The Bowman Memorial Museum In Prineville

Oregon History: Bowman Memorial Museum

Nestled in the sleepy city of Prineville, Oregon is a historical treasure you will not want to miss - the A.R. Bowman Memorial Museum, otherwise known to us who live here as the Bowman Museum.

This is a spectacular place to visit and I urge you to set aside time to tour this incredible building that is chock-full of beautiful exhibits that depict beautifully Oregon history but especially Central Oregon's origins and development.

Let's take a bit of a virtual tour now and examine how the Bowman Museum started out and what it is yet to become.

Enjoy the videos and photos that I took on my recent visit to the museum. Even though there are many photos, I was hoping to capture the flavor of the museum on camera; likewise with the videos. There are many videos but these are short and give you a hands-on experience I hope for the exhibits at the museum. With all that I have presented here, there are still many, many more that I did not photo or videotape.

I shot most of the virtual tour with my little Flip video camera because the flash on my cameras would have been detrimental to the artifacts. I then captured the photos from the video stream to create the photos.

I hope you enjoy your tour and encourage you to come for a visit!

All pictures and videos by Audrey Kirchner
All pictures and videos by Audrey Kirchner

A. R. Bowman and the Bowman Memorial Museum

Who was A. R. Bowman?

Arthur Ray Bowman was one of Crook County's leading citizens. Born in Kansas originally, Bowman came to Prineville in 1910 after he had graduated with a law degree from the University of Washington. He was a prominent player in civic affairs and aided greatly in the development of Crook County.

He was most notably involved in the construction of Highway 26 which is still our main thoroughfare running east and west through Central Oregon. He also participated in such projects as the Ochoco Irrigation District and the construction of the Prineville Airport.

He would later also have the dam on the Crooked River named after him as well because he backed the project called the Crooked River Project which built the Prineville Dam. He also served as a county judge in Crook County from 1936 to 1942.


History of the Museum Building

The building site where the Bowman Museum stands today on the corner of Third Street and Main was a 1-story wood building constructed in 1883 and was first a drug store.

In 1901, this building was replaced with a 2-story wood building which was known as Belknap Hall. Around about 1908, this structure was actually moved to West Second and Claypool Streets and was an I.O.O.F. lodge hall until its final demolition in 1972.

The building that presently serves as the Bowman Museum was built in 1910 by the Crook County Bank and it was a building made not of wood but of stone from the local quarry. This quarry is located near the Ochoco Viewpoint and the same stone was used to construct the Crook County Courthouse about a year before the Crook County Bank.

The Crook County Bank was in existence for 22 years. It was the Crook County Bank from 1912 until 1923 and then later became the Bank of Prineville and the Prineville National Bank. In 1935, the building was purchased by A. R. Bowman and became his title and loan business. Still later, it became the location for his insurance business for at least 20 years.

If you visit the museum, the first thing that you notice is the beautiful interior on the first floor. Much of the old bank remains from the exquisite marble counters and bronze teller cages to the etched art-glass, paneling of mahogany and alabaster chandeliers. Although the bank failed in the Great Depression, the building was never touched.

Judge Bowman died in 1970 and the building was donated by his wife Alta and daughters Jean and Elaine who deeded the property to the people of Crook County stipulating that it must be used as a museum. The building became part of the National Register of Historic Places on June 19, 1991.

The museum is maintained by the county and the Crook County Historic Society. Admission is free but feel free to donate if you visit and make sure you sign the registry!

What You'll See at the Bowman Memorial Museum

Remarkably, I have lived here 6 years and though I said absently many times 'I need to go check out that museum', for some reason or another, I just never went in. I'm so happy that I did because it is an incredible museum. The displays and exhibits are absolutely stunning.

I was particularly overwhelmed by the amount of artifacts that this museum contains. It is not just pertinent to Crook County history, however, and in fact, speaks of our ancestors and all that they left us in terms of our heritage and the early days of America.

Their exhibits are beautifully done and the information available is staggering. You are first consumed with wonder as you enter the museum and see the splendor that was the original bank. It is simply breathtaking with the marble counters and bronze teller cages - all left in precisely their original state.

The gift shop is a wonderful place to browse for information on anything and everything historical and how it pertains to Oregon history most specifically. There are wonderful tees and sweatshirts for sale and books by the hundreds. There are also many fine publications available for sale on-line and I will list those further along.

You can even purchase a beautiful afghan which depicts the Crook County Courthouse in all its glory and also honors the Crooked River Roundup and Les Schwab tires, one of the things Prineville is most famous for.

