Baker County Oregon Sketches

Sydney Abell, Justice of the Peace opened the first legally constituted court in Baker County, October 29th 1862. The first case was that of the people vs. D. Scott, action to bind defendant to keep the peace, entered on complaint of Thomas Ricketts. The prosecuting witness failed to appear and the case was dismissed.

Of the thirty-two cases docketed up to January 1st, 1863, there were four of the kind above cited, three suits about town lots in Auburn, Fifteen to recover money, five replevin cases, one unlawful detention, one felonious intent to cheat, one petty larceny, one assault and battery, and one embezzlement. The latter was dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
In the county court journal the following item shows the date of commencement of the first term.

“County Court of Baker County, Oregon, met pursuant to law, Nov. 3, 1862. Present, the Hon. John Q. Wilson, county judge; J. W. Wickersham, under sheriff; Wm. Waldo, deputy county clerk.”

The first case called was that of A. B. Roberts, plaintiff, vs. Thomas Allison, defendant. Grey for plaintiff and Heed & Pierce for defendant.

It appears from the record that the first county road established was from Auburn via Washington ranch to Monohin’s ranch on North Powder River, and at the term of county court in July 1864, the road was divided into three districts and a supervisor appointed for each. A petition for a road from A. Morrison’s house in Powder River Valley to Fox’s mill, Grande Ronde valley via Ladd canon and La Grande was granted at the same term of court; also the contract to take care of all persons who become a public charge, was awarded to Mr. Morrison at three dollars per day for each person, exclusive of medical attendance. At the August term of court a petition was granted for a road from Washington ranch to Straw ranch via C. E. Place’s ranch on Powder River, and another one for a road from Reuben Rigg’s ranch on North Powder to Washington ranch via Pocahontas. For some years, commencing with 1862 there was considerable rivalry amongst the first settlers in the valley in regard to location of roads, each one desirous to have the travel pass his claim. The Dealy road was built across the Blue mountains, entering Powder river valley at the northwest corner, and if it had ever become the popular route, the patronage of travelers and freighters would have been worth striving for. But, as a thorough-fare the Dealy road was not a success, owning in part to the greater distance through the mountains than by the Meacham road from Grande Ronde valley, and there being no patronage to strive for, all rivalry ceased and roads were located as the interests of settlers demanded.

December 3, 1864, the county court granted license for the Boise ferries on Snake and Owyhee rivers fixing rates of toll at 25 cents for footmen, 50 cents per head for pack animals, 25 cents per head for loose animals, wagon with one ton of freight and one span of animals $2, each additional ton of freight, $1, each additional pair of animals 50 cents.

March 7, 1865, license was granted to R. P. Olds for a ferry at Farewell Bend, Snake River, also to John Partin, Washoe site, and to the same for Central ferry site-tolls the same as at the Boise ferry. August Trunk was granted a license for a ferry on Burnt River at the mouth of Clarks creek. Mr. Olds had been running a ferry at Farewell Bend since 1862, having obtained license from the Idaho legislature in that year.

The first matter recorded in the circuit court journal was a decree of Judge Shattuck in the case of A. Davidson and others vs. David Littlefield and others, in which the claim of the plaintiffs to two hundred and forty inches of waters of Elk creek, was confirmed. After the matter in controversy had been disposed of the judge adds the following: “And it appearing that since this suit was commenced, Baker County has been organized, and that the ditches in controversy in this suit are within said county, it is further ordered, that this decree be enrolled and docketed in said Baker County pursuant to the stipulation of the parties on file in this case.

‘November 29, 1862,
‘Erasmus D. Shattuck, Judge.’
The above decree was filed in this office January 2, 1863.
‘S. A. Clarke, Clerk.’

On the second page of the journal, the minutes of the first term of Circuit Court for Baker County began thus:

“At a regular term of the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon, in and for the County of Baker, held at the court house in the city of Auburn, on Monday, the fifteenth day of June, A. D., 1863, at which were present Joseph G. Wilson, circuit judge, S. A. Clarke, clerk, and William R. Park, sheriff, the following proceedings were had, to-wit &c.”
At that term there appeared as jurors John Copp, S. R. Lane, Wm. N. Montgomery, Danield Best, M. S. Hildreth, L. R. Bloom, L. C. Burkhart, Wm. J. Snavely, T. J. Russell, Green A. Arnold and Benjamin Brown.

Ira Ward, George W. Manville and J. B. Stutman were excused for the term.

Of those duly summoned, James Burgess, Wm. Almy, Barrett Williams, James Tallman, George H. Chick, Charles E. Fox, H. S. Thomas and Job Dening failed to appear.
S. R. Lane, Green A. Arnold, Daniel Best, M. S. Hildreth, Benj. Brown, John Capp and L. C. Burkhart composed the grand jury, L. C. Burkhart foreman.
Micajah Baker, Lyman P. Higbee, Milton Kelly, Enos F. Gray, Isaac Hascall, F. A. George, Albert Heed, Royal A. Pierce and Thomas J. Law were admitted to practice as attorneys in the courts of the fifth judicial district of the state of Oregon.

