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Historical Society to explore the life and times of Charles Newell

Newell built a castle-like home on Dog Mountain

by Karen Nitz
for the Burns Times-Herald

Built by Charles Newell, this century-old stone structure sits at the southern end of Sunset Valley. (Submitted photo)
Built by Charles Newell, this century-old stone structure sits at the southern end of Sunset Valley. (Submitted photo)

After having led a full life as a soldier, miner, buffalo hunter, cattleman, mail carrier, freighter, merchant and educator, all by the age of 43, Charles Callaway Newell arrived in the Harney valley in 1889 with high hopes of making a fresh start with his growing family in the newly-created county. Always one to seize opportunity, the one-armed Newell was involved in many endeavors during his residence in the county. He filled a variety of roles within the local community as teacher, school superintendent, land office receiver, newspaperman, politician, stockman, farmer, and advocate for the local Paiute tribe, but he was perhaps most well-known for his castle-like home on Dog Mountain.

Many Harney County residents recognize the century-old stone structure at the southern end of Sunset Valley simply as “the castle” or “the haunted house.” Many myths have circulated throughout the local community as to the original occupants of the house. Rumors persist of untimely deaths; spirits are said to haunt the forlorn remnants of the formerly stately house overlooking what was once promoted at the time as a homesteader’s paradise.

Charles Newell began construction on this castle-like dream house for his young family in 1906.  Work on the home and outbuildings progressed over the course of several years.  In November 1909, a writer for The Herald newspaper in Burns described the appearance of the prominent dwelling as follows:

“The writer visited the Charles Newell farm the other day and found considerable activity. A fine stone residence occupies a commanding view and when completed, will be one of the finest farm homes in the state. A large barn is being put up now that will house a large number of stock besides hay, grain, farm machinery, and wagons. Over 100 acres of ground is being prepared for seeding and it can all be covered by water from an ideal reservoir just above.”

Newell’s home served as the site of many community and family events in the ensuing years. Following the family’s departure from Harney County, the vacant, twin-gabled manse has stood as a silent sentinel over the once bustling homesteads scattered across the valley south of Wright’s Point.

The Harney County Historical Society invites you to join them at noon Thursday, March 17, at the Burns Elks Lodge for a slide show presentation recounting the colorful life and adventures of Charles Callaway Newell, his family, and the legend of their striking home that stands testament to the fulfillment one man’s dream in Harney County.

Monthly programs sponsored by the historical society are free and open to the public. You need not be a member of the historical society or the Elks to attend. Historical society membership forms will be available for those wishing to join.

An optional $6 lunch is served by the Elks beginning at 11:45.

Preparations are under way for the season opening of the Harney County Historical Museum in early April. The museum is operated entirely by volunteers. We need your help to ensure the doors are able to stay open for visitors. If you would like to volunteer to staff the front desk or help maintain and prepare displays, please call the museum at 541-573-5618 or email Knowledge of local history is not required.

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2 thoughts on “Historical Society to explore the life and times of Charles Newell

  1. Charles C. Newell – My Great-great grandfather by his Son Ben – my mother’s (Debra Newell – Burns Police Dispatcher) grandfather. Many stories told during the family reunions still held in Emmett, ID every year. Used to have a painting of this house hanging in my grandfather’s house growing up.

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