Bend▶️ Little Did I Know: Clyde McKay and his influence on Bend’s...

▶️ Little Did I Know: Clyde McKay and his influence on Bend’s early days

▶️ Little Did I Know: Clyde McKay and his influence on Bend’s early days

Clyde McKay

You’ve heard all the big names when it comes to Central Oregon history. Alexander Drake. O.B. Riley. But when we say Clyde McKay, does anything come to mind other than a tasty breakfast at McKay Cottage?

It turns out, the story of Clyde McKay is one of the biggest yet least known stories in Central Oregon history.

“Clyde McKay is probably the most important person in the City of Bend’s history that most people don’t know about,” said Kelly Cannon-Miller at the Deschutes Historical Museum. “The number of firsts with Clyde McKay is really impressive, but also just the number of things that he was involved in.”

First off, Clyde and his father, Duncan, were some of the first people to come to Bend. They were timber cruisers in search of lumber assets for their company back in the Midwest.

“So Duncan and Clyde McKay come through as timber cruisers in 1900. Decide that not only is this great for the company they’re working for, it’s a great business opportunity for themselves. So Clyde McKay moves his family out here. It’s he and his wife, Olive, and their two young sons –come basically to what then is still very much a frontier place,” Cannon-Miller said.

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Clyde quickly established The Bend Company and just as quickly got to work.

“Among the first notable things that happen is that they buy out Alexander Drake’s holdings. So, right out of the gate, all of Alexander Drake’s business and land interests become the interests of The Bend Company, with Clyde McKay as its president,” Cannon-Miller said.

So Drake Park? We can thank him for that.

Clyde was also one of the people who helped bring the railroad to Bend. In fact, he had a pretty big presence on the day they drove the golden spike.

“He was the grand marshal of the parade on Railroad Day in October of 1911. So, everybody knows Clyde and knows the McKay family. They’re engaged in almost everything,” Cannon-Miller said.

Once the railroad was established, Clyde was the first one responsible for delivering a product that would change the future of Central Oregon forever.

“In 1912, after the railroad has come to town, The Bend Company is the first to send lumber out to a larger market. And their pipeline goes to the Midwest to Nebraska and that’s the first time that manufacturing companies see Bend and the timber possibilities here. And so that’s the game-on moment,” Cannon-Miller said.

 

Clyde’s interests didn’t just stop at lumber.

“You find The Bend Company’s fingerprints on the formation of the school district. Clyde serves on the school board. The 1925 high school complex was built on land donated by The Bend Company. The First Presbyterian Church, when it was constructed on Franklin Street, Bend Company donated the land and donated the volcanic tuft stone out of their quarry for the bricks,” Cannon-Miller said.

“He was involved in forming the Elks Lodge, the Kiwanis Club, all of these civic organizations. Clyde and his family have their fingerprints all over it and support from the Bend company,” Cannon-Miller said.

Good God, that’s enough. Or is it?

“One of the other really important things about Clyde McKay is that he was an avid sportsman. So, he’s the first game warden of the area and is very involved in establishing what we know today for our fishing industry,” Cannon-Miller said. “And the Cascade Lakes Highway was one of his ideas. He actually helped hike in Newberry Caldera up to East Lake in 1912. No roads when they loaded in the first trout to try and stock the lake with trout.”

McKay Cottage
McKay Cottage

 

Let’s review. Clyde helped found the city of Bend. He had one of the first lumber mills in Bend. He’s one of the guys that helped bring all the big lumber mills to Bend. He founded countless civic organizations and he turned Central Oregon into a hunting and fishing paradise.

And now his family home is a historical place to get one of the tastiest scones in town — McKay Cottage.

“So he’s got his hands in everything. He’s just everywhere. Everywhere you look in Bend history, in those early first 20 years of the formation of the city, it’s Clyde, Clyde, Clyde, Clyde, Clyde,” Cannon-Miller said.

Have a Little Did I Know topic idea for Scott? Email it to littledidiknow@centraloregondaily.com

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