Saturday, April 7, 2018

Wallowa County's Historical Bug Out Camp

The historical Eugene Pallette place near Joseph, Oregon. Photo courtesy of

Eugene William Pallette is one of two famous actors who found a refuge from the glitz and glare of Hollywood in Wallowa County. (The other is Walter Brennan).

Pallette is known for roles such as Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robinhood and Fray Felipe in The Mark of Zorro. He worked steadily from 1913 to 1946, spanning the silent and sound movie eras, then he moved to the wilds of Wallowa County.

Buying the Ranch
Pallette and his partner Claude Hall began purchasing land 68 miles southeast of Joseph, Oregon, on the upper Imnaha River in the late 1930s, including the homestead the Butler family established in 1893 and the old Fruita post office.
Pallette built many of the improvements on the ranch with his own hands. When he wasn't doing chores and fixing up the place, he enjoyed fishing with actor friends like Clark Gable, who shared his love of the outdoors.
Well Stocked Hideout
By the mid-1940s Pallette and Hall had amassed a 3,500 spread. It was the midst of WWII and the ranch was stocked with everything a person and his friends would need to hide from the communists and survive the end of the world as we know it.

A reporter of the day heard something about the Hollywood actor building an elaborate bug-out camp in the wilds of Oregon and the news turned into a media feeding frenzy. By the time the Saturday Evening Post got hold of the story, the Pallette Ranch had become "Hollywood's Hideout." Others called it a "fortress" that was reportedly stocked with a sizeable herd of cattle, enormous food supplies, and had its own canning plant and lumber mill.
Whether or not the virulently anti-Communist Pallette was turning his remote ranch into a bug-out sanctuary, he certainly didn't appreciate all the media attention about his activities.
"I’d like to lay my hands on that guy," Pallette said in a 1940 interview with journalist Sheilah Graham. "I mean the guy who started the story that I have a country hideaway for actors in case the war or something forces them out of work, or ‘comes the revolution.’"
In 1977, Pallette’s former partner, Claude Hall, wrote in the Lewiston Morning Tribune that, "Such remarks would anger Gene." Yet a few paragraphs later the article noted that Pallette, "stored all the staples that his community might need to survive an invasion."

Back to Hollywood

Pallette wearied of the place for one reason or another and in 1948 he began to dispose of the ranch holdings. He returned to Los Angeles, but never appeared in another movie.

Whatever Pallette's intentions for the ranch, it definitely looks like it would have been a good place to wait out the end of the world. A real estate brochure from 2013 depicted the remote homestead with a number of rustic structures, including a 976-square foot log home with wood and propane stoves; an 836-square foot guests house, a bunk house with five rooms, a mess hall, a bathhouse with deck and Jacuzzi, historic cabin, barn, machine shop, warehouse, and a pantry with large walk-in fridge and freezer, wood shed, and ice house.

A portion of the original Pallette Ranch holdings were purchased in 2016 by a couple from Western Washington. They have been raising cattle and fixing up the place for weddings, family reunions, and other group rentals. Message them on Facebook for information.








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