Interview with Dick Wiehl

Dublin Core


Interview with Dick Wiehl


White Bluffs (Wash.)


An interview with Dick Wiehl conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by the Mission Support Alliance and the United States Department of Energy.


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at, who can provide specific rights information for this item.



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2016-06-29: Metadata v1 created – [J.G.]


The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are the primary contractors for the US Department of Energy's curatorial services relating to the Hanford site. This oral history project became a part of the Hanford History Project in 2015, and continues to add to this US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Bauman


Dick Wiehl


Washington State University - Tri-Cities


Northwest Public Television | Wiehl_Dick 

Robert BaumanMy name is Robert Bauman. I'm conducting an oral history interview with Dick Wiehl on June 25 of 2013, and we're conducting the interview on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. And I'll be talking to Mr. Wiehl about his family's history, particularly their history in White Bluffs and the area around there. So I'm going to start with maybe talking about your family first, asking about them. Do you know how and when they came to the White Bluffs area? 

Dick Wiehl: Well, my grandfather--that's who we're talking about--came in the late 1890s, and it was as a result of advertisement, which was nationwide, I suppose, at the time to get people out here to populate the area. And he came out with the prospect of buying some acreage, which he did, and upon which they established a ranch. And that would have been in the very latest part of the 1890s. 

BaumanAnd do you know where he came from? 


BaumanDid he come by himself? 

WiehlHe came with his father, initially. Then his father went back and lived the rest of his life back in Minnesota. He had a good position back there, but this was an opportunity for a young man to strike out on his own and see if the road was, indeed, paved with gold in the West. And that's how the land was sold. 

BaumanSure. Do you know much about your mother's family? I'm sorry, your grandmother's family, the Craig family, right? 

WiehlYeah, and she was Hattie Wright from the Craig family. And she came from Ellensburg, so she was out here even before my grandfather. And how they met, I don't know. But I do know that they were married about 1900, and then moved on together and onto the ranch that my grandfather was then establishing on the banks of the Columbia River. 

BaumanSo could you describe the ranch? I know you didn't really live there, but you spent some summers there. 

WiehlWell, I was born in 1936, and they were out of there in 1943. So those were the years that--obviously, I don't remember much from 1936. But from about 1940 on, I do. I have vivid memories and stories that were told. And so that's really where my relationship started was about that time. 

BaumanCan you describe the ranch? 

WiehlIt was, in my perspective, it was huge. [LAUGHTER] And it was. There were thousands of acres that were leased, and the ranch, kind of the official ranch itself, was several hundred acres. And, of course, to a child at that time, I'd go with my grandfather, and we'd go horseback riding, and he would be checking on various operations on the ranch on a day-to-day basis, and we'd go all day. [LAUGHTER] And have lunch somewhere in saddle bags, and then come back by evening. And we'd be gone from 7 o'clock in the morning until 6 o'clock in the evening, just riding on the ranch. Never left it. So it was a big ranch. 

BaumanRight. So what sort of crops did your grandfather grow? 

WiehlWell, the crops I remember specifically, because I was out there picking potato bugs, were the potatoes. And so they grew potatoes. They had gardens. They were completely self-sufficient. And I remember my grandmother out there working in a large garden, and the other vegetables that they had I wouldn't recall. But there were lots of them, and the potatoes were where I would come in. And they had cattle, a lot of cattle, which were on the rangeland that they had leased. They had goats. They had chickens. And just had horses, obviously horses. Just about every animal that you would need in an operating ranch. And some of the animals were work animals, and some of them were ridingsome of the horses were riding horses. And they had a lot of them. And just the care and maintenance of those animals was a full-time job, which was generally done by the women--meaning my grandmother, or the younger kids when they were there, or then eventually my aunt, who was a teenager when they had to move out of there in 1943. Just took care of the chickens and things like that. 

BaumanNow did you have siblings or cousins who would spend the summer there? 

WiehlNo. I had a younger sister, but she was too young to be involved in that. 

BaumanAnd now the cattle, did they sell any of the cattle? 

