This page part of the Wallowa County AGHP Site
My thanks to the Duckett family of Prineville for giving permission to put this on the Wallowa County page!
ARMEL LEE DUCKETT A.L. - AL - DUCK
Born near Cassville, Missouri, County Seat of Berry
County, near the Arkansas border, in the Ozarks or Flint Hills, 18 Sept 1894 to
Georgia Florence Campbell Duckett of Georgia and William H. Duckett of Alabama.
I have some memories of this part of the state, even though we migrated to Jasper County, by covered wagon, when I was just four years old; where I spent most of my childhood days. I was the third member of a family of thirteen children of which seven were girls and six were boys. The first child, a girl, passed away in infancy. Each child was born approximately two years apart. Coming as I did from a family of this size, I hold many memories too numerous to mention here. During my time here, at a fairly early age, I was lucky enough to get together some blacksmith tools. I also had a good blacksmith as a close neighbor where I spent most of the rainy days and learned to open- forge weld, temper, and many other tricks of the trade.
I left Missouri at the age of 19 in late fall of 1913, destination La Grande, Oregon, where I worked for the O.W.R.&N Railroad Company as a boilermaker helper or apprentice. I worked here until June 1916. During my time here (1915) I made my first trip to Wallowa County to Imnaha Park area, to what is now known as lower Pallette Ranch, owned by Frank Gillespie. I was on my first deer hunting trip. This trip was made with a team of old saddle horse hooked to a small hack from Thompson's livery stable of Joseph. We went by way of Rumble Hill, down Little Sheep Creek, up Rail Canyon, over Catsback, down Coyote Canyon, up Big Sheep Creek to the Crossing at Huffman Ranch, where I had my 21st birthday dinner, then up Big Sheep Creek switch backs, across Marr Flat, down Road Canyon, on down Grouse Creek at Imnaha River to the Gillespie Ranch; all in one day; and we never saw a deer either "in" or "out" and very few while hunting. I was lucky enough to kill the first deer I ever saw. There were four of us on this hunting trip. One, an uncle of mine, Sam Campbell, who knew the country well. I fell in love with Wallowa County, especially the Imnaha part of it.
After leaving the railroad in La Grande, I worked a short time for Idaho Short Line, then for Southern Pacific in Sacramento, California, as a boilermaker. This being a rawhide shop, my stay was short and turned out to be the end of my railroading. Heading back to La Grande, I went through fall harvest in Grande Ronde Valley. With this over, and in the company of my uncle, Sam Campbell, I headed for Wallowa County where I landed 4 October. This date I think of as my date of residence in the county. I went through harvest on upper Prairie Creek working for Nick Rollinger. This job over, I worked for Sam Foster until his son, Rosco, returned home, then I worked for Wade Thornburg on Upper Prairie Creek until 2 June 1917. I left to enlist in what was reported to be Railway Engineers Regiment as a boilermaker. I was assured by the recruiting officer that this was what I was being recruited for and to go for overseas duty at an early date. I went to Portland, where I went through my exams and on to Fort Vancouver, Washington, to Recruit Company on 5 June, the first registration over for the US. here I found I was recruited for the 4th US Combat Engineers and organized 20 June as a charter member of "D" Company. Shortly after, I was asked to help cook and finding myself in an outfit different than I signed for, decided to help cook, so I spent almost my entire time cooking. We left Vancouver in late fall of 1917 for Camp Green, Charlotte, N.C., where we were assigned to the 4th Division for overseas duty, leaving in early spring of 1918 for Bordeau, France (southern part). I was there until Armistice on 11 Nov. 1918, then hiked into Germany for Occupation duty, which lasted through three moves and until 4 July 1919, at Koflenze, the American Bridgehead on the Rhine. Here I left for detached service back in France to cook for a detachment of engineers, there to erect monuments where the Division was in action. The detachment consisted of twenty men. Getting our part of the job done and waiting on the French for stonework to be completed, we were billeted for something over two weeks in Paris. While here, another newly acquired friend and I spent every day taking guided tours of points of interest in and around Paris. I left Paris for Brest, France, where we sailed for New York leaving on my birthday 1919. I landed in New York, 26 September, one year from date of the Argonne offensive. In New York for just a short time, we entrained for San Francisco, California, where after many hours of standing in line, I finally received my Red Chevron, 7 October 1919, of which I was pretty proud.
