Many words have been written about Sunriver’s historic Great Hall, now used as a meeting and wedding venue. It is the magnificent legacy of Camp Abbot constructed in 1943 by the Army Corps of Engineers. We know the camp’s Commander, Col. Frank Besson chose his most elite engineers to construct an officers club in the style of a mountain lodge. We know the engineers and craftsman used over 500 hand-hewn logs and tons of native rock to complete the project. History tells us construction began in October 1943 and was completed in December 1943. The Army spent a mere $4,796 to obtain materials not available locally. It was a training exercise for soldiers and engineers bound for the European front. Yes much is known about the stately Great Hall, but one piece of history remains a mystery… What was the Bush Raising Ceremony?
Among the photographs obtained from the Army after it vacated Camp Abbot and through other private individuals; is a photo of a Bush Raising Ceremony on December 24, 1943. Some historians record the ceremony was to commemorate completion of the roof of the Great Hall. This was no small accomplishment at the time. (The building itself was not formally dedicated until the following May of 1944.) The next evening, Christmas 1943 a dance was held in the hall attended by officers WACS and local ladies bussed in for the occasion. It was a well-attended affair and remains one of the most memorable held in the Great Hall. Is it possible Army tradition called for some kind of dedication before the hall was host to such a festive occasion, but a ceremony less traditional than a formal military dedication? Is it possible the officers took it upon themselves to informally dedicate the Great Hall, hence a Bush Raising?
I first contacted the Army Corps of Engineers requesting information on a Bush Raising Ceremony. They have no record of it. Then I tried googling “bush raising ceremony” (in quotes) and there is one result on the search engine; a brief history of the Great Hall and a mention of the Bush Raising Ceremony, but no details. My next thought was that a bush raising might be a Native American ceremony. A search of rituals of tribes located in Central Oregon produced no record of a ceremony akin to a Bush Raising. Next, I consulted the Sunriver Nature Center which holds the most comprehensive archives of Sunriver history. They suggested I consult two local historians, Jay Bowerman and Brooke Snavely, Editor of the Sunriver Scene Newspaper. Neither gentleman could tell me about the Bush Raising Ceremony. The consensus in Sunriver is; if they don’t know the answer, then no one knows the answer.
As of this writing the Bush Raising Ceremony remains a mystery. Perhaps there is a Camp Abbot veteran out there who can solve the Mystery of the Camp Abbot Bush Raising Ceremony?
The Great Hall in 1943:
The Great Hall today. The premier wedding and meeting venue in the Northwest:
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