Historical Perspective

He who would attempt to understand his pioneer ancestors, their life and their work, must first know some of the historic circumstances which brought people to the austere mountains and the remote Blue Mountain valleys.  Here, at Pioneer's coming, was no railroad, no boat landing, no ready source of supply or medical attention, no cultural life, no promise of easy living, no business market, no highway.

Here was only remoteness, deprivation, a raw and sometimes hostile land demanding the life blood of strong and determined and sacrificing people.

Baker County's birth and adolescence contained three elements: The umbilical cord of the Oregon Trail, the birthing fever of Gold, and sustaining nourishment form mining camps and farming communities.

The Oregon Trail:
The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 fired the imagination of a young nation and opened way to explore the vast and unknown West, where Indians roamed and a few Mountain Men ventured.  The Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-06 and the William Price Hunt exploration of 1811 parted the veil of mystery of the great West.  Trappers unknown, explorers, mountain men like Meek and Bridger, zealous missionaries like Whitman ventured through and home seekers followed (Willamette Valley 1823)

Depression and restlessness in the East coupled with gold discovered in California (1849) turned masses of people westward (1841-1884) on the Oregon Trail.  One branch of this trial brought people through Baker Valley, although a few had reason to stop (1841-1861).

In 1861 the cry of "Gold" in Griffith Gulch near Baker resounded through the East, into California, into the Willamette Valley.

Restless miners deserted the played-out mines of California, farmers form the Willamette valley sought the quick riches of golden metal, immigrants from the Oregon Trail unyoked their oxen and gold seekers headed eastward to the Salmon River Mines laid down their packs here.

Unlike some of the Gold areas, Baker county gold was sufficiently enduring to sustain communities.

Masses of people required food and transportation (freighting and agriculture); required housing (lumber, stone, metals); required equipment (trades, freighting; required entertainment (show houses, saloons) and schools.

In the brief notations listed for families herein, readers will detect the influence of these and other occupations.  The drift of people will be seen; the itinerant miners, the planned wagon trains (Chandler and Perkins and others), the interrupted immigrant stopping short to his Willamette Valley goal.

Some came; some left; some lived; some died; some prospered and some barely existed.  It wasn't easy, but each left his legacy.  The Pioneer is gone, but the pioneer spirit lives on in the families and descendants, in the friendly "Hi neighbor," in their love of this land.


Centennial Pioneer Families of Baker County, by Ruth H. Evans



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