Final Settlement of Umatilla County, Oregon


The Indian war lasted two years, and at its close a few Americans came back, nearly all of them going to Walla Walla, where a military post was established. Green Arnold returned to the Umatilla, and settled at the mouth of Birch creek, a few miles below Pendleton, in 1857. Whitney also returned, and settled on a claim adjoining Arnold. He had selected the location before his hasty departure two years before. John R. Courtney and a brother settled in the meadows below the old agency and were followed by half a dozen others. A sporting man named Crabb located a mile and one-half below Pendleton, where the road from the Dalles to Walla Walla crosses Umatilla River. Here he opened a saloon for refreshment of travelers. He soon disposed of the business to Alfred Marshall, who lived there for years, the place being known as Marshall's Station. It was dignified by being the first county seat, was for a short time called Middleton, and is now generally known as Swift's: In 1858 Thomas K. McCoy settled on the Tumalum three miles from Milton, where his family has resided since 1859, and Tom Ireland opened a hotel for travelers in 1859 where Dalles road crosses the Walla Walla, near Milton, now known as Cole's crossing. This place was occupied in 1860 by Elijah Bunton, father of the notorious Bill Bunton. In the spring of 1860 Ulysses Jarred settled with his family on the river five miles above Milton, and in July S. P. Whitley and family located three miles below him. These two gentlemen are now residents of Milton. A few other locations were made in 1859, and 1860 by Americans, the majority of whom were not men of family and did not become permanent residents. Add to these a few Hudson's Bay French and half breeds, living with their Indian wives, and we have all the residents of the county in 1860.

     The rush of miners in 1861, and consequent demanded for food, led to the occupancy of choice spots along the river bottoms. It also caused the establishment of hotels or stations, along the routes of travel, where they crossed the various streams. That year thousands of cattle were driven here and grazed on the juicy bunch grass that covered this whole region. In the spring their festering carcasses covered the hills and fouled the pure water of the streams. The hardships of that winter have been already described. In 1862 the Powder River mines being discovered, the tide of trade and travel turned through the Umatilla Country and across the Blue mountains.

     Auburn sprang up in the new gold fields and in a few months contained a population of 3,000, the principal business street being a mile in length. Other mining camps appeared on Powder and Burnt rivers and their tributaries. Much fine agricultural and grazing land was found near by, far more than had ever been supposed to exist in that region, and many settlements were made for the purpose of raising supplies for the miners. Gold was discovered on Granite creek and John Day River, a great rush of people was made to that region, and the town of Canyon City sprang up like magic. Many settlements were made on the choice lands along that stream. Regular communication was established between Dalles and the John Day mines, while those on Powder River were chiefly supplied from Walla Walla. All of these things led to more settlements along the streams of Umatilla County, both for farming and stock purposes.

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