Keating, Baker County, Oregon

Keating Store

Village named for "Uncle Tom" Keating, early settler and investor in land.  Post office opened Dec. 30, 1880 had a long life until it closed Jan 21, 1975.  Area not on rural delivery route.

Keating Valley

   My knowledge of the settlement of Lower Powder Valley comes mostly from the Love family.  The Loves settled on Goose Creek in 1867, at which time there was only one settler.

   David Love traded a team of oxen to Leland Ritter�s grandfather for a �relinquishment claim� on Goose Creek bottom land.  He later divided this between his two older sons, Avon and Walter.

   Later, their younger brother, Norval, homesteaded land on the south side of Powder River and extended the Perkins ditch down the river for irrigation.

   C.F. Alloway and Grier ran a horse stage from Baker to New Bridge by way of Sparta.  John Furman later purchased Alloway�s part and the company was known as Furman and Grier.  John Furman, my grandmother�s stepfather, acquired the �Hack� ranch for a stage stop and to change horses.  As a young girl, my grandmother�s job was to have a team ready when the stage arrived.

   The road crossed Balm Creek, crossed Goose Creek at the Duby Place, crossed Spring creek, passed Rock Springs up the Bucklin Hill to Sparta, a gold town, where there was another change of horses, and to New Bridge,  This was in the late 1870�s.

   This route left Baker over Flagstaff pass, crossed Virtue Flat and Ruckles Creek.  This part was called the Van Boggin Road.

   There was also a cut-off road from the Oregon Trail at Durkee up Pritchard Creek and down Ritter, crossed over to Ruckles Creek and down to Powder River, across the bridge and on the east side to Medical Springs to Telocaset to the old emigrant road.

   Tommy Keating operated the first post office about five miles east of the present Keating, where the grange hall now stands.  A later post office called Erwin was built near the present location of Keating.  Erwin and Keating were combined at the location of the present Keating.

   Walter S. Love�s sons homesteaded land between Kelley Creek and Ritter Creek.  He built the Love Reservoir around 1900 to furnish irrigation water for this land.  This reservoir was fed by ditches that brought water from Lawrence Creek, Love, and Ritter Creeks.  When full, it covered 120 acres, but now with the higher dam, it covers 160 acres.

   Thief Valley Reservoir was finished around 1929 in the upper end of the valley, and this brought badly needed late season water to the valley.  The Basche ditch was extended nearly three miles down the valley and irrigated land formerly watered by the Love Reservoir.

   The Sparta ditch was built in 1870-71.  This was 32 miles long and brought water from West Eagle Creek to Sparta for placer mining.  W. H. Packwood, I. B. Bowen, and E. P. Cranston formed the Eagle Canal Co. to build this ditch.  At this time, about $15,000 worth of placer gold was being shipped from Sparta to Baker every week.

   The Balm Creek Reservoir was completed in 1913.  This brought hill land under irrigation on what is now the Jacobs Ranch.

   The present West Eagle Ditch (Hogam) was built around 1874 for placer mining.  After the Sparta Ditch was abandoned, and after years of law suits over the water rights, this ditch delivered water to the head of Goose Creek.

   In 1915, dams were built on several of the high mountain lakes at the head of West Eagle and Main Eagle to store water as insurance in years of light snow fall.

   In June of 1865, David Love went back to the Willamette Valley and brought back 100 head of cattle and 500 sheep.  Walter S. Love and Frank Bennett were the first to summer sheep in the high mountains around Little Eagle area and later around Bennett Peak.  Later, itinerant bands of sheep came in, resulting in fierce competition.  (Please see in account of �Sheep� elsewhere in this volume.)  By the time the Forest Service was established, there were 11 bands of sheep on Bennett Peak.

   When the Forest Service developed an allotment system, we had two allotments, one for a band of 1,100 sheep on Main Eagle Creek and another for 900 on South Catherine Creek.  (Walter Love)

Keating Comments

   The Valley known as Lower Power has never developed a large population center, but it has been an ever-vital community.  Here are some insights to the valley.

   Unknown to most historians, about 1870 there was a very logical attempt to alter the course of the Oregon Trail by leaving the traditional route near Durkee and cutting across the hills to the Lower Powder and thence to Pondosa and Telocaset.  That plan apparently was doomed because the regular route was to firmly entrenched between 1843 and 1870, when the new route was proposed.

   Several well-known pioneers were involved in the early development of the area, including William Stafford, who was one of the discoverers of gold;  George Hall, Baker County�s first sheriff;  William Pritchard, for whom Pritchard Creek was named� E. P. Cranston, I. B. Bowen and W. H. Packwood, who were active in water development.

   Further up the valley, cattle ranches were developing, including that of Phillip Houghton and Arthur Singh, who developed well-bred herds and organized drives of 500 head to the railroad in Utah.

   From 1864 until 1901, all land north and east of the Powder River and North Powder River was in Union County.  During this time there was a good deal of traffic from Union, the County seat, to the Eagle and Pine Country.  �Humpy� Lewis of Big Creek established a stage line from Union to Sparta.  Sparta had a post office and mail route by 1870.

   Dunham Wright, pioneer of 1862, located at Hot Spring (Medical Hot Springs).  He developed a hotel and resort there, which opened in 1878.  He served as a legislator and was well respected as a community leader.  A relative of Abraham Lincoln, he lived to see his 100th birthday.

   The Sturgill family, Joe, Lewis, Ben and Francis, had a large ranch and at one time had thoroughbred horses for racing.  Turners, Dolbys, William Goble, Capt. Wilson, Joe Harson, Wanker, Tucker, John Pierce and others.

   As irrigation has improved, some ranches were consolidated with others, including Staggs and Webber, Stewart and Morrissey, Phillips, Wellington, Duby and many others.

   The Mother Lode mine on Balm Creek began production about 1900 and continued until 1938, producing silver and gold, but mostly copper.
   Keating was a key school in the reorganization of schools, as smaller districts joined Keating, which ultimately then became a part of District 5J.  An elementary school continues there.

   Pondosa, just over the line in Union County, introduced a different life-style to the farming valley.  In 1927, the Collins-Pondosa Lumber Company tapped a timber supply to the east.  The community developed as a thriving lumber town for the next 29 years, but faded when the mill closed after 1956.

   The spur railroad line was also abandoned.  (J.R.E., courtesy Pierce Papers)

Baker County History Book

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