Hereford, Baker County, Oregon

 The first account of Burnt River was in 1825 by Peter Skene Ogden. Possibly burned woods along the river were the source of the name. Possibly other traders thought the rocks had a burned look. McKenzie may have used the name as early as 1818.

     The first settlers in Burnt River were gold seekers, but possibly they spread the word about the potential value of the ranch land to their friends. However it happened, the Burnt River area has long been known as a major livestock region.

     It is said the name Hereford was given by T. B. Cook who brought in the first Herford cattle. He established the first Post Office and Charlie Seton was appointed the first Postmaster. Earliest mail came to Herford via Bridgeport and Malheur from Huntington once weekly. Later, mail came from Baker on the Sumpter Valley Railroad to Witney (Post Office established in 1902). Bart Hardman met the train there and brought the mail on horseback to Audrey where a Post Office was established about 1902 to 1918. The ranch on China Creek, now owned by nelson, was the homestead of Lemuel King. Mr. Lemuel King became the first Postmaster; later his daughter, Audrey King Davidson, became the postmistress. Bart Hardman had a two-year contract to carry the mail for $189 a year. In 1904 Mr. King's son, William, contracted the mail route until 1918. Among mail carriers from Audrey to Hereford were George Fleetwood, John Hamby, Byron Weatherford, Lew Tureman and Mrs. Fannie Van Cleave.

     Later mail was brought from Baker via Sumpter Valley Railroad to Lockhart and on to Hereford and Unity. Eventually, it was brought directly from Baker and back daily.

     Today's mail in 1986, leaves Baker at 5 PM, goes to the distribution center in Pendleton, and leaves Pendleton the next morning for John Day. Here it is picked up by a contracted driver who brings it to Unity, Hereford and Bridgeport. The daily mail from Baker to Unity, Hereford and Bridgeport and back in one day is greatly missed.

     Among Hereford Postmasters was Charles Seton, Ellen Koontz, Mr. Wyman, Charles Fleetwood, Mrs. Hamer, James Warren, Katie Warren and in 1941 Claire (Kate) Engle, Hazel Reilly, Lois Butts and presently Lucille Reilly. Until 1940 the Post Office was located in the Hereford Store, then in 1941 in an annex to the Engle's home.

     James and Katie Dotson Warren came to Hereford in 1909 with their family, Frank, Ivan, Erma and later added Vivian and Arvella. Mr. Warren had been in business in Whitney, a prosperous logging town, moved then to the mining town of Greenhorn.

     Mr. Warren purchased the Hereford Store from Charles Fleetwood and was appointed Postmaster. Later, Mr. Warren's daughter-in-law, May Warren, ran the store until 1949.

     At this time the town consisted of the two-story store, the present store building (up stairs was a dance hall), a blacksmith shop, a large 5 or 6 room house (it housed the Post Office), a log house, a barn, chicken house which was later filled with sawdust and used as an ice house, and across the road the ranch home of John Trimble. Later Warrens built a new store at the site of the Clayton Reilly home, which later burned.

     The early blacksmiths were John Hide, Mr. Hanks, Mr. Anderson and George Curtis. George Curtis built a small house across from the blacksmith shop. When the store burned, this was moved and an addition housed the store, which is the present Albert Smith home. The Post Office was located in the back of the store. The new two story Warren home was just north of the store, now the home of Kirk and Lisa Shira.

     The James Trimbles lived in the old store building after the new store was built. The telephone office was located here also. They later moved to the John Trimble ranch house and the Warren Store was moved back to the old original building, after the then Highway #7 came through in the mid 20's. (Highway is now #245.) The Baker, Sumpter, Austin Junction highway was renumbered as No. 7.

     Other Hereford Homes were O'Neils, retired, Chester and Harriet Butts, Elmer and Ethel Graven, Joe and Viola Geddes, all employed by Oregon State Highway and Harrison Dague, the "bee" man's small house. Ed Walkins, whose home was across from the dance hall, was also a State Highway employee. It is now owned by Sue Duby. To the north of this is the Albert and Lois Butts home and to the south of it the log house built by Frank and Lola Warren, now the home of Allen and Bev Duby. Across the road is the home of Clayton and Lucille Reilly. This was a duplex built by Frank and May Warren. For a time one half was used as a church sanctuary, and the other half as a parsonage.

The first telephone lines were built by John Trimble and nephew, Herbert Trimble, in 1910. This was called the Juniper Telephone Company. All telephone poles were Juniper. Many are still standing.

     The phone office was in the Trimble home (old store building) where it remained until the sale of the telephone to Frank Elms. The office was in the back of the Elms Store in Unity. In 1936 Fannie Van Cleave and her daughter and son-in-law, Paul and Claire Engle, purchased the line. The office was moved to the Engle home in Herford. In 1966 Engles sold the phone company to the Oregon Telephone Corporation of Mt. Vernon.

     Once there were the old crank telephones with many parties on one line, where several parties could get on the line and plan club meetings, parties, branding bees or just visit. But this gave way to the dial phone with a five party limit. Lines were underground. Direct dial came in 1974.

     Electricity came in 1941 by the REA (Rural Electrification Association). This was probably the most appreciated advancement, after years of candles, kerosene lights and for those who could afford it, carbide lights.
Frank Warren probably had one of the first trucks and freighted for the Warren Store. Supplies usually came by Sumpter Valley Railroad to Lockhart and were picked up there. Later, Frank, a self-made mechanic, opened the first garage in Hereford, located west of the store.

     Thomas Arvidson, who had a sawmill up Water Gulch, built the dance hall in Hereford. The first event in the new hall was the December 25, 1915 double wedding of George Curtis and Bertha Munn, and of Will Koontz and Reba Van Cleave. The hall was later sold to the Hereford Grange for $1,000.

Frank Warren rented the hall from the Grange and gave monthly dances until the hall was paid for.

     Some early dance bands were the Riley's from McEwen, Laurence and Daisy Estes, Joe Boyer and Dale Murray from Baker. Locally, Chester Butts, Harriet O'Neill, Ed Paustian and (Red) Vernon Boyer.

    The dance hall was the center of all social activities for many years. It was even used as the high school basketball floor from 1925 until the Hereford High Gymnasium was built.

     Many homesteaders lived up Water Gulch in early days. All had an active part in development of the community. Among them were Frank and Lula Geddes. Frank was school clerk for many years. Son, Otto Geddes, had a fox farm there. Others were Walter Boyer, Pointer Patterson, Harvey Yeager, Herman Gleeman and Tom Arvidson. These lands are now grazing land of valley ranchers.

     The Water Gulch Road was the main road to Baker until the new highway over Dooley Mountain was built around 1924-25. Cattle were always driven over this road to market with the first day to Arvidsons, then to the Stewart Ranch (now Eloise Stewart McKittrick) where cattle were weighed if sold to an order buyer, then on to Baer. If shipped direct to a Portland market, they were loaded on stock cars in Baker and were usually accompanied by the owner. Some of the order buyers of those days were Jim Lawrence, Walter Grover, Tub Robinson and Hardin Locket.

To learn more about the Burnt River Valley, please visit Burnt River Heritage Center They have put out a great book Lest We Forget, you can even view a copy of the Index online to see if any of your ancestors are listed.

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