Saturday, December 13, 2008

Durkee, OR

A small town, just a dot on the map near the interstate, in northeastern Oregon, that happens to carry my family name. I stopped for twenty minutes on the morning I drove through. I took photos. I'd seen it all in twenty minutes. Twice.

Apparently, this was a water stop on the Oregon Trail. There's nothing here now but a few ranches, some unpaved roads, including Durkee Road, a community center, a couple of churches, a crossroads of county and state highways, a bunch of run-down houses and some stray dogs. Does anyone named Durkee still live here? I don't know.

Maybe it was the time of day, or the day itself, but I saw no people. A couple of dogs ran out from their yards to bark at and chase the truck.

I drove back and forth through the town twice, got out to take photos, took self-portraits also, for the record and the humor of it.

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Blogger Dave King said...

You don't sat what it feels like to have a town named after you.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Well, it wasn't named after me, but some ancestor, so I don't take it personally. The fact that it's there is WHY I stopped in for a visit, of course. It felt fun, but also absurd in an existentially humorous sort of way.

Everyone with my surname in the United States is descended from one Irishmen who came over in the 16th century. I'm tenth generation on that side of the family. We have all the kinship charts. The Durkee Spice Co. was started by a branch of the family that moved West early on; they're probably like my fourth cousins.

That it's an uncommon surname with a known history means that I've felt like a minority for a long time. There are many ways in which I'm "different," and always have been. Stopping in at the town with my name on it wasn't the first time I've felt "different" or "unusual," so it's not a new experience.

What I'm curious about is how the town got the name. Probably a relative settled there, when it was a stop on the Oregon Trail, and it got named after him (or her). It literally is a dot on the map.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

It would definitely be fun to have a postal address like:

Art Durkee
Durkee Road
Durkee, OR

People would think it was fake. :)

11:49 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


My uncle, David Durkee, has found some genealogical and historical info about Durkee, OR, which you can read here, and here, and a bit more here. The links from that first page are worth following for more info, too.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

I remember passing through there years and years ago much for the same reason as you. There was one gas station, and the lone person there responded to a question about the population of Durkee with the response, "26 or 27... depending on how many are in prison that weekend." I am still not sure if she was joking or not.

An interesting experience though, that's for sure.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Keeler said...

I lived in Durkee for a while as a teenager. I think I was related to just about everyone there, yet knew no one. My mother, Rebecca, or Becky as the town called her worked at the truck stop. I think you have captured the whole town except the house I lived in..smiles. Thanks for sharing your pics.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

My pleasure, Keeler. It's funny, I stopped in there a few days ago, again, just passing through on my way East, like before. This time though I stopped in at the truck stop to use the bathroom and get a bottle of water and a snack. Had a nice conversation with the man who worked there. (Red-headed like everyone in my own family, which maybe goes to show the family line breeds true. LOL) It was weird seeing my name on the cash register software, though. I took more pics, too, driving through and around again. I'll post them soon.

Thanks again for the comments.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art thank you for sharing. My surname is Durkee and I would never had guessed that a TOWN was named Durkee and was even surprised that a street had my surname. Very cool to see these pictures, forwarded it to family. Thanks Kathy Durkee Patterson

9:20 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, Kathy, thanks for the comments. It was a surprise to me. Since I was passing through, I just had to stop. :)

11:06 PM  
Blogger Blu Brooks said...

Art, I must thank you for this wonderful info you have put out there for us to find. Also, a wonderful lady, Kathy Patterson, sent your site to me. my husband is Carl Durkee. His family lineage goes back to Fort Durkee which is near Wilkesbarre, PA. Named for General Durkee, during French and Indian War, or Revolutionary War, we aren't sure exactly which. Kathy Brooks Durkee

12:10 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, and thanks for the comment. We are everywhere!

I know from the genealogy that's been done that Durkees fought in both those wars, as we lived in upstate Connecticut and Massachusetss by then.

One or my direct Durkee ancestors, in Michigan around Civil War times, was named Marquis de Lafeyette Durkee. Everyone called him Marcus. His gravesite is near Lansing.

2:59 PM  

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