WiehlOh, yeah. They were involved in the cattle markets, and I can remember the wailing and moaning over the, this is a Republican cattle market, or this is a Democratic cattle market. [LAUGHTER] Whether things were up or down, that's the way they would talk about it. And they could always blame somebody for the fact that the market was down. So that was important to them. 

BaumanDo you have any idea where they sold the cattle? 

WiehlNo, no, no. 

BaumanSo what other buildings were there besides the ranch house itself? 

WiehlThe main ranch house, and then there were a cold room, a big refrigerator, actually, which was an ice room. Several buildings, which were-- The house fronted on a lane. The lane was the highway that actually ran through from Othello and Moses Lake to the Columbia River, where you'd catch it to go over to White Bluffs, which was immediately across the river. And so their front yard was immediately contiguous to that road. Across the road were several buildings. I don't recall how many, but several for machinery. Barns, lean-tos, rather ramshackle but utilitarian structures for the housing machinery. And then they had chicken coops, and they raised goats, and they had goat houses, and so they had a lot of outlying buildings, which were particularized for a certain function on the ranch. 

BaumanAnd when you spent summers there, was there, for instance, electricity? 

WiehlNo. There was a telephone, and that was- When I was originally there, there wasn't electricity. In fact, I don't know if there ever was electricity. I think that it was coming, and it may have been there in the latter years, but that was relatively new, if there at all. The telephone, I do remember, because that was exciting when anybody on the line got a call, because everybody was included in it. [LAUGHTER] You'd dial an operator, a central operator that was in White Bluffs. I'm sure that must've been where she was. And she was on a first name basis with everybody. It was one ring here and two rings there, and so the telephone was quite an active source of getting the word out in the small community.  

Bauman: So how’d that work? So if the phone rang in the house-- 

Wiehl: It’d be two rings; that meant it was your phone.  

Bauman: If it was more than that--  

WiehlOr less, it was somebody else's phone. It didn't make any difference. Everybody went over and got it. [LAUGHTER] And sometimes they’d even join into the conversation when they weren't supposed to be even on the line. 

BaumanNot a whole lot of privacy. 


Bauman[LAUGHTER] And then what about irrigation? You must have had some sort of irrigation? 

WiehlThey had irrigation. I can remember wandering through the fields with my grandfather as he--There was blockages that occurred from time to time in the ditches that were coming out from the-- there were outlets for the water. And they had a good irrigation system. They must have taken the water right out of the Columbia, pumped it up there, and distributed it, because the ranch was on a level, probably two or three feet above the Columbia River. So it wouldn't have been difficult to do. Lots of pipe. I remember he had a shipment of pipe come in one time when I was there. 

BaumanWhat kind of pipe? Like cement? 

WiehlYeah. It was, and it was very, very heavy. It'd last forever, I thought, not realizing that the government was going to probably dig it all up in a couple of years. 

Bauman: Right. And then what about the house itself? Do you remember how large it was, how many bedrooms, or anything like that? 

Wiehl: It had two bedrooms, a master bedroom and a kids bedroom, because when I was there, my aunt was still—she was just a couple years older than I. And so she had her bedroom, and my grandparents had their bedroom, and then there was a large sleeping porch on one end of the house, where since I was there in the summertime, I would sleep with my grandfather on this sleeping porch. And there were a room for a couple of other people to sleep out there too if we had guests or something like that. And then there was a huge room in the center of the house, where they had community gatherings. I mean, it was that big. So that if the local farmers wanted to get together for a meeting of some kind followed by snacks or even a dance, they would always have it in that what Grandpa called the great hall. And it was large by my estimation. And then they had the other big room in the center of the house was the kitchen and dining area. And those are the rooms I remember. I'm sure there probably were other rooms that I was never even shown to. But those are the rooms I remember. 

BaumanSo it was a place where people came. 

Wiehl: Oh, yes, oh, yes.  

Bauman: Yeah. 

WiehlVery definitely. 

Bauman: Wow. And at the time you were there, it was a larger house that had that? 

