Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

Oral Histories of the James Cant Ranch (John Day Valley, Oregon), 1982-1985

Scope and Content Note

In the early 1980s, Royal G. Jackson was contracted by the National Park Service's Cooperative Park Studies Unit to lead the Cant Ranch Oral History Program on behalf of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. In Jackson's words, "the goal of this program" was "to document though oral sources, the historical relationship of the Cant Ranch with the Monument's natural and cultural resources, and its representative role as a typical livestock operation in the John Day Valley in the early 1900s."

The collection that resulted from this work consists of thirty-one audiocassettes of interviews with fifteen participants - including Cant children James Jr. and Lillian, as well as Stella (Pigg) Munro, the first teacher at the Cant School - and eight published monographs of transcripts prepared from a portion of these interviews. Jackson conducted his interviews in May-June 1982 and May-July 1983 at various locations dotting the John Day Valley. These locations included the Oregon towns of Kimberly, Drewsey, John Day and Dayville, as well as the Cant Ranch itself and the neighboring Humphreys Ranch. A lone interview was conducted in Portland, Oregon.

Monographs consisting mostly of edited transcripts of interviews with eight interview subjects were published by Jackson and the Cooperative Park Studies Unit between Winter 1984 and Summer 1985. Along with the transcripts, these monographs include an introduction to the project and the interviewee written by Jackson as well as facsimile copies of Gift and Release forms signed by the participants. Monographs exist for the following participants: Freda (Erikson) Cant, James Cant Jr., Dollina (Stewart) Humphreys, Rhys Humphreys, Kathleen (Bales) Jackson, Stella (Pigg) Munro, Eva (Officer) Murray and John Murray. The collection includes two copies of each monograph with the exception of the James Cant, Jr. and Freda Cant interviews, which were published in two parts and are represented by single copies within the collection. Neither monographs nor transcripts of any form exist within the collection for interviews conducted with Linda MacArthur, John MacDonald, Lillian (Cant) Mascall, Charles Moore, Robroy Munro, Alexander Murray and Walter Weatherford.

Topics discussed in the collection's interviews include the Cant family and life on the Cant Ranch; the Murray and Humphreys families; the culture and customs of the John Day Valley in the early decades of the 1900s, including its Scottish and Native American subcultures; agricultural practices of the era; and raising livestock in the John Day Valley.

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