Prosecuting Attorney C. R. Meigs not being present, O. Humason, Esq., was appointed to that office.

Fifteen true bills were returned by the grand jury during the term, thirteen of which were for selling spirituous liquors unlawfully. Nearly all the accused plead guilty and were fined fifty dollars each and cost of action.

There was one man tried for larceny and acquitted, and the other man who was indicted by the grand jury was never brought to trial. There were a number of civil cases disposed of or continued for the term.

In the latter part of October 1863, Daniel Hyde and his two partners were camping together in what was called the Kooster diggings northward from Lower Powder river. They had been mining together and had about six thousand dollars worth of gold dust hidden in their camp. Hyde took the whole of it, when the others were absent from the camp and was making his way towards Auburn when Mr. Quigley encountered him. Quigley was county assessor but told Hyde he was deputy sheriff and arrested him. Quigley had beard of the affair from the O’Neill boys, Hyde’s partners, who were out in search of Hyde. George Coffin, who had been over to the Kooster mines on business for Packwood & Co. had returned to Auburn and reported the affair, and Mr. Shaw, deputy sheriff, started out in search of the thief and met Quigley bringing the prisoner in. Arriving at Auburn the prisoner was taken before a justice of the peace, and Tom Law was engaged for the defense. He stated that there was no evidence against the man and nothing more than a rumor that a robbery had been committed, and the man was discharged. Shaw then took him up to Drew’s livery stable and bought a horse for Hyde and started him off on the trail to Canyon City. Shaw paid for the horse in gold dust, and Mr. Packwood, who happened to be present, told Mr. Drew to keep the dust separate from other dust until he could have a chance to examine it. Upon examining the dust shortly afterwards, he recognized it as Kooster diggings gold. This confirmed his suspicions previously aroused by the proceedings of Shaw. He immediately started two men after Hyde with instructions to bring him back, which they did. The O’Neill boys having arrived at Auburn, there was evidence enough to bind Hyde over for trial, and also Shaw and Quigley. Hyde and Quigley were put in jail and Shaw was kept under guard on his agreement to pay the expense.

Circuit court convened a few days afterwards, and Quigley escaped from jail, but was recaptured at North Powder river and brought back and tried on a charge of receiving stolen property and sentenced to three years in the penitentiary. Hyde was convicted of larceny and sentenced for one year. Shaw eluded his guard and escaped on a horse that had no doubt been provided for him in anticipation of a successful maneuver of the kind.

Part of the stolen gold dust was recovered, T. Law paying back four hundred and fifty dollars worth which he said he received from Hyde as attorney fee.

Mr. Hyde after his release from prison, told a friend that the O’Neill boys kept abusing him all the time they were together, he had never thought of trying to rob them until that morning when they left camp. On that occasion they were particularly abusive, calling him a thief and telling him not to try to steal the dust while they were gone. He said that angered him so that he resolved on the instant to take the dust as soon as they were out of sight of camp, which he did, but by the time he had got a mile away, he would gladly have returned and replaced the dust if he had been sure he could have done so without the O’Neill boys discovering that he had made the attempt to take it. Hyde and Quikley were the first persons convicted of a felony in Baker County, Oregon.

One of the pioneer freighters of Baker County was John Wilson, born in Allegheny Co., Pa., May 18, 1830 he moved to Illinois in 1849, then to Wisconsin in 1850, and to Iowa in 1852, where he remained until 1862, when he crossed the plains to Oregon landing in Powder valley with four dollars and twenty-five cents. Finding there was a chance for work with an ox team at Auburn, he returned to the valley and bought a wagon and yoke of oxen for $300 agreeing to pay $75 down, borrowing that amount from a friend, he secured the team and engaged in logging at Auburn in company with W. F. Ross. When the snow was about two and a half feet deep the Canal Company’s agent wanted Mr. Wilson to haul a quantity of lumber from the sawmill to French gulch which he offered to do for two dollars and fifty cents per thousand which the agent thought was too much. In a few days the agent spoke to him again about hauling, and as more snow had fallen, Mr. Wilson asked five dollars per thousand which the agent would not pay then, but mentioned the subject again after more snow had fallen, and Mr. Wilson raised the price to seven dollars and a half. The agent came the fourth time and he demanded nine dollars per thousand and got the job at that price and made fifty dollars per day at it. In March 1863, he moved Alexander McMurrein to Idaho, and at Horseshoe bend on the Payette River the snow was so deep he could go no further with a team, and tying the yoke and chains on one of the oxen and some flour for ox feed on the other, drove them over the trail twenty miles to Placerville where he got a job of dragging logs for the first store building in the town.