WiehlYes. They kept adding on until--I think it probably took its final shape in about 1920. 

BaumanWow. Now, you mentioned your aunt. I wonder if you could just for clarification, state the children, or I guess in your father's generation, who-- 

WiehlWell, all right. Their dad was born in 1909. Wright, the oldest, was born in 1903. And Elroy, the youngest boy, was, I would say, 1920. And my aunt was 1933. 

Bauman: Okay. 

WiehlQuite a range. [LAUGHTER] 

Bauman: Yeah. About 20 years. 

Wiehl: Yeah. For that time, it was quite a range. 

BaumanAnd you were born? 

WiehlIn 1936. 

Bauman: 1936. In Yakima? 

WiehlIn Yakima, yeah. 

BaumanAnd so your family was in Yakima-- 

Wiehl: Yes. 

Bauman: But you would spend summers-- 

WiehlYes, I couldn't wait for the summers. I had to get over there and spend time with—Well, I was the baby at that point, and so I loved that. And loved to get over there and play with his tractors. And that's what I would do. He had several tractors. The one that I liked was a very nice John Deere big green tractor. But it was a small tractor for those times. And so I could actually sit on the seat, and by the time I was six, I could reach the pedals. Now to guard against anything ever happening, the battery was always taken out when I came over there, so nothing would go awry. [LAUGHTER] One time I came over though, and I think it was either in '41 or '42, because I had to be at least that old. We pulled down into the driveway, and I jumped out of the car and ran over to the tractor, which was sitting out on the road. I mean, this was the highway that it was sitting out on, which, as I explained earlier, just kind of ran right through the property. And I didn't know it, but the tractor had been used that morning, and my grandpa didn't know exactly when we were coming. In any event, he didn't take the battery out of the tractor. So I jumped on and did what I'd always hoped I could do: drive the tractor. It started, and everybody was standing back completely amazed and shocked and dazed, because I roared down the street. [LAUGHTER] And Dad was running after me and Grandfather on the other side. And I basically said, it's under control. Went down about 100 yards, turned around, brought the tractor back, and stopped it. And Grandpa said, well, I guess we don't have to take the battery out anymore. [LAUGHTER] But thinking of that, what really kind of alarmed me was the fact that I was driving the tractor and having things under perfect control, I thought. But I was a little concerned about my dad running alongside on one side and my grandfather on the other. I didn't think they could hold up a lot longer. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] That's a great memory. 

Wiehl: Yeah. 

Bauman: So when you were there in the summers, you picked a lot of potato bugs, and you would ride out with your grandfather? 

WiehlRight. And just a lot of times sometimes play with my aunt. We would go exploring, and the property was vast, and there was always something, a place to go, an island to visit, and so we would just do what kids do, and swim in the Columbia River, and she raised a lot of little chickens. And so we would go out and count the chickens and make sure they were fed and play with them. They were very cute little things. And games. I mean, it was a time when kids would play board games. And so we got pretty good at a couple of those. 

BaumanAnd you mentioned it was right on sort of the main road. 

WiehlRight. It went right through the ranch. 

BaumanRight. So were there a lot of people driving through? 

WiehlFrom time to time. Nothing like today. But no, there would be two or three cars that I would see a day going in both directions. And I don't even know whether they had a ferry schedule, but I know that my grandfather would go down there at a certain time, which was a horse ride, it would have probably been about a three-minute horse ride down to where the ferry was. And so he was committed to be there at certain hours. So from that, I assume there must've been some sort of schedule, but he wasn't there on call. 

BaumanSo he would, was operating the ferry, take the ferry-- 

WiehlBack and forth. 

Bauman: Back and forth to the car on the other side. 

Wiehl: Yeah. And the whole procedure wouldn't take very long after he got the ferry started up. 

Bauman: So was he-- 

Wiehl: And I went down with him a lot of times. And that was a big thrill, because he would, if they were old diesel, it was an old diesel engine, and he would get that. It seemed like it took forever to get that fired up, but when it was, it would go clunk, de-clunk, de-clunk, de-clunk, and then we would go, de-clunk, de-clunk, de-clunk across the load one place or the other. I don't remember, but it was back and forth. And if there were-- 

BaumanHow long did it take? 

