Hemstad

By Steve Lent, Museum Historian

The homestead era at the beginning of the twentieth century in Central Oregon brought many people to the high desert region in the hopes of establishing a new life. The arid lands rapidly became occupied by dream seekers and the need for a post office to communicate with relatives back home. The post office of Hemstad was established on December 8, 1917. It was located south of Brothers near Dickerson Well. The post office was named for Olaf Hemstad who patented a homestead claim near the site on May 9, 1917. The first and only post master was Frank P. Drake

There were enough families in the area with children that a school was established in 1914. The board of directors for the school district included J.H. Kleinfeldt and P.A. Gruber. The first teacher at the school was Pandy Stewart. The first classes were held in the Hemstad Valley dance hall. The building was 40 feet by 30 feet and was of single wall construction. The building was not suitable for classes during winter months as it was quite drafty and cold winds blew through the structure. The building was furnished with two tables and some chairs with books on each side of the room Water for the use by the children was hauled from Dickerson Well. Eight pupils attended the first session and all lived within walking distance of the school. The school was consolidated with Brothers in 1922.

Hemstad thrived for only a few years. Homesteaders discovered that they could not make a living in the harsh environment and a few years of drought forced them to sell or abandon their claims. The Hemstad post office was discontinued on November 15, 1918. Most of the hearty settlers began to move away and the desert was once again vacated.

Little remains of the Hemstad site but there are a few ruins scattered on the sage and grass plains. The windmill at Dickerson Well still stands but no longer pumps water. A drive along the rugged dirt road to the vicinity leaves one perplexed that the lonely site was once populated by many people and at night the flickering light from kerosene lanterns could be seen in the crisp and clear desert air.