"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke
This commemorative plaque is placed at the base of the flag pole at the Post Office.
The Church - over 100 years old.
Out in the plains of Central Oregon is the tiny town of Antelope, first incorporated in 1871. Today, Antelope has a population of under 50, plus the handful of ranchers that live in the area. Antelope has a fascinating history from the start - scene of range wars for cattle and sheep - scene of railroad wars to get the spur line - rerouting of the major highway around the town - but the dramatic events that took place here in the early 1980's were an invasion and take over of the town. It struggled and it endured.
We went out to Antelope a few weeks ago. I bought some stamps at the Post Office and asked about the commemorative plaque which sits at the base of the flag pole. The Postmistress, a lifetime member of the community, was wonderful to talk to. Antelope has never been the same and is changing from a farming/ranching community as the ranches are being bought up and turned into hunting clubs. But, Antelope remains the center of frightening and momentous events in the early 1980's.
In 1981, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, purchased the Big Muddy Ranch, 64,000 acres for $5,750,000. There he and his followers built the Rajnesshpuram - a city/commune. Clashing with the city and county codes and laws over permits for the building they were doing was a problem for them. The commune expanded to over 4,000 people and expanded to take over the town of Antelope. The infiltration into Antelope, led to them taking over the town government and renaming it the City of Rajneesh. They had their own armed guards and their own laws and policies, which were imposed on the people of Antelope.
In 1984, they bused in homeless people to register them to vote. The end goal was to take over the county government, as well. When this plan was thwarted, the homeless people were left to fend for themselves, and quickly disappeared. In 1984, members of the commune introduced Salmonella organisms into salad bars at restaurants in The Dalles and 750 people were taken sick. The idea was to prevent them from going to the polls to vote.
Eventually, Anand Sheela, fled and was eventually arrested. The Bhagwan was captured in 1985 and was deported to his homeland of India. The commune collapsed. The members had given their earthly goods and money to the Bhagwan and were left penniless and homeless.
In 1996, a wildfire eradicated the buildings at Rajneeshpuram. Today, it is owned by a Christian camp.
The town of Antelope has endured. It endured invasion and armed occupation. These are strong and brave people stood up to evil and won. I applaud them. The chapter in our history of the Rajneeshi's is much forgotten. But, like all evils, we must remember.
The video below is a history of the Rajneeshpuram.