WiehlOh, the ferry ride itself, maybe five minutes. The river was pretty big, but still, you made steady progress. I wouldn't say it was very long. But exciting. And you certainly needed the ferry, because there were no bridges in the area. 

BaumanDo you know how long your grandfather had been operating the ferry? 

WiehlOh, I think he ran that for, well, 20 years anyhow. Yeah, because he ran it right up until 1943, and certainly, from '23. That would have been 20 years. That much and probably more. Probably more. Probably back to maybe 13. 

BaumanThat was probably operating up to 1943. 

WiehlOh, yeah. Right up to the time they left, and he took the keys with him. [LAUGHTER] 

BaumanSo did you-- your grandparents' ranch was on one side of the Columbia from White Bluffs. 

Wiehl: Mm-hm, was just across the river. 

BaumanAcross the river. Did you go over there fairly often? 

WiehlOh, yes. 

BaumanAnd what sorts of things did you do? 

WiehlI would be there when Grandpa would take the ferry over, and he'd maybe wait for 10 or 15 minutes or maybe sometimes longer. And if he had business-- he was in charge, so he could pretty well decide when the ferry went back. And the ferry dock was right at the edge of town, and so I'd just walk up. There was a little landing. I'd walk up, and I'd be right in the center of town. The center of town-- we're not talking a big town here. But there were stores there, and I was just-- I'd go in and look around. And maybe sometimes I'd have a nickel or something like that, and I could buy something, generally sweet. And that would be a big, big deal. I picked a lot of potato bugs for a nickel. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Do you remember the names of any of the stores? 

WiehlNo, no. I remember a hardware store, though, that, in particular, that was just awesome, because it had things all over the walls, and it always sort of looked like a toy store as far as I was concerned. But it was clearly a hardware store. 

BaumanYou mentioned earlier that at your grandparents' ranch, they often had sort of social events there. Do you remember any community or social events in White Bluffs, the town itself for like 4th of July or anything? 

WiehlNo. No, I don't. I don't remember anything like that. I do remember that my grandparents themselves had a couple of 4th of July-- 

Bauman: Okay.  

Wiehl--picnics or summer picnics. I don't know whether they were specifically 4th of July, when they would have friends and relatives in to share a lunch. And I can remember picnic tables being set out underneath the trees, and a lot of people being there. Everybody having a good time, and I remember that a couple of times. They were very sociable people. And of course, that was one way that people could get together with their neighbors and discuss the issues of the day, which were generally how to get better, get more income. And all the people in that area were really pioneers. 

BaumanSure. Before we started talking, you showed me a photo of your grandfather in a baseball uniform. 

Wiehl: Mm-hm. A White Bluffs baseball team. 

BaumanRight. I don’t know, did your grandfather talk about that often? Do you remember your grandfather talking about that?  

WiehlI have no memories personally of it, except that my father talked about the White Bluffs baseball team and was very proud of this picture of his father in uniform of the White Bluffs baseball team. Which was probably circa 1900 at that point. So clearly that baseball was very much a part of civilized life in the Hanford, Richland White Bluffs area. 

BaumanDid you have any interactions with Native Americans in the area at all yourself? 

WiehlI would see them. I myself had no interactions at that time. Later, I got to go onto the Priest Rapids reservation and was invited to one of the last-- oh, they have a name for it-- kind of a big celebration potluck that they had before they built the dam. But no, I didn't. I would see them, but I never had any contact. And the other thing, I wasn't afraid of them or anything like that. It was just that they weren't on my agenda for the day. 

BaumanHow about neighbors? Were there-- 

WiehlThere were virtually no neighbors. The ranch was it. My grandparents knew where their neighbors were, but they had to be a long way away. But they could ride and did ride over to wherever they were. I never saw a neighbor's ranch on our side of the river. So it must've been quite a distance. 

