Maryhill Museum

Maryhill Musuem

Looking south across the Columbia River from the Maryhill Castle in the early days you could see the small eastern Oregon town of Biggs before it was relocated to higher ground.

My mothers people left Weston, Oregon in the early 1900's and settled on a homestead near Biggs, just up the canyon toward Moro. Bernard had a long mail route covering two counties, Moro and Sherman that I know of, he traveled by horse. While covering his route he was bitten by a dog on his shin bone. The wound would not heal and he became more and more infirm.

Great grandmother Emma Lydia Wilder KEENAN became the strong one of the family. She took charge. She built the Columbia Hotel at Biggs Or. All the womenfolk helped great grandma run the Hotel including my grandmother and my mother. I being a preschooler in the early 1920's spend hours setting on the front steps of the hotel and dreaming about that huge mansion across the River. I believe my fondness for castles, prince and princesses, dragons and Merlin the sorcerer came Irom those early dreaming days.

Emma and Bernard had "Dinty's Station" built to provide an income for Bertha's daughter, Rheta and her husband, Dinty DURLAN.

Mother told me that she and my dad explored Maryhill Gastle inside and out one week end, approx 1916/17. She and dad found a loose window on the ground floor, pried it open, went in and explored the big empty building.

Often used expressions used by my family and others was "What in the Sam HILL are you doing"? or "What in the Sam HILL do you think you are doing"? even "Why in the Sam HILL are you doing that"? I believe you get the picture.

This immense pile of concrete and stone called Maryhill castle, set high in the vast nothingness of a stark hill on the Washington side overlooking the Columbia's gorge was built by the eccentric Samuel HILL, son-in-Iaw of James Jerome HILL the railroad man. Supposedly Sam built it for his bride, but no one can explain why, (the Sam Hill), he chose such an inaccessible spot.

Years later, on the Oregon side, long after both Hecker's "Biggs Hotel" and great grandmother Emma's "Columbia Hotel" burned down, married and with children of my own ... I visited the castle for the first time. It had been turned into a Museum and a surprisingly good one at that ... with the support of Queen Marie of Romania. Queen Marie left her homeland to came all this way for the dedication. Plenty of hot wind, temperatures in the 90's or reaching 100. I wonder what she thought as she looked out over that parched landscape for miles in each direction and saw naught but rock and sagebrush.

Today my family have all moved away, the original warehouses, rails and depot, the Hotel sites lay under many feet of water backed up from Celilo Falls (Dechutes) Dam. The old homestead is covered over by a modern highway carrying the bridge traffic north and south.

Dinty's Station became Dinty Moore's and the last I saw, it was called just plain ol'e "Dinty's Market".

With the passing of time Maryhill's castle museum has prospered, a paved highway runs past, the grounds have been manicured into a park with trees, green grass shrubs and flowers. There is a modern campground near by for our comfort and as I recall homes, stores etc. are near the shore line.

But the view from Maryhill remains vast, lonely and beautiful.