History of Haines, Baker County, Oregon

Haines, "Biggest Little City in Oregon" is a namesake of Isreal D. Haines, pioneer lawyer, legislator, soldier merchant and farmer, who was born in Xenia, Ohio, on December 27, 1827, and came to Oregon with Colonel Loring's riffle regiment at the age of nineteen. He remained in Oregon and Idaho until his death in Baker City on June 19, 1892. He is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
I.D. Haines donated 120 acres of land for the City of Haines that land being surveyed by Bill and Presley Cooper in 1868.

First Resident: The first permanent resident of Haines was Oliver Shinn in 1864 or '65. The first house was reportedly built in 1864. Ten immigrant families camped on the banks of Rock Creek, near the John Henner place, Sept. 5 1865. Among them was the Lester (W. L.) Toney family, which remained here. Other early families included Alonzo Long, 1894, and G. W. Vanderwall, 1884.

Indian Uprising (1878): In 1878, the only Indian uprising in Baker Valley occurred. Mrs. Joseph Ensminger in her memoirs left the following account of the event: "The Indians were angered by the steady settling of the whites and became anxious to retaliate. It was customary at the time for several families to stay at one home during the nights while the men took turns standing guard. One night, a horseman dashed up to the house with the cry, 'The Indians are coming' After hasty preparations, we huddled in wagons and started for Baker City. The children were small and the men rode ahead as a guard. I sat in the bottom of a dead-axle wagon with a rifle across my lap, watching the Indian signals flare up from different parts of the mountains. We arrived in Baker City the next morning, but, My, My, what a night."

Many unfounded reports circulated of Indian depredations and of settlers being killed.

Railroad Completed: The telegraph line reached Haines in 1877 and the railroad on August 6, 1884. On that day townspeople and settlers gathered for visiting and dancing.

     For many years Haines was the shopping point for hay destined for horse feed for the Portland fire department. Other products were celery, lettuce ice, lumber shingles and cattle. The depot was closed in 1950.

Stores: Eilert Eilertson started the first store in 1885, followed in 1893 by Lyman and Davis Wilcox with a large mercantile outlet. W.L. Toney and John Christensen opened the first meat market. Also in the business district were a drug store, confectionary and cigar store, one restaurant, two blacksmith shops, a livery stable, five saloons and on gallon house where "spirituous" liquor could be purchased by the gallon.

Churches: The Baptist Church was organized in 1886 and their first house of worship was erected in 1891. The following year the membership was 117.

First Methodist Church was constructed in 1895. Pastor Kennedy, an old-time circuit rider, held services every other week.

     A Catholic Church was active here at one time, but has been gone for many years. The building was moved and at last report was being used as a far building. However, the Catholic Church has a mission service here conducted by priests from the Cathedral Parish in Baker.

School: The first school house was a two room building built in 1886. Miss Mary Burke was the teacher. In 1900, a new building was erected. (See section on "Schools")

Newspaper: The Haines Record was the only newspaper ever published in Haines. (See full account in "Newspaper" section.)

     The telephone exchange started in the Haines Mercantile Company building and was then sold in 1909 to the Haines Drug Company, owned by N.E. Dodd. D. W. Heard owned and operated the exchange from 1921 to 1927, when it was acquired by W. O. Wiswell. He was sole owner for the next 30 years. Vance and Margaret Dix purchased the business from Mr. Wiswell in 1957 and sold it to Cascade Utilities in 1979, who continue as operators. The first old switchboard is on display at the Haines Museum. More...

     Haines Mercantile was established in 1893 by Davis and Lyman Wilcox, who operated it until 1905, when it was purchased by Lee Duncan. Mr. Duncan operated as Haines Commercial Equipment Company until 1955, when Richard (Dick) and Shirley Camp acquired the company. They have operated under the Haines Commercial Equipment Company name and as PakRak Industries since the time of purchase.

     Plans and specifications for a city hall and jail were presented to the city council Feb. 7, 1908. The building was erected during 1908 and 1909, with building costs of $2500.00. Two jail cells were also purchased and installed.

The first city charter was drawn up by a Baker City attorney in 1909 and passed by the townspeople. In 1912, the charter was revised. In 1975, the city adopted a completely new charter.

Other Early Businesses: The post office was opened in 1890 with Mrs. John Dorsett the first postmistress. George Fisher was the first rural mail carrier.