Bauman: Right, right. And you mentioned you spent a lot of time playing with your aunt. Were there other children? 

WiehlNo. No, there were no neighbors. [LAUGHTER] 

BaumanRight. So you spent summers there up until 1943. So you and your family were living in Yakima when the government decided to build the Hanford site. 

WiehlShort notice. 

BaumanShort notice, yeah. 

WiehlVery short notice. 

BaumanDo you have any memories of that, or stories that your parents have told you? 

WiehlOh, yeah. I have a memory, because I wasn't going there that summer. [LAUGHTER] And it was crisis time, because I'm guessing to a certain extent, but I won't be far off, that they were notified by telephone first and with a letter following. And they had something like 15 to 30 days--very short--in which that they had to get out. And this was the late winter of 1942 or the early part of 1943. Getting out is one thing, but where are you going to go? And so all heck broke loose. I mean, we've got to get out. Where are we going to go? And so the search was undertaken of where, because Grandpa was a rancher. He had all these cattle, horses. And so they eventually found a place near Selah, a ranch near Selah, which they bought. And they moved some of the livestock, which they did take with them. And he started anew in Selah and ran a dairy for probably about seven or eight years until after the war. When at that point, they had to move out. But they didn't have to accept the amount of money that the government gave them, and this was an important point. Some did, but those that didn't still had to move out. But after the war, they could take the government to court and prove that they did not get fair value for their land. And my grandparents did that. Of course, they had their own house attorney, my father. And they got probably in 1946 or 1947 fair value for the acreage that the government had taken. And with that, they then sold the ranch in Selah and bought a huge ranch up by Cle Elum in the Teanaway. 

Bauman: Wow. 

Wiehl: And moved there. Moved there, and lived-- Grandpa lived a short but happy life in that area. 

BaumanDo you have any idea what the fair value was? 

WiehlNo. But it was substantially more than the government gave. The government wasn't interested in carving up nickels and dimes and half dollars. They wanted the land quickly. They got that, and then they would settle up accounts later. And it was a painful process if you were one of the people that got kicked off your land, but that's the way it worked. 

BaumanYeah. I was wondering, do you remember or heard any stories or heard your grandpa or parents ever talking about their feelings about that, having had started this homestead and having been there for-- 

WiehlI think they looked at it-- yes, I remember. And in particular, my uncle Elroy, who was pictured in some of those pictures that we were reviewing. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1941. And at that time, he was an ROTC cadet at the Reserve Officers Training program. He had been in that, and so he was going in to the Army in that summer. Well, that's perfect timing [LAUGHTER] for seeing a lot of action during the Second World War. And so he was an officer throughout the war, and, of course, was nowhere around in 1943. He was training for the invasion of Europe at that point in Fort Benning, Georgia, if I recall. And he never saw his--he left as a soldier, and at the end of the war, he couldn't go home. [LAUGHTER] I mean, his life had been uprooted. And that's just his personal case. And he was very matter of fact about it, but talked about it. It hurt him. But so what, really? I mean, we had to win the war. And I think that was the way my grandparents-- I never-- they wanted a fair price, because the government could do that, but they never argued or never felt badly about contributing to the quicker end of the war by the building of the atomic bomb. They felt pretty good about it, I think, that they had made a contribution. But then that doesn't entitle the government to steal it either. 

BaumanSure, right. Let's talk a little bit more then about some of your family members. So you said your uncle Elroy was at University of Washington.  

Wiehl: Mm-hm. 

BaumanYour father had already gone there. 

WiehlYes. He was a prosecuting attorney in Yakima at that time. 

BaumanAnd so you and your family were living there. And then your other uncle, Wright? 

WiehlYeah, he was the number one son, so he stayed with the ranch. 

Bauman: Okay.  

Wiehl And so when they were kicked out of there in 1943, Wright went right along with my grandfather, went to Selah, and they bought a house for him right next door to or across the lane from where my grandparents were. And then when they went up to the Teanaway to Cle Elum, he went right along with them, and he was the foreman of everything. 