Displays at the Bowman Museum

Just some of the things you will enjoy at the Bowman

  • Period dress - from baseball uniforms to women's finery - military uniforms to nurse uniforms - corsets to Indian dress
  • Forestry displays complete with manuals and tools of their trade
  • Ranching and homesteading displays and artifacts
  • Gemstones and rock-hounding displays
  • Arrowheads and Indian artifacts
  • Guns and rifles
  • Combat equipment
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Memorial to firefighters lost - a tribute to the Echo of the Wildlands Firefighters Monument located in Ochoco Creek Park
  • Books upon books of Crook County photographs from people to buildings to documents
  • Gift shop and book store
  • Original bank front with its original construction
  • Bank vault complete with the safe inside - as well as many other artifacts such as old typewriters, ink wells and office equipment
  • Railroad history and equipment displays
  • Tack room which is full of saddles including a beautiful woman's side saddle
  • Branding irons and all sorts of horse tack
  • Photography exhibit complete with a large wall photo of a family having their portrait taken and surrounded by all kinds of antique cameras from huge to small
  • Parlor area displaying a beautiful dining room set, old piano and several china cabinets
  • Other parlor furniture such as a gramophone, chairs and even a highchair
  • Bedroom display along with furniture and period dress
  • Paulina store and post office exhibit
  • Butter churn and kitchen equipment
  • Many of the things you'd find at the general store
  • Display devoted to medicine and old medical equipment such as tonsillectomy chair
  • All manner of equipment and medical items from throat lozenges to pills and doctor bags; even a wheelchair and a nurse's uniform
  • Telephones, radios and telegraph equipment
  • Genealogy research room
  • Several sports displays including uniforms and many pictures of the various teams
  • Toys and games display from checkers to dolls to toy pistols
  • Ranching and cowboy paraphernalia including camp stoves and other tools of their trade

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Outside Facing Main StreetMemorial PlaqueInside showing old bankMore inside showing old bankTack roomOutside facing Third Street
Outside Facing Main Street
Outside Facing Main Street
Memorial Plaque
Memorial Plaque
Inside showing old bank
Inside showing old bank
More inside showing old bank
More inside showing old bank
Tack room
Tack room
Outside facing Third Street
Outside facing Third Street

Coming Soon - Expansion at Bowman Museum

In November, the Bowman Museum will be expanding. They have purchased the building next door and will be expanding into that building as well. The construction is anticipated to be done in 2011 and will offer much needed space and allow the museum to expand.

Some of the wonderful things coming in the future include:

  • Fenced outdoor exhibit garden
  • Collection care center
  • Research library
  • Office space
  • Western heritage gallery
  • Community room
  • Les Schwab exhibit
  • Archive room
  • Timber exhibit hall
  • Raised stage area for events
  • Oral history space

This expansion will allow more in the way of tours and such things as traveling exhibits. This will also allow for additional permanent exhibits which tell the story of Crook County - from the Native Americans who lived alongside the early Americans to the farmers and ranchers that make up the history of this area, to the great accomplishments of Les Schwab.

It will also provide a larger place to hold meetings, lectures and reenactments of history.

The Bowman Museum will also be moving in an internet direction by collecting and preserving electronically all of its documents so that they can be accessed on the web around the world.

A research library will also give anyone from professional to amateur the ability to access historical and genealogical records.

I am waiting eagerly to see what more the Bowman Museum has in store for us!


Tours and Field Trips

The Bowman Memorial Museum not only is a great place to visit, but it is a great place to arrange tours and field trips.

An example of a wonderful tour is the Steens Mountain Historical Tour.  In the past, on this tour the participants met at the Frenchglen Hotel and took in the grandeur of Steens Mountain via access on the Steens Loop - a very old and bumpy road through spectacular geological scenic areas to the eventual panoramic views of Steens Mountain. This tour was enhanced by Carrie Gordon who gave information on the geology of the area while Steve Lent provided historical information.

Another great tour was the Oregon Trunk Tour.  This is a tour of the abandoned railroads of Crook County. 

Tours are an excellent way of getting out and seeing more of the area but also absorbing history. 

Call the museum for this year's events but these are some of the most notable annual events.