    An opera house flourished for many years, with road shows and other forms of entertainment, including home-talent shows. The building, built by Mr. O'Bryant, still stands and is being used for storage by Baker Mill and Grain Company.

     The Twilight Theater brought the finest of films to the area until it was torn down in 1965.
     Horse races were held on a race course on Third Street from Front Street to School Street.

     Haines boasted a fine band and held many band concerts both in the city and surrounding area. A bandstand in the city park was finally torn down.

     An early issue of the Haines Record carried a boast of the "best ball club" and invited other baseball clubs to challenge them.

Fire: The first major fire was recorded in August of 1913, when a wooden building housing a drug store burned. A creamery on the west side of town burned in September, 1928.

     Baker Mill and Grain's main elevator and office building were totally destroyed Sept. 11, 1975. Again, ten years later, a fire struck Baker Mill and Grain, when a grain storage building was leveled.
     Many other smaller fires have occurred in the city, most successfully handled by the volunteer fire department. The building which burned in 1975 was one which had been moved into Haines from Rock Creek where it had been operated for many years. The huge building was put on rollers and pulled by horses to get it to Haines.

Fire Department: In 1905, the city purchased a hand fire engine for $980.00, with delivery in 1906. In September, 1906, J.C. Wooley was named fire chief and the city purchased hose, ladders, rubber buckets and axes and built a fire house in 1907. That building is now a city shop.

     Volunteers built the present fire hall in 1967 to house a new fire truck. A 'phone alert system was installed in 1980, shortening response time of the firemen when an alarm is given.

     Haines Rural Fire Association equipment is manned by the Haines firemen.

     In December, 1985, the two departments bought a surplus fire truck from the La Grande department for the protection of both city and rural residents.

Sewer System: In 1925, the citizens discussed building a sewer system, but not until 1970 was the subject reopened and a fund started. For five years, money was budgeted each year and set aside in a sewer fund. Department of environmental Quality rules became more stringent and finally the city was forced to take very seriously the matter of a city sewer system.

     To qualify for federal grant funds, the city was required to draft a new city charter, which was done in 1975. During 1976, plans were made to apply for a federal grant and a city bond issue. An interesting sidelight was that the city received a grant from the Housing and Urban Development Department for $42,500.00 for use by low-income residents to hook up to the sewer that did not exist at that time. This caused some red faces when it was established that Haines had no sewer.

     In August, 1977, the citizens gave the council the authority to sell $320,000.00 in bonds as the city's share of the system. This cleared the way for federal grant monies, which were forthcoming.

     During the project, contractors found traces of gold while drilling under the railroad track. Some excitement was generated, but it came to nothing.

     The sewer system was initiated on September 20, 1980, with the "Great Haines Flush," an all-day celebration, with potluck dinner and other activities. All agencies that had any part in the facility were present. City Attorney Thomas Young was honored at this time. Mr. Young, now Judge Young, was reared in Haines and had donated his services to the city. He received a watercolor picture of the cit hall and a jail cell.

Water System: During the final phase of the sewer project, the city applied for and was granted a $440,000.00 grant from H.U.D. for the renovation of the city water works. This grant financed complete renovation of the old system, including a new well on the east side of town.

     The first water system began operation in 1911-12 at a cost of $20,000 to the city. Two lots where the water tank stands were purchased from Mrs. S. M. Haines for $150.00. The original mains, of wood stovepipe, have been replaced as they deteriorated the last being replaced during the renovation.

The city now boasts one of the most modern water systems in the country for small towns.

     Previously, the city had maintained a chlorination program. Rather than spend needed money for a chlorination plant, the maintenance man jerry-rigged a system. When asked what the town was using, it was reported that an old whiskey still was pouring purifiers into the water; thus, Haines had "whiskey in the water and gold in the streets."

Haines Museum: In 1959, School District No. 5-J offered the city of Haines the gymnasium which was no longer of use to the district. In June of that year, the city leased the building to the Eastern Oregon Museum Association, at no cost, for display of the antiques of the area. The association now has one of the finest collections of local memorabilia that can be found.

     During the water renovation, the city turned over to the association ownership of the property in exchange for land upon which to build the water pump house and the well, stipulating that if the building ever ceases to be a museum, ownership shall revert to the city.