BaumanAnd then your aunt, obviously, would have been still young, so she-- 

WiehlYeah, she graduated in late, 1950 or something like that from high school and married a man from Yakima. 

BaumanAre there any memories that stand out to you in terms of your times, your summers there that either are something humorous or just something that stands out particularly that we haven’t talked about yet? 

WiehlWell, I had a-- well, I've told you that they had chickens. And so we ate a lot of chicken, and we had a lot of eggs. And my grandmother was very careful in selecting-- we weren't going to eat a good layer. And so if the chicken was really performing out there with the eggs, then that chicken was safe for as long as that happened. [LAUGHTER] And of course, the chickens had to be killed. Well, a lot of times, there was a chopping block out behind the house, and most of the time, my grandmother would go out there and chop the head off. And that was an awesome sight for a little kid, because she would chop the chicken's head off and plop the chicken down. The chicken would run around for a minute or so, until it finally flopped over, and then we had to pull the feathers and get the chicken ready to be put into a pot. Well, handy as my grandfather was, at one point, he went out there to do this trick--chopping the head off—and he took his thumb along with the chicken head. And so he picked his thumb up, and he was way ahead of his time on that, and cauterized the wound, and then drove all the way to Yakima, which was the closest major hospital where he could get aid. And that was a long drive in an old pickup, or new at that time. It was an awesome feat. And he got there, and they said, no, we can't reattach the thumb. Which today they probably could do. Later that year, I had a friend in Yakima, and Grandpa would come up and visit us every once in a while. I had a friend, basically the same age, say, probably seven or eight, who sucked his thumb constantly. Little Ronnie, and he was always sucking his thumb. And Grandfather came out one day. We were playing out near the driveway where the car was. And Ronnie was sucking his thumb, and Grandpa says, you got to be careful about that, kid. You got to be careful. You shouldn't do that. And he says, I did, and look what happened, and he put up his hand, and there was no thumb, just a-- Ronnie took his thumb out of his mouth, and I don't think he ever popped it back in again. That was it. 

Bauman: Oh, wow.  

Wiehl: That solved the problem. [LAUGHTER] So that was a-- I was startled myself. [LAUGHTER] And that's one of the things that happened there that was kind of funny. 

Bauman: Yeah. How would you, from your memories, describe your grandparents? 

WiehlVery loyal, to start with, and very much involved in one another's lives, because they were in this together. A great feeling being around them. A great feeling. They were involved in everything together, and Grandmother was--Grandpa was smart. Grandmother was just as smart, and the two of them had physical constitutions. We had to be made of steel to live in there, and they were, emotionally and physically. That's a rare thing. 

Bauman: Right. Yeah. Like to do what they did at the time they did is, owning that ranch and so forth, yeah. Did you see any other extended family much at all, either on your grandmother's side or your grandfather's die? 

WiehlOh, the extended-- Wright was there, the oldest brother, because he was the chief hand. And he would be involved everyday on what needed to be done on the ranch. And one of the reasons my grandpa could slip away and run the ferry, because Wright was tending the ranch. He had a wife that lived there on the premises in another house. So that adds to the houses, which I forgot about. 

Bauman: Oh, okay.  

Wiehl: But they were always close at hand. And then he had a daughter. Wright had a daughter. He had a wife and a daughter, and the daughter then married, and her husband came on as a hand, too. So they had four or five other people that were in the mix all the time, all relatives. 

BaumanWhat was their last name, Wright's daughters and husbands?  

WiehlBobbi was her name, and I can't remember. Gaige. Yeah. 

Bauman: Gaige, okay. I'm going to then go back and talk about your grandfather a little bit more. When we were talking earlier, I mentioned looking at census records. In 1940, he was the numerator of the census. I know he was very active in the community in addition to just being very busy with the ranch. Were there other positions, community positions that he held? 

