Caladonians gather:

The East Oregonian, Friday, June 16, 1899 carried an article headlined “Caledonians Gather.” It states: The attendance at the Caledonian Games Thursday at Athena was immense; the crowd in the grove where the sports were held being estimated at from 2,500 to 2,800. All Athena was there and many from the surrounding country…” The Athena band played at the opening exercises. There were games listed, orators who addressed the crowd, and a baseball game between Pendleton and Milton played during the day. A ball was given in the evening… Sounded like a good time was had by all! Keep the good times rolling!

The centennial year of 1999 was a great year for the Caledonian Games. Athena’s friendly tradition is still extended since 100 years ago. We still are “small, fun, relaxed, and friendly.” Those words describe Athena’s tradition for a century. People come here and remember. So gather your clan and bring them all here to Athena.

Don Duncan of Athena re-instituted our tradition in the 1976 bicentennial year as part of the country’s celebrations. Don did a splendid job of gathering, organizing and promoting and in a short time put the Caledonian Games on the map. Barrett Tillman, Clint Sloan, Sharon Dawn, Berle Nash and Sue Friese have all chaired the Caledonian Games committees. Sue still hangs in there as chairperson of the present day Caledonian Games.

We still say welcome in the old traditional way — Athena’s way and we like our visitors and guests to come and enjoy. We’re going to keep on saying welcome as best we can too, into the 21st century.

In 1866 Darwin A. Richards of New York settled on 200 acres near Wild Horse Creek southwest of what is now Athena. He operated a stage coach stop, with postal service,known as Richards’ Station. The original four block settlement was named Belleview by Mr. Richards, but locals employed more picturesque names such as Squawtown, Yellow Dog and Mud Flats.

In 1871 Thomas J. Kirk arrived in Umatilla County and acquired 450 acres adjacent to Richards. Others who settled in the area about this time included Benjamin D. Clemons, who built a smithy in 1878 and also the first house in the townsite which Richards and Kirk platted from their lands. This was accomplished in June of 1878, at the time of the Bannock Indian War. The community was named Centerville, as it was halfway between Pendleton and Walla Walla.

Centerville’s first church was organized in 1873 (five years before the town) when the Christian Church was formed. The Baptist congregation organized in 1890 and what is now Sacred Heart Mission Catholic Church came three years later. More recently a Seventh Day Adventist Church has been added.

Newspapers were an important part of early Athena life. The Centervillian was established in 1879 and became the weekly Athena Press. Robert Irving was editor when it was discontinued May 16, 1985.

In 1880 the Hotel St. Nicols was built and operated by John Froome. It is still standing on Main Street and formerly housed the Caledonian Games Office.

By 1890 saloons filled one solid block on Main Street, but there were other attractions. Two years laters, three doctors resided in town, and two railroads stopped at the two train depots.

The First National Bank was incorporated in 1890 by a group of businessmen with C.A. Barrett as president. At the time, Mr. Barrett was councilman and mayor. He was instrumental in having the first water system installed and helped bring electricity and a telephone system to town.

The First National Bank was purchased by the United States National Bank of Oregon on April 17, 1939.

The civic-minded T.J. Kirk, who donated property for the early churches, also provided land for a school. D.W. Jarvis was hired as superintendent in 1877, and 12 years later he suggested the name “Athena” replace “Centerville” as there were already two other Centervilles in the region. As a classical scholar, Prof. Jarvis said the rolling hills around the town were similar to those surrounding Athens, Greece, hence the new name. It was made official by the state legislature on May 16, 1889.

Athena’s first high school graduation was in 1897, with ten graduates. In 1915 a new school building was ready for use, and housed all 12 grades until McEwen High School was built in 1948 on land donated by the family of former Mayor Andrew B. McEwen. The 1915 building was destroyed by fire in 1975, and a new $1.3 million elementary school opened in 1977.

Barrett Tillman

Find out more about the past and present at the official Athena web site.

george_cameron Judge George Cameron and Athena Caledonian Games

“At the first Umatilla County Caledonian Society Picnic and Games in 1899, George J. Cameron, attorney, judge and Portland city council member, gave the principal address.  The Caledonian Society often contacted George Cameron to seek Portland talent to perform at Athena’s annual picnic and Games.   He frequently was featured here as a guest speaker.  The East Oregonian in 1899  reported that Cameron  spoke “in a manner fitting to the occasion and his speech was full of loyalty, not only to “auld Scotland”, but to the country of their adoption…..and the Scotchmen present were much charmed by Mr. Cameron’s eloquence.”  About his speech, the East Oregonian also wrote “It is spoken of as one of the finest public addresses heard in the county.”

(East Oregonian, Friday, June 16, 1899).