Returning to Auburn, he moved Bowen and Leveredge’s sawmill to Beuna Vista bar, Idaho City, the first sawmill in the Boise mines. He then went to Umatilla landing for a load of freight for Idaho City at 20 cents a pound. In the spring of 1865 he hauled the first load of freight over Place’s toll road from Baker City to Burnt River. Went to Iowa for his family in 1866, and on his return bought a farm near Wingville but continued in the freighting business.

One trip with ten yoke of oxen, ten thousand pounds of freight, he received seventeen hundred dollars. At one time he had thirty-two yoke of oxen and seven wagons on the road with three or four drivers at eighty dollars per month. In 1878 he went to the Willamette valley and came back in 1882 to Baker City where he still lives.

E. P. Perkins was born in Garrard County, Kentucky, Jan. 23, 1832, moved with his father to Grundy Co., Mo. in 1850, and to Baker County, Oregon, in 1862. Visited the Willamette valley in the winter of ’62-3 and returned to Baker County, and the next year bought a farm in partnership with Hiram Osborn.

The seed oats for their first crop cost fifteen cents per pound. Sold his interest in the farm to Osborn in ’65 and took up a ranch adjoining it on the north. Sold that place to Mr. Wilson in ’66 went to Missouri for his family. Returned the next year and bought Mr. Wisdom’s farm west of Wingville which he still owns. In 1872 he moved to Baker City and for a time kept livery stable in partnership with Mr. Kilbourn, but his principal business since 1867 has been stock raising. Mr. Perkins served as county Commissioner from 1882 till 1886.

One of the best known citizens in Baker County is C. M. Foster. He was born in Caledonia County, Vermon, October 3, 1837. Attended three different educational institutions as a student taking a course in mathematics. Went to Iowa in 1856 and engaged in railroading two years, then to California in ’58 and to Oregon in March 1860, where he was engaged in the office of Edward R. Geary, superintendent of Indian affairs until ’62, when he came to Auburn in June store that year, and for two years followed mining and clerking in a store, spending much of his time exploring the surrounding country.

In 1864 he was elected county clerk and served two years in that office, and also attended to the duties of school superintendent, John S. Rice, superintendent elect, having removed from the county. He has been county surveyor continuously, excepting the four years Mr. Means filled the office. He served as U. S. deputy marshal, but resigned in 1870 on account of the policy of the government in the matter of cutting timber on public lands. In 1871 he was appointed U. S. mineral surveyor which office he still holds.

David S. Littlefield, one of the party who made the first discovery of gold on Griffin’s gulch in October 1861, and the only one of the party now living in Baker County, was born in Waldo County, Maine, September 27, 1829. His brother John was a seafaring man, of whom they heard nothing for more than a year prior to January 1849. At that time they received a letter from him, stating that he was in California working a gold mine, and directing his father to go to Boston, No. 9 Court street, and get some gold dust worth seven hundred dollars, and the next summer went to California where he was joined by David S., in 1850. There Mr. Littlefield (Dave) remained until he went to Frazer River in 1858.

While there he joined one of the three companies that went up the river to chastise the Indians, and a kind of a treaty was made with them, the Indians promising to molest the miners no more.

Littlefield returned to California, and in 1861 set out for the Oro Fino mines in Washington territory. At Portland he joined the expedition to go in search of the Blue Bucket diggings, and was with Griffin when he found gold on the gulch which bears -his name. He has lived in Auburn and its vicinity ever since.

In 1891, he, in company with others took several carloads of horses to New York. It is related that he got to talking to a crowd of men at a station where the train had stopped for a few minutes, and it moved on and left him. When he became aware of the situation he awakened the echoes with his loud expressions of surprise at the audacity of the train running away with his horses. He says he got left by reason of the railroad officials misstating the time that the train would remain at the station.

Those who know his quiet, say nothing manner will be disposed to believe his statement.

After selling his horses in New York City he visited his old home in Maine after an absence of forty years. Notices of his visit were published in the papers in Maine in which it was stated that he owned horses in four counties in Oregon and any one of which was bigger than the state of Rhode Island. Mr. Littlefield says he never told any such tales, but that they were published through the reporter’s misapprehension of what he did say.

In 1863 a company of about fifty men set out from Clarks creek and Auburn to search for the Blue Bucket diggings. At Canyon City they were joined by about fifty more, making about one hundred in all, armed for defense against Indians and equipped for prospecting. They found the emigrant road for which they were in search, and at a point near the head of a stream, a tributary of either the Malheur or Silvies River, they found some old wagon tires, the graves where two persons had been buried, and the general features of the place answering the description given by the immigrants of 1843 of the place where gold was found at that time, but they find none.

While in that country the Indians stole all their horses and they had to return on foot, with such of their goods as they carry with them.

Collection: Baker County Oregon Genealogy.

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