WiehlWell, he was the deputy sheriff in both counties, and that was important that it be in both counties, because you never knew which way the crooks were going to come, you see. [LAUGHTER] And he had a jail on either side of the river. And he had a photographic memory, which was the reason that he kept active those two jails, because they were all the wanted posters would come to him. They would go up on a bulletin board in the ferry boat or on the ferry boat. So if people were on the ferry, and there was nowhere to go. I mean, once you were on the ferry, you were stuck. You were like in a jail right then and there. If you were so unlucky as to be identified on the ferry, you would be escorted off at the other end to a local jail. And Grandpa picked up a lot of-- I don't know a lot, but enough to talk about-- of people going back and forth over the river there. So he was very much involved in that process. 

BaumanWere there ever any stories? Did he tell you any stories about any particular-- 

WiehlWell, I remember, this had nothing to do with the wanted posters, but it had to do with the jails. Since he was a deputy sheriff in both counties, occasionally, there might be a law enforcement issue. And generally, that involved people going across to White Bluffs, cowboys after a roundup, and having too much alcohol. Then the alcohol would take control of the situation. They'd get noisy, boisterous, maybe unruly, and when they got past the noisy area and into the unruly, then they would call for Grandpa. And that happened a couple of times, and one time, specifically, he went down there, and he would deputize people right on the spot. And they would take the drunken cowboys and throw them into the jail. Well, the one time they did that, two or three of them were thrown into jail, locked up, and Grandpa basically said, well, we'll see you in the morning and let you out then. Well, when he got there in the morning, the jail was gone. Somebody-- his friends, these cowboy friends-- the jail wasn't very big-- they had lassoed the jail, pulled it off its little foundation that it was on, taken it 100 yards down the river and broken them out. [LAUGHTER] And he said, much to their credit, they came back sheepishly a few days later, helped move the jail back to where it was supposed to be, and repaired it so it was as good as new. [LAUGHTER] So the story had a happy ending, but I mean, that was kind of the justice of the old West, I guess. 

Bauman: Yeah. So was this jail in the town of White Bluffs itself? 

WiehlJust on the edge. Closer to the river. He had it on both sides of the river. 

BaumanAnd then on the Franklin County side, was it right on the river too? Close to it? 

Wiehl: Yeah. Both sides were very-- more like a little outhouse. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] 

Wiehl: Which was susceptible to lassoing and moving, apparently. 

BaumanYeah, right. It's that small. I think I know you were just there in the summers, so you didn't attend school-- 

Wiehl: No. 

Bauman--in White Bluffs. Churches-- do you remember churches? 


Bauman: Did your grandparents go to church over there? 

WiehlNo, no, there probably was one. I'm sure there was one in White Bluffs. 

Bauman: But you don’t have any memories-- 

Wiehl: But I have no memory of going there, and I doubt if my grandparents did. They were probably still involved in the workday affairs of the ranch. 

Bauman: Sure. And then I guess, any other memories that you have-- you told some great stories. [LAUGHTER] Is there anything else that you remember from your summers there? 

WiehlNo, not specifically. 

Bauman: And I guess the other question would be, obviously, the town of White Bluffs then in 1943 essentially ceased to exist. 

Wiehl: Yeah, it did. 

Bauman: That community. Why do you think it's important for us to remember the town, for future generations maybe to know about White Bluffs and the things that people like your grandparents did there? 

WiehlWell, right now, it's forgotten. And that doesn't seem to be fair. A town should, once started, should live out its natural life. And this did not happen with White Bluffs. Its natural life was truncated suddenly by Presidential decree. And I think that an effort should be made to still let White Bluffs live out its natural life, and making a history of it may help. It may also help bring closure to a lot of the people that are now content that their story has been told. Here, living in Yakima, we tell our own story. We're there to tell our own story. But the people here didn't have that opportunity. So I think it's important. 

Bauman: All right, well, thank you very much. I really appreciate you coming here and doing the interview-- 

WiehlMy pleasure. 

Bauman--and telling the stories. They were terrific. Thank you. 

WiehlGet myself unhooked there. 

BaumanI'll help you out. 



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235 kbps

Names Mentioned

Wright, Hattie


Wiehl, Dick.jpg


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Dick Wiehl,” Hanford History Project, accessed December 4, 2020,