whitman she started teaching and spent only a few summers with her parents. Zenna’s letters mentioned that when the depression struck and she was without a job consideration was given to moving to Hover with Eileen until jobs opened up. That was not necessary—one of her professors at Whitman referred her to a friend who provided a job for her in the bay area.

The Hover house was a rectangular two-story structure probably 30 x 40 feet. The large living room was in the front and the kitchen and wash room was in the back There were four bedrooms, two upstairs and two down. Grandpa and Grandma used the bedroom at the back of the house, just off the kitchen. The front bedroom was reserved for guests—and there were lots of them. The two bedrooms upstairs were unfinished. Each room had two full sized beds. The boys had one room and the girls the other. This included both youth and adults. Clark, John, and Bob were in the boy’s room and at times Mary and Inez, Louise, and Margaret were in the girl’s room. The chimney from the kitchen went through the middle of the girl’s room and the heat from the kitchen stove made that room comfortable in the winter—but not in the summer. There was no other heat upstairs. Nails were pounded into the walls to walls to hang clothes. Drinking water came from a well with a pump and an open water bucket stood in the kitchen. Everyone drank water from a common dipper. The water that was used for animals and for washing was hauled from the Columbia River about a mile away and stored in a cistern. There was no running water in the house and bath water would be heated on the kitchen stove and poured into a metal wash tub. After a few years Inez bought a bathtub and a sink and Grover added a room alongside the kitchen for them—but there was still no running water.

A large irrigation ditch ran along the upper side of the property. The ditch was the "life blood" of the community—nothing would grow without the irrigation water. The 7 ½ acre Cochran farm was very fertile and the crops were abundant. There were grapes, asparagus, cantaloupes, vegetables, hay, and some apple and apricot trees. The grapes were sold to the Welch grape juice plant in Kennewick. All of these crops were labor intensive and all hands worked in the fields. On the high side of the ditch the land was arid and covered with sagebrush and tumbleweeds. Great balls of weeds would blow past the house.

The Irrigation Company had a full-time ditch man whose job was to keep the weeds from plugging the waterway. In the winter, when the water was not needed, there were some jobs paying cash money for men of the community to clean and repair the ditch. During the summer the kids spent many leisure hours swimming or soaking in the irrigation ditch. On the hot days even Mary and Inez would join the kids in the water.

Wild horses were a danger along the ditch—they came in hordes because this was the only source of water except the river itself. People who owned horses for their farming enterprise frequently let them run loose in the winter so they could ferret out their own livelihood.

A large garage stood behind the house. It was used as the laundry room and a big wood stove was used to heat the water. Monday was always wash day and it was an all day job. The garage had been built, in part, to house the Model T Ford that had been purchased for family use by Inez. Model T Fords were very different to drive than cars of today—there was no transmission and one changed gears by pushing on levers on the floor. Grandpa John was not a very good driver—the car would not stop when he yelled "Whoa." A concrete wall about 2 feet high made up the lower part of the garage wall. It was not uncommon for the Ford to make solid contact with the concrete before it came to a complete stop.

The school started in Hover in 1906 in the Opera House. A small sturdy brick building was built the next year. A new larger school building was built in 1923, but it burned down during Christmas vacation in 1924. After the fire the students were in adjacent bunkhouses and a large house across the street.

The community recognized the need for an even bigger school so they rebuilt with the new foundation outside the original one. A contest was held to determine the name of the new school. Mary Turner, the sister of Maggie Turner McCoy was the winner—her name was Riverview. There was intense rivalry between Hover and Finley High Schools. The schools did not consolidate until 1957 after it was apparent that the backwater from McNary Dam would inundate the village. The new consolidated school is still called Riverview, even though it is several miles from the Columbia River.

Horse Heaven had its share of rabbits and they were pests to farmers and orchardists. Usually the rabbits cross one of the many bridges, but in some instances they swam across the canal. Coyotes and rabbits usually kept in balance, but some years there were just too many rabbits. In looking for food during the cold winter they would seriously damage fruit trees. Some orchardists wrapped screens around the trunk to prevent them from girdling the bark. It soon became a New Year’s tradition to have a rabbit drive. The hunters would spread out a safe distance apart in a long line. As they walked along slowly jumping the jacks and shooting them on the run. It was not considered good sport to shot a sitting rabbit, but many people did. After the sweep was over everyone met at the schoolhouse where the women had a big dinner prepared. These rabbit drives continued into the late 1930’s. It was said that Aunt Georgia Cochran was one of the best shots in the crew.

On December 23 1931 Emma Cochran died and was buried in the Kennewick Cemetery. Suddenly the house at Hover seemed very big and lonely. Inez and Mary had both married ministers and moved away. Robert and his family had sold the ferry and moved to a farm in Pomeroy. Omie was married and living in Alaska—a very long way from Hover. Zenna was married and living in California. The following summer he married Emma’s younger sister, Georgia Pickard Kelly, who had been widowed since 1928. Georgia, known by most of the family as Aunt Georgia, became the grandmother to most of the younger grandchildren and loved over the next 30 years. As the year passed the McCoy children all grew up, graduated from school, and went their own way. The farm work was almost too much for John and for a time Georgia’s daughter Lena Bafus and her husband George came to live with them and help out.

There was a lot of government activity around the area in the 1940’s. McNary dam was being considered and there was lots of secret activity nearby that turned out to be the Atomic Energy plant at Richland. By 1943 John and Georgia could no longer take care of the 7 acres so they sold their land to the U. S. Government and moved to a house on Main Street in Colfax —a busy place between the highway and the railroad track.

After the construction of McNary dam became a reality the Government purchased all the land that had been Hover. They paid a good price for the orchards and improvement, but by that time John and Georgia Cochran were gone. People were allowed to buy back their houses with the understanding they would be moved. People were encouraged to keep farming the land until slack water came, but most of the people left their land and found a new life above the high water line. The government brought in big equipment and leveled the structures and trees. All that remain were a few old foundations. Hover has been gone for more than 60 years and is forgotten by all except those few remaining people who called it home.

Reprinted from Cochran Chronicles, Volume 26, Number 1, October 2004

(c) 2004 JECFA 

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