Chronology of Baker City, Baker County, Oregon

1811: Wilson Price Hunt, leading the John Jacob Astor overland expedition, passes through Baker Valley know then as The Lone Tree Valley. Hunt is responsible for first crossing the Blue mountains to the Columbia, thus establishing a passage for the western end of the Oregon Trail, the major travel route to the West. He arrived in Astoria in 1812.
1841: Through 1869 more than 250,000 Americans take the Oregon Trail to the west, starting their journey in Independence, Missouri. Nearing the end of their journey, they arrived at Farewell Bend on the Snake River and proceeded to conquer the treacherous Burnt River Canyon. The Trail ahead led them across      Virtue Flat to Flagstaff Hill and into Powder River Valley. In the distance lay the challenge of the Blue Mountain crossing.  
1845: Famous “Lost Wagon Train.” In August 1845, a group of wagons, led by Stephen Meek, left the Oregon Trail for a short cut to Western Oregon. After suffering many hardships and deaths, the survivors reached The Dalles in October. While camped at a tributary of the John Day River, small yellow pebbles were found along the water’s edge. NOT realizing that the pebbles were gold, they were left behind in an old blue bucket and the legend of the “Lost Blue Bucket Mine” was born.
1847: The Whitman Massacre. The news of conflict with the Indians discouraged the settlement of Eastern Oregon until more military protection could be supplied.
1861: Gold discovered in Baker County. Four men, searching for the fabled “Lost Blue Bucket Mine,” found gold in Griffin Gulch, south of where Baker City is now located.
1862:  In the Spring, the town of Auburn was laid out in Blue Canyon and soon mushroomed to the unbelievable population of about 5,000 people! It was even considered a lively prospect for the Capitol of Oregon.
1862: In October, Baker County was established and named after Col. Edward Dickinson Baker, Oregon’s first Senator. Baker died during the Civil War at the Battle of Balls Bluff, the only member of Congress to die in that conflict. The first county seat of Baker County was the town of Auburn.
1862: Sumpter was established.
1862: Express Ranch was established as a Wells Fargo stage station. It was later renamed Durkee when the railroad purchased the right of way.
1862: The Chandler Wagon Train arrived in Powder River Valley in September and settled at Pine City at the foot of the Elkhorn Ridge of the Blue mountains. The town was moved down the mountain and renamed Pocahontas.
1862: First school for Baker County organized at Auburn.
1863:  The Sisley Toll Road built from Weatherby to connect with the Old’s Ferry Toll Road to the Snake River and Old’s Ferry.
1863: Gold was discovered at Sparta.
1863:  The 125 mile long Eldorado Ditch surveyed and started. Probably the world’s longest hand-dug ditch. It was constructed mostly by Chinese labor.
1865: The first hotel, Reid & Fletcher’s Western Hotel, was built and served as the headquarters for overland stages which passed through Baker City five times a week
1865:  The post office moved ( unofficially, but later approved) from Auburn to Baker City for more efficient handling of the mail.
1866: Baker City was made the county seat by an act of the state legislature, but Auburn refused to relinquish the records. Following the official vote of the people in 1868, the records were confiscated in an early morning surprise visit of the new Baker County officials.
1868: First organized church services held by Methodists.
1870: The Bedrock Democrat, first newspaper of Baker City, published in May.
1871: A small frame Catholic Church was the first church of Baker City.
1874: The incorporation of Baker City.
1884: Cornucopia was established after gold was discovered in the area.
1884: Transcontinental Railroad reached Baker City.
1886: The business block of Baker City’s Front Street was almost completely destroyed by fire.
1889: Baker City completed the new public school to house twelve grades. It was the second public high school in Oregon.
1889: The Hotel Warshauer constructed, the most elegant structure between Portland and Denver. This was the forerunner of the Geiser Grand Hotel.
1890: Sumpter Valley Railway was incorporated to carry logs from Sumpter Valley to the Baker City sawmills.
1890: The population of Baker City is 6,663, larger than either Boise or Spokane. The Street Railway was due to be in operation the same year.
1891: Community of Unity established.
1892: Sawmill in Baker City completed by the Oregon Lumber Company.
1892: Sumpter Valley Railroad reached Sumpter.
1898: The first telephone service arrived at Baker City.
1900: The Baker City Opera House was completed.
1900: The Alpha Club was organized with the goal of providing Baker County and City with a free public library.
1901: Population of Sumpter is 3,000 with over 80 businesses.
1908: Town of Copperfield established to house mining and railroad crews working at the Snake River. Copperfield was known for its lawlessness. It was destroyed by fire in 1914.
1909: The town of Robinette served as a railhead for the Oregon Shortline. It was flooded out by the backwaters of the Snake River Dams in the 1950’s.
1910: Sumpter Valley Railway extended to Prairie City to serve ranchers and farmers as well as lumber and mining.
1911: Baker City residents voted to drop “City” from their name.
1913: Dredging in the Sumpter Valley began, temporarily revitalizing the mining industry.
1913: “Armstrong” nugget, weighing 80.4 oz., was discovered by George Armstrong.
1916: The limestone quarry at Lime expanded. Between 1923 and 1980, over 6.5 million tons of stone was taken from the area.
1917: A fire, starting in the kitchen of the Capital Hotel, destroyed much of Sumpter.  The town’s water supply fails thirty minutes after the start of the fire and dynamite is finally used to stop the flames. The fire, combined with the shutdown of the gold mines, ended the boom of Sumpter.
1933: Anthony Lakes Ski Area was established and named in honor of Dr. Anthony, a pioneer circuit-riding doctor of early years.
1975: Congress established the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
1978: The Baker Historic District is listed in the National register.
1990: Voters restored “City” to the name of Baker City.
1992: Opening of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center on Flagstaff Hill.

 

Note:

Information taken from a flyer from the Baker City Chamber of Commerce now called  Baker County Visitors & Convention Bureau, 490 Campbell Street, Baker City, Or  97814    541-523-5855  or 1-800-523-1235

Baker City

 

 

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