Monday, May 26, 2014

Mount Vernon, A Stallion & Cinnabar - Part 1

Today's post is a little closer to home than Ireland, which I wrote about two weeks ago.  This time, we learn a little history about the town of Mount Vernon, which is located in the high desert country of Eastern Oregon.  Nestled in the John Day Valley, Mount Vernon is a city of  527 people, according to 2013 statistics.  Mount Vernon or Mt. Vernon,  is situated at the crossroads of Highways 26 and 395, in the heart of Grant County.  

Mount Vernon, Oregon
The town is uniquely named not after a mountain, but rather a black stallion.  A racing horse, Mount Vernon was considered so valuable that his owner built a stone fort or stable for him in 1879.  This was done to protect the stallion from marauding Indians, who were known to be on the lookout for good quality horse-flesh to sell or trade.  Aware of this, and not wanting to lose the prize-winning horse, two stonemasons were called upon to build the fort.  

With his excellent bloodline, Mount Vernon was prominently known as a high-class racing stallion.   His safety was assured with his high-class stone stable and he went on to live out 42 years in his retirement home.

Mount Vernon Fort
This fort is still standing on the north side of Highway 26 - about 3 miles east of Mount Vernon.  A fence was built around it to preserve the structure from elements of nature, which can include frequenting wild-life and grazing cattle.

Mount Vernon is situated in the scenic Aldrich Mountains that is part of the larger Blue Mountains range, one of which is called "Cinnabar Mountain".   Located close to the town, this mountain contained an ore called cinnabar which was used in mining.  It is a primary ore of mercury and utilized by placer miners in nearby Canyon City and vicinity in the gold rush of the 1860's in recovering gold from stream sediments.  Like several other red materials in nature, cinnabar was often known as "dragons blood" in earlier times because of its' vibrant red color. The mine has been abandoned for many years following the decline of gold-mining operations in the early 1900's.  
Cinnabar Mountain
Every year, Mount Vernon hosts a weekend event called the "Cinnabar Mountain Rendezvous", deriving its name from this particular mountain.  It is a community celebration complete with parade, competitive activities, potluck, dancing, even a toy duck race in the John Day River.  A patriotic city, it is held over Memorial weekend and is festive with displays of the American flagThe two photos below were taken on Saturday, May 24...

Flag Raising
Cinnabar Mountain Rendezvous Parade
Be sure to 'tune in' to Part 2 of another segment on Mount Vernon.  We will explore more history including showcasing local talent from cuisine to wine and let's not forget the beautiful surrounding scenery!  Join me on Monday, June 9  for the rest of the story...
Mount Vernon Sunrise

Please Note
Since today is Memorial Day, check out this post that I wrote last year entitled, "The Rite of Remembrance" in honor of the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  The link is:

"To Make Men Free" by Norman Rockwell

A lyric from "Taps"
Falling light... falling night...
Trumpet calls the sun sinks in flight
Sleep in peace, comrades dear...
God is near.


  1. I enjoyed learning about where we live. Thank you for posting such beautiful, inspiring pictures and words. Have a blessed Memorial Day my friend.

  2. A horse that lived to be 42 years old?? Now that's enough reason to make him famous!!??

  3. I've been researching the stallion Mt. Vernon in preparation for an magazine article I'll be doing. He was a Morgan stallion used for trotting races competition was tough and some of the purses were quite large, even in this remote area of the state. A saloon keeper in nearby Baker City who had recently moved to the area from Maine, brought his sire, a horse named Champion Knox with him. His name was Champion Knox and he was a truly fine animal, a reporter from San Francisco stated if he had not died so young (6) he would have easily been regarded as the greatest sire in Oregon. A half brother of Mt. Vernon, also bred by this man, sold for $10,000. A huge sum of money at the time. It is not surprising that Mr. Jenkins built such a substantial structure to keep and protect his horse. As a side note, all official records that I have found state that Mt. Vernon was a chestnut (reddish brown) not black, his sire Champion Knox was black though and that may have been where the confusion came from.