By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
In 1911 the railroad has just arrived in Bend, a city at that time who’s population sat at just a few thousand people. And with the railroad comes a Mr. William Cheney started a group called The Emblem Club.
“It had all of the big names in history in this Emblem Club,” Kelly Cannon-Miller with the Deschutes Historical Museum said.
Once he arrived in Bend, William Cheney invested his entire fortune into the Emblem Club, a group Cannon-Miller describes as an off-shoot of the Chamber of Commerce.
“They wanted to promote Bend, they wanted to promote Deschutes County. ‘The railroad’s now, here so come visit us! This is where you all want to invest your money!’”Cannon-Miller said.
To better market the town to others, Cheney also created one of Bend’s most famous logos.
“He was kind of a marketing genius because, that Bend logo that we see everywhere today? That’s the emblem!” Cannon-Miller said.
The group’s goal was to see Bend’s population reach 100,000 people by 1937.
“The big thing is that they all swore an oath, and the number one piece of that was that they were going to wear the emblem every day and on every occasion until the city of Bend reached 100,000 people,” Cannon-Miller said.
The club found some interesting ways to make those lofty dreams come true, hiring trains to pick up potential business clients in Seattle and Portland.
“We have some itineraries from these weekend adventures and they’re hilarious because they just kind of say they’re going to get everyone drunk and take them up Pilot Butte and let them see the landscape,” Cannon-Miller said.
They also liked to get into some hijinks from time to time.
“They actually would stage train robberies,” said Cannon-Miller. “All of the Emblem Club members would be dressed in Western attire like they were these vigilantes and they would stop the train and take all their wallets and things like. The most elaborate prank that they ever tried to pull was they would take them out to the desert, they tried to make them think that Lava Butte was erupting.”
The club disbanded in 1918, particularly in part because of the extravagance of Cheney’s shenanigans.
“Cheney actually went broke and had to leave town and go back into the oil business because he’d blown all of his money supporting the Emblem Club!” Cannon-Miller said.
But more than 100 years later, Cheney’s lofty goal was realized as the city of Bend’s population surpassed 100,000 in July of 2019.
“I think they would be very proud, they’d be happy,” said Cannon-Miller. “I think they would have been annoyed that they took so long!”
Though the club is gone, their traditional toast…still carries meaning today.
“The toast is ’Here’s to everybody, everywhere who is trying to be brave to be honest to be kind and to be cheerful’, and I think that that is just the greatest,” Cannon-Miller said.
The Deschutes Historical Society and Tower Theater had planned to celebrate the Emblem Club milestone with a party, but COVID-19 has put those plans on hold.