  • Field trips and local historical site visits - every spring and fall there are trips to different areas around Old Crook County (call for details)
  • Tours of downtown buildings
  • Lecture series on events and prominent people in history
  • Spring field trips - check website for more information or call the museum
  • Courthouse tours - Tuesday or Thursday at noon from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  This is a 1-hour tour that takes you all the way up to the clock tower
  • Summerfest - Crafts and Activities Fair at Pioneer Park where the Historical Society hosts an information booth. This is during the Crooked River Roundup.
  • Splash and Dash - Booth on the 4th of July participating with other events such as breakfast by the Chamber of Commerce, barbecue lunch, music, arts and crafts and other food booths
  • Pioneer Queen Picnic and Coronation - early August each year.
  • Fall lecture series "Looking Back" - September through October - every Friday night through mid October.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Books in gift shopTeller cageMore booksOld bankCalendars for saleAnother bookBook for saleBlanket for saleBook for saleMore books
Books in gift shop
Books in gift shop
Teller cage
Teller cage
More books
More books
Old bank
Old bank
Calendars for sale
Calendars for sale
Another book
Another book
Book for sale
Book for sale
Blanket for sale
Blanket for sale
Book for sale
Book for sale
More books
More books

Available at Bowman Museum and On-Line

Field trip guides are also available at the Bowman Museum or on-line for some of these great field trips. This also gives you an idea of what kinds of field trips are available. There are many, many more than listed here - check on-line for all of them!

Ochoco Mountain Mines - this guide includes information on many mines in the area from Champion, Independent, Mother Lode and Blue Ridge to name but a few

Bear Creek Country - this guide gives history on homesteads in the Bear Creek area of southern Crook County.

Crooked River National Grasslands - this guide gives information on such places as the Weigand Homestead and Stage Stop, the Gray Butte Cemetery, and Lamonta Camp.

Forest Service Centennial - guide to a tour of Ochoco Forest.

Lieutenant Watson meets Paulina - guide based on historic sites from Prineville to Paulina.

Steens Mountain Historical Tour - this is the guide for the trip as mentioned above and was a 2-day trip.

These field trip guides and many others are available on-line or at the museum for $10. On-line ordering can be done through PayPal.

Books On-Line and at the Museum:

These books are also available and are just a sampling of what you can find on-line to order through PayPal or in the museum itself.

Cowboy Poetry and Barn Sour Verse by June Collins - $28.00

Prineville Business History by Keith Snyder - $29.95

Trails to the Ochoco Valley by Andrew G. Ontko - $12.95

School Days of Old Crook County by Irene Helms - $14.95

The History of Crook County, Oregon 1994 by the Crook County Historical Society - $45.00

These are just some of the offerings on-line and at the Bowman Memorial Museum.  Check it out!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Butter churnBranding displaySports displayPiano in parlorGramophoneTypewriterClothing storeBaseball jerseyVaultRailroadClothing store logoBranding ironsHighchairPrineville railroadFootball padsChairCameraLetterman's sweaterBaby announcementPhotographingCheckersSports displayCrook County photosCameraMemorial to fallen firefightersSaddleToysDollBaseball and glovePhotographingForestry pamphletsTelephone pamphletsGramophoneOregon or Bust
Butter churn
Butter churn
Branding display
Branding display
Sports display
Sports display
Piano in parlor
Piano in parlor
Gramophone
Gramophone
Typewriter
Typewriter
Clothing store
Clothing store
Baseball jersey
Baseball jersey
Vault
Vault
Railroad
Railroad
Clothing store logo
Clothing store logo
Branding irons
Branding irons
Highchair
Highchair
Prineville railroad
Prineville railroad
Football pads
Football pads
Chair
Chair
Camera
Camera
Letterman's sweater
Letterman's sweater
Baby announcement
Baby announcement
Photographing
Photographing
Checkers
Checkers
Sports display
Sports display
Crook County photos
Crook County photos
Camera
Camera
Memorial to fallen firefighters
Memorial to fallen firefighters
Saddle
Saddle
Toys
Toys
Doll
Doll
Baseball and glove
Baseball and glove
Photographing
Photographing
Forestry pamphlets
Forestry pamphlets
Telephone pamphlets
Telephone pamphlets
Gramophone
Gramophone
Oregon or Bust
Oregon or Bust

Oregon History: Bowman Memorial Museum

If you're looking for an interesting place to visit in Central Oregon, the Bowman Memorial Museum is a great place to accomplish that!

Their staff is well informed and wonderfully helpful in giving you more information or setting up tours and field trips. They can also give you all the background information on the history of this area regarding its various aspects and subjects from homesteading to railroads to Indian history.

How to Become a Partner in the Bowman Memorial Museum

There are several options for someone wanting to support the museum in terms of membership:

  • Pick a level of membership on-line and pay through PayPal
  • Fill out an on-line form and receive a bill for payment
  • Join the Bowman Museum annually - form is on-line

Full membership includes participation in field trips, quarterly newsletters, attendance at 4 general meetings, periodic lectures and 10% discounts in the gift shop.

