It started with Oregon sheep and their lush wool. Dyed, carded and spun into yarn, the wool became Indian trade blankets of uncommon quality, longevity and beauty. The wool became a brand: Pendleton.
The Bishop family opened Pendleton Woolen Mill in 1909. Six generations later, their Jacquard looms, each capable of weaving a blanket more colorful than a rainbow, still spin that wool into gold in mills in the town of Pendleton as well as in Washougal, Wash.
The Bishops trace their roots to Thomas Kay. The Englishman opened a woolen mill in the Willamette Valley in 1890, followed by his daughter, then three grandsons who kept the company flourishing, moved to Pendleton, opened retail stores and spun off other products. Along the way, Pendleton grew into a symbol of the West.
Pendleton has crafted commemorative blankets for national parks, supplied a trans-Atlantic submarine expedition, furnished blankets for athletes in the Olympics and given one to every president since Warren G. Harding in 1923. Its plaid shirts became the uniform of California surfers in the '60s. A rock band named themselves the Pendletones, then switched to The Beach Boys, and wore those signature shirts for the album cover of Surfer Girl.
Woolen mills have virtually disappeared in the United States, but Pendleton has weathered competition, bad economies and price spikes from the first retail store in Seaside, Ore., in 1910. Reprinted in part from The Oregonian