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PDP's Roots & Branches by P. Davidson-Peters
Baker County, Oregon
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A sub-site of A Place Called Oregon hosted by Roxann Gess Smith

Tent & TreesRich with the history of the Shoshones, Paiutes, Nez Perce, and Umatilla Indians who hunted, fished, and lived in this plentiful and beautiful area, Baker County is situated between the Wallowa mountains and the Elk Horn ranges. Discovered afterwards by the trappers and explorers and the John Jacob Astor overland expedition led by Wilson Price Hunt which camped in the Powder River Valley, it was then occupied by the missionaries who followed to save the souls of those before them.

By 1845, westward immigration had begun. Dr. Elijah White, after one unsuccessful attempt to find a pass through the Cascade Mountains to Western Oregon, led a group of 200 emigrants from Independence, Missouri on an abandoned trail of a fur company up the Malheur River. Guided by Stephen H. L. Meeks, the company made it as far as the alkali lake region, and then the men began to die from drinking the water and turned against Meeks, who eventually reached The Dalles and sent back provisions by pack mule to the suffering party.

While at the headwaters of the Malheur River, it is said that the emigrants found bright yellow nuggets which they had left behind when they crossed a waterway. This story reached four California miners who had been on their way to the Oro Fino mines in the Washington Territory. Interested in what they were told by a man named Adams who had claimed to have been one of the emigrants of that 1845 trek from Independence, they asked Adams to guide them; and in August of 1861 they led about fifty-five others in search of the gold.

Miner's toolsThe suffering began again at the alkali desert, prompting men to become suspicious of Adams and so they immediatley conducted a trial, found him guilty, stripped him of all his property, and then forced him to sign a confession. His life was spared, however, when the party divided, one returning over the route they'd come, and the other striking out toward the emigrant road and returning toward Portland where they found color at the head of the Burnt River on China Creek.

Henry Griffin, one of the four Californians, struck gold on October 23rd. Twenty-two claims soon followed which brought about 30,000 miners eager to strike it rich within the year. Soon after, the mining towns sprung up and then came the cattle ranches and farms to sustain them. Hence, Baker County was established on September 22, 1862 from Wasco county.

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Early Towns of Baker County, Oregon
Books, pen & ink
Records of Baker County
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This Site Last Updated 04 Jun 2013
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