Endowment Participation

You can give to the Crook County Historical Society's Endowment Fund in several different ways as well:

  • Outright gifts - this includes cash, property or securities
  • Deferred gifts and charitable remainder trusts - The Bowman Museum receives the principle while you continue to collect the income
  • Planned gifts through wills - you bequest a specific amount of money, property or percentage of your estate to the Bowman Museum


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tack gearSaddleAnother saddleAnother saddlePistolSpurs
Tack gear
Tack gear
Saddle
Saddle
Another saddle
Another saddle
Another saddle
Another saddle
Pistol
Pistol
Spurs
Spurs
Click thumbnail to view full-size
WheelchairNurse's uniformClothing displayEyeglasses displayFinished glassesTonsillectomy chairRancher gear
Wheelchair
Wheelchair
Nurse's uniform
Nurse's uniform
Clothing display
Clothing display
Eyeglasses display
Eyeglasses display
Finished glasses
Finished glasses
Tonsillectomy chair
Tonsillectomy chair
Rancher gear
Rancher gear

Oregon History and the Bowman Museum

I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of one of the nicest museums I've had the opportunity to visit.  This will give you an idea of what the Bowman Museum has to offer in terms of Oregon history.

The future holds much for the museum with its planned renovations and I can't wait to see what else the Bowman Memorial Museum will have in store for the people of Central Oregon.

Learning where we came from is a great gift and a wonderful educational opportunity - hope to see you at the Bowman!

Old Bank and Gift Shop Area

General Store Displays

Bedroom Display

Tack Room Display

Quilt Display

Photography Exhibit

Railroad and Forestry Displays

Gemstone, Indian and Cowboy Displays

Gift Shop

More by this Author


Comments 24 comments

akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks Micky as always for the great comment - and I'm not sure if I'm hip either - I just love doing these things!


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

You are so thorough. I like the videos and the music with them. I'm not very hip am I? Great job!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks Crewman6 for always saying such nice things! It was fun going there...finally!!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 6 years ago

Thorough and in-depth. Impeccable research, and engaging writing!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for the read, Carolina Muscle - it truly is and glad I got to go see it first hand!


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

Outstanding hub.. looks very interesting!!!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping in, Steph - it was SO amazing I couldn't believe it. How I missed out on going for all this time, I have no clue but I surely can't wait to visit more often! What a great place to take kids!!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Just an amazing job, once again. I am thinking about taking my scout den out to Prineville one of these days to visit the museum. Guess we'll wait until Spring when the expansion is finished, but this looks like a true treasure!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

How wonderful - and welcome to the neighborhood!


cynheard 6 years ago

Thanks for the wonderful article.My husband and I moved to Prineville one month ago today and we love it here.We will set aside a day to go to the museum and enjoy the areas history.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks so much for stopping by and for the read, Katie! It was fun finally checking it out!


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

What an amazing collection of interesting finds and treasures. The videos you've provided here are fantastic. Great museuem.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping by, HH - it is funny that when I was younger, I didn't find museums all that fascinating but the older I get, I seem to really love them! Maybe because I am becoming an artifact myself! Thanks for the read!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for a wonderful tour and I can only begin to imagine what is must be seeing all this in reality.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Hey BJ - thanks for all your kind comments and the congrats! I have a really hard time not descending into jokes over Crook County to be honest. Luckily they did not name the high school teams the Crooks or I'd lose it!


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

This is a seriously written hub and I would do a disservice to you and your literary efforts if I were flippant in my comments.

The only slightly comical sentence I could find was that Mr. Bowman was a Judge in Crook County. Guess he didn't have to go far to find applicants for the trials over which he presided.

A belated but sincere congratulations to you, Audrea, for your award- winning hubs. Hey, I recognized your talent eons ago.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks, Nell for commenting - wish you could come for a visit and stroll through too!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, Audrey, this was great! I love museums and this one was certainly interesting, I would love to come and take a look myself! and it seems congrats are in order, I didn't know you had won, I have been away from my computer for a few days, well done! cheers nell


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Petra, thank you so much for your sweet remarks - and please do move here! I get very lonesome here in Prineville as it is not a huge metropolis! It is a great place to live but far away it seems from civilization at times.


Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

As I said before, you have done an incredable job with this most interesting serie of hubs. How would you like it if we all move to Oregon? We just might after reading those hubs


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for the read and the lovely comments, Pamela! What a nice surprise to win last week, too!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

That is an amazing amount of information and things to see at this museum. It is very impressive.

Congratulations of yet another win!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks so much for commenting, James - it was truly a remarkable museum for such a small town! I had no idea and wish I'd gone in years ago now!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Isn't it great when civic minded people put together—and maintain—a museum like this that is useful, educational, interesting, and fun. It serves the greater good. Thanks for the excellent reportage.

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