The Barn

Welcome to Sprague River.
This is a very small place, but, once upon a time, we held community in high esteem. “There are no longer any secure, or safe, places for the community to come together,” says Eric Bergstrom. And he would know—Eric has been in the Sprague River Valley since 1979.
The community used to come together at the only café in town: Ranchers came in every morning for coffee and donuts, unemployed folks could sit down there and find work, and people would socialize all day long over home-cooked meals.
Nowadays—and for the last ten years or more—the ranchers and old-timers have been meeting down at the post office and library (they share a building,) to talk over a cup of coffee and maybe a few donuts someone brings. Even that has mostly disappeared since COVID-19, as socializing in public spaces was discouraged, and the tables they used to gather around have been removed.
There have been few places, over the years, for the community to come together. And there are even fewer now.
“This community lacks a cohesive center—a place to pull the community back together.” That’s what Ron Willis says. Ron has been in the Valley even longer than Eric—close to 50 years, now. He hunted alongside the Klamath Native Americans, trapped for fur in the mountains, and built a log cabin with his own two hands, while his pregnant wife helped dig the well . . . by hand. He’s also the current—and founding—senior pastor at Sprague River Valley Christian Fellowship, and he’s watched this town’s sense of identity and community slowly fade away.
There used to be a Lion’s Club—and, on paper, there still is—but it’s been inactive for years. They founded Sprague River’s “Pioneer Days,” back in 1980, but that local festival has died down from a two-day jamboree to a couple of hours, once a year. The Lion’s Club has faded away as its proud members have passed away.
A couple times a month, the volunteer fire department would hold “Bingo Night,” and an occasional community dinner to help raise money for different local projects. Bingo Night hasn’t been held in years, though, nor a good spaghetti feed.
The community center is closed and locked, and only opens up when Sprague River Valley Christian Fellowship rents it for a church dinner.
The current community is nonexistent.

* * *

Sprague River is not your typical small community. It is an unincorporated township, with a population of, perhaps, eighty people.
With that stated, there are over two thousand people who claim Sprague River as their “hometown.” Many families can be found along the outskirts and throughout the Sprague River Valley. Many of these families are broken—single mothers and fathers trying to provide for their children, in a place where the poverty line is considered “living high on the hog.”
There are statistics to consider. 37.6% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. 21% of children in the United States are growing up without a father, or father figure, in the home. These children are more likely to experience behavioral issues, if the divorce happens between the ages of seven to fourteen. Children of divorced parents are twice as likely to commit suicide. 70% of all long-term prison inmates grew up in broken homes. These children are at greater risk of living in poverty. Children from a broken home are twice as likely to drop out of high school.
Here are some statistics of the children that grow up without a father, or a father figure, in the home:

  • Suicide: 63%
  • Runaways: 90%
  • Behavioral Disorders: 85%
  • High School Dropouts: 71%
  • Juvenile Detention: 70%
  • Substance Abuse: 75%
  • Agression: 75%

Motherless homes are less common, but just as broken.
Joseph Bergstrom (the son of Eric Bergstrom) came from a broken home. His mother left when he was six, but through his father’s dedication to the community, and Joseph’s love of music—as well as the guiding, helping hand of a local bluegrass band—Joseph beat the odds. And he wants to help others beat the odds, too.
Joseph and his father have had a dream for years. A dream to help the community of Sprague River. That dream is The Barn.
The Barn has changed and evolved over the years. Joseph wants to share his love of music and what music has taught him: persistence, loyalty, discipline, the power of hard work, and even a new way to view himself.
It is an ambitious plan; one full of loyalty to his home and community.
Joseph was born and raised five miles north of Sprague River, and has been there all of his life. His family has been in the Sprague River Valley for forty-five years, and they’ve become a landmark for everyone who’s come after—stubborn men who never back down from what they know is right.
The Bergstrom family spent years getting the land together; scraping money together from their meager living. Joseph remembers years without electricity, as generator gas money was instead used to save for another piece of property. A deck of cards, kerosene lamps, and a battery-powered radio were their nighttime entertainment, as they dreamed of what they would one day do with the property.
And now all that land has been passed to Joseph.
With his dream in one hand and the deeds to the land in the other, The Barn has seen its last evolution: It will be a music hall, with music workshops, and a place for all of the community to come together.
The Barn will be home to a recording studio, a place where young talent can grow and flourish. With both vocal and instrumental lessons offered, youngsters can have a place to try their hand at something new—something that can build lifelong values. The Barn will also be home to a radio station with weekly live shows, like Saturday Night in the Mountains, a weekly musical variety show showcasing local talent and keeping local music and traditions alive. This show will also give those who have taken part in the music workshops a chance to showcase what they have learned. The radio station will not only be for this one show, but also for podcasts from local authors, special church shows, talk shows, and music shows. The radio station will help give the community an identity.
Not only will The Barn serve as a music hall and music workshop, it will also serve as a place for the community to simply be. A place for the ranchers to come together for coffee and donuts in the mornings, and a place where people can gather for local events throughout the week.

* * *

To announce The Barn to the community, our town festival (Pioneer Days) will be revived, turning it once more into a two-day jamboree, filled with world-class live music, vendors selling little things and food, games for the children, and a craft fair.
This is no small dream. We want big-name bands, to encourage the children and the community.
As mentioned above, Pioneer Days has fallen by the wayside, dwindling year by year, until even our town centennial barely attracted any attention; the parade lasted all of two minutes. It was too much to bear, and when asked if the prior leadership was interested in continuing Pioneer Days, they said, “Not really,” and placed the whole event in The Barn’s care.
And it will be in good hands.
We are looking at July 19th and 20th, 2024, to be the dates of the festival, and we need your support to help bring it to life. We need donations, as well as raffle items for fundraisers, to make this a reality.
Our goal isn’t to have just another small town festival. We want a fair for the whole of Sprague River—one that every neighboring community is invited to come and be a part of. We want something we can all be proud of—not four hours of boredom, before we all decide to go home, because there’s nothing going on.
We’re planning a BBQ as well, and will need support for that too. Monetary donations always help, but food donations would make it much easier.

* * *

At this point, you might be wondering why we care so much about the community.
As was stated before, Joseph’s family has been in the Sprague River Valley for nearly half a century, and has watched the community fade into memories.
In 1979, Eric Bergstrom (Joseph’s father) purchased that land that Joseph grew up on—a thirty-five acre plot on the side of a mountain, with no non-four-wheel-drive, non-chain-up-all-the-tires access, six months out of the year. Building a life in such a hard place wasn’t easy, and living there still isn’t, but the community (and the dream of community) is what keeps the two of them going. Sprague River is Joseph’s home.
The property within Sprague River was acquired twenty years ago, one back-breaking piece at a time. That property in Sprague River will be a heart for the community to set its own roots around. The Barn will be the new gathering place for the community.
We want to help this small community grow and flourish—help the children of the community beat the odds, and give them the opportunity to gain skills; skills that may help them break the cycle. We want to give the community an identity.
“Whatever you put on that property, being in the center of town, will become what Sprague River is known for.” That’s what Jeff Johnson—a new resident on the outskirts of Sprague River, and the associate pastor at Sprague River Valley Christian Fellowship—says.
We thank you for taking the time to read and review our story and requests.

—Joseph & Charlaina Bergstrom

Donations (2)

  • Sandi Masterson
    • $20 
    • 2 mos
  • Elizabeth Sanger
    • $20 
    • 2 mos
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The Barn Sprague River
Sprague River, OR

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