Oregon Trail: Day 7 – Pendleton Underground

It was a shorter drive from La Grande to Pendleton than anticipated so we rolled into the Wildhorse Casino and RV Resort http://www.wildhorseresort.com well before check-in time. We had reserved this place on a lark, because they have a big cineplex and figured we could pawn the kids off on a movie and do a little gambling. We got a shady spot next to the cutest little custom trailer and set up our camp. 

After settling we headed into town to tour the famous and long lived Pendleton Woolen Mills http://www.pendleton-usa.com. Unfortunately we arrived just after their 11am tour started and the next tour wasn’t for a few hours. We decided to shop the store instead and found ourselves the new owners of an heirloom Pendleton wool blanket.   


We had made reservations for a one-o-clock tour of the Pendleton Underground http://www.pendletonundergroundtours.org/ which we had heard about when we were on the tour of Kam Wah Chung Cultural Heritage Site in John Day. But before the tour we stopped for a quick lunch at local brewery.

We arrived for our tour just a few minutes late and it was already underway. It was excruciatingly hot out – about 107 degrees. The tour highlighted about 70 years of history under the town of Pendleton, from card rooms, bars, and opium dens, to Chinese laundries, jails, butcher shops, and ice cream parlors. It also included a tour of one of Pendleton’s many brothels. Unfortunately much of the tour wasn’t air conditioned and while the history was interesting it was also painfully hot and a bit long (90 minutes). But by and large we learned a lot about the Pendleton Underground (much of it built by the Chinese who were unable to get work in the mines.

 The history of the brothels and the beloved Madam Stella Darby (who ran brothels in Pendelton from 1928-1967) was interesting. She ran what were called the Cozy Rooms which was a transitional and safer form of prostitution. The Madam also ran a regular brothel but as her girls wanted to get out of the business she’d transition them to the Cozy Rooms where they could still make money seeing clients but in a safer environment. She’d help to teach the girls in the after hours (basic education and business accumen) aand match them with husbands so they could leave the business.  There’s a bronze of her outside the building.


After the tour we headed to the Pendleton Aquatic Center which had a few water slides and pools where we could cool ourselves before heading back to the Wildhorse Casino RV Park to make dinner. Even after cooling ourselves down the camp site was registering 108 in the shade.

After dinner the girls did watch a movie (but in the trailer with the AC on) which allowed us to go lose some money at the casino and catch a funnier than expected comedy show before retiring for the night.

Categories: Great American Roadtrip | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: