Baker City, Baker County Oregon History

Baker City

In the month of August 1864, R. A. Pierce laid claim to the SE ¼ of Sec. 17, Tp. 9. S. 40, east of the Willamette meridian, and proceeded in 1865 to get a title to the same from the state. He built a house west of where the court house now stands, and early in the spring of 1865 laid off the SE quarter of the quarter section for a town site, which he named Baker, but somehow people would call it Baker City and that became the adopted name.

Mr. Fisher owned the land east of Pierce’s claim, and he made an addition to the town between Front Street and the river.

Mr. Place lived in a log house by the bridge on the road to Pleasant Valley.

Mr. Campbell owned the land north of Pierce and Fisher’s claim.

In October 1864, John Stewart located west of Pierce on the land which now comprises Stewart’s addition to Baker City.

The first building put on Front Street was a box house saloon on the lot where John Bowen’s stone building now stands. The next was a boarding house built by Samuel Barger near the present site of the Arlington hotel. The next building was a hotel by S. and A. McMurren on the corner where the railroad house now stands. Robert McCord started a blacksmith shop on the corner now occupied by Wisdom’s drug store. The Ruckles quartz mill was built and put in operation in the fall of 1864.

The stage line was transferred from the old emigrant road at Place’s toll road via Baker City in the spring of 1865, carrying U.S. mail and Wells, Fargo & Co. express.

Early in the spring Sylvester Grier and John Furman began building a livery stable and feed yard, northwest corner Front street and Auburn avenue, the stand which Mr. Grier has occupied ever since, either as partner or the sole proprietor.

A. H. Brown established the first store in the town at the northwest corner of First Street and Valley Avenue.

Reid and Fletcher built the Western hotel on Front Street between Valley and Auburn avenues in the fall of 1865.

McCord Bros. built a portion of the building at the southwest corner of Front Street and Valley Avenue which they let to Dr. Boyd and John Wisdom for a drug store. Mr. Wisdom continuing in the business at the same place ever since.

In the fall of 1865 McCrary moved the post office from Auburn to Baker City and opened a variety store, east side of Front Street, between Valley and Auburn Avenues. The move was unauthorized, but when the advantages to the service which the change would make were stated to the department, his act was approved.

A mail route was established from Baker City to Auburn in 1865, and to Canyon City in 1866, supplying intermediate points.

In 1870 a route was established in Malheur and another to Sparta.

James Virtue erected the first stone building at the southwest corner of Front and Court Streets, A. A. Houston architect.

The Arlington Hotels built by Father DeRoo, was the first brick structure, soon followed by the brick mercantile house of S.A Heilner & Co, northwest corner Front and Court Streets.
In 1867 L. W. Nelson opened a stove and tinware store, south side of Front Street between Valley Avenue and Court Street, and in 1872 closed out and engaged in mining on Salmon creek.

M. H. Abbott established a printing office in 1870, and the first number of the Bedrock Democrat appeared on the 11th day of May.

The Pioneer stage line established a branch line, via Clarksville to Eldorado, July 5, 1870 making three round trips per week.

A turning lathe was put in operation by Mr. Layton in November: 1870, and in February, 1871, McCord Bros. erected the first windmill for pumping water from a well, and about the same time Joseph Cleaver established a chair and cabinet factory.

July 1, 1871, John Furman began constructing a racetrack west of John Stewart’s claim.

The first house of worship erected in Baker City was the Catholic Church, finished in October 1871.

The Baker City academy building was begun in 1871, but was not completed when it caught fire and burned down on the second day of September the same year.
In the year 1870 the Baker City post office was designated and appointed a money order office by the postmaster general, and on May 7, 1870, the first money order was drawn. Before the banks were established, business to the amount of ninety thousand dollars per year was done through the money order office.

For two years the business was limited to home service, then in 1872 the foreign money order system was added and since that time money orders can be sent to any part of the world.
From the 7th day of May, 1870, to the 4th day of March 1893, there has been sent from the Baker City post office, 44,295 money orders, domestic, 15,500 postal note, 1275 foreign money orders.

The net revenue to the government for the year 1891, after all the expenses of the office were paid, amounted to $3194.75.

On the 4th day of March: 1893, there were 17 post offices in Baker County, namely:

Auburn, Baker, Bridgeport, Britten, Connor Creek, Erwin, Eureka, Express, Haines, Hereford, Huntington, Pleasant Valley, Rye Valley, Sumpter, Tracy, Unity and Weatherby.
The application made by R. A. Pierce in 1865, to have the SE¼ of Section 17, selected as state land, was not attended to, and three Years afterwards a contest arouse which was settled in 1871 by the following decision of the U.S. land commissioner.

Register and Receiver Washington, D.C., August 4, 1871. ,
LaGrande, Oregon.

Gentlemen: This office has examined the testimony and other Papers in the contested case of the “State of Oregon vs. J. M. Boyd and the town site of Baker City, “involving the right to the SE¼ Sec. 17, Tp. 9, S. Range 40 East, and finds as follows:

It is shown by our records that, under date of April 10, 1868, Mr. Boyd filed D. S. No. 60, for the west ½, & NE ¼ of said SE ½, Sec. 17, alleging settlement same day, and that on July 13, 1868, he proved up and entered said 129 acre tract, per pre-emption cash entry, No. 18.

It also appears that, on April 15, 1868, the acting governor of the state filed in the local land office his application to select said quarter section, as a part of the 50,000 acre grant, under the act of September 4,1841, and that said application was rejected by the register, and not reported to this officer, on account of the prior filing of Boyd made six days previously.
It appears from the testimony in the case, that Mr. Boyd actually settled on his pre-emption claim, at the date alleged in his D. S.: and that he continued to reside upon and cultivate the same until the date of entry: and from that time to the day of hearing, June 15, 1870.

R. A. Pierce, the party claiming under the state selection, shows that in 1865, he applied to the state authorities to purchase said SE¼of Sec. 17; and a certificate from the secretary of the state of Oregon, dated May 13, 1865, is produced setting forth the fact.

It is also shown that Mr. Pierce, under the impression that he had a valid claim to the land in question, settled upon and improved a portion thereof; and in 1865 laid off the SE¼ of the said quarter section into blocks and lots, and disposed of a portion to different parties.

The settlers upon these lots, fearing that Pierce could not give them a good title, made application to enter their respective claims under the town site acts of 1864 and 1865; and a number of their entries have been allowed and reported to this office.

This office holds that, in cases of this character, the right of the state does not attach prior to the filing of the application to selections made by the proper officer, at the local land office; and that the mere date of the selection, April 16, 1868, at the office of the governor, in Salem, gives the state no superior claim.

As Mr. Boyd has initiated a valid pre-emption claim to the 120 acre tract, above described, six days before the application to select was made, it is held that his cash entry embracing the same, should be carried into patent; and that the entries already made by the claimants of lots, in Baker City, should remain intact, and that the remainder of the lots be subject to the entry of actual settlers, as stipulated in the acts referred to.

You will advise the parties in interest of this ruling; and allow sixty days from your notice for appeal – the parties appealing to indicate particularly the points of exception to this decision.

Willis Drummond

An appeal was taken and the decision of the commissioner affirmed. Boyd’s title to the land being secured, he had it surveyed and platted as an addition to Baker City.

In the spring of the year 1886, Wm. McMurren and L. Crabill established a lumber yard on upper Front Street, having previously bought the Eagle sawmill of Parker & Basche on Dooley Mountain, and built another one on Pine creek, which was afterwards removed to Ru Ann creek. In 1887 they purchased land on Court street, near the railroad and formed a corporation under the name of the Baker City Consolidated Lumber company, and established a lumber yard, and a planing mill with machinery for scroll sawing and the manufacture of moldings, doors, windows, blinds, &c. The firm carried on a wholesale and retail lumber business, trade extending as far as Salt Lake City, Utah.