I headed for La Grande at once, where I worked a short time helping in apple harvest and packing plants. This over, my uncle and I headed for Wallowa County once more, as I was lonesome for the canyons of the count to do some trapping on the Imnaha. This didn't turn out as good as it got 30 below zero before Christmas and since the traps were froze and my cash almost exhausted I headed for Imnaha where another uncle of mine lived.
On 1 January, I started working for Bailey Maxwell, clerking in the store and driving truck. This lasted until spring when I started driving the stage from Enterprise to Imnaha by way of Midway and on day Trail Creek. This lasted until the end of summer and was propositioned to drive through the winter of '20 and '21, this of course was with teams of wagon and sleds, changing teams and having noon meal at Midway. This was quite an experience, which ended when the contract was sold to Bill Simmons for whom I worked for a couple of weeks. I then worked the summer of 1921 as ranch blacksmith for Imnaha Sheep Company until the fall of '21 when I started operating the shop on my own, which lasted until 1 January 1952. This was a big leap into the unknown. There had never been enough work to justify a full time smith for very long, so I did all kinds of work to keep body and soul together; carpentering, stone masonry, plumbing, and other odd jobs which later included garage work. During this time, 1932, I started building the Duckett Sheep Herder Camp Stove (which I still build) to help supplement my income, I shipped these stoves over three states, this being when lots of sheep were being run in the country. Now the demand is for sportsmen mostly.
In 1922 I took a homestead, which I believe to be the last or next to last. Having met Rowena "Roe" Johnson early in my time here, we dated some three years, until I proved up on my homestead, as she had done time on one of her own and didn't relish the thought of doing time on another and it also being questionable if I could support a wife, but in January we decided two could live as cheaply as one, so on 25 January we were married in Enterprise. We returned to Imnaha promising ourselves a honeymoon at a later date.
Rowena Johnson, the youngest of four children of Jack and Florence Findley Johnson. Jack Johnson, the first white settler on the Imnaha and Florence Findley Johnson the oldest child of Alexander and Jane Findley, early pioneers in Wallowa County. Rowena "Roe" never took an active part in the business but did an important part in making a living, being a fine cook and feeding many customers over the years as there was no public eating places on Imnaha.
Our family consisted of two sons; Jack Myron, born 4 February 1926 and Leland Vance, born 30 July 1931. After selling our business in 1952, which at this time consisted of a sizable stock of hardware and a filing station, we moved to the ranch where Rowena was born (having purchased the hairs part of the ranch in 1944) where she became a full time partner in making a living.
We retired from running the ranch in 1961 and built a home across the road from the ranch house. We found as much to do as while ranching. Roe was librarian for many years, as long as her health permitted, where each of us enjoyed the school children, ours having left some time before. Roe made goodies for the children on library days for so many years as well as visiting with older people.
During these years, I managed to become involved in quite a lot of things that could have been though of as being none of my business. I started serving on the election board in 1922, appointed by Dave Reavis, county Clerk, where I have served continuously, having missed one election during this time. I disqualified myself as I was involved in the recall election of judge. I served thirty-five years on the school board, served on zoning/planning commission nine years, as first members appointed to the commission, on solid waste committee as well as other committees during my 62 years on Imnaha.
I have been honored for my activities during this time. Joseph Chamber of Commerce with Testimonial Dinner 13 April 1964, Cowbells Father of Year 1969, Distinguished Service Award by Wallowa County Jaycees in 1971 and 1972, Grand Marshall of Chief Joseph Days Parade. I hesitate to think I am entitled to all these honors, but deeply grateful to the ones responsible for them.
I am sure that I will be remembered by many as one who could have put in more time minding my own business.
With so many thanks to the people that helped make it possible to spend so many years in a county as nice as Wallowa County. Sincerely A.L. Duckett
History of Wallowa County
Page 184, 185
1983 - Wallowa County Museum Board
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