Planning: Planning under LCDC edicts began in 1979 under the direction of Councilman Ray Rowen. The plan was adopted by the city on December 4, 1979, and accepted by the State of Oregon on Sept. 4, 1980. Haines planning documents were praised by the State and recommended for use as a model to other small communities.

Bank Of Haines: The Bank of Haines was established in 1912 by Ben Harder. Later, a board of directors formed to make it a public bank in order to take advantage of government programs. Among the directors were Frank Leonnig, Henry Fisher and John Toney. In 1926, total deposits were $160,000.

After 24 years of service, the Bank of Haines moved to Baker in 1936, where it joined Baker Loan and Trust and became Baker State Bank. Hugh McCall, of Haines, continued as manager for Baker State Bank.

Elkhorn Grange: Elkhorn Grange was organized in the early 1940's and for several years met in the Odd Fellows Hall. In 1945, with Emery Cox as master, the Grange purchased the Fairiew school building from J.C. Warner and moved it to Haines. It was set upon a basement which serves as a kitchen and dining room. Membership continues good and the building is fulfilling its purpose.

Granite Quarry: In the early years of the century and until the 1960's, a granite quarry was in operation east of Haines. A report in a 1903 Morning Democrat in Baker has the following report: "Northwest Granite Company is quarrying metropolitan type granite unequalled both for monuments and buildings. Blocks of granite are loaded on railway flat cars and hauled to Baker City for finishing." The quarry operated until 1960 when it was closed.

     A brick kiln also was in operation east of the city. Several buildings in Haines are built from Northwest Granite stone and from bricks made at the local kiln.

Annexations: During 1910 through 1913, the Fidler, Welch and Green additions swelled the city from the original 120-60 acres to the present 320.

Depression Years: The city was hard hit during the depression. Many people could not pay their water bills. These people were allowed to work out their bills. Many parts of the water system needed work done. The wooden mains had suffered damage from freezing, so a program was started to lower the pipes below frost level. During the bitter winters when the pipes froze, fires were built on top of the ground over the pipes. These fires were kept burning day and night until the pipe thawed.

     The city obtained $1,000.00 from the county relief committee for street improvements and this was utilized to alleviate some of the unemployment. The bridge over Rock Creek was rebuilt at this time.

     Wages in 1933 were $0.75 an hour and, by 1936, had dropped to $0.40.

Remodel City Hall: In 1978, the city hall basement was remodeled into the business office and a spare meeting place for the city. It is also used as a distribution place for the commodity food program.

Senior Center: Senior citizens met in 1978 and discussed the matter of having a senior center in Haines, but lacked sufficient funds. Early in 1985, the city applied unsuccessfully for grant funds. The application was revised and resubmitted. Its outcome is pending.

     Since 1980, the city has actively pursued plans for a hydro-electric power plant on Rock Creek. Land for the project was donated to the city by Virgil Spence and Thomas Young. Permits have been obtained and city officials continue to work toward completion of the program.

Mayors: The first mayor for the city was Dr, Gagett in 1892. At that time, John Christensen was Marshall and Mr. Ingram justice of the peace. The first formal minutes of the city were in 1904. There have been 30 mayors. In 1973, W.W. Lee died in office, as did his successor, Herbert Ensminger in 1976.

A complete list of officials is available in the Baker County Resource Book at the Oregon Trail Regional Museum and the Baker County Library.

     Since 1904, Haines has had 6 recorders, of which Lonnie Young served 30 years.

     From 1976 to the present time (1985), Richard H. (Dick) Camp has been mayor. Mr. Camp has served the city continuously since 1963, when he was elected to the city council.

     The first woman to serve on the city council was Virginia Van Ocker in 1961. Since, Bertha Barnes, Yvonne LeaMaster, Tobie Hacker, Beverly Johnson and Ruth E. Bahler have served. The present incumbent is Leona Hayhurst.

    Thomas Young acted as city attorney for 23 years.

Scout Groups: Boy Scout work flourished under the long-time leadership of Vernon Stewart, including in their projects the street signs, city clean-up work and other work. Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts have also been most active.

     The city has always been known as a town with a heart, with help for indigent families. Records show where doctor bills were paid serum purchased for inoculations during an epidemic. One item records hiring a nurse for the sick during the "flu" epidemic. That spirit still prevails. Ruth E. Bahler.

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Baker County History | Haines



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