A wee bit more about Judge George Cameron:  he was born in Scotland in 1864 and came to Oregon in 1890.   He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1893. He was a Portland City Council member from 1898 to 1900 and became Municipal Judge in Portland from 1900-02 and 1905-1908, then District Attorney of Multnomah County from 1908-1912.

In helping to make arrangements for Athena’s annual Caledonian picnic and games he did us a big favor.  (In the final accounting of 1910, it was reported that $91.40 was paid for meals and travel from Portland to Athena for Portland talent.)  Doubtlessly, he had to have had good influence and active Scottish connections in Portland to make those arrangements.  Many business owners and bankers were Scottish and I should imagine they stood together.  Many popular Scottish societies flourished in Portland and all over the United States from 1889-99.

Portland’s Mayor Harry Lane (1905-09) tried to fight vice and clean up corruption in Portland, and that’s when Judge Cameron made the history books.  When Thomas Richards was charged with using his restaurant as a front for a house of ill-repute, his trial came to Judge Cameron’s court in January, 1906.   The Oregon Journalcalled the trial a farce. Municipal Judge Cameron sympathized with liquor interests in their battle against Mayor Lane’s efforts to clean up vice. Subpoenas were stolen and false ones issued in order to embarrass the prosecution.  (Leave it to a Scotsman to go to battle for liquor interests… or another Scotsman.) Those actions became referred to as shenanigans and Cameron became branded a scoundrel a hundred years later.  Cameron’s name appears in a 1999 article about the history of soccer in Portland.  He played a major part in sponsoring and supporting soccer.   He donated the prestigious Cameron Cup soccer award.

In the colorful past of Portland and Oregon’s history, Judge George J. Cameron laid it on the line.  It would appear that he fought for what he believed, supported his friends, loved his heritage and apparently gave his all to Portland and Oregon.  Born in Scotland, he came to Oregon and visited Athena, where he captured the hearts of Scots who gathered here.  He praised Scotland, the Motherland and America, the land that embraced him. The Honorable Judge George J. Cameron was well-loved in Athena.

History  of the Bench and Bar of Oregon,
Lansing, Jewell.  Portland, People, Politics, and Power  1851-2001, Oregon State University Press, 2003.

MacColl,  E. Kimbark.  Merchants, Money, &  Power  The Portland Establishment  1843-1913, The Georgian Press, 1988.
Porter,  David M.   History of Soccer in Oregon,


Our “ambassadors of good will,” former Chieftains of the Day, help us welcome you to Athena. The Chieftains of the Day are Citizens of the Year, awarded for outstanding service to our community. The Games Association recognizes the continuing service they do for Athena and the Caledonian Games.

2015 Doris McMillan and Bud Schmidgall. Honorary Chieftians Mark Steltmann and the Athena Volunteer Fire Department
2014 Carrie Bremer and Dan Cogswell
2013 Bob and Deborah Johns
2012 Delbert Durfee and Wilma Trout
2011 Everett Pixler, Dick Scheibner, Judy Price, Kathy Jensen and Janet Mandaville
2010 Joanne Huntsman and Rob MacIntyre; Erik Lynde – Honorary Chieftan
2009 Cindy Jones and Dean Parker
2008 John Nichols and Clint Sloan
2007 Nancy Parker and Gary Munck
2006 Cathy Roscoe and Sue Friese
2005 Irene Boatright and Duane Smalley
2004 Dennis Jones and Ross Snodgrass
2003 Deb Glover and Dick Pittman
2002 Margaret Hansell
2001 Dorothy Bjorklund and Tim Albert, Mike Humbert, Humbert Refuse Service, Honorary
2000 Ada Veatch and Steve Pyle, Colin Gemmell, Honorary
1999 Marie McMillan and Elvin Taylor
1998 Karen Albert and Bill Hansell
1997 Janet Miller and Dick Roscoe
1996 Patricia Hunkapillar and Helen Callaway
1995 Mildred H. Miley and David Lynde, Elvin Taylor, Honorary
1994 Robert “Bob” McMillan and Althadel Beamer
1993 Terry Schmidtgall and Willard “Bill” McMillan
1992 Harold Youncs
1991 Kathryn (Kate) Pittman and Gene Hodgson
1990 June Schmidtgall and Walter Veatch
1989 Sharon Dawn and Tom Munck
1988 Lee Duncan and Ed Miley, Honorary
1987 Ken Bjorklund and Helen Miller
1986 Don Duncan
1985 Charles (Chuck) McCullough
1984 Steve Pyle
1983 Harold H. Searcey
1982 Jerry Fetterly
1981 Ted Smith
1980 Lt. Col. John McEwing
1979 Mr. and Mrs. Robert A Johnson
1978 Don Duncan
1977 Lt. Col. John McEwing
1976 Lt. Col. John McEwing