Along the historic Langlois Mountain Road, at an elevation of 1,200 feet, sits a cluster of buildings. The modest complex overlooks a panorama of rolling hills, pastoral farmlands, and miles of distant shoreline. There’s a noteworthy story here, with three chapters: a pioneer homestead, a renowned military prep school, and a delightful group retreat.
In the late 1800s, this was the Strain family ranch, which included a small post office and rooms for travelers making the overland journey to and from Myrtle Point. In 1951, Homer and Esther Millard purchased the property. The couple had witnessed many hardships during World War II, so they sought to achieve self-sufficiency at this isolated location.
Homer attended college at West Point, and while there, he had realized the importance of adequate preparation for incoming cadets. This had led him to start the Millard School in Washington, D.C., which he operated with great success from 1925 to 1948. The Millard School’s cadet admission rate to West Point and other prestigious academies was high, and the achievements of Millard-trained graduates did not go unnoticed by WWII commanders who elected to enroll their sons. Among these are generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, Lucius Clay, Anthony C. McAuliffe, Willis Crittenberger, and Henry H. ‘Hap’ Arnold.
After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Homer left the management of his school to others and entered into military service on active duty in the Army Air Corps. Later, in the reserves, he attained the rank of colonel.
Meanwhile, Esther was a professor at the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu, during the Japanese bombings. In response, she decided to enter the Naval Reserves. As an active duty naval officer, Esther rose to the rank of lieutenant commander.
After the war, their fates merged during a happenstance meeting at the U.S. Armed Forces Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. Both quickly realized they shared a deep interest in education that forged a common bond between them. They soon married and made the move to Oregon.
The West Coast school
While developing their Oregon Coast refuge, the Millards soon realized they missed academics. So, they opted to inaugurate another Millard School. They renovated the old farmhouse and added several buildings: a gymnasium, a cookhouse, bunkrooms, and classrooms. In 1953, the facility opened and immediately received enrollments.
Homer’s excellent reputation paid off, providing a flood of word-of-mouth advertising and, subsequently, an ongoing lineup of students from across the nation.
The Millard method can be summed up in two words—discipline and dedication. Curriculum emphasized math and English along with history and fitness. School life was spartan and rigorous, but also highly rewarding, for each student was groomed to believe that success there led to attainment of larger goals.
Due to increasing demand, the school relocated to a larger compound at Bradley Lake, near Bandon, in 1962. Colonel Millard died that year, but Esther continued to offer quality education for the next 19 years. The last class to graduate was in 1981. In all, 3,000 students graduated from the Millard School in Oregon.
The Langlois Mountain ranch property sat dormant until Jaime Burpo-Sterling discovered the overgrown site and purchased it in 1993 with the idea of opening a retreat center.
Through several years, the six derelict structures underwent an extensive refurbishment, and the surrounding two acres of cow pasture was transformed into lush, tiered flower gardens that lead to a network of groomed hiking trails integrated throughout the 80-acre property.
In 1998, Burpo-Sterling opened the Langlois Mountain Retreat, offering a casual and comfortable setting for weddings, church groups, family reunions, and seminars. The previously austere buildings now provide a selection of accommodations, including the farmhouse, two dormitories, and a cabin, each with optional use of the kitchen, dining hall, and music room. A nearby meadow and newly constructed ocean-view gazebo are ideal for outdoor events or ceremonies.
Hints of the past remain. Shower stalls retain their period light fixtures and tile. Wallboard fragments are left exposed to display old newspaper coverings, and dated signatures—scrawled onto the walls by past students— continue to fade with time.
Many souls, for many reasons, have passed through this unique set of buildings atop Langlois Mountain. Today, it’s a relaxing haven for special occasions or for gathering with friends and family. END
WHEN YOU GO
Langlois Mountain Retreat (541-347-3303; www.langloismountainretreat.com) is located at 95959 Langlois Mountain Road. In the village of Langlois (located between Port Orford and Bandon), turn east off of Hwy 101 onto Langlois Mountain Road. At 4–1/4 miles you will see a sign for the retreat.
For more information about the Millard School, visit the Bandon Historical Society Museum on Hwy 101 at Filmore, in Bandon. (541-347-2164; www.bandonhistoricalmuseum.org/millard)