Petition to correct spelling goes to state committee
Scott Stluka, an avid birder and hiker with an interest in natural history, is also curious about the history of places he explores in the valley.
After an outing at Riser Lake, a spot in the Rendezvous known for spring and summer bird-watching, Stluka discovered that the name is a misspelling of Rizeor, a man who homesteaded at the lake in the late 19th century.
Stluka, who’s lived in the valley for six years, started his research on the Shafer Museum’s website, where he looked through the vast repository of photos and family histories about valley residents. Stluka didn’t find anything for Riser, but he turned up a photo with a description that mentioned Jack Rizeor, who had a homestead at the lake.
More research at the Okanogan County Historical Society (OCHS) turned up a reference to a Henry Rizeor, who had a farm 3 miles northwest of Winthrop that “is improved in good shape,” where Rizeor raised diversified crops and livestock.
Sharon Sumpter, a volunteer archivist at the Shafer, did a little more digging and found additional information on Henry Jackson Rizeor, who homesteaded near Lewis Butte, which is across from the lake.
Stluka compiled his research and submitted a petition to the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names, seeking to correct the spelling of Riser Lake to Rizeor.
Late 1880s arrival
Rizeor arrived in the Methow in 1889 after prospecting and trapping in Idaho, Alaska and British Columbia. He farmed and raised “good fruit and melons,” irrigated by the lake, according to the 1904 “An Illustrated History of Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan and Chelan Counties, State of Washington,” in the OCHS collection. Rizeor also owned mines in the county.
Rizeor was born in Illinois. His family was part of the westward migration — they made the trek to Oregon in 1853 with an ox team when Rizeor was 4 years old.
The Shafer doesn’t have a photo of Rizeor, but does have a picture of Zella Lewis, Rizeor’s niece, who reportedly came to the Methow on her uncle’s recommendation. The photo shows Zella and Harmon Lewis at their homestead near Lewis Butte, which was named for them.
The illustrated history also credits Rizeor with naming Cub Creek, where he killed two cubs (it doesn’t specify whether they were bear or cougar cubs).
It’s not clear if Rizeor had family in the Methow other than Zella. The illustrated history says, “Mr. Rizeor is still leaving untried the seas of matrimony and does not as yet depart from the quieter joys of the bachelor’s life.”
Stluka said a representative with the Committee on Geographic Names said the lake is a good candidate for a name change.
Stluka said he had “no skin in the game,” but that Rizeor is “a cooler spelling.” Plus, “It’s really important right now to keep history straight,” he said.
The committee reviews proposals submitted by the public and makes recommendations to the Board on Geographic Names for final approval.
The committee will review the Rizeor proposal for initial consideration at its April meeting. If approved for final consideration, the committee will formally solicit comments, but the public is encouraged to send comments at any time. For more information or to comment, email email@example.com.