The same year Wm. Bennett built a sawmill at the head of Griffin’s gulch which was afterwards moved to Beaver creek.

December 30, 1888, E. E. Angell, Wm. Bennett and M. F. Bennett formed a partnership and built the Triangle planing mill on upper Front Street. In 1890 Angell withdrew from the firm and the business was continued under the firm name of Bennett & Son. They manufacture and deal in lumber, rough or dressed, sash, doors, blinds, laths etc. Besides the home business, orders are filled for customers in Grant, Harney and Malheur counties.

The Baker City Iron Works, Knox & Geiser, proprietors, located on Auburn Avenue near the U. P. railroad, is one of the latest manufacturing establishments of the city. The work of building a shop 35 x 80 feet was begun February 14, 1892. In June the first pouring in the molding room was witnessed by an umber of citizens, the work being a complete success. The shop is supplied with an engine of fifteen horsepower and all the machinery necessary for finishing castings of all kinds. The manufacture of mining machinery is a specialty but all kinds of work is done, from the construction of quartz mills down to the simplest tools and implements. In the upper story of the shop is a pattern room fitted up for all kinds of work in that line. The shop is supplied with coal and coke from Puget Sound. During the nine months since the first work was done, orders have been received from all parts of the country from the Blue mountains to Snake River.

The Baker City Marble Works, southeast corner Court and Second streets was established by John H. Jett in the year 1878. Mr. Jett manufactures tombstones and monuments of the finest workmanship, importing the purest white marble from Rutland, Vermont, marble quarry.

A creamery was built at the western edge of town in the year 1889. Last year considerable work was done, and under the present management the business of the concern will be greatly increased.

The Baker City Soap factory was built in 1890 with facilities for the manufacture of 50 boxes of laundry soap per day.

There is a brewery, a soda factory and a cigar factory on Main Street.

Baker City contains three general mercantile stores, three dry goods and clothing, one gents furnishing and clothing, one shoe store, two hardware store, seven groceries and provisions, two flour and feed, three variety stores, two drug stores, one book, stationery, etc., two jewelry stores, two second hand stores, two furniture stores, three mininery stores, two liquor stores, three China stores, eleven hotels, one restaurant, four meat markets, two harness shops, two banks, four printing offices, two merchant tailor shops, two bakeries, five barbershops, five blacksmith shops, thirteen saloons, two livery and feed stables, two feed yards, four laundries and one photograph gallery.

The different professions are represented by seven physicians, two dentists, fourteen lawyers, six ministers and four surveyors and civil engineers, Fraternal societies have organized lodges in the city as follows:

Gaunlet lodge No. 8, K.of P.
Uniform Rank No, 6.
Lodge No. 4, A. F. and A. M.
Keystone Chapter No. 15, R. A. M.
Esther Chapter, Eastern Star Lodge, No. 11.
Baker City Lodge No. 100, A. O. U. W.
I. O. O. F. No. 25.
Eleazar Encampment No. 7.
Rebekah Degree Lodge No. 8.
Canton Progress No. 2.
Joe Hooker Post No. 20, G. A. R.
Queen City Camp No. 48, Woodmen of the World.
Woman Relief Corps.
A. W. C. T. U. was organized in November, 1891 under whose auspices an L. T. L. is maintained.

July 1, 1886, the weather bureau established a reporting meteorological station at Baker City, C. H. Stuller in charge, since which time reports of weather conditions have been sent by telegraph to the chief office twice every day, 5 o’clock a.m. and 5 p.m.

The office is equipped with barometers, thermometers, thermograph, anemometers, rain and snow gauges and all instruments necessary for reporting all conditions of weather, of which a complete record is kept at the office of the signal observer.


Collection: Baker County Oregon Genealogy.

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