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The McClannahan Family Story

At MonteVista Homes, we pride ourselves in building the places where life’s most important relationships are developed, and that begins with a look at the history of the land before us.

Before the foundation was formed and the houses were built, there was the land. Owned by Mitch and Candace McClannahan – you guessed it, that is where the community name came from! Mr. McClannahan and his family have long-standing roots in Umatilla County going back many generations. As prominent figures in the community having started several businesses, helped to make improvements to the community, and their civic involvement – their story is incredible and worth a read!

Mitch is a 7th generation Oregonian – let that sink in because that alone is rare these days! Mitch was born in the small town of Merril, Oregon, in 1949 where his mother had also grown up. His dad, William McClannahan, served in WWII and was a mechanic at an internment camp. When he was injured during the war, he returned back to the States and was reassigned to the town of Merril, after which Mitch was born.

His father, having been injured, did not return to service and applied for a grant to purchase land available through the VA. He qualified for 160 acres in Burbank, WA. So, in 1950, they packed their bags, and off to Burbank they went! They farmed a portion of this land and over the years had farmed many acres of land across both Oregon and Washington. They primarily grew potatoes and wheat and at one point had 2,500 acres of land they farmed.

Mitch grew up in Burbank where he graduated High School in 1967. He continued on to engineering and physics school but dropped out shortly after as his father became ill. He planted roots in Umatilla to help run the farm they had at the time. When Mitch first moved to Umatilla, it was a small “pit stop” town with nothing but bars and gas stations, and a population of about 600. Nothing like it is today!

All throughout his younger years, Mitch helped run the farm, harvest the crops, and load the goods onto trucks to be shipped out and sold to other produce brokers all over the country. How cool is that to be young and have a hand in helping to feed people literally all over the country!

Mitch’s dad had learned to farm potatoes from a friend during his time in the service. However, the McClannahan generation of farmers stems further back than that. There is a picture hanging on the wall of a harvesting machine being pulled by some 20 horses – one of Mitch’s great Uncles’ is steering those horses. So incredible to reflect back on how far farming innovations have come since then.

Can you imagine for a minute, just the sheer amount of work involved to not only run a farm, but to run a farm PLUS own 30-some horses on top of that? The horses alone require grooming, water, feeding, halters and saddles setup, the list goes on. To have a crew of 20 horses to pull a harvesting machine means they had to own at least 30 horses to keep the crew running properly – amazing! Harvesting by horse took months compared to today’s world of harvesting in a matter of days.

While in Umatilla helping to run the farm, Mitch lived on Madison Street – you probably passed it along your way here. Back then, he bought the house for only about $18,000! Now, I know what you are thinking… can you snag one of these brand-new homes for that price? Don’t we all wish!!

Jokes aside, Mitch and his first wife had four kids together: Mitchell, Patrick, Billy, and Kimberly. The land where the McClannahan Summit community resides has been in the family for many years. Over time, they began to sell off portions of the land and his dad had dedicated roughly 10 acres to the School District. You will see the future school site on some of the maps hanging on the walls here. You are probably wondering why Mitch chose to sell the rest. Bare with us, you will soon find out!

Over the years of living in Umatilla County, the McClannahan family established many firsts, started numerous businesses, and was involved in giving back to the community. To name a few:

  • Mitch and his dad installed the first pump station in Umatilla to help with irrigation water needs. They even later built a second pump station.
  • They were also the first in the area to use a circle irrigation system. Helping to bring new ways of farming to the area. People thought they were crazy for even attempting to grow potatoes in Eastern Oregon, but they proved to be very successful.
  • His father had started the Oregon Potato Company, which he later sold and is still in business today.
  • Mitch’s mother, Velma Jean (Bowman) McClannahan, spent 28 years on the Board of Trustees for the Umatilla Hospital and in fact, the new conference hall that is being built will be named after her.
  • Mitch had started up a dehydration business for onions and garlic. The business produced 125 tons of product a day and had roughly 150 employees. This also led to a storage business as he discovered a process that allowed for onions to be stored at safe levels despite the heat and sandy soil environment which at the time could not be done elsewhere. He ended up selling the dehydration business as the company was sought after and had a good reputation.
  • Mitch also started Karling Electric when he was around 30 years old. The company provided electrical switch gear that was used primarily in treatment facilities and for potable water. The majority of his product was sold overseas, so he traveled all around the world for work – visiting places in South Korea, Asia, the Middle East – if you name a country, he has most likely been there. And all while raising 3 kids! He owned and operated the company for roughly 30 years before he sold it.
  • Mitch served as a city councilman for a period of time and has volunteered as a fireman and EMT.            

Mitch’s resume is quite impressive, especially for someone who was voted most likely NOT to succeed in High School. At one point, he was also an underwater welder on the side. You should Google this if you aren’t familiar with the extremities of this job and to do it on the side is a whole other level of awesomeness! This list is only a portion of the McClannahan family’s accomplishments and dedication to the community. Overall, Mitch has started around 15 businesses in his lifetime.

Let’s stop here.

You are probably wondering two things:

1. Mitch has an impressive background, what drove his success?

2. Why sell the McClannahan Summit land?

What drove his success was the need to stay busy. While the story above seems like one of success and joy, no one’s life goes by without both the ups and downs. Mitch’s son, Billy, passed at a young age from a drowning accident. Through the loss and experiencing grief, Mitch chose to work hard and stay busy as a way to cope. He and his wife ended up divorcing and Mitch raised the three kids all while running Karlington Electric and traveling the world. His mom and dad lived next door and provided great support.

Years later, he met Candace through her dad who was a pilot. He got to know her dad very well through all of his years traveling the globe. Candace and Mitch have been married for 23 years, with a total of five kids between the two, and now have five grandkids and two great-grandkids. You may have heard of Universal Realty in Hermiston, the oldest Real Estate Company in Umatilla County that was owned by Candace’s stepmom, Charlotte and her dad, Kenneth C. Dack. Candace and Mitch currently live in Kalama, WA, and have been there for a number of years now. They moved away from Umatilla when the new Port of Kalama opened. Mitch was still running Karlington Electric at the time and the new port offered much cheaper freight for his overseas business.

Even though Mitch had sold Karlington Electric, he still continues to stay busy even at the age of 74. For the past 7 years or so, he has been doing consulting work. Now don’t get it wrong when we say they moved to Kalama, because Mitch continues to travel back and forth to Umatilla. He still owns several properties and businesses downtown and has been known to take in stray cats and dogs. So, if you see him around, tell him hello!

This brings us to point two: why sell the McClannahan Summit land? As their kids grew up and Mitch and Candace moved away, they came to the realization that it was time to sell, and it would make for a great development opportunity. They also own other properties and wanted to reprioritize. Rather than selling it on the open market – after all, Candace’s family is in the Real Estate business – he wanted to go a different route that would offer more flexibility. Mitch had heard of MonteVista Homes being a quality builder with a good reputation and chose to partner! Now, here we are today turning the once barren land into a beautiful community that many generations ahead can enjoy.

THANK YOU for taking the time to read this story! As a future homeowner (crossing our fingers here), we hope you enjoy the history, the community, and your home for many years to come!

Thank you to Mitch and Candace for choosing MonteVista Homes to develop the land into what is now McClannahan Summit. What once was their family’s land will now be home to many, and we have you to thank for that. We appreciate the relationships that have formed – our team has enjoyed getting to know the family throughout the process. Thank you for allowing us to share your story.

Check out the gallery below to view more photos and newspaper articles of the McClannahan family and their ancestors, plus a few historical snapshots of Umatilla!